Education is expensive. So how do you build your skills when you don't have a huge budget (or any at all) for professional development? What if you just want to find out if the new skill is something that you would love doing - but most introductory courses can cost over $1500USD. So what’s an ambitious dreamer going to do? Keep reading for 5 free or low-cost options that will get you closer to your goal.
1. Free & low-cost online courses
There are lots of options for free online classes that would be classified as professional development. During my career, I’ve studied several free classes coursera.org that were specific niche topics - art history of Nubia, Archaeology and Bible pre-history, and Creative writing.
Recently, I wanted to find out what ‘white papers’ were. The term had been bandied about in my copywriting group and online chat forums but I couldn’t find a step by step explanation of what they were - without buying an expensive book. So I found a low-cost ($15USD) online beginners course on udemy.com which has done a great job of explaining each step in the process of writing a white paper. Do I now want to niche in that area? We’ll see ;-)
2. Your current employer
Employers like to invest in their employees so it's sometimes possible to get your employer to pay for professional development courses that would increase your productivity and skills. In my past jobs, I’ve been able to learn Adobe InDesign, time management techniques, and effective public speaking.
3. Free community groups
Depending on the skill you want to learn, there are so many special interest groups in most communities where you can connect with other like-minded people to learn and practice a new skill. For example, Toast Masters is an international group where you can practice public speaking in a supportive environment. toastmasters.org
4. Google Scholar
Google Scholar is a search engine that will show you scientific journal articles, books and legal case law. Reliable, scientific and peer-reviewed studies that you could use as references, unlike Wikipedia.
Need I say more? We’ve all googled “how to …” and watched a video about how to do something we’ve never done before. 2022 is such an amazing time to be alive, with instant access to almost every piece of information available to humankind. Sometimes you don’t need a two-inch-thick textbook to learn something new - sometimes just a quick YouTube video is all you need to get the ball rolling.