Move Over, MasterClass. Here Are 9 Websites to Learn Skills for Free
You’ve heard the affirmations about learning as a lifelong journey. But if you’ve ever tried to pick up a hobby or learn something new, you’ll realize the path to perfecting new skills is an expensive one. Whether it’s an investment in equipment, paid courses or sessions with a pro, the cost to begin learning in-demand skills can be a significant financial barrier.
If you’re looking to upskill for a career move or explore a craft you’ve always admired, there are ways to learn skills for free if you know where to look. From free online courses that let you progress at your own pace to workshops that hone creative skills, there are plenty of ways to learn new stuff for free or for cheap.
9 Websites to Learn Skills for Free
While these platforms aren’t offering online courses with graded assignments, these websites and mobile apps provide ways to learn online or explore a new skill in your own time.
- Khan Academy
- Grow Google
- HubSpot Academy
1. Learn Anything on YouTube
There’s a reason YouTube is Gen Z’s preferred online learning platform and their favorite social media app. From how-to videos on home renovations and crafts to crash courses in string theory, YouTube has something for everyone. Here are a few popular education channels to check out:
If you’re looking for more practical skills training, such as refinishing furniture or playing the piano, YouTube is the best place to start because it’s completely free, and you can get unlimited access to videos without an account.
2. Get Schooled on Khan Academy
Khan Academy started with Sal Khan filming videos to tutor his cousin in math and science. Since then, it has grown into one of the most transformative educational resources on the internet. Its library of free courses covers everything in the K-12 curriculum as well as SAT prep, AP courses and even life skills such as financial literacy and growth mindsets.
3. Expand Your Thinking With TED
Like the viral TED Talks highlighting industry experts, TED has free resources and short online courses. These are usually less than an hour and provide a quick introduction to things like data science or social media marketing.
If you want a deeper dive, you can sign up for TED’s online courses on topics like public speaking or nurturing your imagination. The self-paced online lessons are done as part of a cohort of students and cost $49 per course.
4. Find Creative Inspiration on Skillshare
Looking to explore your creative side? Skillshare is the space for you. It offers hands-on free courses for and by creators in areas like graphic design, photography, creative writing, art, music and more.
The downside to Skillshare is that if you want to use it for free, you’ll have to be a quick learner. Your trial lasts only seven days before you get charged for a $32 monthly membership to keep accessing most courses.
5. Learn a Language with Duolingo
Learning a language for free sounds too good to be true, but Duolingo’s 500 million users prove you can learn in-demand skills without paying a dime. Duolingo offers 100 courses across 40 languages, plus it provides fee waivers for low-income students looking to take the English proficiency test.
6. Earn a Free Certificate with Grow Google
Google is much more than a search engine. Grow Google offers free classes for high-demand digital skills. If you’re serious about upskilling to build your resume, Google Digital Garage has free certificate programs in business skills, machine learning, customer service and web development.
7. Find Free Resources at HubSpot Academy
Another great place to upskill for free is HubSpot Academy. You can earn an online certificate for expanding your digital marketing skills with HubSpot’s free courses on topics like content marketing, business writing, web design and project management.
8. Get Technical Skills at Codecademy
9. Upskill at Alison
Study for the job you want, not the one you have. At Alison, in-demand skills are just the start of advancing your career. You can create an account and browse the 4,000 free courses on topics like business management, information systems, health care and more.
Where to Find Free Online College Courses
Want to get beyond in-demand skills and take courses from leading institutions online? You can access high-quality courses free online from top universities.
If you want to get a peek at course materials from some of the top colleges in the country, Coursera is a good place to start. Some of the free courses hail from America’s top Ivy League schools such as Yale. And Coursera helps connect students with low-cost online options to earn a bachelor’s degree or professional certificate.
With over 160 member universities and big names like Stanford, MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley and more, edX offers 2,800 online courses in computer science, business management, data science, language, humanities and engineering. While you can audit a free course, you’ll have to pay the enrollment fee if you want to earn credit and submit graded assignments.
Stanford University’s online platform has a free online course section where you can dip your toes into a bunch of topics free of charge. The self-paced online course offerings cover a wide spectrum of skills and interests, from child nutrition and cooking to quantum mechanics.
Open Yale Courses
Like Stanford, Yale University has open courses where you can drop in and learn for free. The course topics span a wide swath of knowledge, including philosophy courses on death and economic classes on emerging financial markets.
6 Steps to Learn New Stuff for Free or Cheap
Maybe you promised yourself to learn to skydive or knit this year. Or you’ve decided to go back to school to make your passion your profession. Either way, there are plenty of free or cheap opportunities to get some practice with local organizations or businesses.
1. Start With Community College
Community colleges are great places to explore a new degree path without committing big bucks to a diploma program. And they can offer a good conduit to local business owners and entrepreneurs.
To ensure your coursework counts, try these four ways to make community college pay off.
2. Consider Volunteering
There’s nothing that proves time really is money like volunteering. If you’re looking to pick up a new skill, consider volunteering for an organization where you can pitch in and help your community. In exchange for your time, you’ll get real-world experience.
3. Look for Continuing Education Programs
Continuing education programs come in all flavors, but they’re usually associated with a local school district, trade school, community college or university system. Start by searching city or county websites as state or local governments often fund these programs.
4. Find a Makerspace
Want to learn to weld or make book sculptures for craft fairs? Consider finding a makerspace that offers access to tools and equipment, training and affordable workshops.
5. Search for Local Workshops
Picking up a new hobby or even a career skill is as easy as finding a free or cheap local workshop on your community calendar. Choose from artist collectives that offer painting and pottery classes to parenting classes or first aid certifications sponsored by city governments.
6. Ask a Local Business
It sounds simplistic, but ask a local business specializing in the skill or hobby you’re learning. For instance, local ski resorts offer free skiing lessons for the same reason craft stores offer painting classes or Home Depot teaches workshops on making furniture. It’s an investment in cultivating lifetime customers.
How Much Money Can You Make Learning a New Skill?
If you’re trying to earn extra money picking up a new skill for a side hustle or upskilling to get a promotion, it can be hard to tell what’s worth your time. The best way to learn something that will make you bank is to invest in skills employers want or try an in-demand side hustle.
Kaz Weida is a senior staff writer at The Penny Hoarder covering saving money and budgeting. As a journalist, she has written about a wide array of topics, including finance, health, politics, education and technology, for the last decade.