10 Totally Free Educational (and Other) Resources for Freelancers

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The world is full of freebies- if you know where to look. And that also includes the online world; nowadays, there is more free stuff online and on the Web than ever before. Part of the reason has to do with simple supply-and-demand economics- having more people online also means more competition for traffic and page views.

Internet marketers and subscription sites are more willing to give away educational and other resources for free. Likewise, by giving away some free stuff, these businesses hope to entice you into eventually purchasing the full package deal. For freelancers just starting out in the freelance world, having access to free online courses, ebooks, magazines, etc. can be a real help.  Here is a list of 10 totally free resources for freelance workers:

1. Online courses from top universities

If you think you can’t afford a Stanford or Harvard education, think again. Sites like Coursera and Udacity offer various courses from different state and private schools as well as through leading industrial experts. Khan Academy is well known for offering free online educational courses to some of the most remote geographic locations around the globe.

MIT offers a huge selection of courses on its MITOpenCourseWare website, where you can learn about topics as diverse as cognitive robotics and game theory. Of course, as a freelancer, you might just be looking to enhance your web design or editing skills or pick up some medical terminology for a white paper you’re writing. Not to worry- these websites offer basic undergraduate-level classes as well.

2. Legal documents

Whether you’re a freelance business consultant, web designer, writer or something else entirely, you are well advised to create and sign certain legal documents before undertaking or paying for any work. With Docracy, you can access a wide selection of free legal documents such as contracts, work agreements, employment offers, etc.

Docracy also allows you to e-sign the document and then generate a .pdf version to send to your client or employee. For freelancers and business start-ups, having documented proof of a business transaction is imperative if you wish to ever take legal action against client non-payment, intellectual property theft, etc.

3. Magazine editor information

For freelance writers trying to write for or even become employed by magazines, finding editor information can be tricky. At Mastheads, you can quickly browse through a plethora of magazines such as Seventeen, Good Housekeeping and Guns and Ammo to find out who is editing what. Mediabistro offers informational posts on how to pitch writing ideas, which magazine is looking for new blood, and how much certain publications pay per word.

The site also has a job board; however, most of the jobs, even those listed as freelance, are location-specific (i.e., not work-at-home). Finally, if you want to know the scoop on which editor has been hired or fired, what jobs may soon be opening up at XYZ magazine (via the trademarked WhisperJobs site), and the probable contact email formats of major magazines, check out Ed2010.

4. Photos and images

You can obtain completely free photos and other images at Stock.xchng and FreeStockPhotos. When using this free content, be sure to comply with the originating site’s rules and regulations; for example, FreeStockPhotos asks that you credit or link to the site whenever you post one of its photos.

5. Work timers

There are many work timers out there, helping you keep track of your billable hours and better stay away from time sucks such as Facebook and Angry Birds. One of the simplest and free time trackers out there is SlimTimer, which allows you and other members of your project team to input tasks and maintain timers on all of them.

All work data can be backed up and imported into an invoice. Another free time tracker is Tick; the no-cost subscription option comes with one project tracking, project reporting and exporting (including RSS). Tick projects can logged into and used by an unlimited number of users.

6. Audio recording and editing software

At Audacity, you can create, convert and edit audio files from the comfort of your own home office without needing to purchase any software (although you may wish to invest in a microphone if you’re creating podcasts). This is because Audacity offers open source audio software that is completely free to download and use.

7. Photo and image editing software

Love PhotoShop but can’t afford its price tag? GIMP is an open source PhotoShop-like software program that you can download and use for free.

Just like PhotoShop, GIMP allows users to upload and edit images, changing such features as exposure, contrast and color saturation. Users can also utilize the advanced scripting functions (via Basic Scheme) of GIMP to add in images or create new effects.

8. Web development tools

While you can view the source code of almost any web page by simply going to its “View” tab and clicking on “Source”, you cannot perform very much editing or debugging work unless you really know the code. Plus, most web pages are such a mess, script-wise, that it’s a headache trying to get anything done with them.

With Firebug, you can more easily see and edit a site’s code, whether that code be in CSS, HTML or Java. Furthermore, Firebug will even point out certain scripting errors to you, streamlining your editing. The free open source software will also monitor your network, reporting where sluggishness is occurring and why.

9. Keyword tools

Sure, there’s always the free Google keywords tool to help you figure out which keywords are the most commonly searched. However, the Google keywords tool was developed with PPC advertisers in mind, not folks trying to create searchable content for blogs or business websites. Likewise, the tool doesn’t report on keywords that your competitors are using to become #1 on the SERP (search engine results page).

To this end, sites like KeywordSpy are much more apropos. Although accessing all the site’s features requires a paid subscription, you can gain many of the tool’s benefits by signing up for a free subscription and plugging in some candidate keywords. WordTracker is another useful keyword tool that you can use for free (although for a very limited time) to check on your competition.

10. Magazines

For several years now I’ve been receiving an absolutely free subscription of Website Magazine. This publication offers timely e-commerce news and advice that has served me well with my online (and even offline) clients.

I also receive a bunch of other free (or really cheap) magazines like Money, Forbes, The Economist, Martha Stewart Living, etc. through ValueMags and Mercury Magazines, both of which periodically offer free trial subscriptions of 6 months to a year to some very well-known publications. These free magazines are a veritable font of writing inspiration as well as information for me. And they sure give my mail carrier a workout!

Bonus freebies!

Go to any well-known website and you will invariably be “encouraged” to sign up for its email newsletter by being offered a rather chunky educational product (e.g., e-course, e-book). These products were likely sold at-profit some time in the past but are now available for free.

Sites that offer some rather hefty sign-up products include Marketo, Smart Passive Income, Make A Living Writing, The Extra Money Blog, etc. They are great instructional products and packed with useful information.

Photo credit by naosuke ii

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