5 Skills You Can Learn Online for Free

a woman working on a laptop

These days, you can learn just about anything online. We’re living in the Information Age, where artificial intelligence (AI) assistants like Siri can answer just about any question that pops into our heads. One Google search can lead you down a rabbit hole, and suddenly you’re an expert bread baker (well, kind of). With thousands of free tutorials, articles, and courses at your fingertips — it’s really just a question of what you want to learn. Here are five skills that you can start picking up today.

1. Managing Your Money

Many people have no idea how to manage their finances. Thankfully, the internet can help us get a leg up when it comes to finances by giving everyone the resources and information they need to succeed in today’s world. Personal finance companies like Nerdwallet offer tons of free services and personalized suggestions to help people make good financial decisions. Their blog is full of smart financial advice, including the basics of how to manage your money. They suggest these four steps to get control of your finances:

  1. Take inventory of your spending
  2. Create a money management blueprint
  3. Make saving a habit
  4. Be persistent

If you use a spending-tracker tool, it’ll be easy to see where your money is going and where you might be overspending. You can use this information to create a realistic budget that works for you and set up notifications that’ll alert you when you’re going over-budget. Even if you’ve never had a savings account before and have no idea where to get started, you can find all kinds of tips and tricks online. Be careful about which websites you share sensitive information with, though, because there are plenty of scams out there too.

Nerdwallet certainly isn’t the only free financial service out there. Apps like Mint and Acorns can also help you manage your budget. Money advice websites like The Simple Dollar and Money Crashers are full of resources as well. You can learn how to boost your credit score, set up a 401k, invest in stocks — the sky is the limit.

2. Cooking

Whether you want to become a professional chef or just step your game up in the kitchen, the internet can show you the way. With a quick Google search, you can find dozens of free culinary courses to dive into the basics. If you want to learn a new recipe or technique, there’s probably a tutorial on YouTube for it. Some restaurants are innovating during the pandemic and offering cooking classes for their signature dishes. Famous chefs like Gordon Ramsay are even taking to social media to share their knowledge with aspiring cooks.

You can also learn kitchen hacks online, like how to dispose of used cooking oil. If you’re new to cooking in general, there’s a good chance you have no idea what to do with that old grease. Whatever you do, don’t pour oil down the sink — that’s a great way to create clogs in your sewer system. The best way to get rid of used oil is to let it cool, pour it into a sealable container, then wipe your pot or pan out with a paper towel before washing. Some services will recycle old cooking oil — it can be refined into clean-burning biodiesel — so see if that’s an option in your area.

3. Speaking a New Language

If you’re kicking yourself for not paying attention in your high school Spanish class, now’s your chance to redeem yourself. You can find free online courses for just about any language now — and even more additional resources. Getting translations has never been easier, with free dictionaries for download and services like Google Translate for quick answers.

Language-learning apps are also extremely useful for building the foundation of a new language — and there are plenty to choose from, like Duolingo and Memrise. It’s hard to become fluent in a new language without practicing with real people or teachers, and apps like HelloTalk can connect you with native speakers so you can practice. You can also find apps for a specific language, like ChineseSkill and Human Japanese.

YouTube is an incredible resource for anyone who wants to learn American Sign Language, among countless other sites. You may even be able to access paid language-learning software through your library, so check to see if that’s an option. Even most of those services, like Rosetta Stone, offer free trials — and you can learn a lot in 30 days.

4. Starting a Business

It may seem intimidating, but everything you need to know to start your own business is just a Google search away. Business publications put out advice articles and blog posts every day, and even the Small Business Administration created an online guide for budding entrepreneurs. This incredible resource has just about everything you need to know to start a new business — how to write a business plan, find investors, apply for licenses and permits, and much more.

All of that is on just one website — and there are countless other finance blogs, YouTube channels, and more that tackle in-depth topics. So if you’re looking to break into a certain industry, like aromatherapy, you bet you can find tailored advice. Let’s say you want to become a wellness advocate and learn how to start an essential oil business. Essential oils are becoming hugely popular as young people look for more natural solutions to wellness.

Whether you’re an advocate for a healthier lifestyle or just want to cash in on the trend, selling essential oils is an easy way to create a profitable business. You can sell essential oils to an existing spa, on your own eCommerce website, or even do pop-up shops. eCommerce is probably the best route for now since more people are shopping online due to the pandemic — and you can learn how to set up an online shop in no time.

5. Becoming a Landlord

Being a property manager might be a little more complicated than running an essential oil business, but it can be lucrative if you go about it the right way. There’s a lot you have to know before you start leasing to tenants, but once again, the internet has your back. Whether you already have space you can rent out or you’re looking to invest in a new property — you’ll be able to find resources like Zillow to help make the right decisions.

Joining groups where you can talk to other property managers is a great idea because you can ask questions, get advice, and find important tips. You can even learn how to spot fake pay stubs in the application process. Income verification is a crucial step when vetting a potential tenant, so you should always require proof of income — whether that be pay stubs, bank statements, or a credit report. Learning how to spot a red flag like fake documents can save you many headaches and a lot of money.

This list barely scratches the surface of the internet’s informational power. As we’ve seen during this pandemic, the internet has the potential to completely transform education and expand access to everyone who wants to learn. So what are you waiting for?

Nola Blanton researches, organizes, and delivers high-level and impactful strategic content that helps OI's readers understand, discuss, and prepare for emerging trends in business and marketing.

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