If you’re a freelancer who is not getting enough — or the right kind — of work, consider freelancer training programs. Freelancer training programs can teach practical workplace skills and improve your chance of finding a job. Some can even teach you to market yourself more effectively. At a time when roughly one-third of the U.S. workforce is freelancing, learning techniques to make your profile shine can make a big difference in getting the lucrative jobs you want.

What are freelancer training programs?

The programs vary widely, but their aim is the same. They teach practical workplace skills, either a la carte or as part of a degree or certificate program. The scope of what you can learn is vast.

Basic training

Some programs, such as those offered by the non-profit Samaschool, start from the “ground up.” They help you decide what to pursue, where to get trained, and how to find those jobs. They’ll also help prepare your resume; take a professional profile photo and build the “about me” prose required to register with many freelance platforms. If you need to write proposals, the site even has a free proposal generator.

Certificate programs

Other programs provide hands-on training to learn an industry-specific skill. Blue Mountain Community College, for example, offers a series of relatively quick certificate programs that are aimed at getting you prepared and placed in a job.

For example, one of the school’s certificate programs trains students to be veterinary technicians and assistants. Students perform health exams on real animals, learn veterinary terms, and animal physiology in class. When the 9-month program is complete, students are fully job-trained.

The school’s Workforce Training Center also offers programs in data center technologies, early childhood education and industrial technology. Working in concert with local companies, Blue Mountain waives general education requirements for those who simply want a career. And, because students are trained on the precise machinery partner companies are using, the chance of getting a job once you’ve completed the program is excellent.

Tech training

Similarly, a coalition of technology companies have started sponsoring classes in everything from web design and coding to cybersecurity. In many cases, these classes can be audited for free. However, those who want to walk away with a digital badge, which verifies that they have achieved competence in that skill, would need to pay for testing and course materials.

The tech firms say they’re providing the training because they otherwise can’t find enough skilled workers to hire. Notably, these fields fall into what’s been dubbed “new-collar” work, which is often highly-paid and does not require a traditional college degree.

Finding freelancer training programs

However, one of the challenges of finding a good training program is the cacophony of options. If you do a Google search for “training in data analytics,” for example, your search will return 861 million options. Many of those are for expensive programs offered by private trainers and universities.

But there is no reason to spend thousands of dollars on workforce training, experts contend. Some of the best programs are offered at a low cost or even for free. 

“There is this whole Wild West of training,” says Maureen Conway, executive director of the Economic Opportunities Program at The Aspen Institute. “Approach training with a lot of buyer beware — even if all you are spending is your time.”

Community colleges

To find an effective, low-cost option, the best place to start is with a local community college. An increasing number of community colleges are teaming up with employers to create targeted training that practically guarantees work when you’re through.

The California Community College system is at the forefront of this trend, supporting initiatives at dozens of colleges throughout the state. It also recently launched an online learning program called CalBright. The program is designed for people stuck in dead-end day jobs, who can’t get to a physical campus, but need training to find more satisfying careers.  

Not sure exactly what to pursue? Check out the Community College System’s “Here to Career” phone application. The app has a quiz to assess your aptitudes and links to the community colleges’ “Salary Surfer.”  Salary Surfer is a neat little tool that allows you look up salaries for a vast array of professions. It shows the average wages that thousands of community college students earned before, two years after, and five years after completing a program. Notably, some of the certificate programs pay better five years out than degree programs in the same industry. 

If you don’t find a program that suits you with the Here to Career app, check out SideHusl’s quiz that can help match you to side hustles that suit your unique combination of skills, resources and interests — no additional training required.

Tax training

One last note: If you’re new to the freelance economy, you may need tax training too. U.S. tax laws favor the self-employed. (If you have a side hustle, you are self-employed, at least part-time.) But the tax rules are complicated. Next Thursday,  the Internal Revenue Service is holding a free webinar to help freelancers understand these complex rules and answer questions. You can sign up for the webinar here. (Skip the questions about PTIN AND CTEC numbers if you’re not a tax professional.)

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