What Kind of Training Do You Need to Become a Freelancer?


Would-be freelancers often wonder how to get started. A common question that many of them ask is:

What kind of training is needed to become a freelancer?

If you’ve wondered this yourself, then this post is for you. I’ll examine whether freelancers need to have a college degree or specialized training. I’ll also discuss whether a freelancer can teach themselves the necessary skills and list three online training resources.

Do You Need a College Degree?

You may wonder whether you need a college degree before you can start freelancing.

The answer is that it’s not needed, but if you do have a degree it can help set you apart from other freelancers.

The fact is that there are many successful freelancers who don’t have a college degree. Some successful freelancers start during their teen years. A prime example of a teenage freelance success is Onibalusi Bamidele, whose inspirational story, How a Teenager From Nigeria Built a Five Figure Freelance Writing Business, is documented by Agota Bialobzeskyte on Freelance Switch. (By the way, I’m proud to say that Freelance Folder published one of Onibalusi’s guest posts.)

Here’s a look at the degree question from both perspectives:

  • No Degree. If you don’t have a degree, don’t panic. You may still be able to freelance if you have a marketable skill. You will need to network and create a portfolio full of excellent examples of your work.
  • Have Degree. Your degree isn’t wasted. You still need a strong network and an excellent portfolio, but you should also mention your degree. Depending on your major, your degree may enable you to specialize and charge a higher rate for your services.

While a degree is a quantifiable record of your achievement, it is not the only such record.

Do You Need Specialized Training?

What about certifications and other specialized training courses? Do you need these to freelance?

The answer is…maybe. It depends on your field.

Some fields have certification programs or special tests. Programming is one such field. Accounting is another.

In these fields, a certification may be required if you want to work in a particular specialty. For example, you can’t call yourself a CPA (Certified Public Accounting) unless you’ve passed the CPA Exam.

For other fields specialized training may give you a marketing advantage (especially now that LinkedIn lists courses taken), but it is not necessarily a requirement before you can become a freelancer.

If you think that your desired freelancing field may require a certification, research the occupation carefully before you decide to plunge into freelancing.

On The Job Training

If you have actual work experience through a traditional employer, this can give you a head start when you do become a freelancer. In many cases, there’s nothing like doing actual work in your field to prepare you for freelancing.

To make the most of your on the job training, with an eye to freelancing, you need to start while you are still employed. Observe everything that you can about the business. If you can, pay attention to more than the tasks you are assigned. Notice how the business is being run.

You may even be able to start freelancing part-time while you are still employed. First, check to make sure that you are not violating any non-compete clause in your employment agreement.

Can You Teach Yourself?

With a multitude of online courses and resources available, you may wonder if you can teach yourself the skills that you need to become a freelancer.

The answer is…probably, but it takes discipline and determination. We’ve already discussed this topic in detail on Freelance Folder in the post, Can You Teach Yourself Web Design?

Some important things to remember if you decide to teach yourself:

  • Have a plan. Don’t just take online courses randomly. Set a professional goal and take the courses that will help you meet that goal.
  • Research your options. There are many different online courses available and the most expensive course is not always the best.
  • Stick with it. Since no one is looking over your shoulder to make sure that you do the work, sticking with an online course can be a challenge.

3 Online Training Resources

There are many online training courses available to freelancers. The following three resources have been around for a while and offer a wide variety of topics:

  • Lynda.com. Choose from over 2,000 online video tutorials on a wide variety of topics. There are also four pricing places available. When you have finished with a course, you can print a certificate of completion.
  • Treehouse. This resource specializes in making technology-related education affordable. There are two pricing plans available. You’ll learn by watching videos and practicing through interactive quizzes and exercises.
  • w3schools.com. This is another site geared towards technical education. You can study their online tutorials for free, but you must pay if you want to get certified.

Your Turn

What’s your take on this? What kind of training do you think freelancers need?


  1. says

    I personally don’t think a degree is really necessary. Of course if you want to be a certified accountant as Laura mentioned, then yes a CPA degree is needed. But if you take any other creative freelancing activity (photography, writing, design, even web developer) a degree is totally unnecessary.

    Based on my experience, especially at the beginning of my freelancing career what counted the most the get my first clients was my USP. What was I offering that my competitors weren’t? Was I competing on price? At the beginning maybe (a bit), so that I could build my portfolio, but once the ball started rolling nobody ever asked me about any degrees, even though I have them.

  2. says

    Matteo Trovato, There are many talented freelancers without degrees. The ability to sell, however, is crucial to freelancing. It’s not a loss if you have a degree. I’ve seen people work it into their USP.

  3. says

    I dont think you need any related skills to become a freelancer – just the will to succeed.

    I have no degree, no training and didn’t have any industry experience when I started out.

    I simply pursued something I was interested in and taught myself as I’ve gone along.

  4. says

    I’m a little dissapointed. Everytime I come to this website I see more and more ads. It’s getting annoying to read the blog posts.

    It’s a shame. Your blog posts are great, but the site’s in decline.

  5. says

    You need a bit of passion and you need to not let yourself be influenced by others who tell you “get a real job” and bollocks like that. It does have disadvantages vs a “real job” but I think it has way more advantages.


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