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How to Become a Freelancer: Our In-Depth Freelance University Review

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Want to learn how to become a freelancer? Freelance University is the right place to do just that!

Have you been dreaming of a freelance career, but aren't sure where you can learn how to become a freelancer? Would you be surprised to hear that there is a special freelance training hub with over 80 courses specifically designed to help you build your freelance service business?

It's called Freelance University, and it's so much more than a freelancer training program. You will get answers to questions like:

  • Who hires freelancers?
  • What if I have no idea where to do freelance work?
  • Where can I learn freelancing skills I need to get the clients I want?
  • How can I find specialized freelance training in services I already offer my clients?
  • Is there a way to learn how to become a freelancer for beginners who've never tried this before?

And maybe most importantly…

Can Freelance University really help you learn how to become a freelancer with the in-demand freelance skills clients need right now? That's the question we're going to answer for you here in this Freelance University review (because we bet you're wondering if it's too goo to be true!)

After all, it’s 2024, and entrepreneurship is growing at a staggering rate. 

For example, before the pandemic, the freelance economy was already booming. And with the disruptions COVID brought to jobs and the shift to remote work, many people have decided to start something new.  For instance, did you know that over 36% of Americans currently freelance? More, experts predict that about 90 million will be freelancing in some shape or form by 2028. 

This means that potential freelancers will be looking for resources to help them acquire marketable skills. And those of us who have freelanced for a while may be looking to expand our offerings. 

But traditional universities don’t offer many programs for freelancers, so that's not an option for most of us. And that's where Freelance University comes in.

A Learning Hub for Freelancers

In this Freelance University review, we'll evaluate a valuable learning resource that meets the needs of freelancers. Are you're brand-new and still wondering how to become a freelancer? Or are you an experienced freelancer looking to build specialized skills or up your biz game? Either way, or anywhere in between, you'll find ample resources here. Whether you're trying to get a foot in the door, or answer opportunity's knock, Freelance University can help you move your career forward.

Husband and wife team Craig and Kelly Cannings discovered the lack of learning options when they began freelancing in 2003. So, they decided to address it. And Freelance University is the result. It's an online learning hub with over 80 courses in multiple freelance career paths.  So, whether your passion is graphic design, project management, writing, or virtual assisting, there are courses that fit your needs. Plus, there's a lot more. 

What Can You Learn with FreeU?

While working on this Freelance University review, we found that FreeU can help you answer some common questions, including:

  • What freelance work can I do?
  • Which freelance work is best for me, my schedule, or my financial needs?
  • Can I freelance without experience?
  • Where can I find freelance job ideas?
  • Do freelancers make good money?

So, are you wondering how to become a freelancer? Or maybe a working freelance professional looking to expand your skills and offerings? Do you want to know more about this learning hub? Are you just wondering how it all works?

This Freelance University review will give you an overview of the platform and help you decide if it’s the right choice for you. And once you've made your decision, you'll have a head start on knowing what to expect when you get inside.

Name: Freelance University
Website: Freelanceu.com
Creators:
Craig & Kelly Cannings

Introduction to Freelance University: Learn How to Become a Freelancer… and Much, much more!

Craig and Kelly Cannings co-founded Freelance University, also known as FreeU, in 2008. Both were working as virtual assistants. What was first called VAClassroom was born to meet the educational needs of freelancers and virtual assistants. Until then, there had been virtually no training available in these fields. If you wanted to know how to become a freelancer, you more or less had to figure it out for yourself.

At this point, FreeU has served over 15,000 students in 75 countries worldwide. You can certainly learn the basics about how to become a freelancer. Plus, their current career paths offer education in many types of freelance jobs, including social media marketing, online management, content development, graphic design, podcast production, and much more. Even better, you'll have access to ongoing training, support, and business building systems and templates to get you off on the right foot, too!

Freelance University in a Nutshell

FreeU Course in a Nutshell - how to become a freelancer

Freelance University Review: Pros of FreeU Membership

  • It’s a one-stop-shop to learn how to become a freelancer and top freelance skills 
  • Access to over 80 courses and trainings that teach you in-demand skills, as well as the ins and outs of running an online service-based business
  • Courses are organized into career paths that help students find what they need without overwhelm
  • The site includes software and app tutorials and exploration areas 
  • Downloadable PDF handouts provide comprehensive exercises and action steps to help you put the course material into practice 
  • Regular live trainings include in-depth skills workshops
  • Students can take digital notes on the course PDFs using Adobe Reader or Google Slides
  • In-depth courses in each career path offer course completion certificates 
  • You have access to a supportive, well-moderated community of fellow freelancers and mentors via the vibrant Facebook group
  • There are several expert mentors to help you along in your journey to becoming a successful freelancer
  • The Cannings frequently update the University with new training material
  • A 15-day money-back guarantee gives you time to be sure it’s a good fit for your needs, making it a risk-free investment 

Cons of FreeU Membership

  • Students who don’t take advantage of the orientation materials might be overwhelmed by the options. This could be especially true for those who aren’t sure what freelancing career they want to pursue. However, new graphics in some courses may help
  • The search bar function is new and improved, but it still seems to need specific terms. “Virtual assisting” yields no results, but “virtual assistant” does, for instance
  • As with many high-volume programs, there are some typos.
Read our Freelance University review and find out what to expect in the course.
Start Here for your orientation to FreeU.

Getting Started at Freelance University: Learn How to Become a Freelancer

As part of our Freelance University review, we spent some time exploring the course. We were impressed with just about everything, including the orientation process.

Craig and Kelly Cannings highly recommend all new students begin by completing the entire orientation. Once you enter the course, you will find it at the top of your student dashboard as Start Here. This section includes your University Orientation, Discover Your Freelance Niche, and Five Steps to Starting Your Freelance Career. University Orientation provides a a virtual tour of FreeU. It also contains the current course catalog, a Quick Start guide, freelance career paths, and a semester planner. With these tools and the following courses, you'll be set to learn how to become a freelancer as you map your journey in FreeU.

Once you become a FreeU student and log into the dashboard for the first time, you’ll probably understand the importance of this orientation.  With over 80 Freelance University courses, that initial experience can be overwhelming, especially if you're just learning how to become a freelancer!  To address this, there are also visual aids in many of the freelance niches.

Looking for an in-depth Freelance University review?
The courses in these FreeU career paths offer certification upon completion.

How to become a Freelancer with a Specialty: Certification Courses

By the time you finish exploring the Start Here section, you will have a solid foundation in how to become a freelancer. You’ll also be ready to dive into one or more of the freelance career paths.

Each path focuses on one type of service offering. Inside that path, you'll find several courses to help you gain actionable skills and drill down in your chosen area. Some courses appear in more than one path.

By the way, our Freelance University review wouldn't be complete without mentioning that there are now multiple certification courses in all career paths. This means you can show prospective clients that you've got the knowledge to provide the services they need.

FreeU provides a complete course catalog, which is updated every January, May, and September. Each listing includes a link to the particular course’s homepage on the FreeU site. While you need to be a FreeU student to see the course material, the link provides a course description and syllabus. So,if other students have reviewed the course, you can read their assessments, too. This makes it easier for you to decide whether FreeU offers the training you need to meet your goals. 

Here is a full list of the freelance career paths, along with the courses found in each:

Social Media Manager:

Includes social media and community management; specialist training in Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Canva, and LinkedIn; and Facebook advertising.

Digital Marketing Specialist:

Learn about digital marketing management, keyword research and SEO, website analytics, product launch management, digital marketing funnels and automation, email list building and marketing, digital PR specialist, YouTube and video marketing, digital research skills, and content marketing mastery.

Writer/Editor:

This path provides training in writing foundations, copywriting, blogging, email writing, SEO content writing, website writing, and proofreading.

Virtual Assistant:

Here, you can pursue training in virtual assistant foundations, document preparation and management, executive VA training, email/calendar and virtual project management, virtual customer support, CRM systems and support, virtual bookkeeping, and digital research skills.

Online Business Manager:

This path will help you build proficiency in online business and virtual project management, business processes and systems, virtual bookkeeping, and team building/management.

Virtual Event and Media Manager:

This robust career path training includes virtual event management, online course creation/ digital content management, creating virtual conferences and summits, multimedia editing and production, online video production, specializing in podcast production, online event management, and virtual meetings with Zoom.

Wordpress Specialist:

WordPress fundamentals, security, design, and maintenance, as well as mastering Wordpress plugins, are all covered in this career path.

Our Freelance University review is favorable in part because of the extensive workshop training FreeU provides.
Find years' worth of archived workshop training sessions at your fingertips!

Workshop Trainings show you how to become a Freelancer on the path to success

In this area, you'll find current and past workshops. These are organized by topic, so you can find just what you're looking for. Even better, there's always something new to learn, with new content added monthly.


Build Your Business:

Here, you'll find successful business planning, building your business with subcontractors, self-care for freelancers, the entrepreneur's mindset, productivity, pricing your freelance services, and day-to-day business management.

Find and Manage Clients:

Check out this area for great options like the Client Attraction System, marketing in an hour a day, optimizing your LinkedIn profile, cold calls, networking, and referrals.

Sharpen Your Skills:

Recent courses in this category can help you create social media graphics, create newsletters; email sequences, and free offers; and find and prepare for speaking opportunities.

Length of the courses:

Courses in Freelance University vary in length and complexity. For instance, the skills workshops are 90 minutes to 2 hours. You may be able to complete one of these in an afternoon. By contrast, the certification courses are more comprehensive, with 4-6 hours of video material. And the Learn Technology section features 20-30 minute mini-courses on specific apps and platforms.

The length of time you will need to work through the material for any course or workshop depends on your circumstances and personal learning speed. 

Format of the courses:

Each course contains several modules. These contain concise lesson videos. Some modules also contain worksheets or actionable items presented as downloadable PDF files. There is generally a worksheet for the course. This will guide you through the lessons and reinforce your learning. 

Course instructors:

FreeU co-creator and Chief Learning Officer Craig Cannings teaches most of the courses. In addition to being accessible and using humor to help make his points, Craig often seasons his lessons with marketing tips, adding extra depth and value to his instruction. 

There is also a rotating cast of additional trainers. In fact, according to Kelly Cannings, “We are constantly removing, updating, or adding courses; therefore, the training team is fluid and never the same. We have guest instructors that may teach one workshop while other trainers teach in a variety of areas. Craig is the main trainer at FreeU and then we add instructors based on industry demand and expertise in those areas.”

But whether courses are taught by Craig or another instructor, all are approached with an open, conversational air that invites you along to learn. Even better, each instructor’s individual style is a part of the lesson, which emphasizes the feeling of being part of a real learning community.

Live Trainings show you how to become a Freelancer – and a specialist!

But Freelance University offers much more than the courses found in the career paths. You also get access to a variety of regular live training material with your tuition fee. These include Monthly Workshops and FreeU Live sessions. 

  • Monthly Skills Workshops: Each month, FreeU presents a 90-minute live Zoom workshop. Topics are decided via student feedback and surveys, so each interactive session will offer training for in-demand skills.
    Previous Monthly Workshops are archived on your student dashboard (see Workshop Training section above) and can also appear in their respective career paths. 
  • FreeU Live is a monthly live question and answer session. It replaces Facebook Friday (which is archived on your dashboard all the way back to 2017, by year).
    Topics have included thriving during seasonal slowdowns, top soft skills for 2023, developing a growth mindset, and handling disruptions to your routine.

Learn Technology

  • Adobe, Spark, Trello, Slack, Canva, and a host of other apps are explored in this section. Here, you’ll find handy tutorials and tips in 20-30 minute mini-courses.

Other Perks

  • Preferred coaching partners are available to all FreeU members for an additional fee. 
  • Website building packages are available for an additional fee to FreeU students. There are “done-for-you” and “done-with-you” options. So, whether you want to learn as you go or just have it done, FreeU has you covered.
  • All members have access to job leads posted regularly.
  • The new and improved Freelance Directory gives students a space to create a profile that can attract new clients.
  • In addition to the course and workshop content, there are also opportunities for development through the monthly challenges in the exclusive FaceBook group.
  • Templates and Checklists: Two bundles of templates and checklists are included with your FreeU membership. One set of these handy documents will help you with clients, while the other will guide you through your first thirty days as a freelance entrepreneur.
  • The Learning Curve: Each of FreeU’s monthly email newsletters includes a featured article and student, plus spotlights one of the businesses FreeU partners with. It also includes FreeU news, tips, offers, and the current Freelance University event calendar. 
Learning how to become a freelancer with a thriving business is about more than the services you offer.

Student Support As you learn How to become a freelancer

Students also have access to FreeU’s exclusive Facebook community. Here, you’ll find expert mentors on hand. The mentors write posts and updates relevant to their areas of expertise, such as upcoming WordPress updates, and are available through tagging to respond to comments and answer your freelance questions. If they don’t have the information you need, they go above and beyond to point you in the right direction to find it. 

This is a gathering place where newbie and veteran freelancers alike get the support they need to build a successful business, celebrate victories, commiserate, or just find a community of like-minded individuals. Here, the atmosphere is one of family. You will be welcomed and offered new ways to learn and grow in your freelance career. Even better, there is no additional charge!

Past students have proclaimed that they “came for the training but stayed for the community.” Craig and Kelly Cannings have created a vibrant social learning hub for their students. And they work hard to create a thriving space for sharing resources, tools, and inspiration in real-time, anytime. This group is also closely moderated, so help is always just a post away. 

Craig Cannings shows you how to become a freelancer - and so much more!

Who is FreeU for?

FreeU is for you if you are serious about becoming your own boss and living a flexible freelance lifestyle. Can a college student do freelancing? Yes. Can a stay-at-home mom (or dad) bring in extra income without compromising family time? Also yes. If you’re wondering, “Can I freelance with a full-time job?” the answer is yes. Basically, if you have the willingness to learn and put that learning into practice, you will find a vast array of resources at Freelance University to help you along. 

FreeU has you covered and will help you decide which course is best for freelancing your way – whatever that is.

The courses are all self-paced, and individual lessons are short and easily digestible. They’re also designed to fit into busy lives, so you can build your business a few minutes at a time, when you have the time.

You can benefit from FreeU if this is you:

  •  “I’m just starting to consider freelance job ideas, but I don’t really know what I want to do.”
  • “I know what freelance services I want to offer, but I don’t have the business know-how to get started.”
  • “I already have a freelance business, but I want to deepen or expand my skills and services.”
  • “I’m a successful freelance entrepreneur looking for a supportive community and ongoing learning opportunities.”

With six career paths to choose from, including virtual administration, social media, digital marketing, and graphic design, a variety of students can find freelance ideas, start their businesses, or expand their service offerings.

Want to know how to become a freelancer who specializes? FreeU is the place for you!
Interested in virtual administration?

Who isn’t it for?

All that said, FreeU isn’t designed for people who want to sell physical products or those who aren't interested in starting a service-based business. These courses are focused on virtual freelancing services. 

It's also not for you if you are prone to:

  • Start courses and not finish them
  • Jump from topic to topic without “landing” on anything with focus
  •  Take courses without applying the new learning to your business

If any of the above are good descriptions for you, Freelance University might not be your best investment.  The courses, Facebook group, live trainings, and monthly projects are designed for you to take action on specific skills. So, if you're not focused and ready to put new learning into action, you won't get the same value.

Another consideration is your goal in taking courses with Freelance U. For example, the Virtual Bookkeeping Certification course is great for VAs looking to offer bookkeeping as a part of their service practice. However, if your sights are set on becoming a highly specialized bookkeeping professional who also interprets and advises clients on best financial practices,  FreeU might not be the best choice for you. (Note: We recommend the comprehensive Bookkeeper Launch for this niche.)

Educational Qualifications & Skills Required

At this point, you might be asking, “Do I need a degree to freelance?” Good news: the answer to this question is no. No degree is required. 

However, there are some common traits that every freelancer needs:

  • Focus: With such a wide range of training available, FreeU students do best when they aim for a specific target and avoid getting distracted. It’s best practice to make a plan and stay with it. 
  • Action-taking: There is a wealth of training available in FreeU. But it can’t help you unless you apply it. That means that if your plan makes room for putting your new knowledge into practice, you will go further.
  • Willing to learn new things:  Resources are only useful if they are used. So bring your curiosity and sense of adventure!

Freelance U Pricing

The university currently offers two tuition payment plans.

  • The regular monthly payment is $59 USD – This plan is month-to-month and the student can cancel at any time.
  • An annual payment is $468 USD – This option is the best value for students as students save $240/year compared to the monthly plan.

FreeU also offers a 15-day money-back guarantee. You are free to sample courses, workshops, community, and other resources as you like, right from the time you enroll. After looking around, if you feel the site won’t meet your needs, you are welcome to email support for a tuition refund. 

And, if you're not quite ready to join Freelance University, but want to know more, you can download a PDF of the course catalog. The catalog has links to each course, where you can find course descriptions, syllabi, and reviews where available. This means you can begin to choose your learning path in advance. At the site, you can also find links to the Freelance University blog and podcast, so you can up your free learning.

Additionally, there is a mailing list for prospective students. It’s free to join.and gives you access to tips, invitations to free webinars packed with useful information, and added information about FreeU.

Final Opinion: freelance University Can help you learn how to become a Freelancer!

Freelance University is different from most of the courses we review because it’s not simply one course. It truly is an online learning institution, with over 80 fluid courses and a great many additional resources available at no extra cost to you as a student. 

Craig and Kelly Cannings have a clear vision for FreeU. They also have a commitment to helping the next generation of freelancers thrive. More, their current students can continue to benefit from the community and the expanding array of courses. 

The volume of resources available at Freelance University is far more than worth the tuition investment. And the flexible payment plans allow you to pay for a year and save, or come and go as you like on a per-month basis. So, even if you can only manage a month but are willing to dedicate yourself to learning, you can gain a tremendous amount of actionable knowledge in that time.

More, the business-building, marketing, access to software, and community aspects add to the value of FreeU.  There are also many extras provided at no additional cost. These include the live training features and access to expert Facebook mentors.

In conclusion, FreeU offers a much wider array of courses and related resources than many programs which charge higher tuition fees.

So, do you want to make money as a freelancer? Are you looking for a place to start? Well, you can probably find what you need here, and much more. And for existing freelancers, FreeU can be an efficient and economical way to expand your skills, gain certification, and build a network.

Exciting News!

You used to need to wait for the enrollment window to open to join. But as of March 1, 2023, Freelance University is always open for new students! According to Kelly Cannings, “Waiting stinks and given that we are all about flexibility, this model suits us best going forward.”

Not quite ready to join? Would you like a free taste of what FreeU has to offer? Try their free masterclass!

Do you want to learn how to become a freelancer? Interested in learning more about Freelance University's specialized career paths? Have any questions about our Freelance University Review? Ask away in the comments below.  If we don’t know the answer we’re happy to find out for you!

4 Comments

  1. Wow, it sounds like FreeU is going to be part of the changing nature of education in the future. More people are turning to alternative forms of online education rather than the traditional route (or even in addition to it). I absolutely love learning new things and the fact that this online university focuses on learning skills to build and support my new business is very enticing. I’m forever a student of life lol. 

    Do you know how long the reduced rates will be available? When will the prices go back up? Thanks for this article!

    1. Definitely, Nicole. I don’t know if I’m biased, but I think it is awesome inside FreeU!!

      In August 2020, they decided to discount ALL current students’ training from their regular price of $67/month to $49/month or $597/year to $497/year.  These students (and students who joined presently) are locked in at this rate for as long as they remain a student of FreeU.  

      Due to the pandemic and the financial strain it has caused, they have kept their pricing at these reduced rates for new students joining FreeU.  When I asked a month ago about when the prices would revert, they said that they hadn’t made a decision if or when they could return to the regular pricing model but that they are committed to making the training affordable for all students, especially during this challenging time.

      So my actual answer is, “I don’t know!” 😀

      Robin

  2. Hi,

    Wow, this is really helpful. And the courses are extensive. 

    It looks like when you enrol, you choose the courses that you want to learn when you’re inside already. Am I correct?

    I’m afraid I might get overwhelmed with all those courses. Any thoughts on how to really find what I need at the moment?

    Thanks,

    Marita

    1. Yes, Marita, you have access to all the courses when you enroll and choose which you want to take once you are in. I agree that so many options would/could be overwhelming. But luckily all new students are directed to the University Orientation first.  

      They offer a University Checklist for each student to complete to get them started on the right foot.  As students go through the University Orientation, one of the steps is to take the small mini-course called “The Freelancer’s Journey” as this identifies which stage of freelancing the student is in, and then based on the student’s stage, they provide course recommendations. All students are encouraged to walk through the University Orientation in its entirety – this is an area they have put a lot of thought and time into to ensure that students have a pathway to follow.  

      So… I think you would be covered!

      Let me know if you have any other questions,

      Robin

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