Can you really learn in-demand freelance skills clients need now with Freelance University?
That's the question we're going to answer for you here in this Freelance University review (because we bet it's probably the nagging question in the back of your mind, isn't it?)
It’s 2021, and entrepreneurship is growing at a staggering rate.
Before the pandemic, the freelance economy was booming. With the disruptions to jobs and the shift to remote work, many people have decided to start something new. 36% of Americans today are freelancing, and it’s predicted 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. Those who have freelanced for a while maybe looking to expand their offerings.
But traditional universities don’t offer many programs for freelancers.
Husband and wife team Craig and Kelly Cannings discovered this when they began freelancing in 2003, and they decided to change it. They created Freelance University – an online learning hub that teaches over 80 courses in eight freelance learning tracks. Whether your passion is graphic design, project management, writing, or virtual assisting, there are courses that fit your needs – plus a lot more.
Freelance U 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?
Are you an aspiring freelancer? A working freelance professional looking to expand your skills and offerings? This Freelance University Review will give you an overview of the platform and help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.
Name: Freelance University
Creators: Craig & Kelly Cannings
Free Resources or Training: Free MasterClass – Seven Pathways to Freelance Success
Introduction to Freelance University
Freelance University, also known as FreeU, was co-founded by Craig and Kelly Cannings in 2008. 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.
FreeU has now served over 15,000 students in 75 countries worldwide. Their current training tracks offer education in many types of freelance jobs, including social media marketing, online management, content development, graphic design, podcast production, and much more.
- It’s a one-stop-shop to learn 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 training tracks to 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 social media marketing, project management, bookkeeping, and online business management 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 University is frequently updated 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
- 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
- The search bar function is not intuitive, so students might have better luck searching the course catalog or training tracks for the specific course or topic they’re looking for
- As with many high-volume programs, there are some typos
- At the moment, there isn’t much focus on Pinterest, but a new course is coming soon
Getting Started at Freelance University
Craig and Kelly Cannings highly recommend all new students begin by completing the orientation process. It’s clearly marked on the dashboard as the first category in the Start Here section. This section includes an Orientation checklist, a Quick Start guide, a virtual tour of FreeU, a short survey to help you find the tracks that best meet your needs, and PDF files of the course catalog and training tracks.
After this, watching The Freelancer’s Journey will further help you identify where you are and where you want to go as you freelance to freedom.
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! New students who skip the Start Here section may be confused about how to proceed.
After you complete this process, it’s a good idea to check out the Freelance Foundations section. Here, you will find Freelance 101. If you’re just beginning to consider your journey, these lessons will guide you from developing an entrepreneurial mindset and defining your Big Why to learning how to get your first freelance client and creating systems that work for you and your new business.
This section also includes courses on how to price freelance work, legal and productivity tips, a freelance toolbox, and more.
Last up in the Start Here section is Client Training. Here, you will find plenty of information to show you in more detail how to get clients – from networking and discovery calls to referral marketing and creating proposals. Once you’ve landed that first freelance client, FreeU has you covered with courses on onboarding skills and building client relationships with healthy boundaries, so everyone knows what to expect.
Freelance University Courses
By the time you finish exploring Freelance Foundations and Client Care, you will have a solid start on becoming a freelance entrepreneur. You’ll also be ready to dive into one or more of the training tracks.
Each training track focuses on one type of service offering, with several courses to help you gain actionable skills and drill down in your chosen area. Some courses appear in more than one training track.
Here is a full list of the training tracks, along with a sampling of the courses found in each:
- Social Media – Includes social media management and ads, Facebook Messenger marketing, brand and Facebook Community building, and more. Some courses offer course completion certification.
- Digital Marketing – Learn about email list building, influencer and video marketing, book and product launches, digital marketing for local businesses, and others.
- Digital Media and Content Production – This robust training track includes online course creation, creating virtual conferences and summits, multimedia editing and production, leading Zoom meetings, podcast production, online event management, and digital content management, among others.
- Website and Graphic Design – WordPress fundamentals and maintenance, learning Squarespace and WooCommerce, and graphic design foundations and intermediate skill levels are included in this track.
- Online Business Management – Here, you can learn about online business management, virtual bookkeeping, how to build a consulting service, virtual team building, creating effective systems, business management day-by-day, and project management. Some courses offer course completion certification.
- Technology Support – Master web tools like Kajabi, CRM, Asana, GSuite, Google Analytics, LeadPages, ConvertKit, Shopify, Zapier, and more.
- Writing and Editing: This track can help you learn blogging, proofreading, SEO content and online copywriting, ways of repurposing online content, and how to create effective email sequences.
- Virtual Administration: This track includes courses in digital research, digital customer service, email inbox and calendar management, and more.
FreeU has a complete course catalog, which is updated every January, May, and September. (These are also the intake periods.) 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. If other students have reviewed the course, you can also read their assessments. This makes it easier for you to decide whether FreeU offers the training you need to meet your goals.
Length of the courses:
Courses vary in length and complexity. Some are 90-minute to 2-hour workshops you may be able to complete in an afternoon. The average FreeU course contains 3-5 hours of video material. The certification courses are the most comprehensive, with 6-10 hours of video material.
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 is divided into 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, which guides you through the lessons and reinforces your learning.
Most courses are taught by FreeU co-creator and Chief Learning Officer Craig Cannings. 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 a rotating cast of additional trainers. 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.”
Whether courses are taught by Craig or another instructor, all are approached with an open, conversational air that invites you along to learn. Each instructor’s individual style is a part of the lesson, which emphasizes the feeling of being part of a real learning community.
Freelance University offers much more than the courses found in the training tracks. You also get access to a variety of regular live training material with your tuition fee. These include Monthly Workshops, Virtual Office Hours, and Facebook Friday LIVE.
- 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 and also appear in their respective training tracks.
- Virtual Office Hours are monthly live question and answer sessions.
Past office hours are archived in your dashboard by the year, so it’s easy to go back and check them out all the way back to 2016. Topics have included marketing funnels, online publishing, sub-contracting, building your elevator speech, web design, and more. There’s a wealth of information here, and you just might find exactly the answer you needed, without having to ask!
- Facebook Friday LIVE: These monthly sessions revolve around vital topics for creating a thriving freelance business.
Past presentations have covered raising your rates, finding your brand voice, creating your signature offer, finding balance in your entrepreneurial life, and much more. All sessions are recorded and uploaded to the University and the Facebook group within 2 days of the event. Students are alerted to LIVE topics via the Events Calendar, updated every four months.
Tutorials and Resources
An added bonus to FreeU is the generous collection of additional perks that are included in the tuition. You’ll find these at the bottom of your dashboard, beneath Live Training.
This section includes the App Lab and Student Sandbox, two unique features that give students a space to explore apps and software along with free trials and discount offers. Other features of this section are student interviews, templates and checklists for working with clients, and The Learning Curve, a monthly newsletter archived back to January 2019.
- App Lab: Adobe Spark, Evernote, Trello, Cloud storage, Slack, Canva, and a host of other apps are explored in this section. You’ll find handy tutorials and tips in 30-minute mini-courses.
Student Sandbox: Here, you will find versions of some popular software, free for you to explore. There are also opportunities to purchase discounted software programs as a FreeU student. These include Honeybook, Canva Pro, WordPress, Adobe Creative Suite, LeadPages, Designrr, and more. Handy PDF guides will help you get the most out of the software you choose.
Student Success Interviews: The Cannings have compiled a variety of interviews with past students of the University who have become successful in several types of freelance jobs.
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.
- One-on-one mentorship is available to all FreeU members for an additional fee.
- Website building packages are available at discounted rates 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.
- In addition to the course and workshop content, there are also opportunities for development through the monthly challenges in the exclusive FaceBook group.
Students also have access to FreeU’s exclusive Facebook community. Here, you’ll find eight 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.
Facebook Friday LIVE occurs here in the FB group monthly, and past LIVES are archived so you can easily catch up on any you miss or review past favorites.
It’s also 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. The atmosphere is one of family. You will be welcomed and offered new ways to learn and grow in your freelance career – at 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 work hard to create a thriving space for sharing resources, tools, and inspiration in real-time, anytime. This group is closely moderated, so help is always just a post away.
Who is FreeU for?
FreeU is for those who are serious about becoming their own boss and living a flexible freelance lifestyle. Can a 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. 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 designed to fit into busy lives, so you can build your business a few minutes at a time.
If this is you, you can benefit from Freelance University:
- “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 eight training tracks to choose from, including virtual administration, social media, digital marketing, and graphic design, a variety of students can find freelance ideas, start their business, or expand their service offerings.
Who isn’t it for?
FreeU isn’t designed for people who want to sell physical products or those not interested in starting a service-based business. The courses are focused on virtual freelancing services.
Are you prone to:
- Starting courses and not finishing them?
- Jumping from topic to topic without “landing” on anything with focus?
- Taking courses but not applying the new learning?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, Freelance University might not be the best investment for you. The courses, Facebook group, live training, and monthly projects are designed for you to take action on specific skills.
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?” 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, but it can’t help you unless you apply it. 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. Bring your curiosity and sense of adventure!
Freelance U Pricing
The university currently offers 2 tuition payment plans. These have been indefinitely discounted due to the pandemic. Students who enroll at the reduced rate will have that rate locked in as long as they maintain their membership, even when the tuition eventually returns to its pre-COVID rate.
- The regular monthly payment of $67 USD is now $49 USD – This plan is month-to-month and the student can cancel at any time.
- An annual payment of $597 USD is now $497 USD – This option is the best value for students as it works out to over 3 months of free access compared to the monthly plan.
FreeU offers a 15-day money-back guarantee. You can look through the tracks, and you are free to sample courses and other resources as you like, from the time you enroll. If you feel the site won’t meet your needs, you are welcome to email support for a tuition refund.
If you decide you are ready to join Freelance University between intake windows, you can still download PDFs of the course catalog and training tracks. The catalog has links to each course, where you can find course descriptions, syllabi, and reviews where available, so 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.
There is also a mailing list for prospective students. It’s free to join, and you will have access to tips, invitations to free webinars packed with useful information, and added information about FreeU.
Some members on this waitlist will be offered a special one-time opportunity to join FreeU between normal enrollment windows, so it’s definitely worth the time to sign up.
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 are committed 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. With a flexible payment plan that allows you to pay for a year and save, or come and go as you like on a per-month basis, the program is set up to adapt to your personal circumstances. 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.
The business-building, marketing, access to software, and community aspects add even more to the value of FreeU. There are many extras provided at no additional cost, such as the live training features and access to expert Facebook mentors.
FreeU offers a much wider array of courses and related resources than many programs which charge higher tuition fees.
If you want to make money as a freelancer and need a place to start, you can probably find what you need here, and much more. For existing freelancers, FreeU can be an efficient and economical way to expand your skills, gain certification, and build a network.
Are you interested in learning more about Freelance University? 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!