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Ask Lawrence: How Can I Up-Skill Without Spending a Fortune?

20 Feb 18:00 By Lawrence Akers

Lawrence Akers Up-skill free

No doubt, you would’ve heard that old saying ‘there have been more technological advancements in the past 10 years than there have been in the past 100…’, and even then, that saying is at least 10 years old! When you consider the changes in technology over the past decade or so though, you can’t help but consider it is absolutely true. In the creative industry, we’ve not only seen changes in the software used (who remembers when Quark was king and InDesign was that upstart sneaking up from behind? That was 2004!) but also the changes in how we consume information.

The last blog, I talked about how reading information on websites and the UX associated with that was, inevitably, creating new unconscious habits that would impact even how we viewed our CVs. When you consider how many websites you see that now post the most important information to the right of the screen, you can understand that you’re being trained consistently to do this. Inevitably, it means that layout, in general, will start to move key points to the right of the screen as this is where we habitually now go to see that.

With that, it becomes clear that, as creatives, we need to stay on top of new trends, new research and ensure that we continue to provide beautiful, well-constructed design that communicates clearly and engages with the audience in a meaningful way. 

When you consider all of the above, it highlights the need for us to constantly up-skill. Up-skill in digital. Up-skill in psychology. Up-skill in updates to our software or learning new applications. Challenging ourselves with our creativity and allowing ourselves the ability to develop a sense of confidence in areas that may have been an area of weakness for us before. 

The aim of today’s blog is to share with you ways in which you can continue to up-skill without breaking the bank, or in some cases, touching the bank at all.

FREE Online Courses

There are many online courses that will cost you nothing and can help to improve your skills. A simple Google search on the topic along with ‘online course free’ should help reveal some of these however you might like to consider:

There are even web pages dedicated solely to finding the best free online courses out there so why not check them out:

Youtube is an amazing resource to turn to for quick and easy tutorials if you know how to use the filter skills properly.

Say for instance that you want to find a tutorial on Microsoft Word 2013.

You could type in a search phrase such as “Microsoft Word 2013 Basics”

Now using the Filter button at the top of your search results, you can determine how long you want it to go by (<4 minutes or >20 minutes) as well as how recently the video was uploaded - so if you’re after videos that were posted in the past year, this option will allow you to find them.

Sure, you're going to get some videos that are better than others, however, look beyond the production quality and see if there are a tip or two within the content that can help take your skills to the next level.


If you know someone who has done that type of work before, you could approach them to see if they might be prepared to sit down and go through a project with you. This may involve a few sessions and so, in fairness, you may wish to offer them some form of payment, or at least contra for your skill set if that is of interest to them. You can then benefit from watching someone who knows how to do it approach the brief, observe the process and reach an outcome. 

You might want to take on a brief yourself and to go through the process, turning to your friendly resource to offer guidance and advice for the areas that you’ve become stuck.

Practice Briefs

For many creatives, the desire is often to explore new design areas or to create in mediums that they may not have created before.

My recommendation to them is to get a practice brief and to create in their free time around that.

There are websites dedicated to this already, such as Brief Box and I Am Creative.

Of course, if you've been working in the industry for a while, you can take a brief that you've had before and see about applying it to a new medium(s).

Read, Read, Read   

As Harvard Business Review said, for those who want to lead, read. Search online and you’ll find countless stories and examples that talk about the reading habits of leaders. Reading helps to develop the mind and consider new ways of thinking. It takes personal development to a whole new level and allows you to change the way you think, thereby changing the way you approach your work and professional life.

In this age of modern technology, there is no reason why personal development and up-skilling should cost a fortune, especially when times are tighter and you have to watch your budget. Of course, until you’ve been able to do some professional work in whatever area you’re up-skilling in, it is always best to be open and transparent about your skills within a certain area however a sign that you’re willing to learn, to explore and to be curious is going to always help your chances of finding work in certain areas as well as receiving opportunities outside of where you would normally be restricted.

If you have any thoughts, questions or simply would like to get in touch with me and offer up a topic for the next Ask Lawrence, you can contact me on or you can find me and connect with me on LinkedIn. You can check out more jobs by going to our website or you can search for them on Twitter via #CRJOBS.

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