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How to Start Digitally Upskilling

Check out these digital skills you can learn in downtime to get a leg up

If, like most of the country, you’ve suddenly found that your commute is now nothing but a walk to the living room, it’s understandable to be feeling a bit distracted. It’s jarring to have your daily routine so upended, and it’s tempting to spend all of that newfound downtime biting your nails in front of the news.

But as the world pivots to remote working, digital skills have never been more in demand – providing the perfect opportunity to ramp up your own expertise. So, what are the core digital skills that a professional should have? And how can you learn them on a budget, or even for free?

Let’s take a look at how you can teach yourself these skills, with the help of some free resources.

How to Build a Website

If this sounds like the kind of mammoth task that will take weeks and weeks to learn – don’t worry! Easy-to-use, drag-and-drop website builders have made website creation a simple process that yields beautiful designs. By using a website builder, you can get online in just a few hours – and millions of people already have.

By “website builders,” we mean platforms like Wix and Squarespace, which let you add pages, text, and images to a customisable template. The best part? Most website builders offer free plans or trial periods – so you can try your hand at website creation at no cost! If you like what you see and want to take your site to the next level, you can upgrade to a paid plan later.

Our top three recommended website builders are:

  1. Wix – best overall website builder (£0-22/month)
  2. Squarespace – best for creatives (£10-30/month, plus 14-day free trial)
  3. Weebly – best for small businesses (£0-28/month)

Squarespace screenshot

If you’re feeling comfortable with website building, you may want to move on to learning some code. Coding is entirely optional with website builders, but if you do decide to learn some, it will give you a greater level of design customisation. Coding is also essential if you want to build a site from scratch using WordPress.

Codecademy offers free coding classes in 12 different programming languages – including the markup languages HTML and CSS, which are especially handy for working with website builders.

There are hundreds of hours of content in Codecademy’s free library, and you can even take a placement quiz before you start.


SEO

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process that can massively improve a website’s rankings in Google search results. And when it comes to rankings, every little bit matters. One study found that the first organic Google search result gets about 33% of all traffic from that search, while the third result only gets around 9% – and that’s still on page one.

More traffic to your site means more conversions, so it’s important to get SEO right. The good news is, a lot of SEO techniques are very easy to implement yourself, and there are many free resources on the web to help.

Your virtual SEO reading list

The most obvious place to begin is Google’s SEO Starter Guide, which is full of insider tips from the popular search engine itself. Once you’re familiar with Google’s guide, you can branch out to the rest of the internet.

Moz.com offers a wealth of SEO resources for every skill level. Its SEO Learning Center is a great place to start exploring. Similarly, SEO Journal offers a Complete Guide to SEO that you can start with, before taking advantage of the rest of the site. In addition to reading materials, video tutorials offered by experts like HubSpot and Neil Patel can help you learn about SEO at every level, from the basics to the more technical stuff.

Quality, free SEO resources have never been more readily available than they are now, as the digital world responds to the fact that most of the population is stuck inside. Some of the best gestures of goodwill that we’ve seen include:

You can also find more niche pages based on your needs, like our guide to SEO for small businesses.


Affiliate Marketing

Running a blog or website with affiliate links is a great side hustle to work on from the comfort (or confines) of your home. When you include an affiliate link on your website, it means the business you’re linking to will pay you for the traffic it gets as a result of your link.

If you already have a strong web presence, affiliate marketing is a great way to take advantage of it. And if you don’t, you’re now equipped with the SEO resources to build a web presence that could eventually make you money. There’s no shortage of free affiliate marketing guides on the internet, but there are also some free video tutorials that will go a long way. Our favourite is SkillShare’s library of courses, because you can choose from a variety of tutorials based on your experience level.

So, what actually makes people click on an affiliate link? Usually, the persuasive text around it. Which brings us to…


Copywriting

Good copy is essential to any professional web presence, as it proves your competence and inspires trust in your brand. Luckily, there’s no shortage of resources to help you strengthen your skills. From brainstorming snappy titles to drafting longform articles, there’s a free copywriting course (or ten) for every need.

Copyhackers offers worksheets on a variety of elements, from headlines to value propositions. If you want to work on holding readers’ attention, then the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Storytelling in the Workplace course will help you get creative. CXL Institute’s course on Effective Website Copywriting will help take your digital presence to the next nevel, while Distilled has a course on finding your brand’s tone of voice that will prove invaluable in a world where 77% of B2B marketing leaders say that branding is critical to growth.


Basic Design

45% of customers expect great design across marketing and sales materials – and it’s never been easier to learn how to deliver it.

Udemy is the most impressive graphic design “school” that we’ve found, and it offers classes at competitive prices, with some free options as well. For paid video tutorials, the price depends on the length of the video, the teacher, and the topic, and classes are rated by previous users. Topics range from a comprehensive Introduction to Graphic Design to User Experience Design Fundamentals.

Once you’ve become a self-taught design wiz, you can apply your skills to the industry giants like Photoshop and InDesign – and don’t be afraid to scour their knowledge bases for insider tips.


Conclusion

Maybe you want to take advantage of your newfound free time, or maybe you just want a distraction from your apocalyptic Twitter feed. Either way, now is a great time to learn something new that will benefit your business. Whether you become a jack of all trades or an expert in one niche, you’ll gain plenty of new skills while the world returns to normal.