Free (or low-cost) learning resources for Virtual Assistants

If you’re anything like me, then you love learning new things. In fact, it may even be one of the reasons you decided to set up your own business. But whether you’re a Virtual Assistant looking to upskill or you simply want to know all the things, I know you’re going to flip over this carefully curated collection of online courses I’ve put together for you.

Employees rarely have the opportunity to expand their horizons but Virtual Assistants – especially when they first start out – pick up so much knowledge it can make their head spin.

While that’s wonderful in many ways, it can also result in confusion and a lack of direction. 

Because I want to give you the best chance of succeeding before you dive into a vast blue rolling sea of learning, only to become overwhelmed and caught in a riptide of information (see what I did there), here’s a few things to bear in mind before you excitedly enrol in every fab-looking course you can get your hands on.

Be ruthlessly selective

With as many subjects as stars in the sky, it can be all too easy to go wild and sign up to everything and anything. However, what often happens is that life gets in the way, you lack the time needed to work through the content, and you end up feeling despondent about your lack of progress.

To prevent this from happening look at the subjects you would like to learn, and consider why you want to study them. Think about what you need right now at this particular point in your career:

  • Are you looking to plug a real gap in your skillset or is it that you simply think clients might want a particular service? What made you come to either conclusion?
  • Are you even interested in the subject – does it excite you?
  • Are you considering taking a course for the sheer fun of it? While this is fine, if you lack time to market or complete client work because you’re studying a course on skincare, then you should assess your priorities.
  • Do you realistically have time to complete a course? When are you going to do it?

A good way to do this is to imagine you had to pay for the course you are considering. Would it be as appealing if you had to part with money and, if so, how much would you pay for it?

You can apply this method to many other things.

For example, if you had to pay which newsletters would you keep and which would you unsubscribe from? If a newsletter fails to provide enough value that you would pay something in return, then you should unsubscribe from it.

Carve out time to learn

Whether you decide to sign up for just one or to many courses, you will have a higher chance of completing it if you allocate study time in your calendar.

You may be able to put aside an entire afternoon once a week or just an hour every day. It doesn’t matter which one you can do, really, because slow and steady is still progress and is far better than nothing at all.

I’ve learned that we don’t find time for things that are important to us; we need to make it.

If your working week is already hectic, you may want to take a look at the calendar exercise in my free Productivity course. It’s the calendar I use to run my own life, and you can use my example as a template to create your own flexible schedule.

Do your due diligence

Some courses are better than others and, just as if you were choosing a VA training course or completing a background check on a new client, you should do your due diligence before you enrol.

For example, Udemy has thousands of courses but, because pretty much anyone can create one, the quality may not be as high as someone who is actually an expert in their field.

Before you commit to a course, take some time to investigate the quality of the content and trainer. What’s the trainer’s background? What qualifications and/or experience do they have? Have they written other courses? How long have they been in business?

Head to Google and go full-on Sherlock before you part with your valuable time or money.

Earn then learn

Personally, I think you should focus on securing and completing client work before you allocate billable time to additional learning.

There is an increasing amount of noise in the world and, with so many shiny objects clamouring for our attention (and VAs are soooo easily distracted by the shiny, shiny!) you should be absolutely ruthless about where you focus your time and attention.

My advice is to prioritise client work and marketing before you allocate time for study.

Because there’s no point having a plethora of skills if they’re not earning any money.

Learning resources for Virtual Assistants

While this is not an exhaustive list, these are the best learning resources I have found online. Most of the courses are international, but a few are UK-focused as this is where I and the majority of my audience reside.

My own courses and resources!

With every one designed to help you become a kick-ass bulletproof VA, I’d be a pretty shonky business owner if I didn’t put my own training at the top of this list. My courses currently include:

The popular DIY VA course
If you want to be a VA, this is the course to get. I guide you through the entire process and show you what to do and when to do it.

The ultimate marketing course for Virtual Assistants
When you’ve completed this course you’ll know how to market your business forever. Plus, you then can apply what you’ve learned to your clients business. (This comes free of charge with the DIY VA course)

Beginners WordPress course
Create your own fabulous VA website in WordPress. the first section is even free! (This also comes with the DIY VA course)

Minute taking course
If you’re looking for a traditional, highly-sought-after, well-paid skill that will never date, this is it.

Pricing course
Here, I provide next-level pricing strategies such as package and project rates, tiered pricing and the psychology of pricing.

Newsletter/email marketing course
Once you understand how email marketing “works” you can create a newsletter for clients who need one and help clients who aren’t achieving the results they want.

Free mini-courses
These cover confidence, VA set up, marketing, growth, Gmail, website set up, and productivity.

How-to videos
My YouTube channel has many useful playlists to help you learn new skills and become a better VA.

Aaaaaand…
I also have a ton of free and paid products covering everything from legal contracts to how to work as an Associate VA.

Edx

This fantastic website provides access to over 2,500 college-level online courses from 140 institutions around the world. Popular subjects include computer science, design, economics and finance, and business and management.

Open Culture

This site also has 1,500 free courses from top International universities like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Oxford and more. You can learn pretty much anything you want from history and philosophy to physics, biology, psychology, and computer science.

FutureLearn

This site also provides a huge range of courses from world-class universities and industry experts. I completed a fascinating course on the history of royal fashion (history nerd alert), but other subjects include social media, project management, marketing, computer science, and accounting.

Elite American universities 

Many elite US universities including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, and Berkeley offer free online college classes. In return, the institutions compile research to improve their courses and develop better technologies for online and classroom-based learning.

OpenLearn

Not only is the Open University an award-winning and trusted UK institution, but they offer nearly 1000 free courses through their OpenLearn programme. Many are based on Open University course materials while others are written specifically for OpenLearn.

Udemy

Claiming the world’s largest selection, Udemy hosts 130,000 courses with topics that include design, business, marketing, photography, personal development, IT software, music, and web development.

These courses are not particularly cheap and, while they do have some free options, I’ve included Udemy simply because it’s the largest provider.

Skillshare

In addition to many of the usual topics, Skillshare provides courses in animation, UX/UI, business analytics, marketing, productivity, and creative writing.

This platform is a good choice if you’re looking to learn skills that are a little more niche.

LinkedIn Learning

Owned by Microsoft and currently offering over 16,000 free courses, LinkedIn Learning is a fantastic resource and offer suggestions based on keywords in your profile. As I write this, they have free courses on Trello, OneNote, Office 365, Excel, Facebook advertising, Basecamp, Microsoft Teams and many other subjects that would benefit a Virtual Assistant.

Google Digital Garage

With categories spanning data and tech, digital marketing, and career development, Google has several excellent free online courses that are worth checking out.

Reed

While Reed is best known for being a recruitment agency, they also have many free courses. Non-business subjects include archaeology, law, physics, and fashion while their business subjects cover HR, admin, digital marketing, and Xero.

National Careers Service (England only)

The NCS links to several free courses including business and finance, digital design and marketing, professional development, social media, MS Office, and coding.

They also have a handy page linking to many more free online learning courses.

Business Gateway (Scotland only)

In addition to free webinars and video tutorials on business contingency planning, e-commerce, social media, tax and managing cashflow, their Digital Boost programme also looks pretty good.

Their webinars cover a wide range of topics such as digital strategy, using video for business, e-commerce, networking, social media, crisis management, and SEO.

The Federation of Small Businesses

The FSB is a UK organisation representing small and medium-sized businesses. They run national campaigns that highlight the needs of the self-employed, and many of their training resources are available to non-members.

There is also an events page on the site where you can enter your location to find local in-person and virtual events.

Enterprise Nation

Enterprise Nation provides small business community, training and advice and is a campaigning voice for the rights of small UK businesses. In addition to e-learning courses, they also offer meetups, masterclasses and webinars.

Their free courses cover a wide range of topics, including branding, invoicing, marketing, Amazon selling, content creation, and manufacturing.

iThemes

I use iThemes to protect my Munro Courses website and they have some fantastic free cybersecurity guides including the Ultimate Guide to WordPress Security, the Essential WordPress Maintenence Checklist, and a Guide to WordPress Brute Force Attacks.

Google Analytics Academy

You need to be able to monitor and analyse your website traffic so you can see if your lovely VA website is doing its job properly. The Analytics Academy enables you to learn about Google’s measurement tools so you can grow your business through intelligent data collection and analysis.

Facebook and Instagram for Business

When you want to learn how to use a platform effectively I believe in starting with the provider’s resources – I mean, who is in a better position to show you? This official website covers everything you need to know about using Facebook and Instagram for business.

Twitter for Business

This is the official Twitter website and contains many resources, guides and webinars to help you get the most out of this popular social media platform. They start with the basics, but you can move on to more advanced techniques via the menu options.

You should also check out Twitter Flight School, which covers all aspects of advertising including strategy and planning.

Pinterest Academy

This is a free e-learning tool containing nine mini-courses on using Pinterest for business. Apparently, each mini-course takes around 2–5 minutes, so you should be able to complete the entire curriculum in under an hour.

Canva Design School

What did we do before Canva? Their product is fantastic, and their free tutorials cover everything from getting started, to design and branding. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page I’ve linked to, you’ll find links to loads of other cool stuff including a colour wheel, palette generator, size guide, logo maker and more.

Crunch business guides

Crunch provides accounting software and support for contractors, freelancers, sole traders and limited companies. I don’t use them myself, but they are based here in Brighton and have a good reputation.

Not only is their blog marvellous, but they also have free financial guides covering bookkeeping, IR35, freelancer mortgages, redundancy, and expenses. You need to join their ‘Crunch Chorus’ mailing list to download the guides, but it’s free to do so.

Edukatico

This site acts as a handy search portal for nearly 9000 online courses spanning 22 subjects. Their directory contains courses from over 50 providers including some of the sites I have listed above.

TED-Ed

ED-Ed is TED’s youth and education initiative and focuses on sparking and celebrating ideas and sharing the knowledge of teachers and students from around the world. With subjects that include business and economics, design, technology, and psychology, I think their content will benefit both your business and mindset.

Other useful resources

While these aren’t online learning courses, I want to make you aware of them so you can stay up to date with your legal responsibilities and anything freelance-related here in the UK.

HMRC

HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) has lots of free resources for the self-employed including webinars and guides.

The ICO newsletter

The Information Commissioners Office is an independent UK body whose role is to uphold data privacy and information rights. To remain GDPR-compliant, you need to pay them an annual fee if you are processing personal data.

Which, as a VA, is what you do for a living.

While I highly recommend you subscribe to their newsletter, the ICO also have a dedicated helpline and live chat service if you ever need to ask them a question about data protection.

IPSE newsletter

IPSE is the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed. While their membership comes with many brilliant benefits, their free resources including newsletter, advice, events and webinars are also great. Subscribe to their newsletter for the latest UK freelancer news.

Bonus resources

Luan Wise’s newsletter

In addition to publishing an award-winning book on how to use social media, Luan writes for Social Media Examiner, is an accredited Facebook trainer (which means she gets to visit their head office and see all the magic), and has been engaged several times by LinkedIn to write courses for them.

I personally think Luan is the best social media expert around. Her weekly newsletter is a handy roundup (from credible sources, no hearsay or rumours) of changes, news and updates from the main social media platforms. Which means you don’t have to spend hours staying on top of it yourself.

My Coffee Break roundup

Each month I send out a newsletter jam-packed with useful tips, tricks and advice. I also provide resources, apps and tools you can use to enhance your own business (as well as your clients’) and I try to keep you informed about everything I think you need to know.

Masterclass

This site is not cheap, but I’ve included it because I use it myself. With top-name instructors such as Gordon Ramsey, Martin Scorsese, Marc Jacobs, Serena Williams, Annie Leibovitz, Margaret Atwood, Bobbi Brown, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, the quality is extremely high.

I originally signed up because I wanted to know what Anna Wintour had to say about running a business and I felt the annual fee would be worth her advice alone.

Masterclass was also running an offer where I could gift a subscription to someone else – which I gave to my VA because I know that any boost to her mindset will benefit my own business as well.

 


This post was last updated in November 2020. I will be sure to review it regularly and update it whenever I find any new learning resources I think will benefit your VA business.

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