There is much more to succeeding in a creative field than simply knowing how to create. To be an effective creative in today’s workforce demands the continuous honing of complementary skills. For many creatives, especially working in advertising or as is often the case, closely with marketing, broadening your skill set will level-up your work.

As a creative, a foundational understanding of the basics – from the fundamentals of content strategy to introductory CSS, essential marketing principles to ethics in advertising, and creative workflows to social advertising – can enhance the value of what you offer to your team.

So where to start?

Fortunately, we live in a golden age of knowledge-sharing. Access to meaningful learning and training, in a variety of mediums of delivery, has never been more readily available. With the abundance of courses, workshops and seminars out there, it can be difficult to know where to focus your learning, and what will be worth your time.

We’ve curated a list of some of the best-reviewed, recommended and relevant offerings. What’s amazing is that all of these are free online courses (or can be free with a trial). As a whole, this list covers a lot of territory – there is probably something for everyone, regardless of where you are in your career or what it is you’d like to expand your knowledge or understanding of. But for the creatives looking to add to their marketing, advertising and creativity management toolkits, all these courses will present great value. We’ve broken down the list across 4 sections.

    • Creativity Management
    • Diversifying Your Digital Creative Marketing Toolkit
    • Strategic Thinking and Planning
    • Big Picture Thinking: Marketing in Context

That said, here they are, 14 free online courses to consider for creatives looking to round out their creative skill sets:

Good Habits for General Creative Collaboration

A central tenet of professional development is honing your creative collaboration skills – both as an individual creative and as a member of a broader team. It’s important to establish good habits, whether they apply to doing the creative or management work required for successful executions. For example, while not everyone is a project manager, understanding project management fundamentals makes for a more effective team member. 

Creative Concepting
Platform: Skillshare*
Time commitment: ~2 hours

Topics covered include:

  • An overview of using creative prompts
  • Optimizing Photoshop habits for better creative workflows
  • Creating a concept ideation board

Managing Virtual Project Teams
Platform: Open Learn
Affiliation: The Open University
Time commitment: ~8 hours

Topics covered include:

  • Being aware of team differences in a collocated team vs. the virtual team
  • Understanding a responsibility assignment matrix
  • Considering skills needed within a virtual project team

Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success
Platform: Coursera*
Affiliation: Imperial College London
Time commitment: ~20 hours

Topics covered include:

  • The principles of creativity 
  • Theory of inventive problem solving
  • Combining tools and strategies for results

 

Diversifying Your Creative Digital Marketing  Toolkit

Postsecondary career counselors are advising new graduates entering the workforce to prioritize versatility over specialization. A “versatilist” is neither a generalist nor a specialist: “Unlike specialists, who possess depth in one area, and generalists who have breadth but no depth, ‘versatilists’ exhibit both. They apply a depth of skill to a progressively widening scope of situations.” Roles with narrow job scopes are becoming more and more scarce, and the continuous development of new skill sets is more valuable than ever as organizations evolve and adapt.

Email Marketing Essentials: Writing Effective Emails
Platform: Skillshare
Affiliation: Mailchimp
Time commitment: ~1.5 hours

Topics covered include:

  • Best practice for writing online
  • Content ideas and optimization
  • Editing tips

Fundamentals of Social Media Advertising
Platform: Coursera
Affiliation: Facebook
Time commitment: ~9 hours

Topics covered include:

  • Paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram
  • Data and privacy
  • Building an ad campaign

Danny Sullivan on SEO
Platform: LinkedIn Learning
Affiliation: Google
Time commitment: ~1 hour

Topics covered include:

  • Integrating SEO, beyond Google
  • Keeping on top of industry trends
  • What’s next in the world of SEO

Marketing Analytics
Platform: edX*
Affiliation: Columbia University
Time commitment: ~8-10 hours/week (12 weeks)

Topics covered include:

  • Demand forecasting
  • Customer lifetime value evaluation
  • Preference measurement

HTML5 and CSS3 Fundamentals
Platform: Udemy
Affiliation: Stone River eLearning
Time commitment (~5 hours)

Topics covered include:

  • Foundational knowledge base of HTML5 and CSS3
  • Best practice techniques
  • Functionality and navigability

Strategic Thinking and Planning

Understanding the “why” of what you are doing or being asked to do is essential to doing it well. A course or workshop on high level strategic thinking and planning a great way to place creativity in context with a broader mission.

Brand Identity and Strategy
Platform: Coursera
Affiliation: ie Business School
Time commitment: ~14 hours

Topics covered include:

  • Customer segmentation
  • Defining value
  • Building a strong perceptual map

Growth Marketing Essentials: Build Effective Acquisition Funnels
Platform: Skillshare
Time commitment: ~1 hour

Topics covered include:

  • Analyzing common marketing paths
  • Creating your own marketing funnel
  • Improving strategy and fixing issues

The Strategy of Content Marketing
Platform: Coursera
Affiliation: University of California, Davis
Time commitment: ~19 hours

Topics covered include:

  • The content marketing ecosystem
  • The four types of strategic content
  • Ethics and managing your content

Big Picture Thinking: Marketing in Context

Many people find their way into creative fields almost by accident, without the theoretical foundation of a traditional career path that begins with a degree or certificate. These perspectives are crucial to any creative ecosystem – but it can still be incredibly worthwhile to get outside of an industry “bubble” and consider the role of your work in a broader social context. Courses like “Advertising and Society,” offered by Duke University through Coursera, could be just what is needed to trigger that “galaxy brain” moment and see your field in a whole new light – with all new possibilities.

Advertising and Society
Platform: Coursera
Affiliation: Duke University
Time commitment: ~12 hours

Topics covered include:

  • Author intentionality and interpretive strategies
  • Secondary messaging in advertising
  • What’s the future of advertising?

Design Thinking and Creativity for Innovation
Platform: edX

Affiliation: University of Queensland
Time commitment: ~8-10 hours/week (10 weeks)
Topics covered include:

  • Creativity myths
  • The role of empathy in design thinking
  • Moving from ideas to impact

Marketing in the 21st Century
Platform: Open Learn
Affiliation: The Open University
Time commitment: ~6 hours

Topics covered include:

  • Marketing and ethics
  • International marketing in turbulent times
  • Is marketing a philosophy or a process?

 

Notes:

*Skillshare offers a two month free trial that provides access to their full library of classes.

*Coursera and edX provide free access to “audit” college-level courses, with the option to upgrade and receive a certificate of completion for a small fee.

 

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