This episode is a rundown of resource I’ve been collecting and analysing for some time. The Busy Creator Podcast is far from the only place online to learn business skills and discuss productivity, so strap yourself in and listen to this collection of 27 online resources where creative pros can learn business skills.
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You’re listening to The Busy Creator Podcast, episode 72 — Online resources for creative pros to learn business skills
Welcome to The Busy Creator Podcast, from busycreator.com. This is the show that explores the tools, techniques, and habits for creative success. Together, we learn how to become our most creative, productive selves. I’m your host, Prescott Perez-Fox.
This is episode 72 of The Busy Creator Podcast and today’s show is a round-up of resources I’ve been collecting and analysing for some time. I’m going to introduce you to NN places you can go online to learn, to interact, and to improve your business skills and your practice overall. Some of these you may have heard of, but I guarantee there will be at least a few you’ve never heard of and which might be very specifically up your alley!
Because this show is a run-down, essentially an audioblog, the show notes for this episode will be long and extensive. Those will be available online at busycreator.com/72, for episode 72. That’s where we have all the links I mention to every site, as well as a full text transcript of this episode, so you can read it on the bus while you listen to music, if that’s your thing.
Ok, let’s get into it — 27 online resources for creative pros to learn business skills
I try to mention it frequently, but many listeners may not know the true origins of The Busy Creator. In short, I want to help creative pros become more creative, more productive, and in general better at their work. In my view, it’s a very business-focused endeavor because I’m not terribly concerned with your actual end product — though I’m sure you’ll produce better end results by employing better methods — but the true nature of the effort is that **I want you to be happier, and have a better career than I’ve had so far.**
But I’m only one man, and the internet is a very big place, so I can’t teach everything to every person. Even though business productivity within the creative professions is itself a niche, **there are numerous other sites and businesses focusing on this.** And without further ado, let’s talk about a few.
Going beyond a simple forum, there are a few sites that really have a community focused on creative pros.
Fizzle.co is one of the first that comes to mind. This is a paid membership site where folks in the community converse and keep each other accountable on whatever they’re working on. I’m not a member myself, but have heard lots of positive testimony, boasting a great return on investment.
The Fizzle Show is also a popular podcast from the same folks and I think you should give that listen before you join the community. There’s definitely some personality alignment to consider, but nothing to be scared of.
A similar site discovered recently is Seanwes.com. The site was created by Sean McCabe and was built around his courses to teach hand-lettering. But the community has really become a big part of their effort. Like Fizzle, it’s a paid membership where you can dig in and get some advice and camaraderie, presumably without an excess of trolls. And they too have a podcast — in fact several — so give that a listen as well. In both of these cases, the people behind the community are the same ones you’ll hear on the podcast, so I think it’s important that we learn a bit about them before diving into a monthly paid community.
Changing things a bit, the Freelancers’ Union is an advocacy group that fights to bring freelance issues to the forefront, and really raise awareness for what is very often an overlooked minority in the economy more generally. They’re based in New York, so anyone listening who rides the subway has likely seen their ads, but expanding more widely, there’s an online community component called The Hives.
This is essentially a forum, with different areas dedicated to different subject matters and issues are freelancing. It’s not as popular as a mainstream site like Reddit, but you know that everyone there is a freelancer or solo practitionery so chances are if you have a question, someone else has the same one — and may have even asked it before. Definitely worth a visit.
If you think of yourself as a little more geeky, you might like Stack Exchange, which is a big community site, consistingn of other communities. For example, I’m a member of the graphic design community but only because I found it by searching. There are so many it’s not even worth listing, and most likely something closer to your own work.
Stack Exchange grew out of Stack Overflow, which is a site for programmers and web designers, which is where the geeky angle comes in. One thing I actually like is that you earn privileges and powers as you comment and participate more. On day one, you can’t upvote things, but if you respond and the community likes your answers, you can earn points. Pretty soon you start to have abilities that other people don’t. This also cuts down on trolls, which is always nice. It takes a little commitment, but I think there’s a ton of unexplored value in therese groups.
Learning Sites/Online Courses
I think communities and forums are great way to learn, but they’re a little indirect — you have to read through everyone else’s questions and pay attention to the insightful answers. But if you prefer a more direct way to learn, there’s plenty to choose from.
The kind of online learning sites is Lynda.com, which was just purchased by LinkedIn for 1.5 Billion dollars, showing clearly there’s some value in learning and increasing your skills.
Lynda is essentially tutorial videos, and the subjects are completely broad and varied — everything from 3d animation in Maya to K-12 education. In general, it focuses on “wrist-down” skills, where you can watch a video and immediate start to practice what you’ve learned.
Lynda is a paid site, where you pay monthly for an all-you-can-eat plan. Essentially, you can look up anything on the site if you’re a paid member, which is really great for a team or company because there’s way too much content for a single person. And they have a lot of free videos. I know that InDesign Secrets features there videos quite often embedded in a regular blog post, so definitely check your favourite blogs and see if they’re showcasing any Lynda videos. That will give you an idea of the nature of their content.
Skillshare, Coursera, Udemy, Udacitiy
A few others in the video genre are Skillshare, Coursera, Udemy, and Udacity. These all have essentially the same approach — a place to learn online from practitioners. These, I believe work more on the tuition model where you might buy a specific course and then it goes into your library for future reference.
A lot of online video courses are built around their instructor. I know some notable names in the design world like Chipp Kidd and Jessica Hische have had some great success posting courses on Skillshare, and past guests on The Busy Creator like Erica Heinz and Courtney Eliseo have also posted material to sites like these.
The only downside of any of these video courses is that they’re essentially one-way systems. You can’t always get in touch with the person in the video, and there may not be any sort of community or student group. That’s a plus if you’re the sort of person who needs great flexibility in terms of schedule, but if you’re like me and you really enjoy the collaborative nature of old-fashion school, it’s something to consider.
But these sites, like Lynda, have free courses and videos floating around all the time so keep your eyes open for something you can learn. A few hours of video might help you level up a certain skill or just open your eyes to a new subject area.
If you do better in a structured learning environment, definitely check out General Assembly, which is really more of a casual school with locationsn around the world than a tutorial website. They have full-time and part-time courses, taught in-person in traditional settings. There is also an online or e-learning component, but half the reason to work with GA is to participate in the community events and meetups that they host at their spaces.
General Assembly tends to focus on more technical aspects of the creative professions like web design or data science.
I would actually say the same about the next example, The Flatiron School. For now, Flatiron School only exists in New York, and they offer in-person training in programming and coding. Here, the classes are more formal, and include certificates upon completeion, but also require application and take only a limited number of people in each class. The main difference, I think, is that Flatiron School really tried to build that bridge to industry, and help with job placement into the software world. There’s a ton of internet and software startups in New York, so if you’re interested in really changing directions, it might be worth a shot.
Digital Strategy School
There are some newer kinds of training online built around specific courses on individual websites, rather than a big school with multiple facets. A ton to mention, but I should start with Digital Strategy School which was founded by Marie Poulin and Ben Borowski who have both been guests on this podcast.
Digital Strategy School doesn’t aim to make you a better web or graphic designer per se, but instead to transition your practice from a simple designer to a strategic partner, where you can work with clients on other aspects beyond the deliverables. Marie has also done a great job of curating a community on Slack and on Facebook with the DSS students (and graduates), so definitely considering this if you’re interested.
Natalie Lussier 30-Day Listbuilding Challenge
Going a bit more focused, I did an email course last year from Nathalie Lussier simply called the 30-day Listbuilding Challenge. Here, Nathalie provided 30 lessons, each delivered by email, and designed to help you build your email list and promote your own project.
I have to admit that I didn’t get to finish every lesson to the letter, but the cool part of her course specifically is that you can log in and track your progress. So if you get really busy and have to put it aside, you can come back later and see exactly where you left off, where you skipped something, or where you got stuck and need help.
This one is free, but she has other online courses so definitely give her site a look over at 30DayListBuildingChallenge.com, or check the link in the show notes.
Louder Than Ten
Louder Than Ten is another site who offers “Training and support for freelancers, digital PMs, and agencies who manage websites, apps, and design projects.” Their tagline is very simple and enticing, just “Rescue your projects.” That speaks to a lot of us, I think, who sometimes get caught up in gruesome situations with clients and even co-workers.
One cool resource on their site are the actual scripts you can use for business transactions with clients, so if you need some word-for-word templates to follow, give that look. Like many of the sites today, they have events, resources, and even a more formal school in the works.
Coaching & Consulting
In all honestly, I couldn’t find too many viable coaching and consulting sites or individuals that focus on creative pros. I’m seeking to do more coaching and consulting myself, but also want to get involved in the chain, with a coach of my own. But even with the aparent gap, there are a few places to turn.
Marketing Mentor is a site run by Ilise Benun that caters to “Creative Solopreneurs, Consultants, and Owners of Small Creative Firms.” She offers a variety of services including coaching, mentoring, and actual marketing services for hire. She also has some digital goods for sale like proposal templates and self-education courses. It’s a bit of an all-of-the-above brand, but that’s ok I think — especially if it’s aligned to a single voice.
Pitch Perfect Presentation
Perfect Pitch Presentation is the moniker of my friend Justine Clay who I met a few months ago at a Freelancers’ Union event, actually. Primarily, she offers coaching to creatives and focuses on the presentation side of things, especially relation to new busines pitches and the process of selling your work. Justine is an ace communicator, and not surprisingly, she’s seen and heard a ton of creative sector war stories.
Check out her intro video and sign up for the mailing list over at PitchPerfectPresenation.com.
The C Method
Not to keep mentioning past guests of The Busy Creator, but long-time listeners will remember Christina Canters from Australia who joined me last year to discuss how she built a business from a suitcase, essentially. She’s actually pivoted a bit from working exclusively with architecture students and their needs, to anyone who needs help with communication and confidence. Her new site is The C Method.com, where you can also find the podcast of the same name. The cool thing about her podcast is that she basically put herself through a series of experiments all related to communication, confidence, and standing out by putting your best self forward to the world. And you may enjoy a guest appearance by me on her show, in which we discuss awkwardness and how to actually get some meaning out of networking events. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes.
Less about learning, exactly, but something you should definitely be aware of is the growing marketing in digital goods outside of fonts and stock photos, which we’ve seen for 20 years or more. It’s easy to waste a fortune on digital junk, but at the same time, if you pay attention and actually use the stuff you purchase, it can save you some serious headaches and improve your flow.
Paper and Oats
Paper and Oats is a site I just learned about, which offers some pretty straightforward digital templates like a pregnancy planner, or a to-do list. There’s some nice kits and packages available, as well as an email course template, if you yourself are interested in putting together an online course like I mentioned earlier.
Guerrilla Freelancing — spelled g-u-e-rr-i-ll-a — is a marketingplace site that offers a ton of templates and guides for freelancers. There’s a very strong warfare theme in place here, for example their membership package is called “The Trenches”. The warfare theme might turn some people off, but their business model is interesting. It’s a one-time membership purchase which gives you access to pretty much everything. Can’t tell if it’s updated regularly, but certainly worth a look.
Sidecar is similar to Guerrilla Freelancing except the templates are much more business-minded and aimed at Agencies. Here you can find things like Presentations, branding packages, and appropriate stock photos of mobile devices. THey have a great blog focused on studio culture as it relates to business and also have a good compliment of video tutorials. Very much a site built by designers for designers, which I can appreciate.
Made by SY/Partners
SY/Partners are actually a business consulting firm more than strictly a design firm, but they have a sister site called Made by SY/Partners. Here, the goods are actually a bit analog — they offer several sets of cards that teach you, and perhaps your clients, how to boosy your productivity or avoid procrastination, for example. THey definitely have some digital goods as well like a kickoff kit. Check ’em out and let me know what you think of these and other digital goods offerings.
Blogs & Podcasts
Now, there are a ton of blogs and podcasts — I couldn’t possibly run them all down. But I want to highlight a few that, like The Busy Creator, are really trying to live at that intersection of creativity and productivity, addressing both creative culture and business ideas.
There’s a site out of Australia called 30 Foot Gorilla, which aims to “help creatives develop a business mindset.” This one is actually spelled g-o-r-i-ll-a. The focus is more towards architecture and landscape design, but definitely check out their archive for some podcast episodes with different creative folks, including entrepreneurs and lawyers, and other folks you might not hear from everyday.
The Nu School
There’s a pretty solid design blog out of Israel called The Nu School — spelled N-u. It’s a design-centric blog for freelancers and independent pros, definitely graphic-savvy and light-hearted. They put together really nice covers for each of their blog articles and the three principal writers do a good job of promoting the article and its thesis. All this, as you might suspect, is in the effort to introduce readers to their main product which is a course on pricing strategy. They even built a pricing calculator which I’ve linked to a busycreator.com/howmuch
Learn the Secret Handshake
Another cool name for a blog — Learn The Secret Handshake — which is a site set up as “a career resource for student designers and young creatives looking for insider insight, honest answers, and solid solutions to go pro.” It feels like it started as a quirky side project, with quotations in from industry leaders, including me, laid out in an “advice grid” but they’ve been moving into conferences and events in real life, with the New York conference just taking place in October. Overall, it’s still a pretty low-profile site, especially compared to Freelancers’ Union, for example, which has ads all over town. Still, worth a browse to nab some quotations and bits of wisdom.
It’s worth mentioning that even in this modern era we can still learn from books and magazines. There’s a ton of books on busycreator.com/resources, so I don’t want to get too far into that side of things. But I do want to give a quick shout to the two design magazines that I still read and subscribe to, HOW and Communication Arts.
HOW is very lighthearted, and has always been design-driven. They have two or three big feature articles per issue and the rest is largely resources, case studies, and just interesting stuff to look at.
Communication Arts is definitely more serious, more grown-up, perhaps. Here, we see a few very intense editorials up front, with the rest of the magazine essentially dedicated to a single topic. They switched a few years to this idea that every issue is an annual of some kind — advertising, design, typography, interactive, illustration, or photography.
It’s worth noting that both of these magazines are still, to me at least, print publications. HOW used to have a really thriving website, and CommArts.com used to be very much a go-to source for jobs and portfolios. But both, I think, have lost prominence in the last ten years. However HOW hosts a huge conference every year which is really about 7 conferences packed together. That might be a good topic for a future episode, but for now, check out HowDesignLive.com to read all about it.
OK, that was a lot to take in! As I’m sure you can imagine, there’s a ton more places and websites and shows to explore — I’m certain that I overlooked something so please, if you want to contribute to this list, tell us about it in the comments. Add your own site or podcast if you have one, or tell us about an online forum or group.
The links to everythin I mentioned, as well as anything you’d like to add, is available on the show notes page which is busycreator.com/72, once again that’s busycreator.com/72. That’s where you can leave us a comment, get in touch, and learn about everything that The Busy Creator has to offer.
Next time on the podcast, we’re examining the topic of freelancing, in all its strange forms and iterations. Hopefully, that episode will be released in two weeks so make sure you subscribe in iTunes or your phone’s podcast app, so don’t miss future episodes.
The theme song for The Busy Creator is an original composition by Joaquin Cotler. Check him out at joaquincotler.com
The Busy Creator is a project from Starship Design, graphic design and branding for small business and startups, — visit us online at starship.design
I’m Prescott Perez-Fox, and thank you for listening to The Busy Creator Podcast. Until next time, get busy — and create!
Tools & Websites
- Fizzle, Community
- The Fizzle Show
- Seanwes, Community
- The Podcast Dude
- Freelancers’ Union
- FU Hives
- Stack Exchange
- LinkedIn acquires Lynda for $1.5B
- Chip Kidd on Skillshare
- Jessica Hische on Skillshare
- Erica Heinz on Skillshare
- Erica Heinz on The Busy Creator Podcast
- Courtney Eliseo on Skillshare
- Courtney Eliseo on The Busy Creator Podcast
- General Assembly
- The Flatiron School
- Digital Strategy School
- Marie Poulin & Ben Borowski
- Marie Poulin on The Busy Creator Podcast
- Ben Borowski on The Busy Creator Podcast
- Nathalie Lussier
- 30-Day Listbuilding Challenge
- Louder Than Ten
- Marketing Mentor
- Pitch Perfect Presentation
- The C Method
- Christina Canters on The Busy Creator Podcast
- Prescott Perez-Fox on The C Method Podcast
- Paper and Oats
- Guerrilla Freelancing
- Made by SY/Partners
- 30-Foot Gorilla
- The Nu School
- Online Pricing Guide from The Nu School
- Learn The Secret Handshake
- HOW Magazine
- HOW Design Live
- Communication Arts
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