Nowadays, content writing is virtually everywhere. Brands and businesses of any size and industry are incorporating well-written and engaging content, to strengthen their online presence and gain traction. According to recent studies, 70% of marketers invest actively in content marketing with companies spending 46% of their budget on content creation.
Therefore, if you're considering a career in writing, there's no better time than now to start working on it.
Are online writing courses useful?
I don't mean to dispirit you, but becoming a freelance writer in 2020 is much harder than it sounds. Apart from the obvious language, spelling and grammar skills you learnt at school, you need an additional set of up-to-date skills to make writing a prolific career option. Those include communication techniques for addressing different audiences, the ability to cover various writing formats and mastering SEO strategies.
Luckily, it is now easier than ever to access all that information from the comfort of your couch! Online writing courses are a convenient and relatively affordable way to learn and practise the necessary skills behind the different kinds of writing and get constructive feedback on your work. You also get to write on a variety of topics, discover your strengths, work on your weaknesses and decide on your niche. For new writers, getting bylined pieces published through a course is the first step to building a strong portfolio and finding future clients.
Contrary to traditional how-to-write manuals and tutorials, online courses are interactive educational platforms. They offer virtual classes led by professionals and sometimes personalized support during a self-paced learning process. And who better to learn from than established writers, authors and editors with years of experience? So, although course certifications are not required for landing clients, taking up a writing class could be your shortcut to success.
Things to consider before choosing a writing course
There are TONS of online writing courses out there and they all vary in genre, approach and price. Before investing your time and money, here are a few things to consider and help you choose the best online writing course for you:
I’ll be honest, given the strange and unpredictable times we live in, this is the first thing that I personally check. I have no doubt that many expensive courses are worth every penny of their steep prices. But if I’m running low on funds, I just choose from the plentiful good-quality lower-cost or free available options.
Before signing up for a course, make sure you understand how the content you study matches your target job role. Is your genre content writing? Copywriting? Fiction? Or perhaps you want to improve your business writing skills? Find the one that emphasises on the modules that will help you achieve your learning goals.
Writing is a craft, and you can only progress so much just by reading about it. The theoretical part, important as it is, is not enough to give you ‘real-world’ experience. As a freelance writer, your job will include switching from one writing style and tone to another, learning a new industry inside-out in less than 24 hours AND meeting deadlines. It’s best to choose a course that provides you with practical training, which consists of you writing, editing and getting feedback on tight timelines. That said, always check the weekly required study time you will have to invest.
Just like with online shopping, the credibility of the service provider improves your prospects of getting what you paid for. Plus, a certificate from a top-rated institution is sure to catch your potential client’s eye. Always look for ratings and reviews, and ensure that the teachers are experienced, published, quality writers with a teaching record. Extra points if you are digging their writing!
Access to media and engagement
As writers, the majority of our time is spent in front of a screen. So the last thing you’ll want to do is spend another three hours reading endless PDF files! Make sure there is use of interactive and engaging media, as well as cutting-edge platforms. Access to digital resources and materials will also allow you to set your own learning pace. Flexibility on time-scheduling for online sessions and workshops is also something to consider.
In both teacher-student, student-student relationship aspects, a strong community is one of the most valuable things for your professional development. Interacting with like-minded peers and being part of a group that shares their insights, feedback, inspirations, successes and even struggles is priceless. Smaller classes usually offer more potential for building rapport and fostering positive working relationships amongst students - mainly through discussion forums, group projects and synchronous sessions. Look for a strong alumni network, indicating the support following the course's completion.
Although the level of engagement differs for each participator, making contacts through such networking could bring endless future work possibilities.
What is the best online writing course?
As we explained above, there are many factors that affect the quality of a course and the choice is purely subjective.
Nevertheless, we will take a look at our top 6 online writing courses for 2020, listed in lower-to-higher price order:
With prices starting from $9.99, Udemy can be considered a retailer of eLearning for any writing topic. The available 130,000 self-paced online courses include instructor support and are quite suitable for beginners. However, the quality of the lessons varies, so always check the reviews.
Coursera offers more than 3900 of what is known as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from top universities around the world. The module is self-paced and is accompanied by forums, homework, and online quizzes or exams. The courses are generally free to watch, and you can get single ones or a whole specialisation with certificate for a monthly subscription fee of $39 to $89. Coursera also offers financial aid or scholarships to needy applicants, along with the opportunity to apply for a MOOC-based degree.
Skillshare covers a wide range of topics with two types of courses: Skillshare Originals and classes created by individuals. Writing courses emphasize on creative writing with celebrity or semi-celebrity instructors. The platform has good quality control and it's an Editors' Choice for online learning services. Classes don't follow a fixed format and the features depend on your membership.
There is a 30-day free trial or a 2-week free Premium trial ($16/mo or $96/yr). The ad-supported free version gives you access to 2100 videos and tutorials, PDF workbooks and student discussions. Going Premium, you also get teacher support and more than 22,000 ad-free, downloadable classes. Annual memberships have additional perks, like discounts on Adobe products, Squarespace and more.
CreativeLive is a practical option, featuring entrepreneurs, bloggers and online personas, including New York Times best-selling author Ramit Sethi. Few classes are free and to purchase locked ones will cost you anywhere between $7 to $45. If you get the pass for $39/mo or $149/yr, you have 1500+ classes on demand, PDFs, worksheets and media materials, accessed even through the mobile CreativeLive app.
Masterclass is a posh version of CreativeLive, with classes from accomplished professionals of literally any sector – from Dan Brown and Annie Leibovitz, to Gordon Ramsey and RuPaul. For an annual fee of $180, you get access to 85+ self-paced classes and hear otherwise inaccessible talented authors talk about the craft of fiction and nonfiction writing. Big names include Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, Neil Gaiman and James Patterson.There's also downloadable multimedia, assignments, access to a community and new classes every month.
Although it's an amazing deal, forget about a personalised approach – celebrities don't have time for that!
Digital Nomad Writing Club
Call me biased, but I think we saved the best for last! The DNWC is where theory becomes skills. This full on, 6-month programme takes you ‘from puzzled, to published, to PAID’.
The course offers real-world experience in content writing, through weekly assignments for existing clients, editing practise, personalised feedback, virtual workshops and self-paced learning resources.You also receive customized coaching and mentorship from experienced writers and editors, as well as access to a strong community via cutting-edge platforms. Where possible, you get bylined pieces published, which you can then use to build your portfolio. Upon completion of the course, you receive a certificate and a reference letter, together with all the confidence that you need to launch your writing career! The programme fee is $600, with internship and semi-scholarship options available.
If your dream is becoming a digital nomad making money from writing, while travelling the world, this virtual school is a solid option for reaching that sooner than later.
Ten notable mentions
Strong written communication skills dominate today's list of employers' most desired candidate qualities, no matter the industry. But good content doesn't always come instinctively, even to writers, and Google unfortunately doesn't have all the answers.
Enrolling in the best online writing course for your educational goals will give you access to exclusive information for improving your writing and upgrading your skills. And since it's unlikely that most people in your circle have interest in the art of writing, the chance to interact and learn from experienced writers and gain online visibility is incredibly encouraging. After all, you become who you befriend.
Every good writing course has something to offer for your professional journey. So, in the long run, don't limit yourself only to the ones matching your niche. We learn until we die, and even though perfection is unreachable, there is always room for improvement.