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5 Online Course Platforms To Check Out Now

Hit up the list below for free or cheap online courses that you can jump into right away.

With just an internet connection and a browser, you have access to free online courses to up your game on a variety of topics. Even if you find a course that costs money, they usually don’t cost you much more than your video streaming subscriptions. In the list below, I break down the platforms that I enjoy (with a few some tips) and then a few other platforms worth checking out.

At the very least, many of these platforms offer a free trial period so you can jump right in risk-free. When I mention costs, they’ll be in Canadian dollars.

Most of these platforms also have an app to take your learning on the go, however for a lot of courses, I recommend using a computer so you can pay closer attention. That being said, if you’re on the go, most of the platform apps let you download the courses so you can watch them without a connection and they’ll sync your progress when you hop back on your computer.

If you find yourself getting pumped on any of these platforms, be sure to do a quick Google search for any subscription deals, they’re always floating around, so why not save yourself some cash if you can.

Also worth noting, if you’ve got some solid skills that you’d love to teach, many of these platforms invite instructors to apply to teach their own courses. This is worth considering as you check out the list.

Contrary to how countdowns usually work, the list starts at what I use the most (Starting with Udemy at 6). Apologies for being confusing.

6Udemy.com (I use this one the most)

Courses Available

Business, design, arts, lifestyle to academic courses

Fee Structure: $0-200+ per course

Why Udemy?

If you’re looking to learn something specific, definitely check out Udemy. You can also wait for an aggressive sale and save up to 90% off. You can even skim through this subreddit for tips on free courses. Courses can be quick or in-depth so be sure to check out the course outline and reviews before purchasing. You can even use Rakuten to get some cash back when you purchase courses.

5Skillshare.com (Like the Netflix of e-courses)

Courses Available

Mostly Design, from photography, drawing to graphic design and UI/UX

Fee Structure: Monthly ($141 annually or $20 monthly)

Why SkillShare?

If you plan on taking in as many design courses as possible, SkillShare is perfect for you. For a monthly fee, you can take in as many courses as you can handle. You can generally rip through SkillShare courses faster than Udemy courses and you can try it for 2 months for free.

4LinkedIn Learning (Also Lynda.com)

Courses Available

Lynda courses are now part of the LinkedIn Learning platform. I’m going to talk specifically about the Lynda style courses, which cover off more topics than LinkedIn Learning, which are business focused. These courses include design, arts, business & computer programming.

Fee Structure: $24.99/$34.99 monthly

Why Lynda?

Although I don’t use it often, I don’t pay for it, and you might not have to either. You may have access to 3500+ Lynda.com courses for free through your library. For example, if you are a Toronto Library cardholder, click here for more information.

Courses Available

Design, lifestyle, business and everything in between

Fee Structure: Free/per course or Subscription-Based ($149 annually or $39 monthly)

Why CreativeLive?

If you want to try something other than Udemy, check out CreativeLive. They’ve got a flexible payment structure and you are sure to find lots of free courses too. I’m not subscribed to CreativeLive, however, I have scored some free courses and I’ve enjoyed them.

Courses Available

Mostly academic, you know, stuff you’d take in college or university

Fee Structure: Free/paid per course. Some are free to “audit” or check out, however, to earn a degree or certification, it’ll cost you.

Why Coursera?

Okay, I don’t use Coursera, however, if you’re looking to get an actual degree in something, check it out. Coursera works with Institutions across the globe to bring structured education online. There are free courses available, you’ll just have to spend some time finding ones that you’ll like.

1A Few More Worth Noting

EdX.org

Another college/university platform similar to Coursera.

CodeAcademy

If you’re only looking for computer programming, they’ve got a decent hands-on method to get you going.

Khan Academy

A not-for-profit/donation-based platform that delivers courses catering to the traditional school system with a few extras.

The Great Courses Plus

This platform delivers content on a wide variety of topics and discussions. It’s as if Ted Talks hooked up with Udemy, you get this platform.

10 Ways to Rock Social Distancing

From drawing to gaming, here's how I enjoy some social distancing

There’s a lot of scary stuff about the coronavirus COVID-19 in the media right now, and it’s too early to tell if it’s all legit or not. Regardless of the severity, all of the stress and social impacts are real. With sports and public events cancelled or postponed, there’s a strong emphasis around social distancing (the super nice way to say voluntary quarantining). Whether you want to or not, you’ll find yourself with nowhere to go, is that a bad thing though?

This post is NOT a debate on the virus going around, it’s about weathering through social distancing and how to make the best of it. Consider this some isolated showers of positive thoughts in the absolute media sh*tstorm out there.

Prevent Self-Isolation From Making You Stir Crazy

Whether you’re deciding to socially distance on your free time or you’ve taken a step away from work to vanish altogether, you may feel a bit lost with all of the spare alone time. What are you going to do? Instead of binging on Netflix and snacks, I’ve created a list of activities to consider during your personal downtime. Since you’re basically grounded right now, it’s worth a look, right?

1. Read a book

Personally, I’ve got a massive book list that I want to tackle and I never feel like I have enough time, well that could change rather quickly. Take this as an opportunity to finish a book or start a new one. You can even go as far as hitting up goodreads.com and finding some recommendations on topics that you like. Whether it’s to educate yourself or to fade away into some wild fantasy land, now’s your chance.

2. Learn Something New

In my first blog post, I talk about how pumped I was to step out of my comfort zone to learn how to sew. Although you probably won’t want to jump out of isolation into a classroom setting, there are loads of free online courses, books, and content online to teach yourself something new. Make a list of things you’d love to learn and if something sticks out, go ahead and get started.

3. Get Artsy

Whether you feel you’ve got skills or not, it doesn’t really matter, you’re alone and nobody needs to see your creations. Draw some pictures, knit something or make some music. Whatever “artsy” means to you, express your creative side. Hit up Pinterest for some inspiration.

4. Get Some Fitness in

Even if you don’t have workout equipment at home, you can definitely find ways to do some bodyweight workouts. Whether it’s push-ups, planks or yoga, a lil fitness can definitely pass some time in a good way. Believe it or not, Pinterest can help you here too.

5. Explore New Foods

Okay, so if you’re actually quarantined, obviously you’re limited to what’s in the pantry. If that’s the case, work with what you’ve got. If you can sneak out to the grocery store, challenge yourself by making some meals from scratch. It’s like creating a food puzzle that you get to eat if you solve it.

6. Clean Your Space

I know that if I had excess spare time, I could go through some junk. Don’t be afraid to rip through some old stuff, and toss, donate or sell things that you can live without…And in the spirit of good hygiene, scrub your place down while you’re at it.

7. Do Some Soul Searching

If you aren’t comfortable alone, ask yourself why. You can take this alone time as an opportunity to discover what makes you happy and if you’re on the right path. Life gets overwhelming and with this social distancing, you can take a step back and address what’s not 100% in your life. Keep in mind though, this is a time to self reflect and not to point blame. If you’re not happy, take accountability and don’t blame others, this isn’t a time for hate, it’s a time for positive change.

8. Reorganize Yourself

I saved this near the end because if you’ve given an honest effort in the above, there’s a solid chance you’ve acquired a new skill or learned something about yourself. When the dust settles, what can you do now to develop new positive habits? Take some time to create some new routines and goals.

9. Self Care

Again, if you’ve ripped through this list, you’ve earned a lil self-care. Take a hot bath, have a drink (if you haven’t already) and treat yourself to something you haven’t done for yourself in a while. A personal recommendation is for you to pick up one of those massage guns, if you haven’t used one before, you’re missin’ out.

10. Just Relax

Lastly, just don’t do anything, or do something that puts you in cruise control, for me it’s a lil Nintendo Switch these days. A cup of tea (or wine) and a movie does the trick. If you really want to relax, download the Calm app and totally zen out to some relaxing ambient sounds or stories. The important thing is to push out all of the worries and clear your mind.

To sum it all up, do anything but create stress for yourself (apologies if cooking or knitting are triggers for you). Use this as an opportunity to regroup, get more comfortable with yourself and when you’re ready to get back into the world, don’t forget to wash your hands.

6 Steps to Find Your Hustle

TRNR Leather Workspace Photo Credit: Ryan Turner
TRNR Leather Workspace Photo Credit: Ryan Turner

A Simple Blueprint To Uncover a Side Hustle of Your Own

I say and hear the term side hustle so often. It’s becoming a buzzword and so many people have one or want to start one. I’ve brewed up a simple list of how anybody can take an inventory of their own skills and interests to find their own hustle.

When people ask me about Mattmade, I often shift the conversation away from the items that I sell to Mattmade itself. Just the other day, a friend of mine commented on an item that I made and asked where I got them printed. I was surprised and flattered to find out that some people didn’t know that I actually create every finished product that I offer. That conversation led to the discussion of starting a side hustle. Anyone can create a side hustle and I’ve come up with 6 simple steps to get started. Like a mini business plan, just less work.

It’s simple, not easy

This is important to note. A lot of things are simple and not easy, however, with a blueprint, these things become a lot easier.

The Difference Between Simple and Easy

Let’s say you have a fitness goal of losing 10lbs. All you need to do is eat better and exercise more. That’s simple. You know what you need to do, it’s just actually doing it, that’s not so easy. In order to be successful in losing those 10lbs, you’d achieve your goal faster by planning your meals, shopping for those ingredients and sticking to the plan. You’ll also want to create an exercise routine by researching what is most effective for your goals and actually putting in the work. It takes some learning, planning, dedication, motivation and action. How to lose 10lbs is simple, it’s just not always easy. Starting a side hustle (and a lot of other things in life) is no different, it’s simple, it just takes some preparation and action to make it easy.

Let’s break this down and uncover your side hustle.

1) Take an Inventory of What You Know Well

Make a list of skills and industries that you know. If something comes to you, write it down. Think about things like:

  • Hobbies
    • Cliché, but what are your passions & interests? Are you good at sewing or photography? Maybe you collect stamps. Make a list of your hobbies & interests.
  • Industries
    • Are you thoroughly interested in the stock market? Do you know a lot about farming? If you know enough about an industry, you might find an opportunity to get involved.
  • Professional Skills
    • Your 9-5 might not be your dream job, however, there’s a good chance that you learned some valuable skills there. Don’t take your knowledge of Excel for granted…Jot down some marketable skills. Just avoid creating a conflict of interest if it directly competes with your day job.
  • Things That You Wish Were Easier
    • Successful businesses solve a problem or fulfil a need. Is there something that you know that could be done easier? Can you create a solution for that problem?

2) Ask Yourself if You Can Make Money With it

With the list that you created, go through and ask yourself, “Could you make a sale doing this?” If you can think of one person that would buy what you have to offer, there are probably more people out there that would buy it as well. Go through your list and create an example of how you could sell a product or service around each item. Some are easy like:

  • Photography (Hobby) – Freelance photography or selling your prints online
  • Fitness (Hobby) – Personal training or start a fitness blog

Some are a bit more difficult and these are opportunities because if you need to really think about it, it means there might be a niche opportunity.

If you’re thinking how you become a pro freelance photographer, here’s a guide include brief introduction of freelance photography, how to turn your freelance photography as a full-time profession, marketing strategies and much more, check out How To Become A Freelance Photographer.

  • Coffee (Industry) – Learn how to roast your own coffee beans around a specific flavour and sell them at local markets or start an online store for coffee accessories
  • Presentations (Professional Skill) – Host classes at a community centre or library on how to do effective presentations. Teach others what you’re good at. It’s not a bad idea to offer this for free until you really dial it in and get some amazing feedback from your students.

3) Figure Out What Else You Need to Know

If you’re a coffee-lover, it doesn’t mean that you know how to roast your own coffee beans, let alone sell them. There are a few things that you should think about before you get rolling, and you can learn the rest along the way. As an exercise, pick your favourite opportunity from earlier and make another list of things you need to know to actually sell your first few items or services. Just keep in mind with things like blogs, it goes from a hobby to side hustle when it starts making money. Below are a few questions that you should ask yourself, and a few more specific questions to dial in on:

  • What am I going to sell?
    • Where do I buy them, or how do I make them?
  • How am I going to sell it?
    • Online or in-person? How will customers pay? Do I need permits?
  • Who is going to buy it?
    • Who is your ideal customer?
  • How much is it going to be?
    • How much are similar products or services? Can my customers afford it and am I making money selling at that price?
  • How will people know about it?
    • Can I promote it on social media? Can I put flyers up? How else can I promote for little or no cost?

4) Map Out Your Sales Pitch

Can you describe what you sell and why someone should buy it in one or two sentences? If someone can understand enough to know what you’re selling after hearing your quick pitch to interest them, you are on the right path!

5) Brush Up on What You Need to Know in Order to Get Started

It’s okay to not know everything to get started, however, there are some things you must know. The idea here is to sell once or twice without spending a lot of money. That means you can’t exactly hire someone else to do much for you. For example, if you can’t create a website or find a super awesome friend to help you out, you should learn the basics yourself. The good news is, you can learn the basics (and then some) of just about anything on the internet for free or super cheap. In a previous post about improvement, I talk about some online resources, be sure to check it out here to find some ways to gain some free and cheap knowledge. I talk about joining online communities, the library, etc. and for more specific skills like web design and how to sell your work, check out online course platforms like Udemy or Skillshare to up your know-how on specific topics.

6) Get Started

Here’s where you stop talking about it and lock yourself in a room and get started. Figure out your suppliers, payment methods and all those steps to complete a sale. Create a basic website or set up a new Instagram account that talks about your new hustle. Since you’re not relying on this as a primary income (It’s a SIDE hustle), be patient. It might take some time for your first few sales. Introduce your minimum viable product (MVP) and improve as you go.

BONUS For Makers

I started on the Etsy platform, so if you’re creating something that fits a handmade marketplace, use this link to get some free listings to start you off. It’s an affiliate link, so we both win if you use the link to sign up.

What’s Next

Assess your hustle. Ask friends or customers for feedback and see what’s working and what isn’t. You can create a free survey at Survey Monkey or by using Google Forms to ask specific questions on what is working and what isn’t with your side hustle.

Good Luck!

I mean it! Day jobs aren’t always a blast, so finding fulfilment from a side hustle is just one of the benefits. When you get rolling, you might even forget that you’re making money too.

If this post helped you at all, share it with your friends and who knows, maybe your side hustle evolves into something even bigger!

Craft Time With Bottom Up Indie Fingerboards

Bottom Up Indie Fingerboards Collector Edition Tricks Photo Cred: Keith Sheppard

Before kids were glued to their phones in class, it was all about fingerboards.  In the early 2000s, every kid had one, not just the skaters, and they were the fidget spinner of our generation.  Needless to say, jumping on this project was nostalgic and intriguing.

I was approached by an artisan fingerboard maker Keith Sheppard, fellow Etsy shop owner, to help with some of his fingerboard graphics.  Keith operates BottomUpIndieFB with his son, as sort of a passion project and learning experience for the two of them.  Creating fingerboards was a way to engage his son on a craft that would pique his interest.  Being a skater myself, no doubt I wanted to get involved.

Where Mattmade Steps in

The tricky part about getting images onto these lil boards is that there are several ways to do it, but each has its advantages and disadvantages. So I took a crack in my activity room.

My guidelines were that I needed to:

  • Create full-colour prints that show well on wood
  • Ensure the print layer was relatively thin
  • Resemble a full-size skateboard deck graphic as much as possible

Aside from hitting CTRL+P, I had to figure out the best possible method to get decent quality images onto lil pieces of wood. It’s not something you can easily run through a printer and the set up on screen printing is a bit extensive for short runs. Luckily for us, I have the ability to create high-quality prints onto a variety of materials (including wood). With enough trial and error, I was able to successfully reproduce BottomUpIndieFB‘s provided files onto small sheets of maple veneer.

Printed Graphics on Maple Ply

Ready for Deck Pressing

After I finish the graphics on the maple veneer, I send those back to BottomUpIndieFB so he can press them into the final product. These fingerboards are made very much like full-size skateboard decks with several sheets of maple veneer. These sheets fit into a mould, and then they’re shaped into proper decks.

Following that, the decks are cleaned up and varnished for a premium finish. This process takes days as the glue and varnish need to dry throughout the process.

The finished product is incredible. At some angles, they actually look like real skateboards with maple vaneer layers and all.

Bottom Up Indie Fingerboards Tricks Decks. Photo Cred: Keith Sheppard
Bottom Up Indie Fingerboards Stack of Tricks Decks. Photo Cred: Keith Sheppard

I don’t know much about the niche world of premium fingerboards, however, it’s much bigger than I thought! There are makers of fingerboards, miniature trucks and wheels, etc. around the world and each has its own following of “fingerboarders” that play, compete & collect these incredibly detailed miniature skateboards. I’m just stoked that I was able to get involved in a Mattmade kinda way.

For more info on Bottom Up, hit ’em up on Facebook, Instagram or Etsy!