Be a Lifelong Learner


The first time I heard the term “lifelong learner”, it was in a LinkedIn recommendation by Sharon Kaitner, an instructor of mine who taught me how to design and code basic html and css websites, a skill not many graphic designers in my department took the time to learn. She said:

“Loretta is a lifelong learner that pushes her skills and knowledge, never accepting “alright” but going for that extra something that will distinguish her from the pack. Her care and diligence she applies to her work will pay off for any lucky employer who hires her. An excellent student.”

It’s funny because I never really thought of myself as a lifelong learner until she said that, but it made a lot of sense, and in a way validated my love of learning. Since then I have really made an effort to hold true to her kind words. Since graduation, I have continued to study different forms of design. Some of it through client research, some through online classes, and a big chunk of it through my ever-growing library. I’ve learned that it is SO important in creative fields to stay current on both creative trends, software capabilities, and new industry skills. Only two years out of school and I already feel like I’m behind!

One area of my education that has been completely self-taught has been how to be a freelancer. If you’ve followed along you know that it’s been a trial and error process, but I learned that everyone goes through this because there’s a missing link in our education. Once I figured that out, I wasn’t so hard on myself. I knew that I would continue to learn and my growth would happen organically, just as it always did and if I could share what I learned along the way through writing, I would.

I wanted to take some time to share some of the resources you have out there to continue your education and keep current. The options are endless, and not always as expensive as you think.


Software updates quicker than ever now and it’s really hard to keep track of the new capabilities. I remember my first experience with adobe products was on a bootlegged version of Photoshop 6 when I was 10 years old. What used to take a year or two to complete a new version, now takes a fraction of the time. You don’t even have to buy a cd anymore. Everything happens in the cloud and updates automatically.

When I went to art school, we had just gotten cs5 and already cs5.5 was out with some amazing capabilities that I never learned. I now have cs6 and feel a little left behind. I have no idea what’s new haven’t tried very hard to find out. This hurts most when I see a job description and it asks for working knowledge of cs6. I think to myself, damn! If only I had taken a tutorial or two on the new capabilities, I could apply for this! If you are upgrading your software, you should always learn what new features there are.

Adobe tv
Adobe had a stroke of genius when they created Adobe Tv. What better way to sell the upgrade to your current customers by showing all the awesome stuff you can do with the upgrade and how to do it. And how about showing non-customers how easy it is to start learning the programs? On Adobe Tv, you can learn all the hot new features as well as the basics. The best part? It’s free!

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To Sum it up:
Format: video
subject: all adobe
for: beginners and advanced
cost: free is a subscription based video tutorial site. The videos are very extensive and worth the monthly fee. I had a chance to try them out while in college. Our school had a membership and we could get a password that lasted for two weeks and learn anything we wanted. The cool thing about Lynda is that they allow you to navigate and browse two ways: by software or by subject. The subjects range from business, to development, and even audio and animation.

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To sum it up
Format: video
subject: creative software tutorials, subject based lessons (i.e business)
for: beginners and advanced
cost: subscriptions from $25 – $31 a month

Industry Skills / Business Kills

I am a HUGE fan of Skillshare’s online classes. What’s awesome about them is that you can take the class at your own pace and even after the class is over, you can view the material. I will be perfectly honest with you. I am a class hoarder. There, I said it. I pay for classes, with every intention of participating and doing the work and then I forget about them. Next thing you know I’m thinking to myself “hey, wasnt that class I bought supposed to start soon?”. I go on the site and see that they are wrapping up the lecture with one day left. My work load/life balance isn’t at a good point where I can actively participate in these amazing classes, which sucks, because at this point I’m paying for video tutorials but not gaining from doing the work and getting feedback. This is MY problem, not really skillshare’s problem. Yes, there are a ton of people who do the same thing I do, but there are still a bunch that DO participate and comment and upload their projects. I think for a lot of people, this has been a way to learn a new skill without breaking their wallets. 

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Here are the classes I’ve taken:

Wireframing: The First Steps of Web Design
Making Kittens Fly With Javascript
Lettering: Learn to Draw Illustrative Words
Digital Illustration: Communicate with Color, Pattern and Texture
Basic Geometric Shapes: Illustrate a Series of Icons or Badges
Intro to Web Design: Friendly Design for Startups and Small Business
Responsive Web Design: Learn to Design a Responsive Landing Page
Interior Styling: Style Your Space like a Pro
Mo’ Money, No Problems: Learn How To Double Your Freelancing Rate

To sum it up:
Format: video
subject: skills ranging from cooking, to design, to crafting and more!
for: mostly beginners.
cost: ranges. Most of my classes have been $20


How Design University
I only just discovered How Design University after the How Creative Freelancers Conference and was really excited to see a lesson about Writing RFPs. While I’ve never been asked to write one, I wanted to know how to incase I ever am. The class was a bit pricy for an online class ($149), but I knew that with Marketing Mentor Ilise Benun teaching it, I was sure to get a lot out of it.

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To sum it up:
Format: video
subject: mostly business and design skills
for: creative professionals looking to up their game
cost: ranges


I haven’t used Udemy before but from what I’ve heard, they are a lot more detailed and in-depth than skillshare. It’s closer to but they have a lot more techy subjects. The classes come with all lesson materials and you can access the info after the class has expired.

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To sum it up:
Format: video + course materials
subject: Techy skills, business skills, creative skills
for: people who want to learn an in-depth knowledge of skills
cost: ranges from $50 and up


So I haven’t gotten a chance to take advantage of the free 30 minute consulting with Ilise Benun yet, but I intend to. I met Ilise at the Creative Freelancer Conference and realized I also own a few of her books and reference them often. Ilise’s company, Marketing Mentor provides resources, educational pdfs and consultations with Ilise to creative professionals.

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To sum it up:
subject: Marketing, Business Growth
for: Creative Professionals, small businesses
cost: contact Ilise for a quote

Non industry creative skills

Blog Shop
Blogshop is for those bloggers who have a passion to share their ideas, but lack the skills in Photoshop to do basic editing, cropping and styling. Two women go around the globe teaching a crash course in Photoshop techniques, photo styling, and photography. Their classes are in high demand and almost always sell out quickly so subscribe and follow them on twitter for the latest updates. I was SO upset when I realized that I had missed the Chicago class on video by literally a few days. I will warn you, it’s pricey. But the connection you make in the blogger world as well as a fresh perspective are worth it!

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To sum it up:
subject: Designing creative for blogs
for: bloggers, photoshop newbies
cost: varies from $400 – $700


Everyone knows Groupon for having deals on food and getaways to far off places but you may not know that they have a pretty awesome section on classes. You could find heavily discounted classes on anything from BYOB art lessons, to bartending, and glass blowing.

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To sum it up:
subject: All types
for: Newbies
cost: varies, but usually heavily discounted


If the idea of  “school” makes you cringe, then collect your knowledge and come back to it whenever you feel. I’m talking about building a library of books in your industry. I’m a huge fan of Computer Arts Magazine, Communication Arts Magazine, How Magazine, and Anything made by Rockport Publishing


No money?
That’s ok. Try a trade with a colleague. You can either offer a service for education or trade straight across knowledge for knowledge. Just be sure that both sides are happy with their agreement and like any agreement, it’s written down.

I hope this has shown you that continuing to educate yourself doesn’t have to mean going back to traditional school. As long as you spend some time (and a little cash) to learn skills, techniques, and best practices, you will stay current and more competitive in your industry.



  • @MMToolbox you were mentioned in my post: Be a Lifelong Learner >>

    5 August, 2013 at 7:56 am
  • @LorettaMay thanks Loretta! How did you find the course on #proposals? Did you submit yours yet?

    5 August, 2013 at 8:27 am
  • Thank you for compiling this useful list! I’m bookmarking this page for future use.

    5 August, 2013 at 11:49 am
  • What great resources. Thanks for sharing. Classes are an option and I’ve taking a class on Skillshare at the moment. I only found out about them last week from an ad on facebook.

    Classes can get expensive though. I find that you can learn a lot just by doing your own personal projects and challenging yourself in ways that your job is not.

    Another way to learn that you didn’t mention is by looking at other graphic design related work and steal the things you like about them by putting them in your work. This is something I do as much as possible and it generates other ways of designing that you might not think of.

    I would say though that if a job mentions you need to know version cs6 of a program, you should still apply. Yes, the programs get upgraded fast but there’s usually nothing major that changes. It’s just little things. Don’t let that scare you from not applying.

    12 August, 2013 at 11:08 am