The Survival Blogs: How to Learn Things for Free (or almost free)

You have hit a roadblock.  You are a great illustrator, you draw as well as Leonardo Da Vinci, but the book trade has fractured, and it is hard to find the publishers who will hire you to illustrate a book.  

You like teaching little kids to draw and paint, but that barely pays the bills, so you need to find a new market for your skills.  You bemoan your fate to your tax attorney (me).  You are an old friend and this breaks my heart, so I bring up the topic in a staff meeting.  Ron says “He ought to do wedding portraits.  Back when I was a photographer, I could get $3000 for a wedding portrait.”  Melissa says, “How about portraits of animals?  People pay a lot of money for drawings or paintings of pets.”  A whole new market opens up.

To find your new customers, you need to build a website or maybe two.  You will use free social media marketing to sell your portraits.  It has to be a different website than the one you have that sells your serious art work.  You have a 1970 degree in graphic art, and you know zip about what you need to know.  But everything you need to know is out there at the effort of a few clicks.

There might have once been a physical barrier to education, but the internet changes that.  You are reading this blog online, so anything you need educationally is available to you.  

There is a wealth of online courses, some are free and others moderately priced.  You probably don’t need a Master’s in Business.  Maybe a simple course on social media marketing will smooth out the bumps.  [If tax is your problem, you may need to go to the local state tax office and throw yourself on their mercy.  Tax authorities uniformly explain things poorly when they do it in writing.  If you go in and you are human to human, maybe they will get real. An example of real tax preparation: For sales tax, write your gross sales on this line, subtract non-taxable sales here, multiply the result by the rate of tax, write the result here.  This is what you pay.  Send it here.] is an online site which has two thousand courses, about 900 of them related to business.  Lynda costs $20 or $30 a month, depending on the plan that you pick.  The courses are brief and cut to the chase, telling you the core of the topic without making it hard (on purpose.) Many users subscribe to Lynda on and off, as they need to learn something new, or perhaps it is Little League season, and they are off coaching. is a free online course site.  You can learn for nothing, but you need to pay to be certified in an area. This also has a substantial range of courses, often under five hours in length.  Kahn is another free site, but is inclined toward academic subjects such as math, science, arts and humanities, with some economics and finance.  XSIQ, also free, has a broad range of courses including accounting and management. XSIQ courses are available on

And there is always YouTube, where anyone can post.  The courses can be good or terrible.

The Small Business Administration has a zillion online courses as well.  I have reservations about the SBA courses, which we will explore in the near future.

You are both building knowledge and self-confidence.  Consciously work on building both.  If you are not gaining knowledge, or your self-confidence is taking a hit, bail from the course you are doing and find something that fits you better.  There are hundreds of courses to choose from.  This is not about right or wrong, smart or dumb, but is instead about learning to do something so you will survive better.