Learn to Code for Free with Codecademy

As a freelancer, it never hurts to be on the lookout for new skills. If you happen to be an online freelancer, these skills can be the difference between success and failure on your next project bid or client interview. Whether you are a graphic designer, writer, marketing guru or virtual assistant, understanding the basics of coding and programming has HUGE benefits. While you could spend thousands of dollars going to school for it and toss a few years of your free time into the pile, there are a number of great free resources on the Internet to help learn to code. Codecademy is one of my favorites.

What Can You Learn through Codecademy

Before we dive into what the site has to offer, keep in mind that these courses are somewhat basic. Will you be cranking out smartphone apps, web interfaces and your own Operating Systems within minutes of logging in? No. Will you have a firm grasp of the mindset and practices behind coding and be capable of creating basic websites, apps and scripts? Yes!

Codecademy Preview

Don’t think of this a comprehensive course in all things programming, think of it as a way to get your feet wet, find out what interests you and decide what to look into with more depth.

Topics covered at Codecademy include:

  • HTML5
  • CSS3
  • jQuery
  • JavaScript
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • PHP

There are also a number of projects and API courses available. These merge many of the above topics to create a final website, app or interface.

Getting Started with Codecademy

Like many sites today, Codecademy allows you to create a user profile using an existing Facebook, Google or Twitter account. If you do not wish to use any of the integration features, signing up is a matter of choosing a username.

Once you are ready to go, just click the learn button at the top of your screen and get to work. If you’re unsure where to start, the Web Fundamentals course is a great lead-in for many of the other languages and topics.

Courses are broken down into multiple projects. Each step includes information on a key concept and a built-in area for you to enter your code. After hitting submit, your code is analyzed and executed. If you are correct, you move forward. Get something wrong and the site makes suggestions.

Codecademy Progress Report

As you complete courses, you will gain badges and access to a variety of site statistics. Each milestone offers opportunities to share your progress on social media should you wish. Should you get stuck, there is a forum dedicated to each project and exercise on the site. Feedback is typically quick and, surprisingly enough, helpful. No forum flame wars and trolls to be found here.

Where to Go When You Are Finished

Once you have completed the courses on Codecademy, you will have a decent idea of what each language can do, how they work together and the areas of coding and design that interest you. From here, it is just a matter of finding more information.

If you are looking for printed books on programming and coding, I really enjoyed the Head First series by O’Reilly. If you would rather stick to the online format, TutsPlus and Lynda offer a wide selection of courses for a monthly fee. For additional options, check out my previous article on eLearning.

With a little time and research, you can skip the expensive and time-consuming process of traditional courses on programming. Codecademy is one of the many resources online that is ready to help. Get started today, build your portfolio and start a new and profitable chapter of your freelance career using your newfound skills.

Try Codecademy and let me know what you think! Do you have a favorite MOOC resource? Do you prefer to good old-fashioned college course method? I want to hear your thoughts on the matter. Just leave a message in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ using the buttons at the top of the page! I look forward to hearing from you.