A huge part of gaining the competitive edge is having a skilled workforce. And not just skilled: continually upskilled. Staying on top of new developments in your industry isn’t enough – your staff actually needs to master these if you’re wanting to position yourself as an expert in your field.

Plus, smart staff are happy staff: studies have shown that employees who receive ongoing training are generally happier and more motivated in their jobs. Any good manager knows there’s strength in staff loyalty – train don’t churn, as the saying goes. And this goes for you, too, whether you’re a manager, CEO or founder. A business should never stand still, and that works from the top down. Regular, good quality staff training is the key to driving a company forward.

I’ve rounded up some great free (and not-so-free) short courses that could offer real value to your creative teams.

Free courses

Creative Skillset

Creativeskillset.org calls itself the ‘industry skills body for the creative industries’, and it’s teamed up with a number of organisations to provide free training across multiple media sectors, including film, TV, radio, publishing, advertising and marketing communications. Their free online courses include Filmmaking for the Web, Brand Storytelling, Explore Animation and tons more. Courses are done online and each gives you a clear idea of the duration and amount of work required each week (in hours) before you sign up.


Coursera.com offers thousands of courses from recognised universities and educational institutions around the world (think Stanford, Yale, PennState, University of London, University of Cape Town, Johns Hopkins and Princeton, to name (drop) a few). The courses are open to everyone and span a massive number of topics, from computer science, engineering and data science to personal development, social sciences and languages. You can type pretty much anything into the search bar and you’ll get a result – and a course – that you can take in a choice of languages and in your own time, complete with immediate feedback on any concepts you’re unclear on.

Online courses

Friends of Design

Friends of Design is a Cape Town-based academy of digital arts offering part-time, full-time and online training in all design disciplines. Their online courses include topics like Adobe Photoshop Essentials, InDesign to ePub, Blender Essentials and more, all for under R4 000 each. The academy is an Adobe Authorised Training Centre, a Certiport Authorised Testing Centre, and is recognised as a centre of Higher Education with the Department of Higher Education.

SA Writers College

If your copywriters think the pun is mightier than the sword, you might want to skill them up at the SA Writers College, which offers more than 25 online writing courses by real-life writers. Students can start any time, and they get one-on-one support from field experts. Specialised courses include Copy-editing and Proofreading, Press Release and Media Writing, Writing for the Web, Writing a Blog that will get Read and more. Courses range from around R3 800 to R7 000. Students complete the courses in their own time and there are (literally) hundreds of glowing reviews on their site.


GetSmarter has a huge number of online short courses from top institutes, plus they’re accredited by UCT and designed to help you learn practical, career-driving skills. There’s no stuffy, rote learning-style tutoring here. Skill your guys up on digital marketing, SEO, advanced project management or graphic design. Check out the full range of short online courses but keep in mind they’re pricier than some others.

Red & Yellow

Project managers, traffic managers, clients service professionals, managers and administrators – this one’s for you. The Red & Yellow School offers a six-week Project Management course alongside its Digital Marketing, Marketing Strategy and Marketing 101 courses. They say it’s an ‘introductory, yet comprehensive’ course to help you kick butt in the agency environment, by equipping you with the skills to run any project from start to finish. Register by 29 August for this year’s course and expect to pay around R8 300.

Short and part-time courses

AAA School of Advertising

For creatives who haven’t had formal advertising training, a part-time course by a bone fide advertising school can really up their game, and it doesn’t get much better than AAA. They’ve been around for decades and their courses are locally and internationally accredited. Their schools in Joburg and Cape Town offer a range of part-time marketing, creative and digital courses during both the first and second semesters. Students will need to put in face time, but this – and the relatively high fees – are likely to pay off handsomely if you pick the right people for the job.


Vega is the authority on all things brand-related, so if you’re wanting a creative and innovative brand-focused team, this is the training you’re after. Choose from short courses like Brand and Marketing Management, Digital Strategy, Mobile Masterclass, Introduction to Copywriting for Brands and others. There are Vega campuses in Cape Town, Joburg, Pretoria and Durbs, where students learn to create ‘wisdomwithmagic’ through strategic thinking. Vega also offers a few high-impact workshops on topics like SEO, influencer marketing strat and digital brand analysis.

Specialist courses

IMOD Education

Too many SEO guys prattle on about ‘keywords’ but have little practical knowledge when it comes to implementing strategies that actually work. And that’s in part because “there are no SEO courses that cover the knowledge required to actively start practising SEO,” says IMOD Education. It was launched by Cape Town-based digital marketing agency iMOD digital – guys that have been in the search marketing game for more than a decade, so they know their stuff. And they’re good at it too, so if your team needs SEO training, this is the way to go.


Cerebra, a Joburg-based strategic communications agency, wants your staff to be masters of social media. Once they’re certified Cerebra Academy graduates, they’ll be the coolest kids in the (social) community. The course teaches the latest social technologies and trends, as well as how to gain followers, likes and influence (presumably without spamming one’s personal networks). And speaking of personal networks, the benefit for your business is that it’ll teach your team how not to to make costly or embarrassing mistakes on social media that could harm your brand. Hit them up for a quote.


The HubSpot Academy is great for anyone who’s serious about inbound marketing. Obviously there are plenty of options when it comes to marketing software, but as users of HubSpot ourselves, we’ve found their Academy to be super helpful in upskilling up staff. There’s a ton of training videos, projects, user guides and certifications, plus examples of what other users are building. Their videos are fun and quirky, plus they’re simple enough to make training easy for newbs too. HubSpot Academy is open to paid-up users of the platform.

Marketing Profs

Marketing Profs is one of the internet’s top resources for quality marketing info and training. The courses aren’t free, but they’re offered by some of the best guys in the business, so you know your staff is getting great (and relevant) insights. Popular courses include Marketing Writing Bootcamp, Search Marketing School and Email Marketing Master Course. Everyone who completes a course receives a Certificate of Completion and some extra bling to add to their CV.

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