Why You Should Learn to Code, and How to Do It for Free

Lee McGowan
Feb 11 · 6 min read
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Learning to code is liberating. There are countless applications for the skill, and I’m not just talking about a full-time job. You might never become a software engineer by trade, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage coding to make your life easier and more affluent.

In this article I’m gonna present six ways learning to code can make your life better. Then I’m gonna show you how to get started on your journey without spending a single penny.

Six ways coding can make your life better

You can freelance

A friend recently contacted me about a couple he knew who ran a ‘glamping’ service. They were looking for a website but didn’t have the time or expertise to make it themselves. So he gave them my number.

In just a day, I built them something. They loved it. I got paid and they went away happy with their new site. I even got a free glamping trip out of it.

Not all your projects will have you kicking back in a luxury hut in the Scottish highlands, but the point is that I was able to use programming skills to earn something special in my free time. That’s the beauty of freelancing. You are your own boss, you decide what you want for your services, and it feels good when your clients go away pleased.

I had a little help finding that one, but there are loads of jobs available through sites like Upwork, Fiverr, Gumtree and Facebook. There’s an army of entrepreneurs, other freelancers & small business owners who are dying to get their work on the web. With coding skills, you can help them do that and make some money.

Plus, if you impress, you’ll begin to build a network of clients who rely on you and will recommend you to their friends. A little bit of hard work can go a long way to supporting you for the rest of your life.

You can level up your business with an online presence

You don’t need to work as a programmer to be a programmer. Maybe you’re a painter, a joiner, a guitar teacher or a masseuse for cats. Having a strong online presence is essential to sell your product. Coding skills enable you to do that on your terms without paying someone else.

You’ll always have blogging material

There’s no subject quite as forthcoming with potential blog content as coding. In my writing career so far, I’ve already drawn so much material from ReactJS alone. And that’s just one of six web frameworks I can name for just one programming language.

With knowledge of coding, you can write tutorials, comparisons, reviews, experiences & advice.

It can help you emigrate

Programming skills are highly sought after around the world. For example, New Zealand has Software Engineer on its skill shortages list (from 2019). Canada’s express entry list also includes software engineers. And these skills are only going to become more desirable as society continues towards a more digital world.

You have a better choice of who you work for

Like I said in the previous part, programming skills are in high demand. This means that you have a certain level of freedom in choosing who you work for. All companies need an online presence. You can choose to leverage your skills to help small businesses, activist organisations you support, or even political parties.

You can make a lot of money

I’ve already spoken about freelancing & writing and you can make money from those, but there’s also the route of a full-time job. In the UK the average salary for a Junior Software Engineer is around £26,000 per year. This is even higher in the US. And that’s just a starting salary. Think what you could make after 5 years.

I’ve listed only 6 things here, but in truth there are countless reasons why learning to code is a smart choice in today’s world. The best way for you to find out more is to get stuck in and see for yourself. But how do you do that? What are the best ways to get these skills?

How to Learn to Code

Learning to code doesn’t have to cost money. There are some great paid services out there like CodeClan & Codeacademy, but there’s also a lot of free content that can be enough with a little dedication and work.

If you want to start today, I would recommend beginning with HTML, CSS and Javascript. There’s more to learn, but these three basic skills will put you in a position where you can start building websites right away. Here are a list of free ways you can learn, and some links to help you get there.


When I was 12, I taught myself how to code. I was terrible, it was frustrating, and at times I was more interested in picking my nose. But I got there. I learned from a guy on Youtube called thenewboston. I don’t think he posts anymore, but back then he was my hero and a major factor in getting me to where I am today. People like him are the ones who make the coding community so great, and lucky for you they are everywhere. You could go really far with programming on just Youtube alone. Here are a few channels where you can find free content to help you learn.

Traversy Media

This guy is incredible. He produces content of a really high quality, makes no assumptions when explaining things and has three crash courses on HTML, CSS and Javascript to get you started.

HTML Crash Course for Absolute Beginners — Traversy Media

CSS Crash Course for Absolute Beginners — Traversy Media

Javascript Crash Course for Absolute Beginners — Traversy Media


This channel features one of my favourite teachers, Maximilian Schwarzmüller. It also has various beginner, intermediate and advanced tutorials, including ones about frameworks like React.

HTML Course for Beginners — Academind

CSS Course for Beginners — Academind

Learn Javascript from Scratch — Academind

Level Up Tuts

Another channel with some great content. You can also find a lot of beginner tutorials here, but also intermediate and advanced ones to help you progress.


Blogs are another fantastic source of coding skills. I would recommend starting with youtube to build your basic knowledge, but after that you can use blogs to supplement your knowledge or discover how to do more specific things.

FreeCodeCamp has a full course beginning with HTML. I haven’t tried it but it looks pretty extensive.

Medium has a waves of content, too, and several publications with editors dedicated to promoting quality work.

Free Tiers of Paid Services

I put these last because some of sites will only teach you half a skill before locking you out and asking for money, but there are some good courses available.

Codeacademy includes some free content, and I’ve used it before and liked it. They also have a nice in-browser code editor so you don’t need to worry about getting your own environment set-up. It’s worth a look, just be aware that they’re trying to get your $$$.

Egghead has some free stuff too, but I always found this site to be poorly organised and it can be hard to find beginner courses. I’d keep it in the arsenal though, because it can be useful when there are more advanced skills you want to lean.

If you want to take control of your own life, become self-employed, make a game or supplement income, learning to code is the way to go. It’s a rewarding process, there’s no necessary special talents, no outrageous physical requirements and you can easily do it in your free time. Anyone can learn to code, for free. It’s just whether you’re willing to put in the work to get there.

JavaScript in Plain English

Learn the web's most important programming language.

Lee McGowan

Written by

I write about programming, and I write about writing. I also might write about philosophy, if I ever get ‘round to engaging my tiny brain.

JavaScript in Plain English

Learn the web's most important programming language.

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