It isn’t all about cat videos. YouTube generates billions of views a day across news, music, movies, shows, live streams, and vlogs, covering just about every topic you can think of. What’s more, all this content is free, as long as you don’t mind sitting through a few ads.
Among the millions of hours of uploaded video, you can find a host of educational guides dishing out advice, tutorials, lessons, and more. Which means you can learn a myriad of skills from the comfort of your couch. Here are 8 abilities you can start learning for free.
Cook like a pro
Culinary skills are easy to find on YouTube—the platform is awash with cooking tutorials, and as the Food Network has taught us, video is a particularly good way for chefs to teach their secrets. Just prop up a laptop or iPad up in the kitchen and search for the dish you want to make. You’ll find a long list of video hosts waiting to guide you through the process.
Here are a few of our favorites. YouTube has cooking videos for all levels of experience—this example from Brothers Green Eats is one of the most relaxed beginner videos we’ve ever seen. Food Wishes is a good channel for anything from coconut rice to roast chicken. And Everyday Food takes an engaging and down-to-earth approach to a plethora of different dishes.
Build a computer
It’s easy enough to find your next computer online. But by building your own, you can learn more about how the machine works and get a custom product fitted to your exact specifications. Plus, you’ll save some money along the way by buying the components separately and doing the labor yourself.
You’re not alone in your DIY computer quest: Plenty of YouTubers will help you out with tips and advice. Bitwit has a comprehensive step-by-step guide that goes into plenty of detail for beginners, while this NewEgg video is the start of an even more detailed tutorial. You can also look up videos on the individual parts of the process, like installing the processor.
Play an instrument
Want to start a band? Whatever type of instrument you’re interested in playing, someone somewhere will have uploaded a YouTube video to teach you all about it. Admittedly, the quality of these videos can vary. A lot. Going from complete beginner to full expert on YouTube alone isn’t easy, but with time and patience, you can at least pick up some basics and improve your skills.
GuitarJamz has a gentle introduction to playing guitar. If keyboards are more your style, then check out these tutorial videos from Lypur. Once you make progress with your instrument of choice, you can look up instructions for specific songs—a lot of popular tunes have their own tutorials.
Fix up your home
Any tasks you need to tackle around the house, you can learn how to do them on YouTube. Whether it’s repairing your washing machine or putting up wallpaper, just hone your search carefully. To winnow down your options and get relevant results, make your search terms as specific as possible by including the make and model of the device and the technique that you’re trying to learn.
Maybe you want to clean your bath or tile part of your kitchen. Perhaps you need to learn the ropes of fitting doors or putting down decking. Spend a few hours browsing the various videos and channels on YouTube, and you can become a cleaning, repairing, fitting, DIY expert.
You never think you’re going to need self-defense moves until you actually do. So it’s best to be prepared—your wallet, purse, or even your life could depend on it. YouTube offers comprehensive video courses from channels such as Active Self-Protection and Self-Defense Tips and Tricks.
Admittedly, you’re not going to become a complete martial arts expert if you just watch YouTube videos and do nothing else. But the platform has plenty of helpful, short tutorials that anyone can fall back on in an emergency, like these moves from Wing Chun Tai Chi JKD, or these techniques from Fight Tips. Just make sure to get off the couch once you’re done watching and actually practice these skills.
Draw and paint
While YouTube isn’t (yet) able to magically give you innate natural talent, it is overflowing with brilliant advice for keen drawers and painters. No matter what style of art you’re pursuing, from oil painting to charcoal drawings, you can definitely up your creativity game.
Like cooking tutorials, these art videos cover all levels of experience and ability. For example, PaintersNest offers this gentle introduction to painting flower watercolors for beginners. For more advanced artists, Madison Dunaway looks in detail at the more complicated pointillism technique.
Speak a foreign language
If you want to study a new language for free, your best option is a dedicated smartphone app. But a wealth of YouTube videos give you another path into picking up the lingo of a foreign country. You’ll find everything from complete courses to exercises that focus on specific sets of words—so use precise search terms.
Beginners can try Get Germanized, a great resource for mastering German basics from scratch. For students who already have the basics down but want to practice conversational skills, check out Learn French with Vincent. You can also find plenty of linguistics tips for mastering any foreign language, like the ones in Sid Efromovich’s short TEDx Talk.
Snap better photos
Photography is another creative field that you can master courtesy of YouTube. Whether you want to take better snaps on your smartphone or have just bought your first DSLR, polish up your skills with a few video tutorials. As well as tips on photography, you can also look up advice on buying gear and looking after your cameras.
As for the photo skills themselves, just ask YouTube and you will receive. You’ve got nighttime photography tips from Serge Ramelli, advice on sports photo shoots from Katelyn Adkisson, photography hacks from Cooph that apply to a variety of different camera makes and models, and much more.