How to begin coding for free (or nearly free) in a few minutes each day

Learn to Code

This is a guest post by Anna Cunnane. Anna is Systems and Data Manager at Abrams & Chronicle Books. Anna was winner of the Trailblazer Awards 2018, she is part of BookMachine Team Unplugged and was Chair of the Society of Young Publishers (2015-16).

It seems like everyone in publishing right now is talking about how important it is to learn how to code. So what’s the best way to get started on top of a full time job and with not much money to spare? Particularly when, like me, you come from an arts background and memories of maths lessons make you break out into a cold sweat.

While trying to learn I’ve found that there are lots of places where you can get an introduction to coding either for free or at very low cost. Like with any skill I’ve seen that consistent practice even in small windows of time (i.e. your commute) can lead to big improvements.

If you don’t want to shell out thousands of pounds on coding bootcamps or spend months on retraining (and you shouldn’t until you know that’s what you want to do), check out the links below:

  1. Learn Enough to be Dangerous – thank you to Emma Barnes of Consonance app for letting me know about this one. Learn Enough sets out a path through free resources that will take you from the basics of web development to creating professional web applications.
  2. Codecademy – offers free coding classes in 12 different programming languages. Codeacademy is a good starting point that allows you to learn the syntax of a programming language in an interactive environment in your browser.
  3. – join a community of coders as you build projects and get free certifications. You can even get experience coding for non-profits.
  4. Skillcrush – aimed at career changers, this is an online school with a free coding bootcamp that you can fit around your own schedule.
  5. Learn Code the Hard Way – specifically designed for beginners these courses aim to teach you the fundamentals of computer programming. For a small one-off cost you get a DRM free e-book and video lectures.

So you’ve started to code and you’re stuck. Or you want to talk to other developers or learners about what’s worked for them. Now what? Here are some free in-person courses and drop in sessions that can give you extra support:

  • Codebar – holds workshops in cities across the UK where you can practice coding in a supportive environment. They have some great online resources at
  • Code First: Girls – this is a free coding course taught part time over 8 weeks. The programme is run in many UK universities and is aimed primarily at students so only women up to age 23 are eligible. However there is also a paid programme for women who’ve begun their careers at Code First: Professionals.
  • Rails Girls London – a free one and a half day workshop run every few months with volunteer coaches teaching Ruby on Rails. You can be an absolute beginner to attend and all you need is your laptop.
  • #sideprojectsummer is an amazing initiative started by Emma Barnes. From 1pm to 5pm each Friday from May 3rd until August 30th carve out some time to get started on your coding side project. Check out the website for some ideas on what to create and tweet using the hashtag #sideprojectsummer to join in.

Learning to code will help you to understand more of what’s going on under the hood of all of the digital products you are publishing. It’s a potentially lucrative and easily demonstrable skill and it will make you more in demand. It’s also just fun and satisfying. Good luck and have fun building things!

For even more inspiration to get your coding journey started, come to the BookMachine Unplugged: Talking Tech event on 22 May, hosted by Emma Barnes and featuring Sara O’Connor, Nick Barreto and Nadia Odunayo.

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