Monday, May 23, 2011

Keep Your Freelancing Skills Sharp

I’ve been thinking of learning a new specialized skill that could appeal to the market I serve. It has the potential to bring in more customers and revenue. I know there’s a demand because I’ve already had a few clients ask about it. The challenge for me: committing the time to learning everything I need to know. Notice I didn’t say “finding” time. I believe that no matter how busy you are, if you want to do something bad enough, you’ll MAKE time to do it.

Honestly, I don’t think the learning curve is too steep. It’s more a matter of me setting aside the time to do what I need to do. The services I provide are different from when I first started freelancing. As my business evolved I learned which projects I like to do, which ones I don’t, which services increase my bottom line best, etc. I’ve also learned that industries change, emerging technology changes the way things are done sometimes and that longevity as a freelancer means staying abreast of these types of changes.

Learning this new writing skill involves me investing in a home-study course. I’m investing financially in my business much more than I did when I first got started. Since this is the career path I’ve chosen to make my living, it’s worth every penny. I think freelancers should automatically set aside a percentage of their earnings to invest in their business, and that includes continuing education (thank goodness it’s tax deductible!). I make a habit of sharpening my skills by reading books, attending webinars, investing in ecourses, and I’m even seriously thinking of working with a coach this year.

If you’re just starting out, you probably aren’t able to spend much. I recommend researching the web, spending time on writer forums, freelance writing blogs, attending free teleseminars/webinars and checking out books in your library to get you going. As your business grows, you can make a point of setting aside a percentage of your earnings for the sake of continued learning and other business expenses.

What are some things you do to stay on top of your game? Do you make a habit of investing financially to improve your freelance writing skills?


Susan said...

Enjoyed this post because I do set aside time (and $) to learn new skills. In fact, I think my problem now (versus working as a full-time employee for someone else) is that I invest much more time and $ in learning other things.

My concern now, however, is which things will pay off and which will not? Should I concentrate on one or two things versus getting sidetracked and chasing ten things? I also have to be honest (for myself) and realize that if I invested a tiny bit more time with my clients that it would equal a lot more paid work. Or I should invest in paying a lawyer for a few hours to learn that side of the business, but it doesn’t hold my attention.

I’d also know what other freelancers are investing time and money to learn. I’m doing everything from trying to learn about blogging (and associated tools), putting things on a “to learn” list (like captivate) ,and trying to learn other things, too (stopping or this post would be too long), but I’m curious as to what other freelancers see as worthwhile (or not worthwhile) and are there any actual industry trends evolving from this.

Lori said...

I read a lot of blogs (this one in particular). I hear what others are saying and I try it. If it fits, great. If not, I either modify it to fit or dump it as not for me. But I also look at things with a skeptical eye - who's promoting said advice, and is there an element of self promotion in it? If so, I don't bother.

Susan said...


I like your train of thought re: reading blogs and thinking through not just the suggestion, but who is promoting it.

I've seen some people promote things that I KNOW are not true for them (they may have a blog with the word money or earn as a freelancer, but all the people making posts mention that they need to work fulltime and freelance on the side (to 70 or 100 hours for weeks), for years; then they are NOT making money.

I've also seen all the material spewed out on some sites as promotional. I roll my eyes and move onwards. Surprisingly I think some of those blogs do well.

I would like to know what people do invest time in as a business and for freelancing,though. I do think some of it can pay off in terms of desired projects.

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