One of my all-time favorite quotes about self-improvement is by the one and only Dr. Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
I think it’s fair to say that there’s not any person — from a recent college graduate to an admired expert — who will ever reach a point in his or her career where they can truthfully say: “Yep, I know it all. There’s no moving forward at this point. Let’s wrap it up!” Sure, you can reach a level of understanding, expertise and success that allows you to be at the top of your game. But let’s face it, you should never stop learning. Never stop growing. Never stop the momentum of moving forward, picking up a new trade or brushing up on your existing skillset.
According to the study “Freelancing in America: 2016,” 53 percent of freelancers have participated in skill-related education or training within the previous six months, which is more than non-freelancers at 39 percent. The study shows that freelancers opt-in to training opportunities to strengthen skills, while non-freelancers are more likely to do it as a job requirement. I interpret that data as meaning that the ever-growing community of ambitious freelancers are going after it to better themselves and their career, point blank.
The great news is that there are endless ways to boost your freelance business with ongoing and creative education that doesn’t necessarily require a master’s degree from a university (although, that is certainly one option). Go back to school at the local community college, attend a professional or creative workshop like Creative Mornings Sacramento, take a self-paced study course through CreativeLive, become a member of a freelancing group like SPARK: Sacramento, attend a national conference, or simply read a new book and listen to inspiring podcasts.
Not yet convinced? Hear me out.
The obvious: Learn a new skill. Maybe you’re a writer who focuses on writing for print lifestyle magazines but want to expand your horizons (and income). Consider learning a new skill like copywriting for websites or SEO. Use this advanced learning to test out a new service offering. Maybe you need to simply sharpen your existing skillset. Or take it one step further and learn something new outside of your industry, which brings me to the next point.
You’re not just a freelance XYZ, you’re also a business owner. As a freelance writer or graphic designer or web developer or Pilates instructor or photographer, you are not only a specialist in your industry — you are also responsible for running your business behind the scenes. You’re wearing many hats on any given day. Accountant. Human resources. Marketer. You name it, you’re it. You don’t need to be an expert in each area (consider outsourcing, it’s worth the investment), but you should be familiar enough to comfortably run the show.
Stay up-to-date on today’s industry trends. Freshen up on your existing wheelhouse offerings with new or changing trends. Social media, for example, is always changing. Always. Just when you think you’ve got strategy nailed down, a new must-have platform launches or Facebook changes its algorithm … again. Be in the know by continuously learning and growing with industry trends.
Leverage for better project rates. Negotiating project fees and hourly rates with any client probably ranks at the low end of “things I enjoy doing as a freelancer.” (It does for me anyway.) But defending your value and educating clients on freelancer rates is inevitable, so you may as well get damn good at it. Use your expanded skills and new education as a solid reason and validation for why you charge what you charge. Nearly half (46 percent) of all full-time freelancers raised their rates in 2016, and more than half (54 percent) plan to raise them this year, according to the “Freelancing in America” study. Be one of them.
Connect with fellow freelancers. Remember, we’re all in this together. We may be competitors in a sense that we offer similar services for related clients, but we’re also all running a freelance business as solopreneurs. Emphasis on “solo.” We have a lot to learn from one each other. So let’s get out there and connect.
Get beyond the daily grind of client work. If you’re anything like me, you are so focused on your existing clients and getting new projects lined up that it’s easy to forget about your own business. Take a break from client demands (when acceptable; don’t miss out on a deadline, of course) to clear your mind, change up the pace and work toward something bigger than the projects at-hand.
I’m following Dr. Seuss’ advice and am committed to take my freelance career as far as it’ll go; exploring new ventures and possibilities along the journey. This year, I plan to invest in myself by registering for a handful of business courses and writing workshops to better my craft and streamline the business side of freelancing. I’ve already finished one course and working my way through the next. Join me!
Follow Cherise’s journey every month as she navigates the freelance life.
Freedom and flexibility is what this career path is all about. While we’re blazing our own trail as freelancers and solo entrepreneurs (I like to call us “solopreneurs”), we’re still running a business. And like any business owner will tell you, you need a plan of attack.
As a freelancer, you’re flying solo. Which means you are the only one wearing all the hats for your business; you do it all. The bottom line is that we all could use a little support to help simplify things in life and business,
It’s not yet tax season, I know, I know. But as a self-employed freelancer, solopreneur or consultant, and doer of all things for your business, it’s quite imperative that you prioritize estimated quarterly taxes — the next deadline is just around the corner. And actually, there are penalties if you ignore these taxes. So listen up, freelance friends!
Feeling all alone in your freelance world? We get it. But it doesn’t have to be that way.