Aside from marketing and pitching to new clients, freelancers aiming to level up should also work on developing new business skills. There are ways to improve your services, while maneuvering toward increasingly rewarding opportunities as your career unfolds. Here are some of the best routes you can take when growing your business skills.
Continuing education is becoming much easier with online learning options ranging from quick workshops to multi-week courses. You can even become certified in new areas and skills from recognized institutions, all from the comfort of your home. If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of cheap, or even free, options available.
Lynda.com is one of my favorite sites for creatives. Courses are offered for beginner to advanced level learners in topics that range from photography to programming. You can find some great niche topics covered here for any little thing you’ve always wanted to learn. Subjects are divided broadly into: Developer, business, design, web, photography and marketing. If you’re already associated with a company, school or government organization, check to see if you can take advantage of a group membership.
For more traditional courses offered by some of the world’s top universities, sites like Coursera and edX are continually adding new subject material to their offerings. Anyone can access courses offered by universities like Stanford, Princeton, Harvard and MIT. I recently took a course on the science of happiness offered by UC Berkeley. And some of these courses, like the one I took, are completely free. If you want, you can opt to pay to receive an official certification that you took and passed the course. Many of the courses offered can be used as official credits toward a degree.
One of the best ways to know which business skills you should practice is to ask people who hold the positions you’d like to have, or are doing the kind of work you admire. Ask them what skills they use the most day to day and what abilities they may not have expected to be important, but turned out to be central to success. This is something you can do today through Ten Thousand Coffees — an online hub of professionals you can connect with to arrange a time to have coffee and chat. You can also reach out to people via LinkedIn.
Finding events like lectures and workshops in your city can give you both an avenue to learn and an opportunity to network with like-minded people in your industry. Try browsing Eventbrite to see what’s going on where you live. Professional organizations are also a great way to participate in the conversations happening in your industry. Many new business opportunities, especially when it comes to contract and freelance gigs, come through word of mouth rather than anonymous job boards. The more people you meet, the better your chances are to find new work, expand your client base and evolve your freelance career.
Having a side project or two is one of the best ways to explore new areas and develop additional business skills. These projects don’t need to be daunting tasks that leave you exhausted. They can be small, achievable endeavors that take up just a few hours a week. Any activity with a goal in mind can be a side project. You may not even be aware of the skills you’re developing, but soon you will find yourself advancing and discovering what you’re actually interested in and good at.
Start by doing something you enjoy or have always wanted to try on the side. You may find it yields more value than you thought it would, even if it has seemingly no relation to your main work. Side projects provide a way to exercise skills your main job doesn’t foster and help you to tap into new creative avenues.
There are many routes to diversify your business skills, and the most successful freelancers are engaging in a combination of them all the time.