Growing Freelance Skills Keeps You One Step Ahead

By Tom Bentley, Contributor, on May 2, 2017

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You’ve freelanced for a while, and you’re doing okay, but your client base hasn’t changed much, your income is stagnant and you’re not feeling that same sweet satisfaction coming with creative work well done. Whether you’re writing code or shaping cabinets, there comes a time when your work may start to feel dull and your prospects second-rate.

The remedy for freelancing soul sickness? Grow. Growing freelance skills can vault you into a new perspective on your work life.

Come Together, Right Now

First, you might need to know where you stand with your peers on these issues. If you’re a solo entrepreneur specializing in one-and-done projects, you might not collaborate with peers on a regular basis. Listening to the strategies of other freelancers who work effectively with clients, billing, scheduling priorities and growing their skill set can prove immensely helpful. If you prefer virtual connection, check out the freelancing message boards at Reddit to see how freelancers of every flavor do what they do.

That said, reading message boards and contributing to them — no matter how resource-rich — might feel too piecemeal or scattered. Even if it’s just too much screen time for your bloodshot eyes, that’s where glad-handing and trading freelancing tips in person shows value, maybe with a local Meetup.

There are meetups for most professions, and if you live in a city of modest size, it’s likely freelancers of your ilk congregate. If not, one of Meetup’s best features is starting a meetup of your own. Trading war stories in person with other solopreneurs is a great way to learn how to up your game. Mastermind groups — both in person and virtual — are similar to meetups, though they can be more intense with assignments and deadlines, depending on the group.

Sift Your Thoughts First (Then Sift Someone Else’s)

Maybe you don’t want to jump into peer-to-peer conversations yet. For you, the first step in growing freelance skills is a self-assessment of where you are in your freelancing career. Set aside time to think about your next moves and how to grow your skill set.

Once you map out your direction, there are plenty of websites offering a range of skills improvements. Some of those, like YouTube, offer learning videos for free. Many of these courses also provide step-by-step video instructions on skills improvements, with assignments or downloadable resources included, as well.

Go to Market With Your Marketing Cart Full

Most freelancers already know they need to market their services if they want calls to come in. If you’re in line to expand your skills, Forbes reports that expanding your skills in marketing is insurance that your new resume has the fuel to circulate in high places. For a scribbler like me, it’s nice to see writing and content marketing in the top three.

Of course, you might be like bank robber Willie Sutton, who, when asked why he robbed banks, said, “Because that’s where the money is.” Knowing which skills are in demand is a strong motivator to hone your own.

But step away from ringing cash registers for a moment. Learning new things in general — even if they’re wildly distant from your vocation — is beneficial for your sense of self and peace of mind. Investigating side interests or leisure pursuits not directly related to work can positively affect your freelancing; stepping back can give you a deeper perspective on your work, which can renew your sense of what made you love the work in the first place.

The novelty of doing something entirely new can jolt your thinking. You might even come up with a method to apply your work skills in a new way, because your brain is making new connections. And more than a few studies have said that learning new skills keeps the mind — particularly an aging one — sharp.

When you haven’t yet begun your project of growing freelance skills, it might seem like a burdensome project, like taking apart your transmission with a toothbrush. But once you begin, you’re likely to find that learning is stimulating — and it can definitely stimulate your business success.

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