Can training help you launch a freelance career faster? For me, the answer is a resounding yes. I still remember the moment I stepped inside my first search engine optimization (SEO) seminar. My previous company made the decision to wrap up operations, and I was thinking about whether a career change to long-term freelancing was a viable opportunity. Digital was the direction I wanted to go in, but despite my experience, I had a lot to learn.
I signed up for a day-long seminar to get up to speed on how SEO worked. That simple investment gave me a leg up when I started freelancing. According to Upwork’s skills index, the most in-demand skills today range from user experience design (UX) and technology development to writing and data visualization. Here’s a closer look at some of the training I tried and whether it might be the right option for you.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a mastermind, it’s when a group of like-minded businesspeople come together to share ideas, learn and pool their resources to get more done. Early on in my freelance journey, I tried this out. While the accountability and relationships were valuable, the participants had diverse background and goals, so it was hard to find common ground. If you want to learn from other people in your field or experience expanded support on accountability, a mastermind might be for you. To find the right group:
- Look for opportunities where the individuals are at higher levels in their career than you to glean their strategic insights.
- Seek peers who work in similar fields, so you can commiserate on shared challenges and victories.
- Make sure the structure and commitments of the group aren’t overwhelming — and that there’s a clear return on investment for you.
Mentoring and Coaching
Through a mentoring program, freelancers can connect one-on-one with experienced practitioners for customized guidance and feedback. In other words: coaching. At the start of my career, I enrolled in a mentoring program with a business-to-business copywriter. It was one of my most valuable resources. It was specialized to my specific needs and provided personalized advice. However, there’s no standard industry regulation for certifying the quality of coaches — and they can prove expensive. To find the best mentor:
- Look for someone whose experience and skills align with where you want to be in your career.
- Go into the relationship with a specific problem to solve, like improving your public speaking skills, raising your rates or acquiring more clients.
- Talk to others who’ve worked with this person to get a realistic sense of their strengths and weaknesses.
- Choose a mentor with deep experience, rather than someone who just wants to teach a topic.
Conferences and Seminars
Conferences and seminars have multiple purposes, often including networking and showcasing products. For the freelancer looking for the dual benefit of connecting with clients while also learning, they’re a great format. There are three types of conferences and seminars that can yield different benefits:
- Seminars: Seminars tend to be specialized training opportunities that allow you to take a deep dive into a topic, like learning video editing software or getting up to speed on the latest social media platform. They’re worth investing in when you need to fast-track specific skill development.
- Industry Conferences: Attending industry conferences can help you discover what issues matter most to clients and train you to speak to consumers on their own level. Conferences also provide networking opportunities, which can turn into long-term valuable contacts.
- Conferences in Your Specialty: Whether you’re a freelance writer, designer or data scientist, attending conferences in your own field is smart. You can network with peers, attend sessions on the latest trends and gain surprising insights. The after-hours networking and potential client sessions, such as Client Connections sponsored by ASJA, are other great perks.
You can also consider professional organizations and associations that function primarily as peer groups. For example, for writers, a number of different organizations allow you to network with other journalists, authors and marketing writers. Peer groups can provide a safe space to ask questions, hear advice and even get the scoop on what it’s like to work with a specific client. They’re a great resource for finding opportunities over time as you build relationships.
Peer groups also help you learn the ins and outs of business and give you valuable insights into how other people work, which is impossible to learn otherwise. When choosing peer groups, make sure the mission of the group aligns with your interests and that the culture is a good fit for your style of engagement. Avoid groups where drama or toxic dynamics take up too much of your time or limit the value you receive.
In the end, training can definitely help you launch a freelance career faster. The right investments can shorten your learning curve, connect with opportunities and build a network that understands the freelance life. There are numerous opportunities out there, depending on your needs, budget, learning style, goals and more. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and keep moving forward even when you have an experience that’s not exactly the right fit for you. Investing in your career in the long term is worth it.