If you want to make a long-term commitment to the freelance way of life, you’ll need to take your professional development into your own hands. Luckily, with the emergence of online education, free courses and specialized offerings, building your freelance skill set has become easier than ever. You can now earn professional certifications — in everything from software management to marketing — from home on a flexible schedule. Want to take your career to the next level and give your resume a competitive boost to land new clients? Check out this guide to popular professional certifications.
Information Technology and Software Certifications
Tech hasn’t just taken over our daily lives — it’s taken over the job market, too. There’s no arguing about the increasing demand for information technology and software development skills in today’s economy. Those who know how to solve IT issues, create mobile apps and program websites are some of the most employable — and highest paid — freelancers.
Interested in boosting your tech skills? Take a look at the 12 certifications offered by The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). By pursuing these certifications, you can learn everything from the fundamentals of IT to the complexities of cybersecurity, and delve into new and specialized areas like cloud infrastructure. The courses are vendor- and platform-agnostic, so your skills will transfer to plenty of organizations. Since CompTIA is considered one of the IT industry’s top trade organizations, their professional certifications carry considerable weight — boosting your resume’s value in the eyes of potential clients.
As cloud computing continues to be on the rise, a professional certification in this area of software development is particularly useful. You can boost these skills by earning an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certification, a well-recognized industry standard in cloud computing. AWS offers foundational, associate and professional certifications depending on your expertise level and goals, and you can specialize your skills in networking and big data. If that’s not enough, you can take a look at a few other recognized certifiers for these in-demand skills, including Microsoft Certification, Oracle University, Cloudera and Puppet Labs.
Creative and Graphics Certifications
Creative work has gone digital, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud — which includes programs for graphic editing and web design — has become the primary platform for freelance creative projects. Personally, Photoshop has been an indispensable tool in my own graphic work.
If you access your artistic side regularly, you can become an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE), which demonstrates to clients that you have mastered a range of Adobe software — not just the creative stuff. Pick an individual program, or get certified in an entire set. Just keep in mind that each of these certifications will cost you around $180, and you’ll need to schedule a test at a Pearson VUE center to complete the program.
If you want to learn some new video editing skills, opt for the Premiere Pro and After Effects certifications. For layout and graphic design, choose InDesign and Illustrator. Interested in photo editing? Check out Photoshop and Lightroom. For web design, you’ll want to select Muse. And the best news of all? You don’t need any prior experience in these programs to benefit from them, which makes these certifications a great option if you’re looking to boost your samples or pivot into a new industry.
One of the fastest evolving industries today is marketing. It’s morphed from the physical world of billboards and direct mail to email, mobile apps and social media. As this industry is always changing, expertise requires constant education. If you have advanced digital marketing skills, you’re in high demand.
The American Marketing Association offers a Professional Certified Marketer (AMA PCM) designation that covers the most important digital skills for today’s evolving marketing landscape: SEO, social media, content marketing, user experience, email and analytics in both a B2B and B2C context. Since the AMA is the largest marketing association in the world, this certification can be a major boost to your resume.
Let’s talk price: Earning this designation costs $249 for AMA members, and $349 for non-members. The price tag may be a bit steep, but the skills you’ll gain and your increased value to clients will be well worth it. Plus, there’s a series of videos and tutorials on LinkedIn that can be taken at your convenience to prepare for the two-hour, 120-question multiple choice exam at the end of the program. And don’t worry, your skill level doesn’t matter: The certification is useful for industry newcomers and veterans alike.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, expand your skill set or pivot into a new field completely, professional certifications can give you the boost you need. When trying to decide if gaining a particular certification is worth your investment in time and money, think analytically about whether that designation will help you earn new clients, increase your rates or go after bigger projects. If the answer is “yes,” undergoing this process can be a worthwhile investment in your future. Trust me, your bank account — and your resume — will thank you.