As freelancers, we often have to go above and beyond to make sure we stay on top of our game. We work on the weekends to get through client work and we work late to make sure we send out invoices and pay the bills. We have to do everything in our little corporation of 1. Am I complaining? Absolutely not, but I do recognize being the sole person to take on every single role in my business has its drawbacks.
One of those drawbacks is making sure I stay current with things going on in my industry. Some industries don’t have things that change the scope of work and how it gets done often while others have things that change practically overnight. How is a freelancer supposed to stay up with all of these changing things?
My solution: dedicate yourself to being a “lifelong learning” freelancer. You may have heard of the term “lifelong learner” before, but as a refresher, a lifelong learner is one who dedicates a significant part (or their entire life) to constantly learning new things. How does this relate to freelancing? Well, without being too blunt: a freelancer who doesn’t constantly learn new things and improve themselves as well as their business could see their business fail when they don’t keep up with changing times.
You may be saying to yourself “but I already keep up with new things in my industry,” and it is great and all if you do, but do you make a habit out of it? Do you learn things that maybe aren’t the newest and best thing, but maybe something old that can help you improve your business? Do you only learn what you have to learn to stay current without really looking for new things to learn?
So how can you start your quest to become a lifelong learning freelancer? Well, there is no right or wrong way to start learning, you just have to jump in and start learning something new. However, to help you get started, below are a few ideas that I use to help me continue my love of learning.
Find resources that frequently publish news and trends
You may already do this, but start looking for websites that publish current events or feature content that is relating to new and emerging trends in your industry. Follow the sites on Twitter/Facebook and/or subscribe to their RSS feed so that you can keep up with the types of topics they are covering. The key is to start watching for patterns and reemerging topics.
For example, over the last two years, responsive web design has really made its way through many of the industry sites I follow. This showed up on my radar of things to learn because it was constantly featured in just about every site (and still is). I added it to my list of things to learn.
Chat with people in your industry
People are a huge source of information and learning. Since all of us freelancers tend to be secluded working feverishly away on client work, most freelancers appreciate the casual conversation with other freelancers to share their stories and tips on their work. Strike up a conversation with someone you find influential in your industry and ask them about how they learn new things. Not only will you find that they are more than willing to chat about themselves, they are also more than willing to help you grow as a freelancer as well.
Take some time out every day/week to learn something new
Is your list of things to learn is growing faster than you can mark things off? An easy solution that you can quickly turn into a habit is set out a certain amount of hours a week, a certain time every week, or some other type of schedule that works best for you to learn something new. I aim for an hour every single day to read up on topics that continually pop up in my Twitter feed (see first tip above).
Who says you have to learn something freelance related?
I’m a firm believer in learning anything and everything you have an interest in. I am also a believer of keeping your mind sharp. Just because it may not benefit your freelancing doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to learn it. For example, my boyfriend is a college (American) football expert. He can tell you every player of every team of every major college football team out there. Me? I am still trying to learn how the game of football works.
Does football help my freelancing career in helping me land projects? Not yet at least, however, learning something new all of the time helps keep your mind focused, sharp, and keeps you in the habit of learning something new. Remember the phrase “if you don’t use it, you lose it?” Don’t lose your ability to learn!
Everyone learns differently, and everyone has their own way of learning new things. The best way to become a lifelong learning freelancer is to dedicate yourself to always learning something new, be it through the tips above or through your own methods. Learning new things will not only improve your freelancing, but helps you grow as a person as well.
In what ways do you work to learn something new every day/week?