Staying on Top of Your Game
It is important to stay on top of your game as a freelancer if you want to stay valuable and in demand. This means continually improving and honing your skillset. When you work in a job where you are surrounded by others, or when studying your trade at university, you will feed off other people and naturally push yourself to compete.
However as a freelancer, often working alone, you can easily fall into a vacuum where your current level of expertise feels good enough. Give in to this and your service may lose value over time. Unless you have a burning internal urge you may find it helps to put yourself into situations that force you to stay on top.
As a freelancer it is your job to keep yourself improving. This is true no matter what field you are in, but perhaps most critically those fields where you deal with technology – programming, web design, flash animation and so on. But even if you are a writer or illustrator, just keeping up with current styles and new ideas is invaluable.
Here are some things you can do to help keep yourself on top of your game:
- Go to Industry Events
Attending special lectures, conferences, user groups, industry associations and other events is a great way to keep up to date with what is happening. There are also lots of great networking opportunities at these places so you have two reasons to attend!
- Get yourself some subscriptions to industry magazines
Staying up to date doesn’t have to be hard work, grab a few magazine subscriptions and read up in your spare time. The great thing about this approach is magazines are designed to be accessible, easy and fresh.
Get to know and chat regularly to other people in your line of work
Whether they are freelancers or regular workers, keeping in touch with people who do the same job as you will naturally lead to conversations about work. Whether it’s meeting up for coffee, chatting on IM or exchanging emails now and again, you are sure to get something useful.
- Regularly buy books (and read them!)
I love the web as much as the next guy, but nothing replaces the feel, smell and weight of a book. Buy them. Read them.
- Surf the web, subscribe to blogs and check out sites from your field
Well you are probably doing this already… after all you are reading FreelanceSwitch right now!
- Write a blog or teach on your area
Teaching others or providing commentary in the form of a blog or magazine column inevitably forces you to keep up to date to survive. It also helps build your reputation, so again this is doubly worthwhile.
- Regularly scout out competitors and what they are doing
Not only will you see related work but you are quite likely to scare yourself into action if your competitors are getting too far ahead.
When I first got out of school I remember being mightily enthusiastic, but with time some of that thirst for knowledge goes away. The more this happens, the more important it becomes to fuel that passion externally to keep driving yourself forward.