Freelancing is the new black. Or so it would seem according to freelancing platform Upwork. As of 2019, the number of freelance workers in the United States alone is over 57 million. Such an occupational migration has left many Americans wondering if the freelance world is a better fit for their lifestyle. But with such growth in freelancing, the competition for jobs is fierce. You must constantly learn new skills and evolve to compete. So whether you’re a veteran freelancer or aspiring to become one, here are some ways to keep your skills updated as a freelancer.
1. Check Out Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, are changing the way that freelancers gain new skills. Through a mix of free and paid content, MOOCs offer courses in a variety of subjects pertinent to the freelancing profession. In some instances, these courses are also run through university systems, giving them more clout in a highly competitive freelance world. An added bonus is that many of these courses are self-guided and self-paced, allowing you to peruse them at your own leisure. If certifications are important to you, make certain that the course provides a certificate at the end. Not all of them do. However, displaying these certificates on LinkedIn or your website can favorably boost your online presence.
Some of the most popular and renowned MOOCs include:
- edX (created by MIT and Harvard)
- The Open University
Keep in mind that this list continues to grow as more universities aim to expand their growth.
Actionable Steps: Check out one of the many MOOCs available on the internet. With reviews from students and a variety of learning methods (visual, textual, exams), you can select the appropriate one to keep your skills updated as a freelancer.
2. Read Everything You Can
“Read at every wait, read at all hours, read within leisure, read in times of labor, read as one goes in, and read as one goest out. The task of the educated mind is simply put: read to lead.” – Cicero, Roman politician and philosopher
Reading is one of the most fruitful tasks available to keep your skills updated as a freelancer. In the pages of books or websites, freelancers can find endless ways to improve their knowledge, stay up-to-date on trends, and learn tips to sharpen their freelancing skills. The idea is that the reading material doesn’t have to focus on your occupation only. For example, even if you’re an IT professional, a book or website on how to run a small business could help you to become a shrewd businessman, while a financial literacy book can help you decide what to charge and how to save for retirement.
If you’re not a voracious reader, don’t stress. You can still get the most out of these references with audiobooks. Ideal for when you’re running errands, taking the kids to school, or positively using free time, audiobooks enable you to learn important topics at your leisure. Some studies even show that listening to audiobooks can improve cognitive processes.
In case you’re wondering, here are a few of the top places on the web to find audiobooks:
- Open Culture
Actionable Steps: Use texts and audiobooks to boost your knowledge about freelancing, industry-specific topics, running a business, or anything else that can push your career to the next level. If you need recommendations on what to read, check out Facebook groups, surf Reddit, or ask colleagues. Or you can read the reviews of books and audiobooks on sites such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
3. Learn Marketable Skills Outside of Your Expertise
In traditional jobs, many employers seek workers with a single expertise. A jack-of-all-trades resume doesn’t often translate well to these positions, especially senior or upper-management jobs. But in the freelancing world, becoming a one-stop shop is extraordinarily marketable. Companies don’t have to hire five people; instead, they hire one.
For example, if you’re a social media marketer, learning the basics of writing, editing, search engine optimization, and graphic design can make you a far more attractive candidate. Your client only has to work with a single person to complete regular tasks. Not only does this prevent a communication breakdown, but it also frees business owners up to complete other tasks.
Actionable Steps: Learn the basics of other jobs that relate to your expertise. A great way to identify the skills to make you a multi-threat in the freelance marketplace is to look at job listings/descriptions and identify the specific skills coveted by potential clients. Then choose an appropriate online class to hone these skills.
4. Gain Some Certifications
In the remote world, bachelor’s and master’s degrees are a surefire way to get your foot in the door. But to some effect, they don’t really prove your proficiency in a particular job. While many reasons exist for this shortfall, the foremost is because a degree is broad. It doesn’t give you a specific skill set. Therefore, industry-recognized certifications can give you an edge on the competition and keep your skills updated as a freelancer.
In nearly every freelance or remote profession, a certification can help you learn the skills that employers want. Some examples include:
- Google Analytics Certification
- Google Cloud Certification
- Facebook Blueprint Certification
- Hubspot Inbound Marketing Certification
- Amazon Web Services Certification
Obviously, this list goes on and on. The most important facet is that you’re learning something that gives you a competitive advantage and provides a service that your clients drastically need. Plus, certifications aren’t as time-consuming as traditional university classes. In most instances, you can gain certification in anywhere from a few days to a month.
Actionable Steps: Gain industry-recognized certification(s) in topics that improve your overall marketability. Use resumes of the job you want or similar occupations, and base your research on certifications around these.
5. Seek Out Challenging Jobs
Even if you have certification in a particular area, you may not always put this skill set to use. That’s why an effective method of keeping your skills updated as a freelancer is to seek out challenging jobs. By doing so, you not only develop skills pertinent to your industry, but you also break the monotony of your typical workflow.
While finding a job that’s outside of your normal scope of work may seem counterintuitive, it can light a fire under you to gain new skills and improve your work ethic. In a competitive job market, this mix of hard and soft skills can drastically improve your chance to land that perfect gig.
Actionable Steps: Step outside your comfort zone of work. Actively seek out jobs that provide a challenge or test skills that you have limited experience in. As long as your work doesn’t reflect poorly on you or hurt your client, you can obtain experience in a skill that can further your freelance career.
6. Continue to Network
Networking remains one of the best methods to find work as a freelancer. However, connecting with other people—even online—can give you more than just your next gig. It can provide you inside information on how to boost your resume and credentials. If possible, join groups or reach out to people who have more experience than you do. Even though the market is competitive, many of these freelancers are more than willing to give you some sound advice or point you in the right direction. In some cases, they may also have more clients than they can handle, effectively putting you on the radar for some extra income.
Actionable Steps: Network in any way possible. For example, you could join Facebook and LinkedIn groups that feature like-minded individuals or those in the same industry. From these contacts, you can learn the latest industry trends, as well as tips to keep your skills updated as a freelancer.
7. Use Resources from Virtual Vocations
Although Virtual Vocations has over 30,000 remote job listings for employees, contractors, and freelancers, our website offers much more—especially for the novice freelancer. If you’ve been an employee for years but want to break into the freelancing world, Virtual Vocations’s telecommute toolkit is a valuable resource. Within this toolkit, aspiring remote freelancers can find tons of information to keep their skills updated as a freelancer:
- Courses on how to create a killer telecommute resume
- Ideas on how to get adjusted to a remote work lifestyle
- 21 industy guides for the job you want
- Tips on how to start your telecommuting job search
In addition, Virtual Vocations also offers an online portfolio to showcase your work online without the need to purchase or create a separate website.
Actionable Steps: Sign up for Virtual Vocations to have access to career services, the telecommute toolkit, and access to job listings for freelancers. With this trifecta of resources, you have more opportunities to keep your skills updated as a freelancer and find that next great client.
Without consistent growth of skills, pertinent certifications, knowledge, and perseverance, freelancing is a difficult scene to break into. But by putting together a strong portfolio, branding yourself, and striving for excellence, you can become a freelancer who builds a strong career. From there, the possibilities are endless.
Do you have any tips to keep your skills updated as a freelancer? What’s worked for you in the past? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to share your advice. We’d love to hear from you!
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