Let’s talk about the practical side of learning for a freelancer or entrepreneur.
Doctors, nurses, teachers, and many other professionals have to take continuing education courses throughout their careers in order to keep their licenses. Many other people think that once they’ve walked the stage for that diploma or degree, they’re done.
James Adams, director of operations for Proguide, a major worldwide management consultancy and productivity software company, writes in his blog, HRMBusiness, “We tend to believe that education stops once we have our college degree, and that we have everything we need to succeed. We are so busy pursuing our careers…that we neglect continuing education as an essential part of honing our business skills.”
You’re not done learning
If you think you’ve “finished” your learning, just roll the stone over the front of the cave you’re living in, because you will not be much good to yourself and your clients.
Look at technology today, versus even 9 years ago. We weren’t talking about the “cloud” (not in a general-use sense). The iPhone had just been introduced to the public, and now the iPhone X is surrounded by drama, as of this writing. The iPad wouldn’t be introduced for another 6 years, and we’re now on iPad Pro. Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 had just been released. We’re now on Creative Cloud 2018. Pinterest wasn’t even around then, and now marketers have figured out a way to use it to promote their businesses.
Erin Everhart of Mashable states, “Google changes its algorithm about 500 times a year. Most changes are minor, but every couple of months, a major update happens that gets people talking because of the impact it has on ranking results.” Google isn’t the same as it was even a year ago. Even a month ago.
Then there’s all the other hardware and software and services we use. As a web developer and graphic designer, I just can’t keep up, though I try. Can you? Does your chosen industry keep as crazy a pace as mine? Don’t be content to do things the way they were always done. Not in this economy. Too many competitors are itching to take our potential clients.
Keeping up with the Joneses (of your industry, of your market)
In the Information Age, there’s just too much information out there for us to absorb. We may have to pick and choose what we keep up with, even choose some specialties, and become the very, very best in those specialties that we can. Picking and choosing is difficult, but we can’t do it all.
Don’t pick a specialty and ignore everything else, though. That creates a pretty one-dimensional, boring entrepreneur. Read the local and national papers (online, of course), subscribe to several RSS feeds, and READ. I have little patience for the new acronym “TL;DR,” which means “too long, didn’t read.” Really? READ. A lot. Turn off the TV.
Reading is the key to earning
Horatio Alger writes, in Ragged Dick, of a fictional conversation with a wealthy man, “The boy’s father tells Dick that, ‘in this country poverty is no bar to achievement’ and relates his own rise from apprentice printer to successful businessman. He notes that there was one thing he took away from the printing office ‘which I value more than money.’ When Dick asks what this was, the man replies: ‘A taste for reading and study. During my leisure hours I improved myself by study, and acquired a large part of the knowledge which I now possess. Indeed, it was one of my books that first put me on the track of the invention, which I afterwards made. So you see, my lad, that my studious habits paid me in money, as well as in another way.’”
Adams of Proguide says, “… Continuing education can be acquired from a variety of means. And one of which is something that you have complete control of — reading.”
The library is a great source of free reading. Not all of the technology books are 5+ years old (that’s an eternity in technology time). Check out the thrift stores in your area for the ones that have the best collection of books that would appeal to you. Those books have a high turnover, so visit often. Online education offers so many opportunities — even for free, or at a very low cost. See my article on Working on Working for more resources.
Again, you’re not done learning
Learn about marketing, accounting (at least enough to make sure your bookkeeper is honest), and business management. Take classes at your local community college or adult school. If you’re running a restaurant, take a cooking class and restaurant management. Take a human resources course if you plan to hire employees. Pick up some general ed classes — nothing wrong in taking a freshman comp class. Do you want to finally get your degree or get certified in something special? Do it!
The way I look at it, the more I learn, the more I earn. It might be as simple as just learning how to better do whatever I do. I work faster, I now know more design and development possibilities, and I can offer more options to my clients. It might be as difficult as learning a new programming/scripting language or software that uses that language. It means finding out what people in my industry are building and planning so I don’t get behind my competitors.
Step away from the minutiae of running your business and look at the bigger picture of what you’re doing and what the world around you is doing. Take time to think and to grow. Your business will be the better for the extra opportunities you’ll discover.
If you are looking for someone who is committed to being the best developer, designer, and marketer, contact me and let’s talk.