In today’s world, it seems like every career has an opportunity to expand into freelancing. Although it still seems scary for many people, becoming a freelancer opens you up to incredible benefits without the limitations of being an employee.
One of those advantages is that freelancing can help you further your career by developing your skills at your pace. Many freelancers start with the basic knowledge of their field, then actively work toward advancing those skills and picking up new ones.
Part of the reason for this is that, as a freelancer, you need to stand out from the competition. But another important reason is that you now have the benefit of working when and where you choose, freeing you up to learn new things.
How can you use your freelance job to your advantage and grow your skills? Here are some top tips to keep in mind as you work towards developing your career.
1. You Know What Your Clients Are Looking For
When you’re actively applying for work or searching freelance job boards, you see the job descriptions out there. Right now, some of them may be out of your comfort zone. But if you mentally categorize the best-paying requests and what you’ll need to do to get hired for them, you can strategically work on taking free courses or teaching yourself the necessary skills.
Not sure how to do that? Scroll through the platforms you use to find work, such as Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, or your preferred job board. Make a list of the skills that people are requesting that you already have and how much those jobs are paying. Then, in a separate column, list the job requests you can’t do yet, the skills necessary to do them, and how much those jobs pay.
Look at the skills you see most often on your second-column list. Are they within your reach? How much time will it take to learn them? Instead of randomly adding new skills to your portfolio, focus on those with the highest demand (and, accordingly, top pay).
2. You Have Access to the Tools to Do the Job
No matter how old you start freelancing, you are working in a world where technology rules. This makes nearly everything you do easier, from delivering food to drawing beautiful pictures.
The key is to find out what is out there and use it to work for you. For instance, if you’re driving for DoorDash or another delivery service, use the apps and tools other drivers recommend to get to your destination fastest, find the cheapest gas, and make more money.
The same idea applies regardless of which industry you’re in. Determine which areas of career development you want to focus on, then research the tools that are available to help you. If you need time management skills, there’s an app for that.
And if you want to take free online courses, there are plenty of programs for that, too. Choose between MOOCs (massive open online courses), podcasts, and paid classes (online or in-person). Your options are almost unlimited.
Of course, there is also the old-school option of reading a book. Paper, digital, or audiobook form doesn’t matter as long as you’re comprehending and retaining the information.
There has never been a period in history where knowledge flowed as freely and easily as it does today. Stop doing what you’ve always done, and learn what’s out there and how to use it to your benefit.
3. You Can Work Outside Your Comfort Zone
Doing what you know is great. You can be relatively confident that you’ll do the job right, you won’t make mistakes, and you’ll get positive feedback.
But think about it. If you never do anything new, you’ll never learn more than you do right now.
Instead, look for work that’s mostly within your comfort zone but slightly more than you think you can do with what you know today. Putting that in number form, apply for jobs that you are 98% familiar with, then learn the other 2% of the work as you go. You can probably do this by reaching out to a mentor, asking for help in a related chat forum, or researching the steps in your internet search engine.
When you turn the work in, wait for feedback. If the client is completely satisfied, you know you did the “uncomfortable” parts of the job correctly!
The next time you apply for a job, you’ll have 2% more skills than you did originally. Every time you do this, you’ll learn slightly more than you did before you took the job on. Eventually, the new stuff will get harder, but that’s why you have those MOOCs and podcasts we talked about earlier. You can do it!
Staying competitive means prioritizing your skills and keeping up with current developments in your field. Adopting the freelancer mindset will help you stay sharp by making creative use of your time and energy, whether on your own or as part of a more structured class environment.