Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky-clean and drama-free.
Find out if you're spending enough money on professional development to stay competitive in your chosen career field.
Smart Freelancers Always Budget Time and Money for Continuous Career Development
Continuing education should be an essential part of your freelancing business plan.
With your business plan drawn up, you can easily describe what you’re selling and how your product or service helps people above and beyond other similar products on the market. You've done a market analysis and figured out where and how to position yourself in a niche market. You've demonstrated that you understand your market and your customers’ needs, and you've developed a promotional plan to reach them.
While you've strategically mapped out the growth of your freelancing practice or small business, have you created a plan for your own growth and professional development?
What Is the Meaning of 'Professional Development'?
Professional development is an essential component of your growth as a freelancer, consultant, or small business owner.
Many people who work in either the private sector or public sector are given an allowance by their employer for training to keep up with the latest developments in their field.
When I was employed full-time as a fundraising and communications officer for a large non-profit, my professional development allowance was $500.00 per year, plus the cost of membership in an organization called the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In addition to training opportunities, I had access to all the latest articles, papers, publications and academic journals that were relevant to my work and the organization I represented.
Now that I'm a freelance writer, the cost of any additional training that I want or need comes out of my own pocket. Because of that, I have to carefully plan which professional associations I want to belong to, which courses I should be taking, and how much money I have to spend on both of those things.
Begin Creating Your Professional Development Plan
There's no doubt that keeping your skills and knowledge current will give you a competitive edge. But when you work as a freelancer or your small business keeps you busy seven days a week, it's easy to say "I'll get to that later! I've got a deadline looming over me,"—that being "more training."
The only way to find the time to develop your skills is to draw a map with precise goals linking further training to clear, positive outcomes for your business.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How can I improve or strengthen my work performance?
- What are the key areas I want or need to develop to remain at the top of my profession?
- What are the skills I will need to expand my business and keep up with market trends and technological advances?
After determining the specific areas you want to focus on, create a simple chart (such as the template provided) to link your desired skills training to specific business outcomes.
Professional Development Plan (Sample)
|Goal||What are the steps I will take to reach my goal?||How long will it take me to reach my training goal?||How much money do I have to spend on training?||How will I know that my training was a worthwhile investment?|
Improve the layout and design of my online magazine
Sign up for a night school course on how to use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign
Subscriptions to monthly e-zine will increase, earning more ad revenue and a wider audience
Become a better public speaker so that I can pitch my feature articles and book proposals to editors
Join the local Toastmasters chapter in my area
$75 -100/ annual membership fee
I'll sell more articles to premium magazines with high readerships and increase per word paymeht
Learn how to manage my client list using a contact management program
Buy a DVD/ CD-rom tutorial and guidebook
Less time wasted trying to manage mailouts, invoices, reminders; faster payment collection from clients
One of the mistakes I made early on in my freelancing career was that I was so excited about launching my business, I took courses and joined associations that really didn't do much for my business growth. While what I learned in those courses was interesting, in hindsight, I probably could have spent that money (about $600.00) on courses that were more relevant to where I now see myself going.
Thankfully, after some careful planning, I've now got a much more relevant professional development plan in place. Had I been a bit more diligent in my planning when I first started freelancing, I would have saved myself both time and money.
Adults know that their education is the one asset that will improve their lives more than anything else--including money.
— Gen Tanab and Kelly Tanabe, author of 501 Ways for Adult Students to Pay for College
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Sally Hayes
What additional training do you currently take (or have you taken in the past) to help build your freelancing business?
JR Krishna from India on February 23, 2012:
Thanks for SHARING:)