This is definitely an interesting topic for me, as I thought myself most of the things I know. Knowing hot to learn on your own can definitely save you a lot of money and make you more self-reliable. The paradox is that sometimes, other need to teach us how to learn, so we no longer need to learn from others.
8 Tips to Help You Teach Yourself the Freelancing Skills You Need to Know
Posted October 1, 2010 in Getting Started
Web designing, web development, logo designing, copywriting––these are just some of the skills that are very lucrative in the freelance market today. Thousands of people earn degrees; take sideline courses, programs, and the like in order to learn these skills with the hopes of making it big in the field and earning significant income.
But, not everyone’s fortunate to have these courses at arm’s length. I, for one, have not taken a single copywriting course. I do not have a degree in advertising or marketing, and do not know any mentor or expert that could teach me valuable skills that will give me the edge over others.
This lack of opportunity posed as a challenge for me and it could for you as well. If you can’t find a good course or program that could teach you the skills you need to succeed as a graphics artist or a writer, give teaching yourself a shot.
You Can Teach Yourself
It is very possible to teach yourself your chosen skills for freelancing. Even if you’ve never tried freelancing before or have worked with a totally different career, you can teach yourself to become the copywriter, designer, or developer that you want to be and that your clients will want to hire for their projects. To do this effectively, you need to realize that you’re the student seeking knowledge without any teacher to help you out and that your comprehension of the skill and the way you apply it will decide your success with it.
Tips for Effective Self–study
Here are eight tips to effectively self-study the skills that you would like to learn and use as a professional freelancer:
- Possess the passion for the skill. Sure, web design is a very in-demand skill in the market, but are you really that interested in it? Are you so in love with it that you’d dedicate your brain power and energy to it? If not, you may want to consider learning other skills that are not only lucrative, but that you’re passionate about as well. Don’t self-study with only money in mind.
- Diligently do your research. Turn to page 1, 2, 3, or 5 of Google if it will take you to articles and online reference materials about your chosen freelance skills. Read through college textbooks or manuals if they have the information on the skill you need to develop. Spend enough time reading through them to understand them, keep your resources in a folder/shelf and bookmark pages for later viewing so that you can go back to them when you’re ready to continue.
- Invest in GOOD online courses and books. If you’re able to find free online courses in your specific field, good for you! If not, don’t hesitate to invest a couple hundred dollars on online courses or books that can bring your self-study to the next level. I capitalized the word “GOOD” because your money should go to the best books and courses in the market, and by “best,” I mean those that receive raves, high ratings, and lots of great comments from readers.
- Look for interviews of experts in your chosen field. While self-studying to be a catalog copywriter (a skill I am deeply interested in), I found this interview of catalog copywriting expert Jay White published on the AWAI website. His answers taught me a lot about catalog copywriting, the business, and confirmed what I’ve learned in the past. The interview became valuable knowledge as it was coming from the expert himself.
- Take down notes. Like a student learning World History in class at school, a freelancer should be taking notes from all of the articles, books, interviews, and courses that he’s invested his time and money into. Notes will help you, the freelancer, remember core principles, lessons, and ideas once you start applying your skills to projects, whether they are client projects or personal ones.
- Practice, practice, and more practice. What you’ve gathered from all of your materials won’t matter if you don’t practice what you’ve learned. Let this be where your personal projects come into play. If you’re a logo designer, practice by making different kinds of logos for a company. If you’re a copywriter, look for a case study or a sales page sample and try to make a better one out of the concept.
- Ask fellow freelancers for tips, feedback, and suggestions. Your work will always be considered as just “acceptable” unless you ask fellow freelancers to see it and offer tips, feedback, and suggestions to make it better. Let them know you’re looking for constructive feedback and that you’re willing to learn from them so that they can give you unbiased suggestions that will help you become even better.
- Don’t be afraid to use your learned skills in the field. Trying out a self-studied skill for a client project can be daunting, especially when you’ve never used it for anyone besides your friends and family. Think about it, how will you ever know that your efforts have paid off if you don’t give your skills a try? The key here is to go after projects that you understand very well. If you’ve been self-studying writing a sales pages, for example, you might want to hold back on projects asking for case studies or press releases until you’ve learned the basics of doing so.
My Experience with Self-Study
Teaching myself wasn’t easy for me, but it sure taught me new valuable skills and made me a much better writer than I was before. My first few projects sprouted out of a poorly designed manual with only basic information about SEO and writing for the web. From this manual, I learned how to write properly for the online audience and slowly transitioned to better writing skills like catalog copywriting.
I didn’t even know that “catalog copy” was what it was called when a client hired me to write for his online store. I just read the previous product copy written for some of the existing products and wrote my own for the rest. To my surprise, the client gave me good feedback for the work and the project taught me a new skill, a skill that became my interest and specialization.
To learn more, I researched hard for articles about catalog copywriting, took down notes, applied what I’ve learned to the copy I’d write, and was able to become better at it that a new client hired me to work on his online store. I never regretted specializing as a catalog copywriter and am still open to learning more about it.
Give self-studying a try if you want to learn new skills, but don’t have the traditional opportunities to help you. If a freelancer like me can do it, definitely you can do it too.
Let’s Hear From You Now
Have you ever self-studied a skill you used for freelancing and succeeded?
What were the challenges that you faced while learning by yourself? If not, would you like to give self-study a try? Go ahead and share your experiences in the comments section below!
Image by xJasonRogersx
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October 1st, 2010 at 8:47 am
October 1st, 2010 at 9:11 am
Great article, I think you have to really have a passion and motivation to become a freelancer.
October 1st, 2010 at 9:27 am
Best Article for freelancers. Great source of information. THanks.
October 1st, 2010 at 9:42 am
These are great tips! Tip number 1 is especially important. Because self-study takes so much time and energy it’s important that you’re actually interested in it.
I’ve taught myself almost everything I know about web development. I still have a LONG ways to go, but it’s something I hope to include into my freelance business some day. Currently I’m a graphic designer but would love to be able to expand my horizon into web development.
I study experts in the field. Carefully read their blogs and ask questions. I’ve made contact with a few developers who have been crucial in my learning process!
Thanks for sharing!
foyomindOctober 1st, 2010 at 9:55 am
But i think, being able to teach yourself is something not everyone just can do.
Like Eduard here already says, sometimes you need someone to learn you how to teach yourself. Than again, i know people who just can not and never will be able to for some reason.
But when one is self taught, well.. let’s say it’s a waste not to use it as much as you can :)
October 1st, 2010 at 10:53 am
Self study courses are ideal if you’re freelance, as you can take the course in your own time and according to your own timetable. However, when you’re snowed under with client work, it’s often hard to shoehorn in the extra time needed to complete the course.
October 2nd, 2010 at 10:09 am
I think your self-learning resembles my journey. I did study animal sciences and got disillusioned with it after studying for 5 yrs – grad, post grad – and dabbled in teaching for a while in the same subject.
At last, succumbed to my passion for writing. I didn’t do journalism nor literature studies but started working in ad agencies. Initially, I started writing using common sense and observation of ads in the publications.
Now, I started learning more from the net. It’s a huge benefit for me to know more and more. I still have a long way to go. But, I’m overjoyed that many of my clients are happy with my work and give me encouragement with repeat work.
I should thank Copyblogger and Men with Pens and FF too to learn many tips in copywriting and freelancing. They are of huge help for me to hone skills.
I think what is needed for a writer is to find his or her own voice. It takes long time to find one. If you learn about customer psychology, marketing, writing compellingly (some proven techniques) would help us to excel in copywriting.
Currently, I can’t afford to take any high end copywriting courses (though I wanted to) but appreciate any free course or material available in the net.
You’re a great inspiration to all those who wish to self learn themselves. thanks for sharing!
October 2nd, 2010 at 12:39 pm
Great article Steph,
Just last week I ordered books on SEO, HTML/XHTML and Copy Writing.
I studied SEO and HTML briefly in college so I have a very basic knowledge of both. Hopefully these books will help me to advance what I already know. Copy Writing is completely new to me, but I can’t wait to learn more about it. Copy Writers are in high demand at the moment, so its definitely worth looking into.
Anyway, thanks for the great tips! I always enjoy reading your articles. Keep up the good work.
October 2nd, 2010 at 6:58 pm
Any example of “GOOD online courses and books” ?
October 2nd, 2010 at 8:27 pm
Interesting read. I have had some degree of success teaching myself how to make beautiful gift baskets, but would also state that not all pursuits can be mastered through D.I.Y. projects.
October 3rd, 2010 at 7:59 am
Do a “real” project that challenges your skills, it’s the best way to grasp a new subject. For example, I couldn’t get my head around responsive design and media queries, so I used those techniques to build a new website and now I feel much more confident about the subject.
October 4th, 2010 at 8:43 pm
i have self study the creative suite since 2003, from there i have become a quite known freelancer in my country,..for me the best experience is when we can do a better website with the latest technology that we have pick during the self-learn … the double thumbs up from a clients is the best achievement for a freelancer .. cheers~
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March 23rd, 2012 at 8:28 am
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