How to Beef Up Your Freelancing Skills

When you became a freelancer, you also became your very own human resource director.

That means you’re responsible for your own professional growth and development. Take this responsibility seriously, because this is what keeps you in-demand and able to charge higher than your competitors do.

However, keep in mind that you need to continually improve two areas of skills:

  • The specialized skills in your particular field, whether it’s writing, designing, programming, photography or anything else.
  • Your entrepreneurial skills–the skills you need to run your freelancing business, manage your finances, and market your services.

Even if you’re just starting out and have limited resources to invest, it’s possible to beef up your skills. The Internet, in particular, provides many opportunities for you to keep updated in your field, as well as in small business management.

What is essential is your investment of time and effort to continually improve your skills.

Below are some free and paid ways you can build up your skills to become a more successful freelancer:

6 Free Opportunities to Help You Build Your Skills

Here are six free opportunities to beef up your skills:

  1. Blogs. You’re already reading Freelance Folder, which means you get a good daily dose of high-quality advice on becoming a profitable freelancer. Aside from Freelance Folder, you should also regularly read blogs in your industry, and a couple of other blogs on small business or home business management. You can use to find and keep track the best blogs on any topic.
  2. Email Newsletters. Email newsletters are another good way to get free training on almost any subject you can think of. Many of your favorite bloggers probably already offer a newsletter.
  3. Free Teleseminars and Webinars. Many subject experts also give free teleseminars and webinars. Oftentimes, they use these to pitch their products or services. If you can’t afford them, then resist the temptation to buy those! But, good quality virtual seminars will give you plenty of actionable advice even if you don’t buy the product/service being promoted.
  4. Library Books. Let’s not forget the basics! Books are a great way to learn, and if your budget is limited, then take advantage of your local library. Or, feel free to borrow from your friends–just make sure you give them back!
  5. Internship, Apprenticeship, On-the-Job Training. Some experts provide unpaid internship programs in exchange for the chance to mentor with them. Keep on the lookout for these opportunities. Or, if you know somebody you’d love to learn from, offer your services as an unpaid apprentice.
  6. Online Forums. Free online forums are another way to get free knowledge, information, and advice. Forum members are usually willing to answer your questions and point you to additional learning resources. Freelance Folder offers just such a free forum for its readers.

6 Paid Opportunities to Help You Build Your Skills

To get some types of training, you may need to make an investment. Here are six paid opportunities for beefing up your freelancing skills:

  1. Books & Magazines. I’m a compulsive book collector, so of course, I’m going to tell you that books are a good investment. When you find gems that will serve you for life, buy yourself a copy. A subscription to an industry magazine can also be a worthwhile investment.
  2. University/College Courses. You don’t have to be a full-time student to enroll in many of the courses available in your local college or university. Check out what’s available and see if there’s any course that could significantly improve your skill set.
  3. Live Training. A more economical alternative to formal university/college courses are live training events organized by professional organizations. You get the benefit of live interaction with your trainer, but at a limited time.
  4. Home Study Courses. If you can’t afford to attend a live training course, especially if the one you’re interested in is far from your home, then a home study course is the next best thing. You don’t get live interaction with your teacher and “classmates,” but you get to proceed at your own pace and from the comfort of your own home office.
  5. E-coaching. An e-coaching program gives you more interaction with your teacher, usually in the form of teleseminars, phone coaching, and email consultation. However, this is usually more time-structured than a home study course, so you will have to work within the program schedule.
  6. Mastermind Groups. A good mastermind group is another good investment in your professional growth. In fact, in Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says that a mastermind group is essential for business success. Find a group of people with similar goals as you. There should be a healthy mix of people who are farther ahead than you, as well as people who are a little behind you (and therefore, whom you can help). The best mastermind groups can be expensive. However, if you participate actively and take action, a good mastermind group is an excellent investment.

A Rule of Thumb

Make up your mind to spend a few hours a week and a certain percentage of your income on your continuing education. This should be a part of your regular budget. It’s a non-negotiable.

And don’t worry, this is a tax-deductible business expense (please double-check to see if this is true for where you live).

To become a successful freelancer, you have to get really good–both very good at what you do and a very good businessman.

In my case, I read books, enroll in home study courses and e-coaching programs, and am a member of three mastermind groups.  I invest about 15% of my monthly income–sometimes much more. I plan to participate in live conferences and training next year, which will mean a bigger investment.

How About You?

How do you keep your “edge” sharp? How do you stay on top of your game? How much time and money do you invest to become one of the best in your industry, and to become a smart and astute entrepreneur?

Do share by posting a comment below.

Image by BdwayDiva1


  1. says

    Great article,
    I usually take the free route, although I will be taking a class in Photoshop this Fall in order to graduate. Could you list a few good telecourses?

  2. says

    Since getting out of school I’m getting more and more into online communication with other designers/freelancers. Reading up on blogs and other comments has been a great way, as well as getting newsletters, and reading article archives.

    The next step (once I get some extra funds) is to catch up on my book reading…I have a few on my wishlist, and I love books.

    Another way to beef up your skills is to have a personal project, IMO. While it wasn’t mentioned here, sometimes having a project without a due date or clients etc can be good…you can redo it all you want to try something new, and you’re your own critic. This can help with the more self-taught freelancers, especially with web design, which coincides with reading articles and tutorials.

  3. says

    Another step you could take to boost your education is to build a relationship with other local designers. This could be freelancers or design firms.

    Working with other freelancers directly on projects is a great way to build new skill sets, especially if you find a working partner that is very good at what they do. Although just meeting with a designer or a design firm can provide you with valuable information such as how to run a business or land some top end clients.

    To me, face to face interaction is always the ultimate way to learn something new or expand an existing skill set. Try to find some ways to interact personally with people who are better than you at what you do, it’s a surefire way to get better in a hurry!

  4. J. Michael Rivera says

    A tremendously helpful idea: Reading. Most of the writing on the web, in particular, is of poor quality with little or no original research. I’ve worked as a journalist for more than nearly 18 years and reading the work of other reporters, columnists and editors in newspapers and magazines has improved my writing more than any class or seminar I’ve taken.

  5. says

    Good article, however I disagree with the assumption that University/College Courses will improve your freelancing skills. In my experience University/College Courses tend to be outdated and will only provide a base-line level of knowledge.

  6. says

    Yes, certainly the free route but I also follow paid-for courses as well. Things change so fast that it’s important to keep up. Last year I did a 20-module course on using social media and I’ve just signed up for a course on SEO Copywriting as I need to hone my skills in that area.

  7. says

    Freelance work is something people all over the world so everyday. If you have a skill that’s in demand then the chances are you can become a freelancer and make more money than in your normal 9-5 job. Here are 10 ideas to consider as you think about making a move from employment to freelancing.
    Kind Regards,

  8. says

    Thanks for your comments, everyone!

    I wholeheartedly agree that you must invest time and money to keep building your skills. However, I included free options here for those freelancers who are just starting out, or who are in the stage of their personal/professional lives when they cannot afford to pay for training.

    * The lack of money should not stop us from improving ourselves! *

    @Matt Pritchett – I don’t use Photoshop, so I’m not aware of any courses on it. Have you tried posting this question on the Freelance Folder forum?

    @Mike Rogers – Some industries require a graduate degree for increased credibility, so college/university courses would be required. It’s been 10 years since I attended graduate school (which I didn’t finish BTW), but I’m sure you’ll find both the good and the bad.

  9. Sarah says

    If you have not heard of you should check it out. There are lots of useful design tutorials some are free to get you hooked.

  10. says

    as for me, so far, my book rack is full of multimedia related and my bookmark is full with tutorials.
    and btw, thanks for sharing, would love to hear more from you :)

  11. Niubi says

    Diversify as well! I know a lot of people might think “a jack of all trades and a master of none” – but that’s not necessarily the case. You can get too stuck in a niche and that’s not good for creativity at all. And the rut! Personally I write, and that’s going quite well, but I chose to join the dubli network in order to gain a little supplemental income – I can use my other skills to boost that.

    That’s my 2p’s worth!

  12. says

    I agree with the rest, we need to constantly upgrade ourselves in order to keep up with the changes. I find investing on books obsolete very fast so I normally borrow them from the national library. Luckily, they always bring in new books fast.

    The lifespan of design skills can be short due to fast software changes. I remember I spent a lot of times learning website design using html editor but now I’ve to relearn my website design skills by using blog editor software. Phew!

    Also, I realized my clients used different ways of communication now. They are no longer satisfied by phone or email but they expect me to have twitter, facebook or skype. I need to beef up on these areas in order to satisfy them.

  13. says

    I totally agree with you. Everyone else invests in property, stocks, goods and services but seldom do they invest in their brains – the birthplace of innovation

  14. says

    At the start of every week I keep an eye out for new webinars worth attending. Hupspot for example is always hosting webinars on marketing. I try and sign up for as many as time will allow because they serve as a good refresher and in most cases, also give me new ideas for content.

  15. says

    Reading books can help, but experience is the best teacher. The best way to beef up your skills is to continue doing projects, even if they are side/personal projects.

  16. says

    Fantastic blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any recommendations? Kudos!

  17. says

    We are a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable information to work on. You have done an impressive job and our whole community will be grateful to you.

  18. says

    The freelancer is the most qualified person on the market because we do everything! The freedom is great, but sometimes it’s challenging to do it all.


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