This post was written by TCCS member, Johanna Kohler
Learn more to earn more (it’s easier than you think)
How much time do you spend on professional development?
If you answered “Never” or “Huh?”, you’re not alone. As a freelance copywriter, you don’t have an HR department to keep your development on track—it’s all on you. And it’s easy to let ongoing learning and training slide to the bottom of the to-do list.
In this post I’ll be sharing how I’ve made professional development part of my business. Because when you learn more, you can earn more.
What is professional development?
Professional development is any activity that helps you maintain and build your skills.
Improving your skills makes you more valuable to your clients, and so you can charge higher rates.
Some ways you can develop your skills include:
- Online courses (such as The Recipe for SEO Success eCourse)
- Informal learning (reading blogs, listening to podcasts, joining online groups)
- Networking (attending conferences and local business sessions)
You can continue your professional development as a freelance copywriter in lots of different ways. But first, you need a plan.
Planning your own professional development
The first step is to do a little self-analysis. Don’t worry—you don’t have to give yourself a weird performance appraisal or a stern talking to about where you can improve. But you do need to take a minute to stop and think.
- Are there any skills you wish you had?
- Do you find any parts of your work find difficult?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses (both as a copywriter and a business manager)?
How I keep focus on developing my skills as a freelance copywriter
Twice a year, I set aside a few hours to review where I’m at. I answer the three questions I just mentioned, and identify two skills I want to work on. (For me, tackling any more than two at a time is too much).
Last year I focused on only one area of skills development. I knew I needed to build my SEO copywriting skills, so I identified two resources that would help me.
Here’s what I noted in my professional development plan at the time:
Skill improvement: SEO Copywriting
Objective: To develop the skills required to be an SEO copywriter.
Resource #1: The Recipe for SEO Success eCourse
Expected outcome: Learn the skills required to be an SEO copywriter.
Resource #2 Moz Whiteboard Friday videos
Expected outcome: Continue to develop SEO copywriting skills. Keep on top of latest issues, trends and industry knowledge.
Since then I’ve completed the course, and follow the Moz videos.
I’m now far more confident in my skills as an SEO copywriter, and have even won clients because of this skill.
By the way, if having something called a “Professional Development Plan” is likely to put you to sleep, call it something else.
My document is actually called, “How to be better at what you do so you can earn more.doc”.
Here are five steps you can take every six months to plan your professional development:
- Identify the skills you want to develop. (No more than two at a time.)
- Plan your budget (time and money). How much time and money can you spare for professional development?
- Identify up to two resources you can use to develop each skill. (Of course, there are a million resources out there, but pick only two per skill. If I listed ALL THE THINGS in my plan, I’d never do any of them).
- Do the thing. Take the course, read the blog, listen to the podcast, attend the conference.
- Evaluate where you’re at when you finish the resource (or at the six month mark).
How much does this professional development thing cost?
That’s like a client asking, “How much does it cost to write the content for a website?”.
It depends on your budget, your needs, and your preferred learning methods.
The best way is to identify the skills you want to develop, and then research your options.There are oodles of resources to help you build your skills—paid and free.
Free ways to continue learning
With so many free resources to choose from—podcasts, blogs, webinars, ebooks—it’s easy to be overwhelmed. You need to find resources that match both your needs and your style. Here are a few I use.
The Hot Copy podcast is a collaboration between copy gurus Kate Toon and Belinda Weaver. It’s a great way to learn more about copywriting skills, running a business, client management and tools to help your business grow. (This resource is on my current professional development plan. I download it and listen to it in the car).
Freelance Jungle is an Australian-based online community for freelancers. It’s a great source of knowledge, and a place to network and ask questions free of judgement.
HubSpot is a software company that specialises in inbound marketing. They offer free online training on content marketing and more.
A resource from the Australian government with lots of information on how to plan, start and run your business.
Local business groups
Wherever you’re based, there will be local business groups you can join or interact with (local councils can often help you find them). They provide opportunities to attend training sessions and networking events. And if you want to develop your public speaking skills, you could ask to present a session on copywriting.
It’s worth investing some $$$
Yes, there’s a bunch of great free resources out there. But I also recommend you set aside some dollars each year to invest in your professional development.
As part of my plan, I’ve committed to at least one major learning experience each year. This year I allocated my professional development money to attending CopyCon.
It was a fantastic opportunity to learn from fellow copywriters and get some face-to-face time with colleagues. (Video tickets are still available).
(Yes, I know I’m writing this post on the TCCS blog. But honestly, it’s hands down the best money I’ve spent on my business so far).
My professional development promise
As freelance copywriters, professional development plays a crucial role in building our businesses and making us more valuable to our clients.
My professional development promise to myself is to:
- keep reviewing my plan every six months
- invest money in one significant learning experience each year
- dedicate at least two hours each week to developing my skills
If you thought professional development was behind you when you became a freelancer, it’s not. In fact, it’s now more important than ever.
Over to you: What’s your professional development promise?
What’s your professional development promise? Tell us how you‘re going to invest in yourself and your business.
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