U is for Updating Your Skills

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Illustration by Ramiro Roman
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

While you don’t necessarily need a formal/college education to succeed as a freelance writer, you do need to continuously update your skills. You can never stop learning.

As a freelancer, it’s your responsibility to stay up-to-date and adapt with any changes to your craft.

“Back in My Day…”

I had done a few odd writing jobs in my youth, but the first time I got legitimately paid by a publication was in 2003.
My Aunt Carol bought me a copy of the Writer’s Market for that year and I used it to the best of my abilities. I taught myself how to approach editors, how to write in the style they required, and got myself published.

Ten Years Ago…

  • Queries were sent via snail mail.And you usually had to include a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) to get any sort of reply. A few editors could be e-mailed directly, but it wasn’t as common.
  • Print publications were still the reigning king.Online writing was starting to come into prevalence, but was considered a newfangled trend “to keep an eye on.” It wasn’t a serious contender yet.
  • Blogging was used as a personal diary.It wasn’t for serious businesses. The idea of a blog becoming a marketing tool was a truly ridiculous notion.
  • We were all still expected to double-space after a period.And the Tab key was used much more often than the Enter key for new paragraphs.

And so on, and so on.

Now, can you imagine if I were running my business based on the knowledge I’d acquired back in 2003?

This business is alive. It changes constantly.

It doesn’t pay to get stuck in your ways.

Continue Learning Any Way You Can

I’m fond of using quotes from experts to back up my points. So here’s one from copywriter James Chartrand:

“Some people look down on self-education. They believe that the only skills that count are the ones backed up by a paper degree. Some believe that to be a professional, you need a school’s seal of approval. I beg to differ.

Much of what allows me to be a great business manager, a good entrepreneur, and branch out into topic areas that please me is my willingness to learn through any way that I can.

Hands-on experience? The best. Seriously. Practice makes perfect? That’s sound advice too. Learning doesn’t mean you have to sit in a classroom for a lecture given by some professor. There are tons of experts out there in all career fields. Plenty of them don’t have degrees.”

I agree. Times one-thousand.

It doesn’t matter how you learn what you need to know; so long as you learn it!

  • Take an online class.
  • Go to webinars.
  • Listen to expert podcasts.
  • Attend MeetUps, workshops, and conventions.
  • Invest in mentoring.
  • Learn from your peers in groups, forums, or on other social media outlets.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Read books. (And, yes, e-books definitely“count” as books).
  • Read blogs.

Do whatever it takes.

I’ve met several business owners–and a few fellow freelancers–who steadfastly refused to branch out. Who didn’t want to learn anything past what they’d already learned. They resisted all things new.

They couldn’t adapt to change.

And they failed.

Those that didn’t already fail are currently struggling.

Don’t let that be you.

Never, ever stop learning.

Never stop updating your skills.

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