One of the biggest perks of running your own business is that you have full control—the clients you work with, the projects you take on, and how you structure your day is all up to you. By positioning your business around your strengths and skills, you can provide clients with reliable, trusted expertise. But that also means you’re responsible for future business growth and development.
Professional development is a great way to keep your skills and knowledge current, stand out among your competition, and attract new clients. It can take many different forms from learning a new technology or pursuing a certification to talking to someone about your goals. Here are ten professional development actions you can take to grow your business.
1. Take an Online Class
If you’re not sure where to start, taking an online class is one of the easiest ways to kick off professional development. Is there a particular topic that might benefit or support the services you offer? Or, have there been new developments in your industry that you are interested in learning about? Look for classes that meet these requirements at universities, training instructions, or more traditional training vendors.
If you don’t have the time to commit to a full class, consider attending an educational webinar, engaging online with industry experts, or commit to reading more industry news. Sometimes starting with a smaller goal might lead you to deeper interest in a full class or secondary degree.
How to Choose an Online Professional Development Training Course
2. Set Professional Development Goals
Creating a professional development plan with concrete goals can be a helpful way to plan your year. Start by thinking about where you are in your career and where you see your business going in the future. Write down your strengths and weaknesses and consider what type of challenges you’ve encountered in the past.
Then, use this information to set a series of small, achievable goals that will help you overcome some of your weak points. For example, if staying organized is your weak point, you might set a goal of trying out a few different project management tools on your next project or look for a webinar or short project management course online.
3. Attend a Networking Event
Networking can be a helpful, if unexpected, way to grow professionally. Talking to peers in your industry can lead to different perspectives and new insights. Plus, making connections and building relationships may also lead to new work down the line or a partnership. Look for professional events through local companies, business associations, or social media groups you are a part of.
One-on-one networking online is another option if you don’t want to attend an event. Connect with people at companies you are interested in, or with people who work in your industry. Keeping in touch with former clients and following up with them from time to time can also be a useful way to maintain a good relationship and possibly get a referral for new work.
How to Get the Most Out of Networking Events (In Person or Virtual)
4. Try Partnering with Another Consultant
If you have a project where it makes sense to do so, bringing another independent professional on board can be a great learning opportunity. Working with another person brings a new perspective, fresh ideas, and the chance to take on a bigger or more complex project.
You might partner with someone who has similar skills as you, or with someone who has a completely different background. Think about what you might be able to accomplish with an extra set of hands.
5. Pursue a Certification
A certification program is a more traditional take on professional development that will probably require a greater investment of finances and time. However, a certification shows that you are committed to your work and can increase a client’s sense of trust and reliability in your skills.
Clients are often willing to pay more for well-known certifications, and a certification can help give you an edge over your competition.
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6. Invest in New Technology
Staying up-to-date on the latest technology in your industry is important if you want to be seen as a credible expert in your field. If clients are using the latest software system, but you’re not familiar with it, your services are going to be a much harder sell to them. Stay in the know by subscribing to industry publications, signing up for news alerts, and following tech brands your industry uses on social media.
7. Find a Mentor
If you’re not sure how to take your business to the next level, or even where you want your business to go, a mentor can be a big help. To find a mentor, consider the people in your life or industry who you admire and reach out to them for guidance and advice. Ask them what steps they took to get to where they are. They will likely have some useful advice you can follow or at the very least be able to offer you an experienced perspective.
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8. Revisit Your Business Plan
When you first started your company a business plan was probably one of the first important documents you created. But over the years it can be easy to lose sight of those initial thoughts and ideas. Take a look at your business plan and see what values and goals still ring true. Is there anything you want to change? What goals have you achieved, or how might you tweak them moving forward? Consider what sort of professional development actions you can take to get back on track. Taking a look at where you’ve come from is often a helpful way to plan for where you want to go.
9. Take on a New Client
If you’re at a steady point in your career where you have a consistent roster of reliable clients, that’s great. After all, that is one of the hardest goals to achieve as a self-employed professional! However, if you are feeling stagnant with the type of work or projects you are doing, you might consider branching out and seeing what it is like to work with someone new.
Best case, you find a great new client to work with and get to try something a little new and different. Worse case, you return to your existing work with a new perspective and appreciation!
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10. Track and Evaluate Your Progress
Of course, when it comes to professional development, one of the most important things you can do is keep track of your progress along the way. Check in with your goals on a quarterly basis and see how you are doing. Make adjustments if you need, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Committing to setting goals and checking in on yourself is half the battle.