How to Stay Sharp as an Independent Contractor
Keeping your skills and knowledge current is an important way to set yourself apart and remain competitive in your industry. Expanding your education and expertise can help you can land new clients and build lasting relationships with current clients. Go beyond the basics and gain a professional advantage with these five ways to stay sharp throughout your career.
1. Keep Learning
There are an endless number of ways to expand your knowledge as an independent professional. Taking online courses, pursuing a professional certification, or attending educational webinars are all ways to continually challenge your brain. Check out Udacity for free and paid online programs in subjects such as app development and data analytics, General Assembly for in-person courses and workshops in everything from design to business skills, or Lynda for subscription-based online courses.
Whether you make it a habit to stay up-to-date on industry news sites or take on the latest business books, reading can help you gain fresh insight and learn from respected leaders. Make a point to read articles or books that challenge your values or approach an industry topic from a different perspective. Reading is a great way to spark conversation at networking events, discuss a new idea with a client, or share expertise and insight with social media followers.
3. Attend Networking Events
Stay on top of the latest trends and developments in your industry by attending networking events. Keep an eye out for events in your area that center around topics you’re interested in or curious about. Or, consider joining a Meetup or professional group where you can speak with other small business owners to brainstorm new ideas and troubleshoot. These groups are a useful way to hold yourself accountable to attending bi-weekly or monthly social meetings.
4. Find a Mentor
Mentors can be a great source of guidance, support, and inspiration. Seek out a friend, colleague, or industry professional who has achieved what you are looking to accomplish in your career and see if they would be willing to meet with you regularly to discuss business strategies, answer questions, or give advice. If you are already fairly accomplished in your business, consider becoming a mentor yourself. Working with a mentee can provide fresh insight and perspective and spark new, creative ideas for your own work.
5. Set Deadlines and Goals
There’s so much involved in running a business on a daily basis that it can be easy to lose sight of your initial business goals. Stick to your goals by breaking them down into smaller tasks that you can work on daily. As needed, reevaluate those larger goals and adjust them to adapt to changes that arise. Remember, your industry isn’t going to stay the same forever; by adjusting and iterating the direction of your business to meet the needs of your clients, you can identify areas where you need to grow your skills or obtain additional expertise.