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The freelance industry has grown exponentially over the past decade, and was juiced particularly by Covid-19-related remote and flexible work structures. According to a September research report by UpWork, “53% of businesses say that remote work has increased their willingness to use freelancers”. And of course, the freelance life has a number of perks — from selectively controlling a workload to having flexible working hours to the desirable option of choosing clients, it can be a potential pathway to a diverse and profitable career. Of course, most freelancers will be quick to add, however, that this business, like any other, requires considerable effort. To succeed, you need to continuously improve skills and develop new ones to make yourself stand out and maximize fees, and I’ve found that one dependable route to such professional self-improvement is through online courses.
Examples number in the thousands, from Udemy’s “Freelancing Master Class for Absolute Beginners: Earn More” to Skillshare’s “Animation for Illustration: Adding Movement with Procreate & Photoshop” to Earn More Writing School’s “How to Build a Six-Figure Writing Career” — the options and opportunities are simply legion, and can pay off in a number of ways.
1. Higher rates
Your rates are a reflection of your value; the less you charge, the less value clients might see in your work, whereas higher rates reflect loftier knowledge and skillsets.
Related: Here are the benefits of working as a freelancer
2. Expanded area(s) of concentration
As a freelancer, you should have a niche. Having one shows potential clients that you have skills in a particular subject, and registering for an online course will help you keep up with market trends and new developments and fine-tune skills in that area of concentration. The professional world is evolving at a dizzying rate, and upskilling enables you to keep abreast of industry trends.
Online courses that expand upon your current niche also give you a chance to dip your toes into a larger pool of clients. Once you’ve completed a few, you can improve customer experience by offering a bundle of services, which will also increase rates and bring more value to customers. It’s helpful to keep in mind, however, not to expand too far from a core area, as existing clients could, rightly or wrongly, then consider resulting services too broad. “Specificity is the soul of narrative”, as the saying goes, and I’d suggest that it’s also indispensable to freelancer reputation-building.
Related: 5 Ways to stand out from the competition on major freelancing sites
3. A broader network
On-line learning offers an additional benefit: the chance to connect with others who have completed the same online courses. And now that you sport diversified skills and are perhaps less intimidated by the competition, you will have access to a range of new clients as well, but landing them means making marketing part of an enduring mindset, including online platforms like social media sites and apps.
4. Increased payoff from job boards
A veteran is likely reaching out to and pitching to existing clients all the time, whereas a newcomer might start a journey on freelancing websites or job boards. These boards have thousands of new members signing up daily, however, and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. The good news is that most companies search for specific criteria when hiring — experience in a particular skill, perhaps, and/or additional qualifications, and having course completion certification will help set you apart.
Related: 6 Steps to becoming a successful freelancer