Why Freelancers Need to Invest in Themselves
This past weekend, I did something I never did before. I went to a writer’s retreat, the Fortify Writer’s Retreat in Detroit to be exact.
The three-day weekend retreat took place in Detroit’s Boston-Edison neighborhood, a neighborhood that I never visited growing up on the city’s Eastside. All in all, the experience inspired a personal essay I hope to publish and pushed me to integrate techniques from other genres into my own writing. I also got to spend some much-needed time with my family, and I came away feeling like I’d grown as a writer and a person.
It cost $110, which bought multiple meals and several with local successful writers, plus another $100 and some change for transportation to and from Chicago. Thankfully, I could stay with family to save on housing (and get valuable playtime with my dog.)
For me, and plenty of others I imagine, ~$210 is a lot to drop. I also plan to attend the NABJ Convention in Detroit this August. But at this point, my freelance business has gotten to the point where I could absorb such costs. As a full-time freelancer, I’m always judicious with my money, but I’ve learned that there’s a huge difference between frugality and austerity. You can’t spend money frivolously, but you have to know where your money will be well spent.
In freelancing, as is true for life in general, you never really stop learning. So, when it comes time spend your money here are areas where you’ll periodically need to invest:
You’ll never know where your next blessing will come from, so it helps to build a solid network. You probably know that I can’t stand networking, but going to networking events and meeting with editors, staff reporters and fellow freelancers has given me sound advice and lucrative leads. Not every event or group is worth the money. Look for networking groups or events that allow you to meet people within your beat or desired clients.
Am I the only one who’s tired of hearing ads for online courses? It’s fine to try them out but only for the skills that are going to add your portfolio or strengthen your existing skills. For example, I’m taking a free Udemy course on SEO. I have experience with writing blog posts with SEO in mind, but I wanted to know a bit more. If you’re a member of a professional organization, look into the online courses, in-person course discounts, or conferences they offer. If you can brush up on your skills, you’ll provide a greater value to your client.
When I started freelancing, my old Dell laptop—a gift I received from my grandparents in as a high school sophomore—was starting to give out on me. It still worked, but it was slow. And that, of course, slowed me down severely, not only while writing stories but also during client calls. I had another HP desktop that wasn’t functioning properly. After multiple attempts to fix it on my own, with the help of HP support personnel, and with the help of a local computer repair shop, I had to send the then-brand-new desktop in for repairs, and thankfully it has been a reliable machine ever since. Someone close to me also experienced a crash on their Macbook, proving to my surprise that problems can occur on any operating system. Long story short, back up your work and invest in quality equipment. Online resources like Lynda.com can help you figure out how to operate your new equipment or software as it changes over time.
When I say invest in yourself, I don’t just mean online classes. I mean healthcare and self-care. It’s hard to say what’ll happen with health insurance in the U.S., but it is important to take care of yourself within your means. Seek therapy. Go on a vacation. Have a staycation. Take naps. Call your loved ones. Listen to music. Do whatever you need to do in order to perform your best, not just for your clients, but for you, too. Save money, not just for emergencies, but for retirement. It’s easy to get caught up in work, but life is a lot more than that. And more importantly, you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t care for yourself.
In what other ways should freelancers invest in themselves? Tell me in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.