Where Solopreneurs Can Find Learning To Grow Their Earnings

Post written by

Tracy King

CEO and Chief Learning Strategist of InspirEd, an award-winning author, and a transformational experience designer.

More than a third of the U.S. workforce participates in the gig economy today in some capacity. Professionals who have an "alternative work arrangement" —i.e., those who have a side gig, freelance or make a solo go of it as independent contractors — represent approximately 36% of workers, according to a 2018 Gallup study on the gig economy.

My company offers courses on advancing learning and specializes in consulting organizations on education strategy. Through this experience, I've observed that, given there’s an influx of specialized expertise competing for contracts, solopreneurs are concerned about differentiating themselves. Without an employer assigning training or offering an annual professional development budget, independent workers are on their own to find right-fit, right-time learning to maximize their earnings.

Where do solopreneurs turn to sharpen their competitive edge in the growing freelance market? There are a few different ways you can go about it. Consider how these options align with your professional development goals:

Goal: To earn a distinguishing credential that will help you market your expertise and make new contracts an easy yes for prospective clients.

Options: Bypass the generic internet search, and go directly to the professional association that represents your industry. If you’re a medical writer, graphic artist, instructional designer or career coach, there’s an association for that (and just about any industry you can imagine). Professional associations often offer certificate programs (skill-based learning and assessment) and certifications (formal exams to earn a mark of distinction).

Take a comprehensive look at the content, quality markers and value of credentials within your area of interest. (To explore side-by-side comparisons of credentials of interest, you can also visit Credential Engine's website.) And remember that skill tests on websites like Freelancer don’t quite offer the prestige of a credential, but if third-party verification of technical skills is really all you’re after, it’s definitely worth considering.

Goal: To deepen your technical expertise to win bigger and better project contracts.

Options: Courses are easy to come by, so you can approach this a few different ways. First, you could look for courses on crowdsourced online learning sites to upskill behind the scenes. Or, you can invest in regional classroom training for in-person guidance from experts.

No matter what type of course you choose, look for opportunities that allow you to learn how you want. Another thing to consider is whether the courses offer portable skill verification, like a badge. If so, showcase it on your website and social media channels.

Goal: To have personalized attention to help you scale your business with your unique value proposition.

Options: While you might pick up a nugget here and there through industry networking, consider identifying a mentor or business coach who specializes in your niche and will get in the weeds with you on how to perfect your business model and connect you to resources that can propel you to the next level.

You can also join a mastermind group to connect with other successful people. These groups come in many flavors, but I've found that many solopreneurs appreciate the insights, accountability and meaningful lasting colleague connections that can come from these groups. And who knows where your next referral might come from.

Goal: To refine the solutions you're bringing to the market and fill your pipeline with qualified leads.

Options: One of the best ways to refine the solutions you're offering is to be in the room when prospective clients are talking about their challenges, especially at conferences. Conferences are where the conversations are happening in real time. While it’s fun to attend a conference for your own professional development, serving as a content leader or simply networking is pure gold. Your skill set is, of course, supremely important, but when a potential client knows, likes and trusts you, that’s an easier sell.

Maximize your conference registration investment by preparing conversation starters that get your target audience talking about their current challenges in their own words. Those are the keywords for your next marketing campaign.

And don’t forget to bring your value to the conversation. Is there a clever strategy tool, template or resource you can whip out that has your contact information on it? You might say something along the lines of, “Wow, we really have a lot in common. I just brought a few of these (insert your tool). Check it out and let me know what you think. I’d love to continue this conversation …” and add your call to action. It's a win-win-win: As an entrepreneur, you're receiving vital intelligence to refine your offer. You're also practicing delivering your offer, and you're meeting qualified leads who can make your year. This is the very definition of hands-on learning to boost your earnings.

Set yourself apart from the pack by selecting learning opportunities aligned with your business development goals so you can continue to enjoy the flexibility and opportunity that being your own boss offers.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
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More than a third of the U.S. workforce participates in the gig economy today in some capacity. Professionals who have an "alternative work arrangement" —i.e., those who have a side gig, freelance or make a solo go of it as independent contractors — represent approximately 36% of workers, according to a 2018 Gallup study on the gig economy.

My company offers courses on advancing learning and specializes in consulting organizations on education strategy. Through this experience, I've observed that, given there’s an influx of specialized expertise competing for contracts, solopreneurs are concerned about differentiating themselves. Without an employer assigning training or offering an annual professional development budget, independent workers are on their own to find right-fit, right-time learning to maximize their earnings.

Where do solopreneurs turn to sharpen their competitive edge in the growing freelance market? There are a few different ways you can go about it. Consider how these options align with your professional development goals:

Goal: To earn a distinguishing credential that will help you market your expertise and make new contracts an easy yes for prospective clients.

Options: Bypass the generic internet search, and go directly to the professional association that represents your industry. If you’re a medical writer, graphic artist, instructional designer or career coach, there’s an association for that (and just about any industry you can imagine). Professional associations often offer certificate programs (skill-based learning and assessment) and certifications (formal exams to earn a mark of distinction).

Take a comprehensive look at the content, quality markers and value of credentials within your area of interest. (To explore side-by-side comparisons of credentials of interest, you can also visit Credential Engine's website.) And remember that skill tests on websites like Freelancer don’t quite offer the prestige of a credential, but if third-party verification of technical skills is really all you’re after, it’s definitely worth considering.

Goal: To deepen your technical expertise to win bigger and better project contracts.

Options: Courses are easy to come by, so you can approach this a few different ways. First, you could look for courses on crowdsourced online learning sites to upskill behind the scenes. Or, you can invest in regional classroom training for in-person guidance from experts.

No matter what type of course you choose, look for opportunities that allow you to learn how you want. Another thing to consider is whether the courses offer portable skill verification, like a badge. If so, showcase it on your website and social media channels.

Goal: To have personalized attention to help you scale your business with your unique value proposition.

Options: While you might pick up a nugget here and there through industry networking, consider identifying a mentor or business coach who specializes in your niche and will get in the weeds with you on how to perfect your business model and connect you to resources that can propel you to the next level.

You can also join a mastermind group to connect with other successful people. These groups come in many flavors, but I've found that many solopreneurs appreciate the insights, accountability and meaningful lasting colleague connections that can come from these groups. And who knows where your next referral might come from.

Goal: To refine the solutions you're bringing to the market and fill your pipeline with qualified leads.

Options: One of the best ways to refine the solutions you're offering is to be in the room when prospective clients are talking about their challenges, especially at conferences. Conferences are where the conversations are happening in real time. While it’s fun to attend a conference for your own professional development, serving as a content leader or simply networking is pure gold. Your skill set is, of course, supremely important, but when a potential client knows, likes and trusts you, that’s an easier sell.

Maximize your conference registration investment by preparing conversation starters that get your target audience talking about their current challenges in their own words. Those are the keywords for your next marketing campaign.

And don’t forget to bring your value to the conversation. Is there a clever strategy tool, template or resource you can whip out that has your contact information on it? You might say something along the lines of, “Wow, we really have a lot in common. I just brought a few of these (insert your tool). Check it out and let me know what you think. I’d love to continue this conversation …” and add your call to action. It's a win-win-win: As an entrepreneur, you're receiving vital intelligence to refine your offer. You're also practicing delivering your offer, and you're meeting qualified leads who can make your year. This is the very definition of hands-on learning to boost your earnings.

Set yourself apart from the pack by selecting learning opportunities aligned with your business development goals so you can continue to enjoy the flexibility and opportunity that being your own boss offers.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

InspirEd, an award-winning author, and a transformational experience designer. Read Tracy King's full executive profile here....">CEO and Chief Learning Strategist of InspirEd, an award-winning author, and a transformational experience designer. Read Tracy King's full executive profile here....