I’m not gonna lie, I have spent a fortune in time and money on self-development (and networking) this year.

I have fallen into the trap that many of us have, especially in a lockdowny world – I signed up to a flurry of courses. Some are completed, but there is still so much development loitering in the wings waiting for me to prioritise it. Or to finish it. Even to start it.

I thought I had endless oceans of time ahead of me, when in reality I have been busier than ever.

To be fair, it isn’t all the pandemic’s fault, I was addicted to learning way before that particular ‘mare of epic proportions was even a glint in its plaguey predecessor’s eye.

Yes, I might have spent a lot of wonga on a lot of courses, and I keep chastising myself for doing so, but it has brought me so much in return. More than just earning a certificate or the brag-worthiness of completing something.

And judging by the responses to my Linkedin post on this topic – I am certainly not alone.

Learning as an act of self-care

I love to learn.

This is why I love my industry – as well as continually learning new skills, I learn random (generally irrelevant to my life) information every day through my work. From safeguarding legislation to phytosanitary export marks, procedures for invigilating exams, 5G security, sexual harassment policies, and even financial policy for a random paper making machine company. As random as they are, it is still new information and, mostly, keeps the brain intrigued.

For me, learning is self-care. It increases my self-confidence. It gives me a boost when talking to clients. It allows me to expand my services. It distracts me from other things going on in life. It gives me something to amuse myself with when I can’t settle. And it (mostly) brings a feeling of accomplishment, despite many a botched first attempt at a new craft.

Benefits for my business (and therefore clients)

I do think it has won me a lot more work than if I hadn’t done it all.

Because my writing has improved, and my industry knowledge. I am networking with more people in and out of my industry and we are all sharing skills and golden nuggets of info. I am learning different perspectives on running your own business and working as a freelancer. I am putting myself out there for more opportunities.

And all of it is gloriously combining to create a well-rounded, more confident individual. I am sharing my expertise with others, and wanting to use my skills to help other business owners. I am finally in a place where I feel I have something to offer and putting it out there – albeit still a little hesitatingly, often crawling under my desk to hide. I may not quite be shouting from the rooftops, more of a muffled yell into the wind before hiding, but it’s still a step forward.

I am also starting to get some recognition. And others are actively seeking me out for advice. Hell, I’ve even won an award or two.

Full steam not quite ahead

Okay, I might have to stop trying to learn EVERYTHING at once and learn to focus at least a little bit.

I am told I should plan more in all aspects of business, however winging it has so far worked for me. It fits with my wandering mind, my curiosity and innate gene for exploration. It allows me to find fab new opportunities that I wouldn’t if I focused purely on one area of development. As I work across 3 different areas/industries this also means there are 3 times as many events that appeal to me and are relevant to my work.

I see this last year as having been a huge opportunity for experimentation – attending lots of conferences and courses so that I know where I want to attend again in future and can focus… Unless I enjoy them all equally. Hmm. Didn’t really think that one through.

It’d be a step forward if I can just avoid 3 in the same week next year. Even this butterfly mind is struggling to take that this week.

So what have I been learning/ where have I been networking?

CopyCon 2020 – Nope I am not a copywriter, despite being referred to as one almost daily, but after seeing the buzz about this event in my network last year (which is full of copywriters) I decided to check it out as a means of developing my writing skills. And I have not been disappointed.

UtterlyContent – A 2-day conference dedicated to Content Design and Strategy. Ahhh heaven. At the time of writing, I am one day into this and it has been ridiculously inspiring. I love the quirk that it runs for 48 actual hours as speakers form all different timezones contribute, plus there are lots of breakout sessions, coaching calls, a wellbeing zone, extra workshops… What a mighty well-organised feast of choice it is!

Book – Dark Angels on Writing. Read it, then pine for one fo their retreats like I currently am.

Book – Content DNA by John Espirian. The LinkedIn master himself

The Cookie Collective – I am one of four members in the new accountability group in the Being Freelance community. We each have our own goals and give each other a spur on to achieve them. We have only had 1 session so far and this will run until the end of 2020. So keep your eyes and ears peeled for the outcome of this group.

The Northern Affinity – I am a now a partner at NA and there has been lots of setting myself up in the network and dipping my toes into their learning sessions and meetings.

Content UK – a new member to this group I have also been trying out their webinar sessions and a few meetings, plus had a call with our lovely leader Christina Pashialis about the direction for the group.

The eLearning Network (eLN) – I have attended a lot of their webinars this year, and been much more active in the community. Makes sense as this is the industry in which most of my work is 😆

The Marketing Meetup – Though not a marketeer I have joined many of TMM’s Tuesday morning webinars this year and they really have been quality content. Very thought-provoking with lots of actions to take away.

Quietly Successful Summit – I never realised I was an introvert until I started working for myself, it turns out I have long since been trying to convince myself I was an extrovert and fit into an extrovert’s world. How wrong I was. This conference was focused purely on being an introvert business owner. I actually only found out about it on the last day and so bought the bargainous access pass to be able to catch up on this summit after the event.

(And these are just the ones from the last couple of months)

What’s coming up?

Just the one…

Freelance Heroes Day – Nov 2020

…That’s it. Other than the ones above that continue. It makes me quite sad to think there’s just that one.

But all is not lost, I have plenty of on-demand content to catch up on from all the other events, and a library’s worth of books to read. So don’t worry just yet. I will SOS if I need more learning sent my way, or more hobbies and projects.

Now if only I could find where I misplaced my memory some years ago to remember all this stuff.


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