Freelancers struggle to find time for their CPD. These strategies may help.
When you run a freelance business, it might be tempting to leave your career growth “for later”. If you barely have time to work on your client’s projects, marketing or sales strategy, how can you squeeze in some extra hours for professional development? No wonder CPD often takes a back seat.
How to change this pattern? How to take time off from running your business to learn and grow?
When I started running my business exactly 10 years ago (yes, my 10th anniversary was last week!), I used to postpone my development, thinking I can’t afford to take time off. Until it hit me that all you need is the right plan and positive approach. If you also struggle to find time for your CPD, have a look at the strategies below. Tested and successfully followed by me for many years.
Remember what matters the most
Once you define your priorities and choose courses or conferences you want to follow, it’s time to schedule your career growth plan. I’m sure you didn’t enroll to all these amazing events or online courses, just to leave them on your to-do list forever. The truth is, there will never be the right time to read all the books or attend all the events you so desperately want to join or read. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with moving your growth activities around when you get swamped with work. But to make the most out of your professional growth events, you’ll need to prioritize them. That’s why it might be useful too…
Take a few days off during the week
It’s like a holiday. But instead of swapping your office for a beach, mountain hike or sightseeing, you’ll spend a few days to update your skills. You can inform your customers in advance and explain why you won’t be available for new projects for two or three days. Your CPD matters and with the new skills you’ll be able to support your customers in a better way and run your business more effectively. That’s a win-win for everyone.
To make this time a bit more like a real holiday, you can take your training to another location. Outside or inside, to a rented apartment or a hotel, to a café or library.
Once you find the right location to follow your plan and eliminate all disruptions, emerge fully in your courses, books, events or one-to-one consultations. You might be surprised at how much you can learn in such a short time, if you focus on learning only. For example, to complete most online courses you’ll need only about two to three hours. If you group several courses into one slot, you could complete even six courses in three days! It may sound tiring, but it’s definitely doable.
If you can’t take several days off during the week to follow your CPD plan, maybe you can…
Time-block your calendar
This is so far my favorite method. If you know how much time you need to follow a workshop or a course, you can block one or two hours every day to focus on your growth only. For example, you can plan your training for the slower hours of a day, when you’re not disturbed by e-mails or calls from your clients. For me it’s the early morning. That’s when I work on my own projects (such as online courses or books) or take time to upgrade my business, translation and localization skills. Maybe for you it will be late evenings, when you can finally enjoy the silence and spend one hour on reading books or attending events.
Of course, to make the most out of your time-blocked slot, you’ll need to treat it seriously. No last minute changes, no exceptions for urgent projects, no deviations from the plan. If that sounds to strict, start from one hour per day for three days a week, then extend it to longer slots or more days.
You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when you time-block your calendar for activities that really matter to you. However, if that’s not an option, you can also…
Use public holidays to learn and grow
Not all public holidays are busy and full of family visits. Sometimes a public holiday will be a peaceful and uneventful day. Then you might be tempted to squeeze in some work, especially if you’re on a tight deadline. But such a day might be also a great opportunity to take your skills to the next level. You can spend a couple of hours on your growth activities, if your to-learn list keeps expanding and there’s never enough time during the week.
Maybe your family members also prefer to take time for themselves, to read, watch movies or work. Then you could all spend a few hours next to each other, but working on your plan. It may not sound like the best idea to spend a public holiday together, but sometimes there’s nothing special going around (hello, lockdown!) or the weather is uninviting. Why not use such a day to sharpen your skills and get ready for brighter days?
There might never be enough time in a day to complete all the items on your to-do list. Especially when you also want to grow and stay up to date with your industry. But with the right plan you can always schedule your CPD activities and make the best use of your time. Even if all you have is just one hour per day.
Over to you
What’s your favorite strategy when it comes to planning your CPD activities?
P.S. I share more tips on establishing the right approach to your time in my free e-book “How to make the best use of your time”.