This post was written by Patricia Frame of Strategies for Human Resources, our guest author for our solopreneur blog series.
I recently got an invite to an interesting looking one-day event directly relevant to my interests and, with discounts, the price would only be $1600 plus expenses! I was talking with another consultant about all the events coming up in same week and she lamented how much was available locally that she wanted to go to compared to her available time.
Most of us realize it is important to stay current in our field. All of us need to learn new skills and technologies. Some fields require seminars, classes, or continuing education credits for licensing or recertification. Finding ways to keep your professional development a priority while funding it as well as making the time are challenges many solopreneurs find difficult.
When you are busy with clients or customers, it is hard to make the time. When you aren’t, you worry even more about the costs. Yet polishing your skills and knowledge is critical to your continued success.
Review Your Options
What is available locally? Take a look at professional associations in your field and what local chapters offer. Consider community college classes or university run seminars. Many professional groups and training companies offer programs in the Metro DC area, which cuts out travel and lodging costs.
The Alexandria SBDC runs a wide range of programs to help you learn new skills or keep up with changing trends. Many of these focus on marketing, retail, contracting, and employee issues. Also, the SBDC offers access to professionals who provide a wide range of free advice and consulting assistance each month to SBDC clients, including a lot of solopreneurs.
Local Chambers of Commerce and area business associations offer speakers and events that provide development options. Perhaps a Meetup group has what you need. There are a variety of small business, technology, women and veteran focused organizations offering great programs.
Check out online options. The SBA offers a myriad of online training programs. The Virginia SBDC Network does webinars on many topics, too. Consider a MOOC – many big name universities offer them and many also offer podcasts and webinars. Look at the various YouTube, podcasting, and webinar options – a little searching turns up a wide range of interesting programs.
Ask your mentors and others you trust for leads. You may find great events you would never hear of otherwise, I certainly have.
Make your continuing development a priority in your business plan. Set aside time and money each year to learn something new, keep up with changing technology, and develop new skills. This is easier if you are keeping abreast of trends in your field via books, trade publications, general business publications, professional associations, newsletters, and other similar resources – both online and off. In my field and many others, an annual legal seminar is critically important. Sure there are some quite expensive options but there are also local law firms which often offer less expensive or free legal updates. Your IT vendors and software providers may offer webinars or publications to help you keep abreast of important changes and security issues.
The Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, Potomac Tech Wire, Washington Network Group and others regularly publish lists of upcoming seminars, talks, and meetings which may meet your development goals – while offering good networking opportunities too.
TIP of the Month
“Make connections with people with complementary expertise. As a writer, my network includes great designers, photographers, PR experts, and others. I refer business to them and they refer business to me. The client benefits, and so do we.” Paula Whitacre www.fullcircle.org