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Freelancers and training - #ContentClubUK roundup

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Craig Wright

This week, I hosted #ContentClubUK for the first time, and this post is a summary of what went down. If you're unfamiliar with ContentClubUK, it is a weekly twitter chat (11.00 AM GMT, follow #ContentClubUK). There are usually 3 questions and a bonus question and we talk about all things content-related. It's for anyone who is involved in content, including writers, marketing folk, and designers.

For my questions, I focused on training and continuing personal development (CPD).

Q1. What motivates you to learn?

Q2. How important is training to you and your clients?

Q3. How do you schedule your training?

Bonus 1. Are there any courses you recommend?

Bonus 2. Do you only train in your own discipline?

I've included tweets from various members, and tried to cover the main points that were raised. If you are in Content Club UK and I didn't mention your answer, it is because I really fucking hate you. I jest of course, it is purely down to space, nothing personal.

Q1. What motivates you to learn?

To get things started, I wanted to find out what drives people to learn more? Is it purely work-related or do they have an innate curiosity and desire to learn?Here's a selection of the answers:

The first to mention the potential monetary gains was Jake. I like that mercenary attitude. But seriously, the potential return on investment needs to be a consideration for freelancers, as training can be expensive.

Good point by Meg (and many others I don't have space to include). Most of the people I've worked with as writers or designers are always looking for new things to learn. We are an inquisitive bunch. Beware the writer who doesn't ask why or take an interest in other things.

Twitter reply from @thatcontentshed 

"My motivation is that there's always room to improve. The Japanese artist Kokusai believed he wouldn't be great at painting until he was 90 and he wouldn't be a master until he was 100. He learned new things to get better every day. He died aged 88.".

Here comes the shedmaster, turning Content Club into Culture Club with this reference. We should all be striving to improve for all of our lives, and not just in work.

Boredom! One of the greatest motivators of all. This is definitely one of my main reasons for learning new stuff. That and a fear of becoming irrelevant and useless. Nik's point about jobs not providing enough scope for learning resonated with me too. That was one of the reasons I turned freelance.

Twitter reply from Dave Smyth. "So many benefits. It's good for your business but also mental health. One of the greatest temporary cures for imposter syndrome or humility is to look back over your work for the past few years and see how it's improved. Self-development is key for that.

Boom! Boom! Dave drops two truth bombs in quick succession. He's bang on there - learning new skills and approaches can boost your self-esteem and help you break out of a mental rut. I've experienced that for myself.

Also, training as a cure for imposter syndrome gets a big thumbs up from me. I find that doing a course is  a great confidence booster. If I'm going to do something, I like to know I'm doing it the right way.

Q2. How important is training to your and your clients?

With this question, I wanted to find out how people felt about ongoing learning. I also wondered if people felt their qualifications (or lack of) had affected their ability to get work.

Replies from twitter:

Lean Content @LeanContent
Replying to @straygoat
Q2. I don't think formal qualifications help as much as the quality of your work. If you're a freelancer, you're judged by clients on what you do - which keeps us all honest! I did get a marketing qualification, but I changed jobs so fancied a bit of a headstart. #ContentClubUK

That. Content. Shed. @thatcontentshed
Replying to @straygoat
A2: Not important at all. And, thankfully, I think I passed the stage where they would be.
Good work ethic, professionalism and a decent portfolio are all more important in copywriting. #ContentClubUK.

I also asked a similar question in the ContentClubUK Slack and was surprised at how many people don't have relevant qualifications. I agree 100% that its not what qualifications you have, but the quality of your work that matters. But, personally, I'd struggle with self-doubt even more if I didn't have the training as well as the experience.

Twitter reply from Dave Smyth. "They might be in some fields, but not so much in mine. Professionalism, recommendations, a good portfolio and being easy to work with are assets that will have a bigger influence on whether you get the gig.
twitter reply from stuart cameron "Important but not essential. Any sort of proof that you have relevant qualifications won't ever really hurt you but I definitely think experience in the industry wins over a qualification though".
Twitter reply from Robyn Santa Maria "I'm discovering that this really depends on where you're based. Here in France, formal qualifications are definitely regarded highly. Almost a must in many situations.

It's interesting to note that some people said qualifications do matter in certain fields and also certain countries. In my particular niche, having a tech communication degree has definitely helped with credibility, especially when i was younger and had less experience under my belt.

Replies from twitter

Alice Hollis @AliceKHollis
Replying to @straygoat
A2: I have some formal qualifications and training. With clients, they might have had a brief moment of 'Ah, interesting', but I don't think it's what closed the deal. And the titles don't matter to me, only what I've learned and taken from them. #ContentClubUK

Jake Keane 📝💻🎮📚 @Jakebrap
Replying to @straygoat
A2: To me, not important. Totally respect people who think they are, though. I know some clients think they are.
Every client I’ve had has been far more concerned with me having a decade of hands-on experience in the industry and actually knowing what I’m doing.

Alice Hollis @AliceKHollis · 2h
Agreed. Just because you've done the course, doesn't mean you can do it in practice. As part of my degree I earned a qualification in 'Business Analysis' but I have no idea how to create a bloody pivot table! #ContentClubUK.

A coulple of important points here. Experience does count for more, no doubt about it. But it has to be good experience. Experience of doing things badly is not that useful is it?

Nicola Scoon @nicolascoon
Replying to @straygoat
I think training in the wider sense is important, but qualifications and specific courses less so. It's more about experience, understanding and the work #ContentClubUK

Masooma // Content Writer @inkandcopy
Experience! 100%.

I agree with Nicola. The perfect mix is training, experience, and most importantly, a strong understanding of the work.

Q3. How do you schedule training?

Freelancing often has peaks and troughs. I've found it difficult to book in time for training courses because of being unsure of my workload at any given time. How do other freelancers deal with it?

Twitter replies from thomas goosey and copycontentwriter:
"I don't schedule it in, more an ad-hoc thing if things get quiet for a day or so. Often it's as I go along, because I like saying yes to things I'm not quite sure about and diving in at the deep end" "I am very bad at this! Too much online stuff, put me off for a while. Bought allgoodcopy's The Art of the Click and will start consuming it's wisdom on Friday morning".

Tom and Claire both take an ad-hoc approach, although it's clearly not working too well in Claire's case. Let's hope that regular Friday morning slot works better for her.

Twitter replies from jake keane and massoma: "If i implemented some kind of structure, I'm the type of stubborn fool who'd rebel against myself" "Structure when it comes to learning while working can make me really lazy. Because if I plan it, my body is probably going to tell me that I'm oh-so-tired and all that. If I pick it up randomly, then I'll be good.".

Jake and Masooma turning on themselves there! I can recognise that, and it's important to consider your own traits when considering training. If you know you're not the sort for routine, a schedule isn't going to work for you.

Twitter reply from Andre Spiteri. It says "If i'm reading a book, I'll read a chapter at lunch or dip in before bed. If it's a webinar, I schedule it in just like any other appointment. If it's directly related to a specific projects, I'll plan for it as part of research when scoping out the project.".
Twitter reply from Sarah-Louise James "I'll book the training course and fit it in around current commitments. I am very willing to put extra-curricular learning on hold if an awesome client comes unexpectedly knocking, however.
Twitter comment from Jasraj0. He says he is part of a community at Fizzle and tries to schedule in time for training each month.

On the flip-side, Andre, Sarah-Louise, and Jas all see the benefit of booking in training time. And Andre, if you're reading, fuck off am I spending ages searching for the accented e at the end of your name :)

For proper training courses, I don't see any way around booking the time like a client job. You can't really do it ad-hoc when you need to book in advance and consider travel arrangements etc., can you?

Twitter comment from allgoodcopy. He is saying that learning tasks should be made part of your routine.
Twitter comment from richbanks86. He mentions he is trying to develop his style and portfolio from day to day.

Finally on this subject, Glenn and Rich mention making learning part of your daily routine and work. Yes, absolutely. This is the CPD part rather than formal training, and I'd argue it is the most important part. Don't spend all day doing the same shit and learning nothing new.

Like Rich, I'm lucky that my job allows me to do CPD while working, no extra effort required.

Bonus #1. Are there any courses you would recommend?

Rather than add all the tweets, I'm just going to give you the links to the courses, books, and podcasts that were mentioned. I'll also add a few of my own at the end.

Bonus #2. Do you only train in your own discipline or do you explore new things too?

As a technical writer, I've seen my own profession break off in different directions over the years. We've now got dedicated UX writers, API technical authors, and many other forms of technical communicator. I'm sure it's the same in other professions, but do people stick to their niche-in-a-niche or do they branch out and learn more?

A mix of twitter comments. All are talking about taking on work and projects that they know nothing about.
Twitter comment from allgoodcopy. It says "More varied the better. I've learned French. Studied philosophy. Learned about wine. Trained as an accountant. Developed an understanding of art history. Even done telephone etiquette.".
Twitter comment from juliagraham. It says " Hell no. I'd get too bored and I get more ideas when I look to different industries/do different things".
Twitter comment from socialink. It says "For the most part it's relevant to the work we do. But we do advocate learning outside of your industry. It makes you a more well-rounded individual.".
Screenshot of twitter comment. It is from HelloNikDesign and says "I find too much work learning makes Nik a dull lass".
A screenshot of a comment by Nick Blatchley. It says "Absolutely, although most of my learning is more random than actual courses.".

Well there we have it. It looks like everyone is in favour of learning different disciplines and things not even related to our roles. I couldn't agree more with the points made here. All learning is valuable and you never know how you'll be able to relate one thing to another.

What's the point in a life where you're not learning new things?

Over to you

What do you think about training and CPD? Do you agree with the #ContentClubUK folks or do you have a different outlook? By all means share your thoughts - I love it when people shake things up :)

If you're interested in ContentClubUK, it's open to all. If you're involved in content in some way, from writers to artists, come and join in. Follow the #ContentClubUK hashtag on Twitter and remember, it is 11am GMT every Tuesday.

Posted under Freelancing

Last modified: 18 May 2024

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Craig Wright is an experienced technical writer based in Chesterfield, UK.  He hates writing about himself in the third person, so I shall stop now.

Always interested in new content writing opportunities. Remote working preferred.

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