You can’t swing a cat these days without hitting a class that promises to make you considerably more effective at swinging it.
For every hobby or profession, there is a coach, lecture, or seminar: whether online, offline, academic, or recreational.
But how do you know if you’re primed to sign on for a course or two?
You want an outside eye
Freelancing often encourages independence and self-reliance, but that can be isolating.
Feedback from clients is often limited (or frustratingly narrow-minded).
Many freelancers crave an objective external opinion of their work – and that’s a great reason to seek out a class.
A client’s input is always going to center around fulfilling the client’s needs, while a class can focus on your work’s independent merits.
Sometimes you’ll find support and encouragement in a classroom setting; sometimes, a class or coach will give you a bracing dose of reality (or rivalry, if your fellow classmates are especially good).
Either way, a good teacher or coach can give you objective, unbiased feedback – a key step towards real, self-propelled growth.
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You need a new skill
If you’re absolutely confident that you’re at the top of your field in every conceivable way, you’re probably a) absurdly overqualified or b) blind to the skills you don’t possess.
Do a bit of research! Are there any skills that would bump you up to the next level?
Would your business run more smoothly if you knew how to run certain programs, or if you had a deeper understanding of your field of expertise?
Look at listings for dream gigs. What skills are most in-demand? If a class can fill in some experience gaps, it’s time to check it out.
You’re in a rut
Classes are a good way to keep yourself sharp, relevant, and in-demand.
They can also be a FANTASTIC way to tackle challenging material and terrifying new skills in a safe, relatively consequence-free environment… therein breaking out of a routine.
If you’ve found that you’re constantly bored and underwhelmed by your work, seeking out an especially difficult or daunting class is a GREAT way to push your boundaries and learn about yourself.
Even classes that are completely unrelated to your freelancing career can be valuable, as long as they stimulate your imagination and force you to encounter new challenges.
When we learn new things, we learn about ourselves: running smack into our own resilience, adaptability, and frustrations. It’s a wonderful path to evoking change throughout our lives.
I think many people are resistant to continued education because they have unpleasant memories of school days, wherein every assignment was related to a rewards-and-punishment system: grades, parental approval.
But as an adult, classes can be their own reward. You needn’t bring home a report card to anybody but yourself!
If you’ve been meaning for some time to check out a coach or course, take this as your sign from the Universe. Do your homework, find a good class…
… and then, y’know, do your homework.
Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.