How to Achieve Uncommon Success as a Solo Professional

Billionaire Warren Buffett was recently asked what his advice would be for young people today. His response:

"... to invest in themselves."

As a solo professional, you are your product. And in order to stay ahead of the game and deliver the best ideas and solutions for your clients, you must continually update your knowledge base and improve your personal effectiveness.

Yet I'm constantly amazed at how many solos ignore this. It's rare to see a freelancer or solopreneur deliberately set aside a percentage of their income every year to learn a new skill, to get an important certification - or to improve their mind, body and soul.

The 2% Solution

And you know what? It doesn't have to be a huge amount. Even 2% of your gross income would give you access to programs, events, books and information that will help you become a sought-after and top-paid professional.

And on a more personal level, this level of commitment could also help you make improvements that extend way beyond your business.

Say your gross annual income averaged $50,000. Two percent of $50,000 would give you $1,000 to work with.

You can do some damage with $1,000!

As your business grows, you should bring this number up to at least 5% of your income. That will enable you to attend high-caliber conferences, work occasionally with a coach or mentor, or even fund a sabbatical.

But if that seems like too big a step right now, start with just 2%.

It's not just about money, however. You must also invest your time and energy to implement the ideas you learn. Yet here again, investing just one hour a day, five days a week, reading quality books and information - and implementing ideas from these materials - will make a HUGE difference in your business over the course of a year.

What Would Google and Edison Do?

Google is a great example of this concept. They know that investing in their employees pays off. That's why the search-engine company has a policy called "Innovation Time Off," where engineers are encouraged to spend 20 percent of their work time on projects that interest them.

Through this program, Google is asking its engineers to invest time creating, inventing, brainstorming and learning. This may sound like a lot of fluff and a waste of valuable resources. But HALF of Google's new product launches have been conceived during employees' "Innovation Time Off." These innovations include Gmail, Google News, AdSense and others.

Thomas Edison, the greatest inventor in American history and arguably one of the most brilliant business minds ever, had an incredible thirst for ideas and information. According to Michael J. Gelb, author of Innovate Like Edison, the inventor believed that reading was critical to self-improvement:

"He used reading as a means to bootstrap his way to new knowledge in the areas that supported his goals .... He never began a round of experiments without first reading everything available on the subjects of his studies."

Gelb also noted that Edison used reading as a way to "cross-train" himself in multiple disciplines, using books as a pathway into new fields of endeavor.

Bottom line: Freelancers who skimp on professional development are only cheating themselves. It shows in their constant battle to land quality clients and top-paying projects. It shows when they struggle to get good referrals from current and past clients. And it shows in their inability to earn the income that will enable them to have the freedom and flexibility they truly want.

What Should You Invest In?

I realize that this lesson may come across as a bit self-serving. After all, International Freelancers Academy publishes a few business-improvement programs throughout the year. So, yes, we do benefit when freelancers invest in our stuff.

But I'm NOT asking you to buy our programs. I'm talking about a gradual, multifaceted commitment to improving yourself and your business - regardless of whether you invest in our programs or someone else's.

Only you can determine what resources are best suited for you. And, in fact, you should take a much broader view when considering which resources to invest in. Specifically, I suggest you consider books, courses and information in these three areas of your life and business:

  • Personal development
  • Business improvement
  • Improving your craft

Personal Development

This area encompasses everything from health and fitness to mindset mastery, creative thinking, personal relationships, parenting, and even personal hobbies and interests.

What does all this have to do with freelancing? Everything! Because in order to perform at peak levels in your business, you must invest in the personal facets of your life:

  • Your body
  • Your mind
  • Your soul

Your Body. I don't have to tell you that keeping yourself in good physical shape is critically important. We all know this, but the pressures of running a solo business often keep us from taking the time to exercise and eat right.

Frustrated by the mountains of conflicting "health and fitness" information out there, I recently started researching a number of health improvement strategies that would work better for me. I bought and read a number of books. I took notes and experimented with a few different strategies. And I settled on a plan that's finally yielding great results.

This area is a challenge for me. I'm a home cook, which means that I love to eat great food. Sometimes too much food! I know that about myself, so I have to be careful and find ways to combat bad habits and misguided attitudes I've developed over the years.

For exercise, I've gone back to a weight-lifting program that worked very well for me a few years ago. I'm doing interval cardio training. And to add variety to the mix, I'm also going on short hikes (one of my favorite pastimes).

Your Mind. It's important to read about things that interest you. But don't just stick to the usual topics. Pick up biographies of interesting people you're not familiar with. Read publications you don't normally flip through. Learn a new language. Pick up a new skill or hobby.

I recently called my grandmother on her 86th birthday. I told her that she may be 86, but I think her mind is as sharp as it was 20 years ago. She laughed, but she knows I'm right.

When I asked her how she keeps her mind in top shape, here's what she said:

"First, I leave the house every single day to do something fun. Second, I spend at least one hour a day working on different types of puzzles."

Hmmm ... having fun and challenging the mind with a few games. I think Grandma is on to something here!

Your Soul. By "soul," I'm referring to a few things. First is mindset mastery. Sure, it's easy to stay confident and upbeat on days when life is filled with roses and sunshine. It's when the storms roll in (and they will roll in) that your mental toughness will be put to the test.

Some freelancing storms you're sure to go through (if you haven't already) might look like this:

  • That long and lucrative streak of work, the one that seemed as though it would just never end ... ends.
  • That favorite client of yours who thinks you're the best thing since TiVo suddenly begins to send less and less work your way.
  • Your bank account takes a nosedive.
  • Your friends or, much worse, your spouse begins looking at you with unmasked nervousness, as if to say, "Hmmm. This freelance thing of yours isn't going as well as planned, is it?"

In the face of all these things, what do you do? You need to be prepared. And you do that by investing your time and resources in learning how to weather these storms safely. And how to use them to grow stronger, both personally and professionally.

Weathering these storms also requires that you work on spiritual development. I'm not talking about religion here, although if you're a person of faith, practicing your religion definitely falls into this category.

But regardless of your religious beliefs, I've found that investing in your spiritual development and adopting a habit of daily prayer, meditation or visualization (whatever's right for you) is absolutely key.

I've learned that this daily habit will help you develop an even greater sense of purpose in your life. It will encourage a more positive view of your future. And it will enable you to face personal and business challenges more effectively.

Another healthy habit I've recently started adopting is that of daily creative nourishment. My amazing business coach, Peleg Top, recently made me realize the importance of daily creative routine. So I picked up a hobby I hadn't practiced since high school - I started drawing again.

Drawing is something I used to love. Yet for some reason I stopped doing it in 10th grade (I became more interested in girls, I guess!). And I hadn't picked it back up until a few weeks ago.

My daily sketches are not going to end up in a museum. But that's not the intention. I'm not even showing them to anyone. I'm drawing for me - to make me happy. To nurture a side of me that I haven't paid much attention to in years. To tap into a creative energy that fires me up and enables me to be more creative in every aspect of my life.

Drawing has now become a daily creative outlet for me, and I'm loving every minute of it!

Business Improvement

You may be a one-person operation, but even a solo business has several key functions that must be continually evaluated and improved. In fact, my business partner and good friend Pete Savage talks about eight different "departments" that you run (whether you are aware of this or not) when you operate a successful freelance business. Here they are:

  1. Sales. This, of course, is what you do to earn money. It involves reaching out to and having conversations with prospects and customers.
  1. Marketing. This is how you make yourself known to potential prospects who may have a need for your services, now or in the future.
  1. Operations. The actions you go through each day to support your craft. This includes the systems you have in place that enable you to perform your craft more easily. Scheduling your time, writing quotes for clients, managing workflow that you do yourself or perhaps outsource to assistants and subcontractors... all are part of the operations department.
  1. Human Resources. This is the department responsible for training and developing employee skills. Besides skills development, other HR issues include the decisions you make in terms of setting office hours, planning vacation time and maintaining work/life balance.
  1. Customer Service. This department is responsible for ensuring that you treat your clients right. How can you "go the extra mile" for customers and reap the rewards? How do you deal with clients who don't like your work? These are all Customer Service policies.
  1. Production. Production is the factory floor. Think of your freelance business as a factory with a "capacity of one." Wait, you might say, isn't this a rather demeaning way to look at things? To take all your creative, inspired freelance work and say that it came out of a factory? Not really. Even the most beautifully crafted and artistic products in the world (think of Rolls-Royce cars, diamond rings and fine wines) leverage production efficiencies.
  1. Finance and Accounting. Understanding how money flows in and out of your business is critical.
  1. Research and Development. This department is all about embracing change in your business and using it to your advantage. Research involves looking for and finding new ways to enhance your business; development is about bringing those enhancements to life so you can profit from them.

Take a hard look at each of these key business areas. What areas do you need to research to learn more about? Where are you getting stuck? Where do you need more help?

When you break your business out into these eight functional areas and look closely at each one, suddenly you can identify those areas in need of attention.

If you notice that a department in your business is underperforming, fix it. Invest in resources that can help you in that department. And commit to spending the time needed to implement the needed changes or modifications.

Start by taking the "director" of that department out for coffee. (He or she should be very easy to reach.) And come up with a plan for how to make departmental improvements that will improve the business as a whole.

Improving Your Craft

Steady marketing efforts can work wonders for your business. But if you're not continually improving your craft, even the best marketing and sales skills won't save you in today's competitive environment.

Oh, and don't think that talent alone will do it. The market is already full of talented freelance professionals struggling to make ends meet. If talent alone were the secret, most would be extremely busy, earning a great living.

Don't get me wrong. Talent is a big plus. But these days you need much more. You need to stay on top of your profession. That means learning new skills. Taking courses. Reading up on important developments, strategies and techniques. Going to select conferences. Exchanging ideas and best practices with trusted colleagues. And getting the right certifications (if applicable in your field).

Also, pay close attention to developing trends. Where is the market heading. Where are client budgets shifting to? What projects are you suddenly being asked about the most? What's getting a lot of buzz? What technologies or services are moving beyond hype and into the mainstream?

Adjust your training and development budget as you see where the market's heading and where the emerging needs are.

Bottom line: Never shortchange yourself. You are your most important asset. You are what clients "buy." So make a commitment to invest a reasonable percentage of your income in your personal and professional development.

What's Worked for You?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. How do you invest in yourself? What programs, courses, books or information have had the biggest impact on your business or personal life?

Don't be shy! Let me know in the comments area below.


  • Benanee Remulta

    Best read ever! Thank you, thank you, Ed. Great insight for a work from home mom like me. This article is going to change the way I work. i just realized there are so much stuff I missed and so much more about myself to improve. Thank goodness I accidentally stumbled upon your site. 🙂

    • edgandia

      Awesome! So glad to hear this resonated with you, Benanee! And glad you found us. 😉

  • Personal development has been a driving force this past year. Books include See you at the top, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and books by Napoleon Hill. I am studying new platforms to increase my visibility as well. Thanks for the great article!

    • edgandia

      Thank YOU for checking it out, Karen! 🙂

  • chickenlittle

    Recently I just had that string of lucrative work that I thought would never end...end. And it was pretty frightening. After I licked my wounds I realized that I'd become sort of bored/depressed just relying on them, anyway, and that I was happier and more excited on a day-to-day basis when I was actively doing the things you mentioned in this article. With two steady clients for over a year, I'd left off marketing, looking for gigs (I know a big freelance no, no!). I learned from experience that keeping the ball rolling is the way to better gigs, improvement and the life you really want. In addition, not doing these things for a while ended up creating so much fear and insecurity about starting them again, that I realized how important it is not to stop. I had so much anxiety about whether or not I would get more clients, which is totally irrational.

    More important than not continuing to get better clients, I'd stopped learning, I'd left off books half-finished about freelancing and marketing, I'd deleted my daily email scrips about job openings in my field and I became disconnected from what was going on. At any rate, this article I can say is 100% true, I know from experience.

    It's so easy to sit on your laurels, especially if you feel like you're finally reaping some fruits of extensive labor to set yourself up. But that's pretty much the time when you need to keep improving the most. That first blush of success that happens, when you still have a bit to learn, is no time to sit back and relax. 🙂

  • Linda Marianiello

    Interesting that you draw to help on the spiritual side of life. We are foreign language translators, and we also have been professional musicians for decades. But we chose to live in a place we love in the later years of our life, which means that we had to get creative about how to earn our living, and so music doesn't provide for all of our financial needs. We started a freelance translation business, capitalizing on what we learned at university and from living in Europe for a decade. (We is my husband and I, just to be clear, and we work together in our translation business.)
     
    What we found out is that we could not give up music entirely, because it left a huge hole in our spirits that made us feel depressed. Once we found a way to continue to be involved with music while building our translation business, we became a whole lot happier and began to feel much more positive.

    The down side here is that we don't get much free time. But we try to make sure that we get out for a hike in nature at least 3-4 times per week, even if it's just for 30 minutes. All of this helps tremendously, and when problems arise, we seem more able to handle things. We also try to read literature aloud to one another in the evening in order to refresh ourselves before sleeping. Of late, that has mainly been books about the history of the area we've moved to and the many fascinating people who've lived here.

    Finally, we really need to keep your points about taking a certain percentage of earnings to nurture and increase our skills. We belong to several professional associations that offer useful conferences and listservs.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking article. 

    • edgandia

       Thanks for your comment, Linda! I commend you and your husband for making music a central part of your life, despite all the time pressures.

  • Celia, Time spent, or more correctly, invested in learning and personal development is never wasted.  It can't be taken away from you, and when you leave this mortal life, you'll retain it forever, unlike the "toys" some people get so wound up in, without regard for the important stuff of life.

    On the other side of that coin, it's important to remember that your income is a reflection of the value others put on what you do for them.  If you want a larger income, all you have to do is acquire a skill so you can do something someone else is willing to pay you more for than you currently have coming in.

    I understand the fixated thinking of 'small' minds.  I was criticized for 4 years while I was building my home (over 8000 square feet) 35 years ago.  Now I'm scrambling financially to keep it, thanks to liars on Wall Street who "advised" me on my retirement IRA and cost me about $350,000 by keeping me in the market when I sensed I should be getting out.  But those critics were silenced when I accomplished what they said I couldn't.

    People with limited minds need patterns.  Others can create.  Some do very well, knowing how to add some creativity to underlying principles, and making something much greater.

    I'm thinking you might find it worth looking into AWAI's graphic-design course for direct response.  The first half of the course is about typography, then they get into more artsy stuff, but if you learn to be a really good graphic artist, working with good copywriters could turn into a useful line of work.

    Just a suggestion for what it's worth...

    Clarke

  • Hey Ed, I must say that freelance writer is not exactly my area, however I have been reading your work that comes to me, through your newsletter, and in many ways your information can be generalized into good practices for any one person entrepreneurship.  The main way that I have been investing in myself is by reading, reading, reading, mainly on the internet.  I am somewhat disabled therefore it is the most readily available resource and generally it has been helping me get my plan more together.  I am an artist who until recently had no clue how I would manage to market an art that most look at as outdated craft.  I am a macrame artist.  Please note I used the word "artist", which to me connotates originality, not following a pattern book, which most people seem to think of when the word macrame is spoken.  That makes for an uphill climb.  So, though I have no specific book list, or a particular writer to recommend, to other's struggling to pull some magic out of their personal hats, I can recommend that time invested in one's personal development by reading, reading, reading.  I am beginning to make some headway towards recognition as an artist.  This is a very big step and thank you, you have been an encouraging person to "dip into" on the net.  Thanks, Cecilia 

    • edgandia

       Wow, thanks for your comment, Cecilia! I couldn't agree more about developing a love of reading and making reading a daily habit.

  • Carolyn

    Great article.  I've always believedin investing in my skills and honing my talents, and this just confirms much of what I had thought, and opened my eyes to new ways of improving more parts of me!!!!  

    Thanks. 

  • My background is in the hard sciences -- physics, engineering, and mathematics.  There's little room for "opinion", though some persist, including some who purport to be scientists (man-caused global "climate change" for example).  I did an entire series of articles on that topic in an online news and opinion magazine published by Clayton Makepeace in 2009 at his and the managing editor's request.  I used data from official U.S. Gov't research labs, mixed with some common sense, and a bit of "follow the money" to show the absurdity of "settled science" when the computer models are severely flawed and almost criminally inadequate to "prove" anything.

    It has been my experience that happiness in life comes, not from money and stuff, but from a balance of the spiritual, emotional, human-relationship aspects of life, combined with being of service to others.

    A connection to a Higher Power is essential, and balance is important.  You can't get anywhere in life if you have no direction, and you cannot have direction if you have no perspective on why you're on this planet in the first place, and what you need to be doing to prepare for that inevitable eternity that follows what we call end-of-life as we know it.

    When you understand the why of life, you can discover the why of what you do, and true happiness comes from a life immersed in that reality, rather than the false trappings of success and the particularly erroneous notion that "he who dies with the most toys wins".  If anyone believes that myth, it might be helpful to observe the armored cars or trucks in a funeral procession.

    When you leave this life, the only thing you take with you is what you have become, who you have loved, the relationships you have forged, and the things you did to make the world a better place because you were here.

    You have the power to do many good things, but you have been endowed by your Creator with the power to choose good or ill, construction or destruction, happiness or misery, friendship or lonliness,
    and it's all your choice.  As stated in the Declaration of Independence, it is a self-evident truth.  That power comes from Providence, not  from government.  And that's why happiness is an inside job -- a matter of choice, not chance.

    Thus the charge: Go now and make something significant of yourself.

    Clarke

    • edgandia

       Happiness IS an inside job -- so true!

  • Ed, your articles are always perfectly timed for me. 🙂 I've been developing a program to teach freelancers what I know about building a business and was advised against putting in the "touchy-feely" stuff about spiritual and personal development. Thank you for validating all of us! We're complete people, even though we work for ourselves. It's a sign of great career maturity when you say growing our souls helps us professionally. High five!

    • edgandia

       It's the touchy-feely stuff that makes everything else possible. 😉

  • I like the 2% concept Ed. Maybe I'll feel more free to spend money on myself. This year I started a Google Day for my business or, in my case, an Andes and Associates day. I heard that Google gives its employees one day a month to work on their projects ... it may actually be just for engineers as you stated in your article.

    At the end of the month, I take one day off and just work on anything I think will improve my business. The last time I did it, I worked on getting a rich snippet so that my picture would turn up when someone does a google search for my primary keywords, i.e. web content development. It worked! And it has increased the calls I get off the Internet.

    • edgandia

       Katherine -- That time is just as important (perhaps even more important) than the actual books/programs. Great to hear you take the time -- and great to hear that it's paying off for you! 😉

  • Veronica

    Hi Ed, I've signed up for your workshop at Magnet 2012 in Toronto, in the past year, I've added the exercise, spiritual, & read new things, I've also added painting & choir to my creativity. Not sure it has boosted income but has certainly improved the quality of life and opened new doors for business opporuntiy and opened my mental doors to new possibilities.

    • edgandia

       Thanks, Veronica! Look forward to meeting you in Toronto. Regarding those activities, the personal, spiritual and creative benefits are even more important than the business benefits. You're right on target!

  • Just added to Evernote. More revisits to this article are marked. Thanks, Ed.

    • edgandia

       Thanks, Sukhvinder!

  • As a seasoned senior technical writer in a big company, I had a lot to "unlearn" and a lot more to learn when I shifted to commercial copy after early retirement.  I've had a long history of personal development, but there are still big holes that can be difficult.

    One of my big ones was lining up potential clients, and the new "Warm Email Prospecting" program really filled an important gap.  I knew what I needed to do, but was having a hard time figuring out how to go about it.  I hate cold-calling because of gatekeepers and other obstacles, and really get tired of people who act interested so they can pick your brain, then tell you they decided to do it themselves or have someone else work on it.

    I thought I'd learned this earlier, but I got stupid, and went back out talking to small business "owners".  Trouble is they're people who have jobs working for a business that happens to have their name on it, and they don't "get" marketing at all.

    Now I know how to find the bigger dogs.  But I have to come up with about $15K in the next 4-5 weeks for another matter, and that won't be easy, but at least I now know how to attack it.

    I spend over $200/month from my social security on personal development products.  I've learned who not to listen to, and have been trimming some from my inbox.  It's amazing how many goo-roos (a favorite word I learned from Ben Settle) have all the answers, but I somehow suspect they're making more telling people how to do what they don't than they make actually doing it.  That bothers me.

    But one client who pays me well when they need me (not nearly often enough) proved to me that one needs a high enough self worth to set the price up there consistent with skill level.

    I saw an 8-page whitepaper that cost $5K and there are 13 errors in the opening nine-line "executive summary"!  And it's obvious the writer was semi-clueless, nobody proof-read it, and it didn't get an
    editor's scrutiny.  If that's worth $5K, I'm worth at least $7K.

    If you're a software company and people depend on your for reliable software, methinks it very unwise to have blatantly bad writing in your promotional whitepapers!

    Clarke

    • edgandia

       Great to see you here, Clarke! Thanks for your comment. Completely agree with your perspective on the overall poor quality of work out there. It's a huge motivator for me. Makes me realize why my clients keep coming back. 😉

    • Clarke, I so agree, nothing irritates me worse than reading something that I believe to be professionally produced and to find typos, blatant grammatical errors, etc.  I am no english writing major, and I am sure I make my share of errors, but at least I proofread my own work. 

  • Marked this read, re-read, & share. Rinse and repeat.

    • edgandia

       Love that!

  • Great reminders! I'm a new-ish freelancer enjoying my first month of steady work so I can really live on my writing! I'm so excited about it, but I've realized that in only a couple of weeks all these development items I used to do every week have gone by the wayside a bit. Thanks for reminding me to make time for it.

    On the plus side, I'm investing in my health this month with Couch to 5k and a goal to do a Color Run in July. I've never run before, so it's something new (which I love) and something good for my body - so it's good for me and therefore good for my business. Exercise and health are so key to this business!

    • edgandia

       Fantastic, Erin! Congrats on the Couch to 5k, your upcoming run... and your newish freelance biz! Glad to hear you're starting to land steady work.

  • Cathy

    Are you also counting in the 2 percent the amount you cannot bill because you're using those hours in development? (Double-whammy: the cost of the program plus the missing income)

    • Cathy

       I do agree, of course, because you can't offer skills for sale that you don't have (additional revenue streams), and you need to keep up-to-date with software and resource updates that your clients require (Chicago manual 16th edition vs. 15th, for example). That's just part of being in business and pleasing your clients.

    • edgandia

       Good question. I would count my time separately. This 2% refers to hard costs only. Of course, that's completely up to you. Part of the benefit of running your own show. 😉

  • Anna B

    I think the key way I'm investing in myself right now is careful pricing. Too many folks are willing to sell themselves short to get a client. My sister said today, "Every business has people who can't afford them." That gives me confidence to price myself based on the value I provide. I am also learning everything I can about my service and industry, but there comes a time to execute, too! 🙂

    • edgandia

       Hi Anna -- Critical area, I agree! Thanks for your comment.

  • Ed, this is excellent. It's always useful to remind freelancers and other solo-preneurs, such as artists, that they are -- we are -- one-person corporations with all the same responsibilities and challenges as one selling widgets. It's often exhausting as a result. Which is why we need these sorts of practical reminders. Thank you. By the way, I'm already finding value from my "self-investment" in your course!

    • edgandia

       Thanks, Virginia! And glad to hear you're getting value from the program. 😉

  • Fantastic article, full of excellent reminders that none of us should rest on our laurels. A lesson that's too easy to forget when we're busy!

    • edgandia

       Thanks, Susan! Appreciate your checking it out.

  • Ed, this is a terrific list of all the pieces of the business "puzzle" we all need to keep in the air. I'll be forwarding it on to other freelancers. Thank you!

    • edgandia

       Thanks for helping us spread the word, Wynne!

  • Maria

    Your suggestions dovetail with what I do and have done - except for one thing that really struck home: rediscovering a creative outlet from the past.  I used to sing in bands and play instruments waaaay back.  It was a creative outlet that was a pressing as writing, but in my early 30's it got set aside. Your post reminded me of this important creative juice that's been 'waiting' for me and it encourages me to bring it back into my life. 
    Thanks!

    • edgandia

       Maria - Great to hear! I give full credit to my coach, Peleg Top, for reminding me how important that is. I had forgotten how much I enjoy drawing (for myself, not to show others).

  • Ed, What you say is so true. Right now I'm probably going overboard in the learning department. I finally have some money I can invest, so that is why. Just trying to catch up. My mother passed away in February. My father passed in 1999. But as we were going through everything they both accumulated last month, we found books that my father used to build his skills (not just knowledge). We always had a houseful of books, neatly organized. We sometimes didn't need the library to complete school projects! But this particular set of books answered many questions. My father was an architect, a contractor; and not only knew, but could skillfully execute and supervise all phases of construction. He could install heating and air conditioning, electrical, roofs, landscaping and inside finish work. He had books on all of this and more. What we could accomplish if we thought we could learn anything!

    • edgandia

       Oh, wow! What a great find that must have been! Sounds like he was committed to lifelong learning. That's what I'm trying to instill in my kids right now. My 9-yr-old can't wait to get out of school, so he can't understand how I can find pleasure in continually learning new stuff. I'm having to explain that you're never done learning, and that you should always thirst for more. Execution? Super-important as well, of course!

  • Muriel

    This information is right on target. Even when it's hard to find the time, we must invest in ourselves. This makes for a very busy schedule, so we have to learn to be organized and diligent. Thanks for a good, concise essay that covers all the bases in one place.

    • edgandia

       Thanks for the feedback, Muriel! Glad you liked it.

  • tammy mays

    Very Good Stuff. Sometimes overlooked by many businesses as being not important. In my opinion these are the MOST important!!

    • edgandia

       Thanks, Tammy!

  • I like your emphasis on continued learning and I agree that long-term success means always looking for ways to improve your writing skills and the services you offer to clients. One investment that I make is time and budget to attend and volunteer at fundraising events for community organizations that I care about. This nourishes my spirit, but has also been a great way to make client and other business connections.

    • edgandia

       You bring up a great point, Janice! Definitely a great way to nourish the soul and to enrich the life of others. And when we approach it with that mindset, many great (and unexpected) things will come out of it.

  • Great post Ed. I actually talked with my accountant yesterday about Key Performance Indicators, and it looks like your list under Business Improvement are the things I need to be keeping a close eye on.

    One way I like to invest in myself as a web designer is buying books from industry experts to improve my techniques. It seems like new "best practices" are being developed constantly. It takes a lot of work to stay on top of everything, but it makes me a better freelancer in the long run.  

    • edgandia

       Amen to that! I'm a bookaholic myself. Always more on my to-read pile than on my current-reading pile. But that's OK.

  • Another way to look at this is the Freelancer is the "product" being sold. You better make continuous improvements to the "product" or your competitors will move ahead. If you can stay ahead of the competition, it pays off in both money and self esteem, which builds on itself. Part of this is choosing projects that make you learn something new.

    • edgandia

       GREAT way to look at it, Brad! You're absolutely right. It's so easy (and relatively inexpensive) to hang your shingle as a freelancer that many take for granted what it takes to continually differentiate. Like with any business, you need to continually reinvest in the biz in order to stay ahead.

  • Info

    Great post, Ed! Every freelancer in every market should read this!

    • edgandia

       Thanks -- and agreed! Help me spread the word? 😉

  • Thank you very much for such an informative post.  I am an small business entrepreneur that creates videos for clients and I also run an online store for motion graphic templates.  I love what I do, but it is so easy to forget about taking care of my body and soul.

    I will returning to this post for reminders to keep me focused on on point.  I am also going to start my 2%-5% investment fund for myself.  Maybe that savings will pay for my goal of going to the Blender university in Amsterdam :).  Have an awesome day and thank you for the great work!

    • edgandia

       Thanks so much, Deyson! Great to hear this resonated with you. Cheers!

  • Vicky

    WOW! Thanks you so much Ed for this post. It's inspirational and I can't wait to put it into practice. I know that there's a lot here that I need to focus on and improve, but the way you've set it out really breaks in down into manageable chunks! Am getting married next month, but once that's out of the way it will definitely be time to sit down and focus on developing my business.

    • edgandia

       Thanks, Vicky! Hey, congrats -- hope all goes well with your wedding and honeymoon! 😉