If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” -Derek Bok

Back when I was a rather precocious teenager, my mother and I would go out on shopping trips together. One day, we were looking at clothes and walked into the bridal section of a store. As we examined at the dresses and their high price tags, I wondered aloud if my mother would give me a big wedding when I got married.

“No,” she answered. “Your gift from me won’t be a big wedding. I plan on giving you  something that no one- not even your husband- will be able to take away from you. I’m going to do everything in my power to pay for your education.”

I was taken aback; one of the universities I was applying to carried a $60K price tag for a four-year education. My mother made, at that time, about $13 per hour. “Even if I don’t eat, you will go to school,” she added.

I always recall that moment when folks tell me how they can’t afford the time or money to further their education or their skills. I always think of my mother working those double shifts or overtime or double time, and occasionally reeling from exhaustion, to ensure my future.

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Fast forward to 2014: Even today, I am always reading that book, or taking that class, or working some internship-level job to pick up that skill I desperately require. Because it’s only by investing in myself that I become increasingly valuable. I raise my earnings by raising my human capital.

What is human capital?

Human capital can be defined as the knowledge and set of skills that a person possesses that make him capable of performing labor that increases economic value. On a more relevant level, human capital is a person’s competencies and talents as well as experience that make him capable of charging $75 per hour for a given job versus minimum wage.

These competencies and talents can be the result of a four-year education. However, learning doesn’t start and stop at the college campus. If it does, that know-it-all graduate will soon be surpassed by her younger and nimbler peers in a very short time.

10 reasons why you must invest in yourself and your freelance career

Learning is a lifelong process because life, like knowledge, never stops advancing. And the surest way to stay ahead and be paid top dollar for your time is to invest as much as possible into yourself and your freelance career. Here are 10 more reasons why you need to invest in yourself if you wish to get ahead.

1. To achieve your goals

Your life is more than just a timed series of social outings and family responsibilities. No, you also have goals and are striving to achieve them. Frankly, for most of us, it is our goals that give life meaning. However, how can you achieve your goals if you don’t have the necessary know-how? By investing in yourself, you grasp that resource and achieve your goals rather than just engage in wishful thinking.

2. To exceed your limitations

You might be good- just not good enough. Or you might be fast- just not fast enough. Despite your “years of experience,” someone else is always snagging some opportunity away from you because you are limited in a certain proficiency. Investing in yourself and becoming proficient in whatever it is that you lack allows you to grab at opportunities that would previously have passed you by. Investing in yourself also doesn’t leave you wondering what you may have accomplished had you not been limited by X, Y or Z.

3. To envision- and seize- the future

Training and learning enable you to start seeing the broader scope of your profession and where its future lies. You are able to accurately predict what exactly will be the next “big thing” and take steps now to ensure that you’re at the forefront of this up-and-coming trend. You stop looking at just your paycheck and start looking at the bigger picture.

4. To engage your passion

I always loved to write, but I never saw myself making an actual living as a writer. I relegated writers to the same field as starving artists and struggling actors. It wasn’t until I started taking online classes, networking with colleagues and reading freelance career books that I realized just how lucrative freelance writing could be.

5. To make yourself marketable

I don’t spend my days worrying about a freelance job going south or a client wrapping up a writing gig on me and disappearing. The “what if’s” of making money through writing don’t bother me because I already know what I bring to the table. But this confidence in my abilities resulted only after I’d accumulated some skills in writing, pitching, SEO, SEM, marketing and product management. And these skills came from my actually sitting down and learning them.

6. To please your boss

You know you have a crappy boss and this boss wants you in top form at all times. In a normal, everyday situation, you might quit on this boss, but not here. Why? Because your boss is YOU. And it’s this boss’s job to ensure that you are focusing on your own growth and development so that the business of You, LLC does not one day go bankrupt.

7. To gain incredible ROI

Employers regularly send their employees off to classes and training excursions because they know that even a small investment in education yields incredible returns down the line. Why should you stop learning just because you are now a freelancer? Are you less valuable than an employee simply because you don’t have an employer hovering over you?

8. To boost creativity

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Can’t think your way out of a problem or generate a good idea? Go take a calculus class or learn how to disassemble (and then hopefully reassemble) your car engine. In the words of Leo Burnett,

Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.

Learning any new skill rewires the neural circuits in your brain and provides you with new pathways of thinking about life and its challenges. And being more creative certainly makes you a more interesting person.

9. To encounter other great minds

The higher you go in your education, training or personal journey of discovery, the more likely you are to encounter other great minds also seeking education, training and discovery. Such a “meeting of minds” can only bring about further greatness.

10. To have no regrets

At the end of your life, you will look back on your accomplishments and failures, the opportunities you grabbed or abandoned, and whether or not you were genuinely happy. If you made every effort to live a life of excellence and not mediocrity, you will have lived a life of no regrets.

Why do you freelance? Sound off in the comments below!

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Join the Discussion

  • Chris

    Investing in my career is not an option for me. As an accountant, it is a requirement. If I don’t keep up with the changes to not only tax law, but on accounting regulations, my clients will soon go elsewhere.

    Good article, as always.

  • Elliot Forbes
    Elliot Forbes

    I think these days if you don’t continue to invest in your own career then you will start to fall behind! Especially if you are a web developer these days if you do not continue to push yourself and follow web development trends then you will soon find yourself delivering websites that were straight outa the 90’s

  • Sabriga

    You had me at #2, but 8,9, & 10 are so, so, so true.

  • Lori Mauger
    Lori Mauger

    We are kindred spirits! Knowledge is power. Never stop learning. Read, read, read.

  • Sarah Li cain
    Sarah Li cain

    I love number 3. We should all take our future in our own hands!

  • Lynn Swayze Wilson
    Lynn Swayze Wilson

    Katie, I agree! It can be easy to become isolated. But freelancing also frees you to connect with other entrepreneurially-minded, adventurous, and amazing people!

  • Katie Markey McLaughlin
    Katie Markey McLaughlin

    Number 9 is so important because of how easy it is for freelancers to become isolated. Investing in yourself, your education, and your career is a great way to connect with other people and benefit from the exchange of ideas and passion.

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