Continuing Education for Remote Workers

A pro stays on top of the game through continued education. Modern trends and tools allow you to retain a competitive advantage, and the best way to stay current is through continuing education. For home workers who run the whole show – from production to marketing and HR – this is crucial. Whether you’re a writer or a designer, a coder or a wedding photographer, you must stay current to stay competitive.

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Telecommuters face a similar challenge. Those working within a reasonable distance from the home office may spend the day at the building for an in-service, workshop etc. Workers who are truly remote – in a different city or state – face a greater challenge. In that case, getting to the office is more difficult. Throughout this article, I’ll highlight options for both the freelancer/small business owner and the telecommuter.

However, getting that education isn’t easy.

Many industries have employee betterment built in. For example, my wife is a public school teacher who’s required to attend a certain number of classes and workshops, all tailored to address the latest regulations and teaching techniques. When an appropriate workshop or conference is identified, the school arranges enrollment and foots the bill, and the school day proceeds as normal when she’s away.

As a telecommuter, you’ll probably get paid during an in-service day, which is an advantage over your freelancing brothers and sisters. What’s critical for you is to clearly communicate where you’ll be for the day. Remember, you coworkers are used to not seeing you. For them, it’s just another day. Be sure that all collaborators know you’re unavailable for the day, and when they can expect you back.

If you’re a freelancer or a one-person shop, the story is different. In addition to taking the time to find a good event, you’ve got to register, possibly travel and definitely pay out of your own pocket. Additionally, time spent at a conference or workshop isn’t billable, so no money is earned on that day(s).

In this article, I’ll list several ways you can stay on top of what you do, without sacrificing a huge amount of money or precious billable hours. There are many great resources available if you know where to find them, and many are inexpensive or free. But first, a look at determining the true cost of attending an event.

Bang for your buck

The cost of attending say, a workshop goes beyond the price of admission and maybe a sandwich for lunch. There are a finite number of billable hours in a day (unfortunately we have to sleep sometime). For me, cost = money spent (tickets, food, travel) + time spent, where the latter refers to time that cannot be devoted to billable work. True, the education acquired will hopefully enhance billable work and maybe even your rate, but you’re starting out “in the hole” if you will. If I’m taking a sixty-minute workshop with an entrance fee of $1200 and my rate is $100 per hour, I’m out $1300 for that day.

To offset this, I put a few dollars away each month specifically for continuing education. It’s not a lot but is there when I want to sign up for a webinar, workshop or conference. With some money set aside, it’s time to find an event worth attending, starting with a freebie.

To the library!

Despite predictions to the contrary, the internet did not kill your local library. Those run by forward-thinking staff see them has hubs of information for their communities, not merely housing for paper books. A part of this revival is workshops and talks, often given by community leaders across disciplines. These are typically totally free and offer one-on-one time with a person who really knows their stuff.

If books are your thing, interlibrary loan can let you find exactly the title you need. Again, library cards are free and the time commitment here is very low.

Here’s a quick tip for books you own. When I’m reading a business book that I’ll refer to later, I take notes on an index card as I go. For example, when I come across a great little nugget of information, I’ll make a quick note on the index card with the page number. Then, when I’m through reading, I’ll tape the card to the inside cover, giving me an analog, custom, book-specific wiki. No more flipping to remember, “Now where was that part again?”

Local Schools

Is there a college in your area? She what they’re offering for adult education. There’s a community college in my neighborhood that offers adult classes in the evenings, conveniently accommodating a working person’s schedule.

You can also find business classes, like guidance on writing a loan proposal, working with taxes for the self-employed and more. When I started writing on my own, I took a class like this and discovered that I had to register myself as a business with my town office. I wouldn’t have know that otherwise.

Entrepreneurial Resources

No college in the area? Look into small business support organizations. These groups are set up to help small business owners get off the ground. You’ll learn regulations that I described earlier and have some time for networking, too.

Web Based Training

There are so many great resources online for the self-motivated (that’s you, home worker). DeVry, Lynda and more are ready to go and are free of travel expenses (note that Lynda access is also sometimes offered free through libraries). If you’re a coder, check out Udacity, Treehouse, CodeSchool and others.

Conferences and workshops

Finally, the biggies: conferences and workshops. Definitely the most costly but often the most beneficial. Why not the family along and make a little vacation out of it? Also, look for a smaller, less expensive (both tickets and travel) local events if you can’t get to the biggie.

It’s important to stay good at what you do, and that means staying current. With a little work, you can find the venue that’s perfect for you. Now get to it.

Ready for your next adventure? Find a new job on Authentic Jobs.