Whether you call it continuing eduction or professional development for bloggers, learning new things and keeping up to date in your field are an important piece of the blogging puzzle. Tiffany Mayer looks at frugal ways you can keep learning and growing with her low-cost professional development tips for bloggers.
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It was always one of the first things to be cut when the axe fell in my corporate jobs: professional development.
The very practice that would keep our skills current — competitive, even — was seen as frivolous. So when I handed in my resignation and set out on my own, I made professional development a priority. Few things are more inspiring than learning new concepts and ideas from people willing to share their expertise to better their industry. Professional development keeps a person, no matter what they do, at the top of their game with new skills and perspective.
I made a point to budget for attendance at conferences (FBC2017!) and workshops, take an online class or two, and buy the literature. But Professional Development (PD) doesn’t have to come with a big price tag to have a big effect on what we do and how we do it. Here are a few ideas for low-cost professional development.
Books: A New Chapter in Your Career
Titles abound that are chock full of tips, tricks and advice to bring out the best in our writing, photography and even business administration. A library card is your wallet’s best friend here, tempting as it is to head to the nearest bookstore to drop dollars on an unbroken book spine and the smell of ink. Seriously, though, libraries are a bastion of free professional development information.
And if they don’t have the title you seek, check the used book dealers on Amazon. It’s easy to find books in new condition much cheaper than for what the almighty bookseller lists them.
I posted the question of favourite PD titles to Facebook and got incredible suggestions from some freelancing friends. Here’s a short-list of those crowd-sourced titles worth checking out:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey — Brilliant for developing interpersonal skills, which we all need when dealing with people.
On Writing by Stephen King — Keeps our fingers flying across the keyboard, turning out the good stuff.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert — For when you feel like the creative juices aren’t flowing as freely as you’d like.
Why Can’t You Be Anything You Want to Be by Arthur Miller — To keep your from fighting your unique nature and get you doing what you were born to do.
UnMarketing: Everything Has Changed and Nothing is Different by Scott and Allison Stratten — When idea creation and engagement need a boost.
Get Out There: Find An Off-Line Meeting Group or Workshop
Another freebie-offering professional growth opportunity is writers’ or photographers’ groups. There’s usually at least one of each, if not more, in a community. Searching Google or Facebook, or contacting your local library or camera store should put you on to them. These are great forums in which you can share work with others keen to learn and grow, get feedback, and have reasons to practise your skills outside of blogging (but of course they’ll totally help with your blog).
Free professional development workshops and seminars are often part of the perks when you join a coworking space. One of our spaces in Niagara has craft-specific monthly meetings where writers, web developers, podcasters and other freelancers share tips and experiences.
Others bring in experts, such as bankers and accountants to help with the nitty gritty of running a business.
The real selling point of coworking spaces is the opportunity to collaborate every day with other creatives who can provide advice and lend their skills to help yours improve.
And don’t forget to inquire with your local chamber of commerce or municipal business enterprise centre, too. They often hold free networking and educational summits where you can meet and learn from other professionals — and perhaps find a mentor.
Tuition isn’t always cheap but there are plenty of learning opportunities low in price and high in value.
CreativeLive and Lynda are two online forums with incredible course catalogues that include everything from learning SEO, improving your food photography and writing, learning how to launch a podcast, and even to video tutorials.
Best part is, aside from professional development courses being reasonably priced, you can work on them at your own pace and when your schedule allows.
If you’re someone who prefers to learn in person, punch the type of class you’re looking for into Google and see what comes up close to home. I recently found an inexpensive food photography and styling class done in one day in Toronto and for $60. I was sold.
Check your local community college, too. Continuing education departments typically offer a wide variety of culinary arts, wine and beer education, photography, writing, and business administration classes. These are non-academic, general interest courses targeted at people who aren’t necessarily students. They’re often good value and don’t require a huge time commitment.
Podcasts: What’s That You Hear?
The virtual airwaves are full of free information, depending on your data plan, of course! I love to pop my earbuds in and absorb all kinds of food for thought when I take to the treadmill in the morning or when I’m cooking a big meal.
One of my favourites is the Food Blogger Pro podcast, which can run up to an hour. It’s free and covers many of the same topics you have to pay to access on the Food Blogger Pro website.
For quicker hits of information, I regularly tune into The Freelancer by Paul Jarvis. The host pulls no punches as he shares his experiences and insights gleaned from a 20-plus-year career as a freelancer, and he does it in 10 minutes or less. The Freelancer’s Tea Break is even shorter, clocking about three minutes. Another one worth tuning into is The Get Paid Podcast, which is great for listening to in the car when you have a bit of a drive ahead of you.
Whatever your interest, a subject search on iTunes or Google Play will net you plenty of results from which to choose.
Even if you don’t blog for your living, there’s so much to learn and adapt to what you do.
The Good Ol’ Information Superhighway
I look forward to the emails that land in my inbox from ProBlogger, (who also has a great podcast!) a great website dedicated to helping bloggers grow their domain. There are audio and video clips, and stories with simple tips ranging from writing a clickbait headline to understanding SEO and everything in between — and they’re all free.
The Write Life is packed with tons of resources for writing, and will lead to other places with even more information. Social Media Examiner is also a gem. Chopped is related specifically to the business of food blogging, and of course I’d be remiss in not mention the FBC site. But if you’re reading this, you already know how wonderful this website is at giving you the PD goods!
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Frugal Blogging: Low-Cost Professional Development was written by Tiffany Mayer, a freelance journalist and author of Niagara Food: A Flavourful History of the Peninsula’s Bounty (History Press, 2014). She blogs about food and farming at eatingniagara.com. You can also listen to her newly launched food podcast, Grub.