Qualifications can help you stand out, but are clients still interested in credentials?
The freelance movement is growing like never before. The trend has been going strong for some years now. And, even more people are entering the freelance market due in part to the pandemic. Job security is a thing of the past. Workers are quickly learning that conventional office jobs are very precarious. Now, it’s less risky to work for yourself from home, and people are taking notice. As the competition for freelance work increases, you may be wondering how to stand out to potential clients. Generally speaking, qualifications and credentials may help you differentiate yourself. But, are they really worth it in the end?
Over the years, continuing education has become more important. And online courses and certification programs are proliferating. Thanks to the rise of platforms like Udemy, Skillshare, and Lynda, it’s really easy to sharpen your skills online. There are hundreds, even thousands, of courses available online today to train learners in nearly every industry. Continuing education is never a bad thing. Although, whether earning credentials actually pays off, in the long run, is questionable.
Training programs are an investment. When you enroll in a course or a certificate program, you’re investing two of your most valuable resources, time and money. Courses can take a few hours to several months to complete. And they can range in cost from free to thousands of dollars. It’s not hard finding affordable programs online. Besides, money is a renewable resource. Complete economic collapse aside, you can always make more money. You can’t, however, make more time. So, before you enroll in a certificate program, you should ask yourself if that’s the best use of your valuable time.
Certification programs may help boost your career. They also may not make much of a difference at all. It depends on your industry and your VBO Niche. Research your industry. Look at job announcements for positions that fall within your line of work. Are employers requesting certain certifications? Do the top-performing freelancers in your industry on online marketplaces have particular qualifications? What are they? Research will help you determine what qualifications are desirable within your industry.
Generally, freelancers pursuing professions that require highly-specialized knowledge do well with qualifications. For example, a web developer who wants to work with Amazon Web Services should consider becoming an AWS Certified Developer. By becoming certified, an AWS developer can increase their earning potential and become more marketable to clients and employers. It’s an industry-respected way to demonstrate technical knowledge and core competencies.
For less specialized or technical career fields, qualifications may not be as important. A client is probably more likely to work with a copywriter who has demonstrable experience with B2B copywriting than they are to hire a copywriter who has completed a course on B2B copywriting. Most of the time, experience is preferential to qualifications.
Credentials prove your ability to learn. Experience proves your ability to practically and successfully apply what you’ve learned. Experience also demonstrates that you know the ins and outs of running a freelance business (you know, contracts, timely invoicing, client communications, etc.). If you do decide to invest in qualifications, always augment your credentials with experience to beef up your digital portfolio.
If you decide to pursue a certificate program, do your research. A problem with online courses is that they can become outdated and inaccurate in a short span of time, given how quickly industries are advancing nowadays. To ensure you’re learning information that is relevant, opt for newer courses from respected industry authorities.
Qualifications can help you stand out in a sea of competitors. They can also help you get your foot in the door if you’re new to a particular field. But, ultimately, qualifications aren’t as important as they once were. Employers and clients don’t want to work with freelancers who look good on paper. They want someone who can do the job well.
Depending on your industry, qualifications can certainly help boost your career. However, demonstrable experience should take precedence over credentials. Qualifications can help you make a good first impression on potential clients. But you should always expect to back up your credentials with relevant experience.