Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is the term used to describe the learning activities professionals engage in to develop and enhance their abilities.
Although CPD is a term I’ve only picked up on relatively recently, when I worked in-house as an editor and project manager it was part of the deal so didn’t need a label. I had the opportunity to attend conferences, training sessions on any new software I was expected to use, refreshers for best editorial practice, and various improve-your-productivity days. And it didn’t cost me anything more than a few hours away from my desk. As time passed, I became increasingly aware of, and responsible for, training budgets, but the money wasn’t coming out of my pocket or my salary, so I made the most of whatever was available for myself and my team.
Now I’m a freelancer and have to find, and fund, my own development opportunities, so everything must be a bit more considered in terms of time and cost commitments. I thought I’d take a post to consider the options for your next dose of vitamin CPD.
Let’s start with the most costly. Conferences are often two or three days long and some distance away. That’s several days’ lost income, plus travel, subsistence and accommodation expenses, and not forgetting any additional childcare costs or calling in of favours from family and friends to meet all your commitments while you’re away. But consider the benefits of learning new skills, making new contacts and catching up with others, and finding out what’s happening in your industry, and the costs might just be outweighed. This year I’ll be going to the IATEFL conference to catch up with the latest in the ELT industry, and the SfEP conference to see what’s happening in the editing world. I’ve planned for both well ahead of time, have told clients I’ll be away, and will keep the weeks either side of both conferences fairly free for getting ahead/catching up with work.
If getting to major conferences like these isn’t an option, check to see if they are live-streamed or recorded so you can catch up later. IATEFL Online is a great way of watching some of the sessions live from that conference. Also look out for Twitter hashtags and follow them to find out what’s happening either at the time or from the comfort of your sofa after a day at your desk.
There’s also the day conference option – either attending a single day of a longer conference – or going to events that only last a day, often at a weekend so there’s no need to miss a day’s work (although there may be other implications for family matters, etc.). You may still have travel costs, but again, consider the benefits like networking. I’ve already been to three day events this year: the ELT Freelancers’ Awayday (I organised that one), the MaWSIG conference, and The Enterprise Network’s Women In Business event. These events have given me a good mix of specialised and general input – and a wide range of sandwich fillings and biscuits. (Tip: take your own lunch to any event if you’re concerned about healthy eating.) Any events like this will be live-tweeting with a hashtag, so all is not lost if you’re not there in person.
What about going on a course to brush up or learn a new skill? Check out your local adult education college for a huge variety of subjects (I’ve recently done an eight-hour WordPress course for £75 at mine), the more costly but highly focused Publishing Training Centre, a local enterprise network, or an independent supplier. The most useful session I’ve done since going freelance was a morning learning about Twitter. Spending a small amount of time and money to learn the basics and a few tips has saved me hours in the long run. A quick online search ought to sort you out with whatever you’re looking for.
One online course supplier I’ve used on several occasions is Lynda.com. You can get a free 10-day trial of any of their courses – ranging from business, to tech, to something you haven’t even thought of yet – then follow them in your own time. If you know what you want to learn, YouTube might be a good first port of call before you go to a paid service like Lynda.com. I’ve learnt some nifty Excel tips, eyeliner application pointers, and how to empty the grey water tank on a motorhome from vloggers there. Not all strictly CPD, but you get the idea.
In a similar vein is the webinar. Look out for topics related to your area of expertise advertised on social media or through professional memberships. I’ve watched some great IATEFL webinars in the last few months, some social media-related things from Socially Sorted, ELTjam’s LX for ELT webinar (link to replay here), and Dr Freelance and Laura Poole talking about getting the work–life balance right. Webinars usually offer an opportunity to ask questions and interact with the speaker more than you can with something like the Lynda.com courses, and are an excellent way of getting some CPD from the comfort of your own home. Look out for replays if you can’t make the live dates, although some are limited-time only, so don’t delay too long.
While we’re talking about online delivery, have you listened to any podcasts as part of your CPD? I recently met coach Ruby McGuire at a networking meeting and heard her mention her Rock Your Fabulous Biz podcast so went off to iTunes to check that out. It’s important to factor time into your schedule for CPD, but I find listening to a couple of podcasts while I’m out for a walk gets two things done at the same time. Download some for the next time you’re in the car/on a train and reach your destination with some new ideas to follow up when you get home.
What haven’t I mentioned yet? Blogs. The best are those that give you some content that leaves you thinking when you’ve finished reading. My current regular work-related reads are the SfEP blog, Louise Harnby’s Proofreader’s Parlour and the Copyediting blog.
Forums. Got a question that you want expert help with, or some suggestions for further reading on a topic? Post on a group forum (or, similar, in a LinkedIn group or on a Facebook group or page), and you could have your answer in minutes.
Books. Whether a print copy for your reference shelf, or an eBook for your Kindle library, a new book is a sure way of learning something new.
Leave a comment and tell me what you’ve learnt lately, and which are your favourite ways of learning as a freelancer.