There are several natural cues that you need training:
- When it’s been a few months since your last training
- When you find yourself feeling uncertain about a point of style or grammar
- When you take on a new subject area/genre or product type
- When you’re feeling bogged down
- When you are just starting out
- When you are working on a new type of thing (product, style, subject, etc.)
- When the software changes (which is constantly)
- When a resource changes (CMOS 17, anyone?)
What Is Training?
You can train yourself. Training doesn’t always mean taking a course, though a course is a fantastic shortcut and a great scheduling tool. Ongoing professional development means continuing to develop your skills, and that’s training. Professionals continue their learning throughout their career. That might mean training yourself or finding someone to train you. You might spend five minutes, or five months.
Formal training from others can come from schools, professional associations, tutoring or mentoring, online video tutorials like Lynda.com and Copyediting.com. Sometimes it comes with instructor feedback (or even grades), a certificate, and is part of a larger program.
You can train yourself by reading a resource (blogs count as much as a style guide does), completing a workbook, finding some masterminds, or starting a study group. You might work on editing skills, or skills related to running your business, or some cross training. You might even teach as training, since teaching always leads to learning—whether because you’re filling in the gaps to teach a subject or from being pushed to extend your understanding by student questions or insights.
Side Benefits of Training
You will work faster or smarter, maybe both. You will lose a bad habit or two, learn something new, and gain confidence in your abilities. You will show the writers you work with (clients) that you are professional, up-to-date, and skilled. You will have the confidence and evidence to back up a rate increase. You will grow, personally and professionally, and that always feels good.
Where to Start
Eliminate the pain. Think about what is causing you the most grief in your work day, and start with some training there. Is something taking too long? Is something frustrating? What is the thing you put off that you could learn to make less daunting? It might even be physical pain: is it time to learn some keyboard shortcuts or get comfortable with that ergonomic mouse? Make a list, and set aside the time. You’ll love the results.