Investing in yourself: Finding the time to upskill yourself as an entrepreneur

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While entrepreneurship requires you to make thousands of decisions across different business areas, it is sometimes hard to justify the time spent in increasing your skill. There may be a hundred different pressing issues, and it is easy to push off spending time refining your skills in an area that you are not strong. This article is intended to challenge this – to emphasize that it is important not to perpetually put off learning new areas.

Recognizing the importance of upskilling

Some of the key things to help justify the time spent upskilling yourself include:

  • May be critically important for your business: One of the primary reasons to justify upskilling is that the areas that you lack may ultimately be hugely important to your ability to succeed. Everyone’s background is different, and you will likely want to improve the areas that are important to the growth of your firm, that you are not already strong at.
  • Hiring outside talent is costly and time-consuming: Hiring an expert or a consultant to provide input on areas that you do not initially have the skills is not always a straightforward task. You will need to go through the process of identifying an employee, brief them, and then manage them. While this may be appropriate for one-off occurrences, if this is a task that will need repeating, it can be a lot easier, in the long run, to train yourself in the area. 
  • Once you have a foundation you can grow on the job: A final reason to justify the effort is that once you have some understanding of an area, you can build your skills gradually over time. Having at least some understanding of a particular area makes it a lot easier to gradually build on that skill as you naturally use it over time.

Recognizing the need to upskill is maybe especially critical to succeeding as a solo entrepreneur. While if you have a team of individuals it is possible to rely on their experiences for various parts of a business, if you are launching a firm by yourself, this is not possible. You are the one directly responsible for all aspects of the business, and as such will need to develop skills to be able to operate across areas.

Identifying areas that you want to improve on

Once you have convinced yourself of the importance of upskilling, the next task is identifying the specific skills that you want to improve. It is quite possible that you will have lots of areas that you have identified wanting to improve – that is great – but you will likely want to prioritize the most important or pressing. The entrepreneurial road is long, and so you can build your skills across areas over a period of months, years, and decades. 

Planning out how you will develop your skills

After you have identified areas that would be useful to you and your business, the next consideration is how to improve upon those areas. Some options include:

  • Internet research: The internet is always a great place to start your learning – websites like this one are intended to help you with some of the most common challenges that you will face as an entrepreneur. 
  • Books and guides: To delve deeper into a particular area, there are thousands of business guides that can help you deepen your knowledge in a particular area. 
  • Online courses: There are lots of mini-online courses that are free to take – Coursera and EdX are great places to start. 
  • Formal education: A final approach is to return to education – potentially in an evening or online program to help you improve your overall business acumen. Taking a general business course is a great way of exposing you to areas that you may not have realized that you didn’t know you needed or were lacking. 

Following through: Ensuring that you dedicate the necessary time

A final component of upskilling is actually following through. It is all well having the intention to further your skills across areas, but unless you actually take the difficult steps to follow through your skills will never improve. 

Some approaches to help with follow-through include:

  • Carving out dedicated time: Having a set time each week that you devote to improving your skills can help in allowing you to justify the time. No matter how busy you are, having a slot on your calendar to upskill, can help to allow yourself to spend the time on mastering a new area.
  • Progress checks: Having periodic progress checks can help you stay on track – setting targets that you want to achieve by specific dates can help you stay on track. 
  • Celebrating progress: You may consider celebrating all the mini-achievements that you make, potentially with personal rewards to encourage you on your learning journey.
  • Having material ready to go: Having material download, and ready to hand can be a great way of encouraging you to work on upskilling whenever you have some downtime. If you always keep a selection of articles on you, you can easily read them in small chunks whenever you are passenger traveling or potentially before heading to bed.

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