Having clients pay you to learn a new skill is a very difficult art.
In trying to stay 20 Hours Ahead, you will often bite off more than you can chew. The reason is simple: in the grand scheme of things, you know very little. If you are on the road from freelancer to entrepreneur and small business owner, there are many opportunities to grow in different directions. However, if you have your goal in mind, you should continue moving towards that goal as quickly as possible.
Momentum is your friend.
Stumbling blocks are bound to come up. These will be around things you know nothing about: a coding language, an accounting line item, a design trick, or anything else that derails you and sends you down a rabbit hole.
How will you quickly move past these distractions without losing momentum?
“Just in Time Learning” seems to be a consistent answer for me.
The amount of knowledge required to be a freelancer in a particular field can be overwhelming. In my case, I take one look at the WordPress Codex, and I get heart palpitations. There is an incredible amount of information in there, and even though I am a nerd at heart, I cannot fathom getting through the Codex alive!
The Codex is always changing, always being updated, always being revise.
However, in doing jobs for clients, I have come to realize I do not need to memorize the Codex to set up a WordPress site. I just have to know how to do about 15 things, do them quickly and consistently, and my clients have been quite happy.
In any area of specialty, there will be extraneous information that you do not need to learn to move forward. If you want to teach salsa, you do not need to pick up tango as well. If you want to instruct diving, you do not need to also acquire in depth knowledge of the breast stroke.
Keep your learning lean.
You will notice that the above examples included one thing, and not another:
This process of focusing is sometimes called “niching down”. When you niche down, you say no to many other opportunities and potential markets. This is extremely difficult for me to do. I am naturally curious and have a lot of interests.
What I have found, though is the more focused I can get on what I’m learning, the faster I can move forward. In the game of staying 20 Hours Ahead, I literally do not have the time to get distracted. Twenty hours does not afford me the flexibility to get sidetracked.
This may sound totalitarian, but I have found it is actually very freeing. It is a similar experience to riding a motorcycle through back roads, getting off the back roads, merging onto a highway, and quickly accelerating because it is a straight shot.
It is very hard to go quickly forward in a serpentine pattern.
Focused learning means that I am able to keep things straight. Learning is less confusing, and I see greater improvement faster.
Again, momentum is my friend!
Commit to learning only what you need in order to move you to the next step. Sometimes, the best way to commit to learning what will take you to the next step is to win a contract which requires knowledge on the subject you know nothing about.
This can be nerve racking. However, when you have a deliverable to provide and a deadline to meet, you will learn very quickly what is essential to your learning, and what is not.
And you will get that learning done just in time.