The Benefits of Casual Learning as a Designer, Freelancer, and Entrepreneur

Posted on April 19, 2010


What is casual learning you may ask? It can be loosely defined as “informal learning”. For example: learning on the go, mobile learning, online learning, online resources, e learning, information on demand and immediate application, and continual professional development/or education. In essence, we are all continually learning. However in the context of career development and maintaining a sharp edge off and on the job, what are you proactively doing?

My experience with casual learning has provided me a gradual build up of being competent, which in turn breeds confidence. After surviving the two most recent recessions, the tech bubble (2000) and the housing bubble (2008), I can say that the habit of casual learning has contributed to keeping me afloat through these very rough times and allowing success to materialize. As a knowledge worker, I felt that its essential to foster this habit because I am passionate about the industries I serve.

During the tech bubble, I had continually borrowed from the library or bought books, magazines, and videos in addition to reading websites. However when the housing bubble had burst, I had noticed my casual learning habits have evolved. In the last 4 years, I acquired:

  • Macbook Pro (doing freelance work or learning wherever I go)
  • Custom built PC (by me): Intel Quad Core 6600 with 4GB of ram, nVidia GTX285, 4 1TB hard drives (for doing 3D work and everything else)
  • T-Mobile G1 smartphone (tethers to my laptop for access to the web, social media, RSS feeds, web development)
  • iPod Touch (for web development, mobile presentations, apps, learning games, et cetera)
  • 2 iPod Nanos (for audio books, music while working out and while driving)
  • Subscription services to several online learning websites and digital content such as videos, eBooks and audio books
  • And… subscriptions to RSS feeds from 100+ blogs using Feedly or Google Reader (and Twitter as well) [FREE!]

So what has casual learning done for me? LOTS ^ . ^!

As an employed designer (graphic design, 3D modeler and animator, website designer):

  • Casual learning keeps me abreast of the newest trends. When I get a client who wants the latest and greatest AND has the money to pay for it, I can confidently say that I can do it because it is in my world-view.
  • I can steadily tweak my production pipeline to become much more efficient and recapture costs (time and money)
  • Learning web development basics such as CSS, Ruby on Rails, PHP, MySQL, WordPress theme creation and modification
  • Trendy design techniques

As a freelancer and entrepreneur:

  • Casual learning has taught me to recognize disruptive business models, technologies, and competitors. As a small business owner, one advantage is that small businesses can adapt faster than medium and large size businesses.
  • Also, I watch out for emerging markets so I can make sense of new opportunities, analyze opportunity costs, and decide whether or not to invest into those new markets.
  • Learning accounting software like Quickbooks
  • Marketing and Advertising online such as SEO, SEM, Affiliate Marketing, PPC, CPM, et cetera
  • How to form a corporation
  • How to do business taxes
  • How to protect myself from liability through incorporating

As in self development

  • Continual development of a strong self philosophy and purpose.
  • In the end, casual learning boils down to having more options, making smarter decisions, having a larger world view, and eliminating paralyzing beliefs.


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