The biggest mistake I made when first starting out on my freelance career was not dedicating enough (or any) time to working on myself and my own marketing.

Neglecting to promote yourself, develop your skills or search for new business opportunities is a great way to stagnate and fall behind your competition... And the classic excuse 'my business comes from word-of-mouth' is the go-to reply that I see all too often.

Push ahead or fall behind

Think about it... A sitting duck is an easy target, isn't it?

So the wisest of brands constantly pivot and evolve to fit the needs of a changing marketplace. They are looking for opportunities rather than waiting for things to find them.

I've seen many businesses get trapped in the cycle of being 'busy serving clients' but neglecting to have a strategy to target the right kind of new clients. They miss opportunities to be first. They fall behind their competition because they fail to invest in research and developing their staff.

The best strategy is to dedicate time every single week to work on your own plan and your own goals... Not just those of the plans of other people.

At first, this was counter-intuitive for me. You're probably thinking that it's not possible for you either, but I promise, it very quickly becomes an essential part of your life.

All I wanted to do was client work. Get money in the bank... That makes sense, right?

But I found that I was constantly busy, doing the kind of work that was barely making me any money, and I always seemed to be working to someone else's clock.

Now though, I dedicate one hour each day to blogging, and an afternoon a week to personal development and marketing. It's the best part of my week by miles... Including 'days off'.

I'm now attracting the kind of clients that challenge me to produce better work, and ones who I can add the most value to their businesses. This is down to a strategic approach to marketing and networking... Nothing technical or fancy, just targetted.

You should look to work on yourself as a major priority in your life. Realistically, only you can improve your own situation. It comes down to hard work and having a good plan.

Remember, an investment in yourself pays the biggest return.

Start now by picking up this book. It's the one that got me started.