I will say, I'm no expert in any of this, but I do watch my wallet. I do not make money from any of my written works at this point so I can't claim it as a job--technically. I do take it very seriously and hope, one day, I just might get paid. But for now, I'm simply working for the dream. I'm trying my hardest to challenge myself and hone my skills to become a stronger writer. Let's face it between day jobs and daily life, time can be limited. Some of the options can get pricey and we all know money doesn't grow on trees.
However, there are many opportunities out there that will challenge you and give you some great experiences as well as taking your writing a step further.
Critique groups--There are online critique groups or groups that meet in person. One of the best ways to find one in your area is to check out the SCBWI (this is for kid lit) website (https://www.scbwi.org/) and look up your geographic area. It will have a link to critique groups. Make sure you contact the members and get to know them before committing. Sometimes sending a sample piece to each other helps to see if the group is right for you. If you write adult or romance or something else entirely, do a search in your browser for groups that would fit what you are interested in.
Online critiques-- Try some seasoned sites that offer critiques or agent feedback.
Miss Snark's First Victim has many opportunities to get feedback on your work. Some events do have a fee but not all of them. http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/
Dianne Salerni http://diannesalerni.com/blog/ , Marcy Hatch http://mainewords.blogspot.com/ and Krystalyn Drown http://krysteybelle.blogspot.com/ offer First Impressions. You send them 350-400 words of your first page and they will give you a critique.
Workshops/online classes--These are a great way to strengthen your skills.
Adventures in Publishing have a great workshop every month for free. It's a five page workshop. You receive feedback from (2) published authors and make (3) rounds of revisions, then you will receive feedback from an agent. Make sure you follow the rules. http://www.1st5pageswritingworkshop.com/p/workshop-rules.html
Margie Lawson has some great online and on site classes that won't break the bank. https://www.margielawson.com/
Conferences--Conferences can get pricey. I do try to get to one every few years, but they can cost $100.00 or more. Recently, a conference has resurfaced that I enjoyed years ago from the comfort of my own home. WriteOnCon is an online conference that offers live discussions, seminars, forums, Q & A sessions with authors, agents, editors and publishers. All of it from the most comfortable chair you own along with a cup of tea and chocolate at your side. There is a small fee (under $20.00), but worth it. http://writeoncon.org/
Contests--There are some sites that organize great contests and writing opportunities throughout the year. Many of these have awesome prizes in the end (pitch opportunities, requests from agents, etc.)
Twitter is one that has many. #PITMAD is where you post a pitch and agents get to chose if they want to read more. #Pitchwars is similar. There are others and they happen at different times of the year so keep a close eye on your trends box.
Sun vs. Snow is another contest that is going on right now. For free. Agents get involved in this one as well. http://www.michelle4laughs.com/2016/12/announcing-sun-versus-snow-2017.html Michelle also organizes other contests throughout the year so check out her site.
Write Club is another contest that happens once a year. Another no cost to you. Your piece will go through many rounds of feedback. Authors and agents get in on the action. http://www.dlhammons.com/p/write-club-2016.html
Retreats--Retreats can be great, but can get pricey. One idea is to simply get out of your house and go to a park and free write. If you have the means to travel somewhere else, go for it. This can help you see things another way. Different scenery can spark something creative.
If you can or really want to splurge, Highlights foundation puts on unworkshop retreats. These are usually on a weekend and you can get it for $99. a night. That includes lodging and food. You can write without interruption in a beautiful setting. Now, if you are not local to it, it will cost more to get there so keep that in mind. I haven't gone yet, but hope to try it one day. I'm saving my pennies. ;) They also offer amazing workshops, but again, you need to save up for those. https://www.highlightsfoundation.org/
This is only the tip of the iceberg. If you search online, you will find many more. As with any of these, research and check all of the credentials. Make sure they are legitimate. Read reviews of past participants if you can find them. Research the organizers as well. It doesn't hurt.
Also keep in mind, writing is subjective. Feedback can be hard to take so you must learn how to see what is constructive and what is opinion. You know what is right for your story.
Does anyone have any other links to share? I'm sorry if I forgot any.
Have a great day!