We are living in the 4th industrial revolution that has changed the way we look at our careers and work.
For many people, work no longer means a traditional 9 to 5 job or a designated desk.
As technology allows us to break boundaries in our professional lives, freelancing is a concept that is impacting every industry (and seems to be going only upwards).
There are more than 57 million freelancers in the United States. This directs us towards the fact that the freelance industry is quite fertile.
Nonetheless, if you associate an individual’s career with freelancing, there is a certain skepticism that gets attached to it – usually, at least. This is not entirely wrong.
As a freelancer, you leverage the freedom to choose your clients and the flexibility to work at your comfort and time.
However, it all comes at the cost of uncertainty. Now, the question is, ‘how can you be certain of your success as a freelancer?’
There is no one answer.
There are 15.
Below are the 15 skills that are required to become a freelancer – a rather successful freelancer.
Why Every Freelancer Needs These Skills to Succeed?
Before we jump into the skills required to become a freelancer, it is important to understand what you will get out of these skills.
Yes, it’s a success, but what does it specifically look like?
Here are a few benefits of building these skills as a freelancer:
- Your entire career will only be dependent on these skills. Building these will make you your own boss.
- You can have multiple sources of income as you learn to manage time and money through the following-mentioned skills.
- A global exposure. These skills will help you break barriers in terms of geography and enable you to work with international clients.
Besides these, there are several advantages of building the following skills as a freelancer.
1. Attention Management
As a freelancer, you will probably be working on your own time, in your preferred location, and under your preferred circumstances.
Moreover, to get ideas for your work, you might have to consume more content than other professionals.
All this can decrease your attention span, lead to missed deadlines and harm your quality of work.
Therefore, it is important to work on your attention management. It will help you to direct all your efforts into working and will increase overall productivity over time.
If you come across instances that easily break the flow of your work, working on attention management skills will help you to dedicate work for long hours.
To manage your attention and work effectively, you can start by having a time limit on using technology that is not helping you with your work, stay clear of multitasking, and take regular breaks during your working hours.
This is one of the most common skills in the list of ‘skills for freelancers.’ One of the things that are essential to understand here is that as a freelancer, you must focus on verbal and written communication.
You need to be clear and persuasive with your words when you are reaching out to a client, or you are negotiating the price, even when you are quoting a price, and in many more instances.
It also helps you share your work and portfolio with the world (examples: LinkedIn posts and email marketing content).
The very first thing to strengthen your communication skills is trying to understand that every client has different communication requirements.
Some prefer a daily update and friendly equation, while others stick to only receiving work and paying for it.
You should also explore which application is suitable for which communication style.
3. Initiative Approach
Similar to communication, taking initiatives also differs from client to client and project to project.
What remains constant is that as a freelancer, you have to make constant initiatives, regardless of the stage of your project.
Pitching your work to a new client, updating the knowledge you have in your field of expertise, understanding market trends concerning your work, updating your prices, and networking, to name a few.
After pitching to the client, as you get into a discussion regarding your project, I suggest you give them detail-oriented information regarding your work process.
This will increase your credibility.
Also, you could have a list of questions prepared to ask them that will help you work on the project in even better ways.
While taking initiatives is crucial to a freelancer, it is equally important to make well-thought decisions. Let us consider a very classic example: you have to select between 2 clients.
One of them is paying you heftily, but the work on your project is not something that enhances your portfolio or knowledge. On the other hand, the other client offers a project that will build your core skills and credibility at a lower rate.
Your decision on this (and even on other critical choices) should be based on your priorities.
The appropriate decision is certainly subjective.
However, by setting your priorities right and doing some research on clients and markets, you could go a long way in making sound decisions.
One of the most tried-and-tested ways of making decisions is attempting to avoid impulsivity.
Unless it is a time-bound decision, try to take time and do research on its factors. You could also make a pros and cons list.
The gig economy is a result of a change that happened over time. Unlike traditional jobs, freelancing has not yet set its way in our lives.
Earlier, freelancing was mostly pursued by designers and writers. Now, it is sought after by accounting professionals, journalists, and various other professionals.
Besides this, there are several other expected changes in freelancers’ lives. This calls for building your adaptability.
By being open to change, you become more versatile and suitable for numerous clients across the globe. Moreover, it can help you expand your knowledge and open doors for new projects.
You can begin by building your core skill and learning a secondary skill alongside.
6. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking means discerning judgment.
There will be countless times when you might find yourself justifying your actions (as a freelancer).
Your client might straightaway ask you, why did you quote a certain amount for a task? Or they might want to negotiate or provide feedback that does not seem right to you.
In such cases, you will be required to reason with your clients and explain to them the thought process behind your actions.
For perspective, if you provide work in a lesser number of hours than other freelancers in the industry, you get to charge higher (given your quality of work is excellent).
If your client questions this, instead of simply saying ‘that is how everyone does it,’ you can take a moment and explain how you saved your client’s valuable hours and what it’s worth.
The very first step to building critical thinking skills is being unbiased with your work. If you presume that your work is perfect, you will have a tough time embedding your client’s feedback into it.
Start by taking criticism positively. This does not mean you doubt yourself, but it is a chase to review your work based on your readers’ opinions.
One of the differences between an employee and a freelancer is that a freelancer has to constantly keep selling their skills and work.
As you find a new potential client, you have to begin with salesmanship from the minute you start pitching to the end of your project.
The tenure of your project is mostly based on the quality of your work and other professional elements; it is not bound by commitment. That makes salesmanship a hidden yet important skill that every freelancer should build.
If you deeply analyze an advertisement, you will realize that most of the good advertisements do not contain words such as ‘risk-free,’ ‘warranty,’ or ‘buy.’ Instead, the best-selling material comes from the word ‘new.’
Therefore, while pitching to a client, tell them additional things that you bring to the table besides your work. It could be punctuality, expertise, hands-on experience, and so on.
8. Complex Problem-Solving
One of the reasons that companies step outside their in-house employees is their search for new approaches by professionals worldwide.
Another reason—which not many companies will agree with – is the need to solve specific problems.
No two professionals bring the same solution to a problem. This means that your problem-solving skills should not only solve your client’s problems on the surface but remove the root of the problem in the long run.
Problem-solving goes hand-in-hand with critical thinking and helps you stand apart. With powerful problem-solving, you can also work on issues such as time management, lack of focus, and searching for quality clients.
You could start by taking up challenges that take you out of your comfort zone. For instance, make a list of target clients you contact every month, or help your fellow freelancers with a creative solution.
Better yet, engage with other freelancers and ask how they dealt with a particular difficulty.
As we understand the importance of salesmanship in your career as a freelancer, we should also explore a skill that directly links to salesmanship: negotiation.
A good freelancer knows how to sell their skill in the market; but if you want a financially sustainable career in freelancing, you must also know how to sell your skill at a price that benefits you (and is also fair).
Several factors play a role in your negotiation: the project details, your skills, your experience, your client’s geographical condition, and your client’s economic condition.
Thus, you must be prepared with your negotiations before having a discussion with your clients on the matter.
One of the ways to negotiate is by doing thorough research about market trends, the company’s factual details, and by having a range within which you propose an offer.
Make sure you do not quote a range but a specific number. When you quote within a range, it gives your client a wider room to negotiate.
We have established that your success as a freelancer is based on skills such as communication and negotiation.
These skills cannot be developed without having deep-rooted confidence in yourself and your work.
There has always been a debate between the two forms of confidence: some say it comes from within and others prefer to express it through professional, quality clothing and vocabulary.
The best way to become and seem confident is by combining the two.
With a sense of comfort and ownership, you will convey to your clients that they need to win you over as much as you do.
Seamless practices such as making eye contact while talking, using a confident tone of voice, and not overreacting when you make a mistake can help you go a long way in drawing in your clients.
11. Social Intelligence
Social intelligence is a skill of the future. By building this skill, you will gain the ability to perceive how your clients and fellow freelancers feel and what they expect in your work.
It is through this skill that you intuitively know the right thing to say while making a pitch, act professionally and friendly at the same time, and seem confident about your work in front of your clients.
As a freelancer, you will benefit from quality professional relationships. This will lead to repeated projects by many of your clients.
Many clients are concerned that freelancers will not prioritize their projects, as freelancers work on multiple projects at the same time.
Through this skill, you can assure your clients that they are important to you and that you will not compromise on their work, regardless of the number of projects.
Here are a number of things you can do to build social intelligence: listen effectively, note down your clients’ requirements about their projects, try to read your clients’ body language, and respect cultural differences.
You can have quality clients, and projects laid out for you, but without managing your time effectively, you could not meet your fullest potential.
The first step to building time management skills is realizing that we all have complete control over our time.
You will always have something to do: a meeting with a client, building skills, working, resting, etc.
The catch is: managing your time and all these activities without doing the tiring hard work constantly.
To manage your time, you should manage your priorities, as both go hand-in-hand.
If your priority is finding new work, you put time aside for it and work on that.
Similarly, if you are a beginner and building your portfolio, then you manage time between developing your core skills and working on samples.
The first step to managing time is tracking time. If you are a freelance designer, track how much time you take to come up with a concept, to design it, to digitize it, etc.
There are going to be a number of rejections on your path to becoming a successful freelancer.
While adaptability and critical thinking will help you change your approaches as per the market and find better potential clients, these cannot be brought to action without being persistent.
One of the good aspects of freelancing is that it does not get as monotonous as a 9 to 5 job might.
This makes it easier to break out of the boredom zone and work on new and different projects.
You do not always need to be positive to build persistence. However, with a well-decided vision and discipline, you can build a successful career as a freelancer.
To build persistence, you could come up with an organized system that automates your work when you lack persistence.
For perspective, have some room for delays when deciding a project deadline.
14. Risk Tolerance
The most highlighted element that makes freelancing sound tough is the high risk associated with it.
It is not news to us that clients and projects can be inconsistent when working as a freelancer.
Therefore, unless you are working on a contract basis, you should have either multiple projects or backup financial aid to support you in risky times.
With financial ability being a challenge for freelancers, building risk tolerance is a skill you must build.
You can build risk tolerance by being prepared in terms of the leaves you take. Also, it is advisable to have an emergency fund.
15. Self Management
With great power comes great responsibility. Freelancers are not an exception to this concept.
While you can enjoy your independence to a great level, you have to understand that this independence comes with its responsibility.
Self-management includes disciplining yourself, upgrading your skills and knowledge, managing your time, being true to your word, and increasing your credibility.
You also have to be self-motivated about the work you do. Through conscious effort and regular practice, you can develop this skill and build your freelance empire.
One way to manage yourself effectively is by keeping things organized: from clients to your work portfolio.
For instance, you must have told two different prices to two different clients. If you keep track in an organized way, this should not turn into a problem.
We all know people who were overlooked by an individual or the world first but went ahead to prove their critics wrong with their success.
As employers are letting go of the outdated hiring process, freelancers have a chance to shine brighter than ever.
By grasping these 15 skills, you will prove to the world that success comes through ability, not sheer experience.