Essential Skills for Freelancers That Guarantee Success
Discover the essential skills you need as a freelancer to ensure self-employed success.
As freelancers, we all want to show our expertise and make a living from our work — a double goal that can be hard to achieve. In such a competitive space, it can seem impossible to stand out amongst the crowd and land the projects we work so hard to win. Luckily, there are some essential skills for freelancers that can be easily developed to help elevate your work. Honing the right skills will help establish you as a reputable and trustworthy freelancer, increasing both your project opportunities and client retention.
Learn how to establish your expertise and become a successful freelancer with these crucial skills.
The Toolbox Fallacy — Don’t Get Caught in the Trap!
Let’s clear up one concept before we delve into the essential skills for freelancers: you don’t need to go out and buy all the latest tech, pay for and subscribe to all the “must-have” web tools or fork out for fancy, Instagram-worthy desk set-up to be a successful freelancer. In short, don’t fall victim to the Toolbox Fallacy!
We’re all guilty of saying things like “when I have x, y and z, then and only then will I be ready to do this”. This is known as the Toolbox Fallacy — a self-deception habit that many of us will employ when procrastinating. Thinking that we can’t be successful freelancers without the perfect set-up or must-have tools is a recipe for failure.
So, forget about what you think you “need” to have a thriving self-employed career — that’s all a myth. Instead, focus on honing the following essential skills for freelancers and get ahead of the competition the right way.
Essential Skills for Freelancers
Whether you want to work part-time or commit to building a full-time freelance career, these are three essential skills you need to become a successful freelancer.
1. Technical Skills Relevant to Your Industry
It can be shockingly obvious to clients when you deliver work that’s sub-par because you boasted in your proposal about the skills you don’t really have. Clients will recognise this in your work and likely walk away for good.
Losing clients can be detrimental to your freelance career, especially if you’re new and trying to establish yourself as a reliable and knowledgeable professional. So, the first of our essential skills for freelancers is: to make sure that you are fully competent in the technical aspects of your specific job.
This could be as simple as knowing how to optimise a web page for SEO, or how to efficiently analyse data using the right tools for specific purposes. These things can’t be bluffed, you really need to learn the right relevant technical skills to succeed as a freelancer.
Whether you’re a veteran freelancer or you’re a newbie looking to start freelancing without experience, there are plenty of websites that offer training courses for all types of technical and professional skills. Websites like Skillshare, Udemy and LinkedIn Learning are great places to start. Alternatively, Revolancer Magazine is full of key advice for both new and existing freelancers looking to boost their skills.
2. Communication Skills For Great Client Relationships
Freelancing is all about communicating effectively with clients, so it’s no surprise that we’ve included it in the top essential skills for freelancers.
Having confidence in your communication skills is vital in securing projects and working with others. First impressions are crucial and reaching out to prospective clients with a proposal can feel daunting, especially to new freelancers.
Luckily, it’s not hard to learn good communication skills, it just takes a bit of practice to build up your confidence. Learning how to create an effective opening message is a good place to start. The basic principles of good communication, however, involve listening to and fully understanding what a client wants from you.
The best way to practice your communication skills as a freelancer, therefore, is to engage with your client. Ask them how they prefer to communicate (email, phone calls or face-to-face?) and how frequently they want to hear from or meet with you. Always show up to meetings on time, submit your work ahead of the deadline and keep them up to date with your progress (if required). Finally, always try to respond to client messages within a good time — the same day if possible.
3. Personal Skills to Establish Your Expertise
Don’t underestimate your personal skills when it comes to your freelance career. You develop personal skills and knowledge through your hobbies — whether creative, scientific, active or any other type of hobby — and that energy can be transferred into your work, even if the two aren’t directly related.
Any freelance writer will know that writing about what you know is a crucial part of the job. Therefore, a writer can take direct inspiration from their hobbies and write about them with true expertise and enthusiasm. If you love horse riding, for example, you’re likely to have an abundance of knowledge about horses that you can write about with confidence.
For freelance graphic designers, photographers, videographers or any other creative field, incorporating your hobbies and interests directly into your work can really boost the quality of what you create, as it will show your authenticity.
On the other hand, there are some freelance careers — such as app development — that can draw indirectly on your hobbies. If you want to create an app and love skiing, for example, why not create an app that will benefit you and all other skiers on the mountain?
By drawing on your personal skills and interests, you will add integrity to your work. This will help establish you as a reputable freelancer who is a true expert in your line of work.
What to Expect From Freelancing
Working as a freelancer can be incredibly liberating and fulfilling, but it doesn’t come without hard work. Other essential skills for freelancers include time management, discipline (especially when motivation is lacking), finance management and flexibility.
You also need to be adaptable to the ebb and flow of available projects — some weeks you may be inundated with work. Then you may not secure a project for several weeks after that! Managing your expectations as well as your finances in the face of inconsistent work is a great skill for freelancers to learn.
Before You Go
Remember — to be a successful freelancer isn’t about owning the “best” tools and perfect set-up, it’s about hard work and dedication. Expanding on the skills you already have for freelancing can really enhance your portfolio and the quality of work for your clients. Find out where to start freelancing in our expert guide, or delve deeper into how to price yourself as a freelancer to further expand your knowledge.
Freelance marketplace: Revolancer