We often talk about how many things are needed to be successful as a freelancer, but we rarely say which exactly, mainly because they really are a lot. Everybody who has tried out being a freelancer for at least a year or two, knows just how vast the required skill set can be.
For those of you thinking about going into freelancing and wonder what you could do to increase your chances of success, you must know that becoming a freelancer turns you into a jack-of-all trades.
You will be running a business (probably 100% on your own at the beginning) and so there are some personality traits and skills that you are absolutely going to need to succeed.
What skills do freelancers need?
When we talk about the skills a person needs for a particular job, you will often come across the phrases ‘hard skills’ and ‘soft skills’.
So what exactly is the different between the two?
Hard Skills: teachable, measurable abilities that are crucial for a particular job. These skills can be clearly defined and are often learned rather than natural.
Examples of hard skills:
- Expertise in a coding language for a programmer
- Ability to build a WordPress website for a web developer
- Expertise using Sketch for a web designer
- Knowledge of WordPress and Yoast Plugin for a writer
Soft Skills: Soft skills are more so personality traits that can aid a person in a particular job. While these are not absolutely crucial for a job, they are extremely helpful and can make all the difference between success and failure.
Examples of soft skills:
- Interpersonal communication
- Critical thinking
Freelancers need different hard or core skills depending on the field in which they specialise and the service they provide. But when it comes to soft skills, there are particular character traits and skills that will help any freelancer.
Must-Have Skills for Freelancers
|2. Sales and negotiation skills|
|3. Time management|
|4. Management and business skills|
|5. Passion to learn|
|6. Communication skills|
|7. Stress management skills|
|9. Accounting skills|
|9. Marketing skills|
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1) Self-assurance and confidence
As a freelancer you need to have confidence in what you can do and your abilities. If you don’t believe in yourself, potential clients won’t either.
Confidence is not a given and can definitely be learned by doing your job to the best of your abilities and being able to realize what you have achieved so far.
2) Sales and negotiating skills
Convincing clients that they need your services is essential when you’re your own boss and completely responsible for your income every month.
Furthermore, you need to be able to do that in a short amount of time, whether that’s via writing, through your website, or face to face.
Potential clients will go through a number of freelancers and you need the ability to make an impact quickly in order to keep their attention on you and your services.
You’ll need to take care of your actual clients to keep them in the long run while continue attracting potential clients.
3) Time management
Being able to create schedules and, more importantly, keep them, will decide how well your business does.
Freelancing is different from working in an office environment – nobody will check in on you leading to much less external pressure.
You’ll have to find out what works for keeping your motivation levels high and keep your schedule organised with minimal procrastination.
In a day you will need to work on the project, run meetings with different clients, deal with invoices, follow-up with potential clients, etc.
4) Management and business skills
Whether it is about keeping a deadline or knowing where your business will be headed in a couple of years, planning is often what makes the difference between good and great freelancers.
Freelancers not only need to manage their own time and workload on a weekly basis, but you should also be able to picture a long-term goal for the direction you want your business to go in.
5) Passion to learn and curiosity
This fifth tip cannot be stressed enough – virtually every freelancing field is extremely dynamic. The rules of the game can change in a matter of months.
It is your responsibility to constantly better yourself and learn new relevant skills that will keep your services current and appealing to new clients.
6) Communication and interpersonal skills
You’re going to need to communicate a lot, mostly with clients. And it has to be done efficiently. You should be able to convey in a short and precise manner what exactly you can offer and under which conditions.
On the other hand, you have to understand why the other side communicates in a certain way. This entails reading between the lines, spotting red flags and understanding client expectations.
You’ll need to put yourself in your client’s shoes very often!
Besides you will need great networking skills to connect with other freelancers working in your field. Attending conferences and events and getting to speak to other professionals in your niche can also do wonders in your freelance business.
7) Stress management skills
Stress and freelancer burnout are easy to wave off if you’re not currently in a comparable situation, but they can be a real challenge.
Keeping a clear head and not overworking yourself will be one of the deciding factors in whether your business stays afloat after the first several months.
8) Persistency and patience
Not giving up and being patient is also a must – whether you’re hunting for the next freelance project, waiting for clients to respond, trying to expand your network or working on a particularly cumbersome task, you have to learn to keep at it until you achieve your goal.
9) Accounting and business skills
As a freelancer, you are your own finance department. Determining where you should invest to improve your business, keeping up with taxes, growing your business and having a personal life all at the same time can be hard.
So before starting, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the financial framework that goes hand in hand with your career choice.
Taxes and accounting are the first tasks that freelancers delegate or outsource.
10) Marketing skills
Do the words LinkedIn, SEO or Google Ads mean anything to you?
If not, you’re probably not ready to start marketing a freelancing business of your own.
Getting exposure is one of the most difficult things in the beginning, so you should know how to give yourself every bit of extra boost you can.
Social Media must be part of your marketing strategy as well as client testimonials.
Can Freelancers Improve their Soft Skills?
If you’ve read that list of soft skills and feel like you’re missing some character traits that could be helpful, don’t despair! It is possible to learn and improve soft skills, even if they are not necessarily measurable.
You’ve already done the most essential step: you’ve recognised what soft skills you need to improve on. Having that awareness is essential if you are going to improve on something that may not come naturally to you, whether that’s poor timekeeping or a lack of confidence.
Next, your soft skill training should take the form of both research, and practice. What can you do?
- Read books on how to become a more confident person.
- Find a mentor who is a natural-born salesman and try to emulate their sales technique.
- Read up on the Pomodoro technique and time blocking to improve your time management.
Practicing these soft skills in your freelance business every day is the best way of turning them into a habit, and eventually, into a natural part of your personality.
It may take time – but it is definitely possible to change and improve your soft skills!
How to correctly present your skills in your freelance profile
Freelancermap include an entire ‘skills’ section where you can list what you are good at, your knowledge and experience.
You should use this space to list both your hard skills and your soft skills.
Note, however, that simply listing that you are confident and a good communicator is not going to make a big impact.
Better is to show that you have these soft skills without explicitly listing them. You can do this by being assertive in your pitches, responding in a timely manner, and remaining polite and professional when you communicate with potential clients. This will make a far bigger impact than simply telling them that you are great at communication.
We recommend to start with the years of experience that you have and to list your hard skills, though.
Here’s an example of how you could sucessfully present your skills:
If you still don’t have your freelance profile on freelancermap, feel free to create your free account to connect with companies and clients worldwide.
Freelancing can be tough and it’s definitely not for everyone. But nobody has ever learned how to swim without touching water! Mistakes are a natural and important part of the learning process. Go out there, give it your best and see whether you have what it takes to be successful in freelancing.
Good luck! We’re happy to be by your side in this exciting journey!
Pic: © lassedesignen – shutterstock_193036472