Whatever type of freelance service you offer—be it writing, design, web development, or something else—there are certain general skills that equal success for freelancers. So today, we’ll let you in on the top 5 skills you need to master to become a successful freelancer whatever your service offering.
The phrase “Know Thyself” was inscribed by philosophers on the Temple of Delphi for entry to the sacred oracle. For freelancers, this motto is so important that it should be stuck on a Post-it on your laptop! To stay up to date, improve your service offering, or extend your reach, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. This means regular self-assessments, performance reviews, and objective self-analysis. The best freelancers know what they excel at and what they can work on to get better.
2. Project management
It should go without saying that project management is a vital skill for freelancers, since much of the work we do is project-based. To succeed as a freelancer, you need to be able to manage your workload of projects, which are likely to be for different clients. This means understanding briefs, keeping your clients up to date, meeting deadlines, and delivering what is required (ideally, exceeding expectations). However, it also means choosing the right clients and projects for you in the first place (and rejecting the wrong ones), knowing when to push back if clients are being unreasonable, and being able to manage multiple expectations to achieve great outcomes.
3. Time management
To enable successful project management, the ability to manage time is a must-have skill. As a freelancer, you’re entirely responsible for your working hours, which means managing your time to ensure you fit in all of the work you’ve committed to. This responsibility also extends to yourself—arranging your work pattern to best-fit your circadian rhythm and productivity, freeing up wasted time, taking regular breaks and holidays, and not working a ridiculous number of hours until burnout hits. The most successful freelancers use the freedom of controlling their time to ensure a happy work-life balance.
4. Relationship management
While it’s obvious that clear communication is vital, for freelancers it extends beyond just basic listening and speaking skills. You have to understand your client and what they need—even if it’s not quite what they said. You have to develop rapport with them to gain future custom. You have to identify and adapt to their communication style. It’s not just about clients either—as a freelancer, you need a network of supporters and referrers. These other freelancers become your “colleagues”, pointing out relevant opportunities and updates. The top freelancers have a strong freelance network, not just a strong client base.
5. Financial management
As a freelancer, you need to be financially-savvy, since you can’t rely on a guaranteed monthly salary. On a basic level, you need to manage an unstable and irregular income to pay the bills on time and afford to eat. Ideally, you want to manage your finances to feel comfortable rather than just scraping by. But if you want to make a real success of your freelance business, you need to invest in yourself—be it training, courses, books, or resources to improve your service offering. Thriving freelancers are entrepreneurial in that they don’t take every penny out of their earnings—they dedicate some to improving.
What skills have been vital so far on your freelance journey? Are there any you’d add to this list? Comment below or get in touch.
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