#FreelanceFriday: 8 Essential Skills You Need to Be a Successful Freelancer

April 27th, 2018 by Chris Henson

Most people do not fully consider the multi-faceted nature of freelancing before they try their hand at making money online, which is why so many abandon it before ever really getting started. Thankfully, many of the skills needed to be a successful freelancer can be learned or improved upon to help put you in a better position to thrive and prosper.

So, what kinds of skills are we talking here? In short, freelancers need to be a jack of all trades. Freelancing makes you your own boss at what amounts to essentially a one-person company. And while that sounds great (and it is!), there are a lot of roles to fill within that mini company and only one person (you) to occupy them all.

1. A Marketable Skill

This might seem obvious, but first and foremost, you have to possess a certain skill that potential clients are in need of. Writer, graphic designer, photographer, programmer, or whatever it may be, you have to not only harness this skill but also broadcast it and display your proficiency. In the end, freelancing is so much more than this, but it all must start here.

2. Communication

Freelancing is all about communication–both giving and receiving. As a freelancer, you have to be able to listen attentively to what clients need and expect from you, while also expressing your ideas and requirements back to clients. You must ask the right questions to get the information you need to complete the job.

How you communicate is equally important. You should always conduct yourself in a professional and thorough manner. Return calls and emails quickly, make sure you cover all questions and details in your correspondence and read through your emails multiple times before sending.

3. Project Management

With freelancing, you are your own supervisor. There is no one above you to keep track of the big picture. You need to be able to manage all the details—big and small—involved in the projects you are working on. Effectively managing your work means you’ll never miss a deadline.

Thankfully, there are a number of online tools and apps that can help shoulder this responsibility—everything from to-do lists to content managers (Trello, Basecamp, Wrike, and Asana—just to name a few).

4. Time Management

Time management is a crucial job skill for everyone, and freelancers are no exception. An extension of project management, you need to be able to allocate your time effectively to prevent working crazy hours and suffering missed deadlines. Avoid over-committing yourself, and gather data to effectively determine estimated time—a good mantra is to always underpromise and overdeliver.

In a previous blog, we detailed numerous tips on how to improve your time management, including making schedules, estimating time, prioritization, and compartmentalizing.

5. Finance

This is one most people seem to struggle with, but it is certainly one of the most vital. Organization and documentation go a long way in helping freelancers keep track of their finances. Most importantly, make sure you are keeping track of income and expenses. You should also develop a way to easily invoice, track progress, and receive payments from clients. You may also want to hone your negotiating skills to avoid getting the short end of the stick in regards to payment.

And while you might not need an accountant or financial advisor on retainer, reaching out to one every now and then would be beneficial, especially during tax season and during start-up when you setup either as an independent contractor, LLC, or LTD.

6. Interpersonal and Networking

The common depiction of a freelancer is someone at home, alone, in their pajamas, hunched over a computer. That stereotype may not need interpersonal skills, but for real freelancers, that is a myth. Freelancers must be able to network both online and offline to develop relationships with current and potential clients, as well as fellow freelancers.

7. Business Management and Growth

To establish and grow their business, freelancers must first define goals, both long- and short-term. From there, the right strategies must be implemented to encourage and support that growth. As a solopreneur, business management skills like self-motivation, accountability, and decision-making are crucial. The growth of your freelancing business can be accomplished in many ways, including engaging networks on social media, diversifying your skills, or partnering with other freelancers.

8. Problem Solving

Like many of the best workers in any field, good freelancers are often problem solvers. It’s extremely common for unexpected problems to arise over the course of a project, and an experienced freelancer must tackle these problems swiftly and effectively to avoid time loss and more headache. A freelancer who can identify problems, brainstorm possible answers, and execute the chosen solutions will always be in a better position than those who cannot.

In the end, the more you put into freelancing and improving your skill set, the better and more successful you will be in making money. These are certainly the most important and overarching skills, but anything you can do to improve yourself will benefit you and help you navigate the freelancing game.


Particular Set of Skills

Napoleon Dynamite

Silver Linings Playbook