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Skills You Need to Become a Successful Freelancer
Freelancing might seem easy at first, but it takes much more work to have all your processes organized than working in an office. Being a freelancer means being your own manager, salesperson, accountant, office manager, customer service, and even secretary.
Of course, it is not the same as doing all these jobs in a large company, but you still need to make a lot of effort and keep many things in your head.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t succeed in freelancing because they aren’t able to manage all these things. But there is also good news: being a successful freelancer takes a set of skills that you can train.
Working in talent acquisition for Lemon.io, a freelance platform for developers, I got the experience in this area that I would like to share. Our company searches for developers and finds projects for them that match their skills and desires. The developers work with clients from all over the world. It doesn't sound very difficult, but we have faced so many different problems in the last year and a half that now I feel like I have something to share. This is why I put together a list of the skills you need to become a successful freelancer.
Fact: 51% of freelancers say they will not go back to a traditional job. (source)
1. Time planning
This is the basics of freelancing. You have to plan your time to avoid mix-ups and other problems. Start by setting realistic deadlines and don’t promise to finish work in a shorter time span than you, in fact, need. If you do, this will lead to sleepless nights and an overall decline in your work's quality.
Talking about sleepless nights, also don’t forget to take enough rest. A lack of rest will cause mistakes in your work and may lead to professional burnout in the long term. Finally, don’t mix two or more important tasks that need your full attention.
Fact: A freelance worker spends an average of 43 hours per week working. (source)
2. Know your limits
Some people say that the best way to learn something new in your job is taking a project that you don’t know how to do. This is a risky way to learn, and there is a chance that you would fail at the project. So, remember your limits and choose more traditional ways to study something new, like training and webinars.
Another important personal limit is the limit of your productivity. Don’t take on so many tasks that every day turns into a “last day before the deadline” day. If a client imposes a task on you when your schedule is already tight, you have a right not to accept it. But if you agree, make sure that the client understands all the risks and accepts them.
Fact: Freelance statistics show that 63% of freelancers agree that having multiple clients is more secure than sticking with just one. (source)
3 Setting the right price
Don’t ask for less money than the work costs. It's not good for the market in general and will lead to your frustration. Take it as a rule: a fair price for good work.
Don’t worry about your clients: they will come back to you if satisfied with your work, even if some other freelancer charges less for the same tasks. Let your competencies “sell” you; do not rely on lower prices.
Fact: Freelancers contributed $1.2 trillion to the US economy in 2020. (source)
4. Giving feedback and keeping in touch with an employer
Miscommunication might lead to delays and mistakes. So, you have to be able to articulate difficulties and blockers in work in time. For remote work it is critical. If you do not have enough information, your password doesn’t work, or there is no clear documentation on the project, the work is not done. It doesn’t matter who is to blame for that, because you still cannot perform tasks for which you have to be paid. Therefore, proper and timely communication on your part is something that will allow you to receive all the necessary initial data, properly manage customer expectations, and generally not be in trouble.
If you are waiting for an answer from a client, don't hesitate to remind them. Talk about how the new requirements slow down your project. Do what you can on your part to minimize difficulties. If suddenly something happens to you, inform your client right away. You are a human being, and it's okay. It is not okay if the customer finds out that you were sick only when clarifying why the deadline is overdue.
Fact: 58% of freelancers have had more than five clients in the past 6 months. (source)
5. Working globally
Today, you can have clients from all over the world. It’s not a surprise that their English might not be ideal, or as good as yours. Don’t worry too much about your English mistakes if perfect English is not a part of your job description. Also, don’t judge people for their language mistakes if these mistakes are not critical to the work you’re doing. Remember, even native speakers have a great tolerance for imperfect English.
Still, be polite and proofread your letters and messages. A lot of errors could be easily corrected automatically, so show respect to people you communicate with.
Fact: Web designers, SEO specialists, and sales representatives are the top three most in-demand jobs in 2021. (source)
6 Stress management
Being responsible for your own business might cause stress. Make it your duty to go for your favorite stress relief activities. Some people prefer to binge watch TV shows on streaming websites, while others spend time with their families or pets. Sports or yoga, music or long walks in the woods — do what works for you. Remember that stress is a significant problem and a cause of much more serious health issues. Your mental health is your biggest responsibility.
Fact: 25% of freelancers say their ideal work environment is their home. (source)
7. Soft skills
Last but not least, don’t forget about soft skills. Of course, hard skills are a base without which you have nothing to sell, but you will not be able to organize remote work without communication skills.
As a freelancer, you need to establish good communication with the companies you work with. If you want to get a project, you should train yourself to present yourself, understand your key competencies and the benefits you can bring to the customer. Politeness is also something that doesn’t hurt.
Fact: Around 75% of freelancers say that freelancing increases their earning potential. (source)
Just like any others, these skills can be trained. Prepare for some hard work. In return, you would become an independent professional with a stable income and a good reputation.
About the Author
Yevheniia Kruglova is Head of Talent Acquisition and Strategy at Lemon.io with 8 years’ experience working with international freelance platforms. She helps businesses establish hiring and onboarding procedures for freelancers and teams, and assemble their workflow. She also manages development roadmaps for internal applicant tracking systems and corresponding website sections.