These ten traits, if applied, will set you apart as a good freelancer.
Working independently is difficult; we all know that. Yet it is also deeply satisfying and life-enriching, and not a lot of people know that.
If asked to choose between the stability, benefits and certainty of a good 9-5, and the responsibility, turbulence, and loneliness of self-employment, entrepreneurship or freelancing, most will choose the former, and be deemed wise, sane even, for doing so; but not us at Week of Saturdays.
In our experience: having control over your time and schedule every day, being able to travel at will to be there for family and other commitments, and having a diverse portfolio of work are benefits we wouldn’t trade for “traditional job security” especially in these times of mass lay offs, automation due to tech advancements, and global remote job opportunities.
We have to admit that this choice of work is one of those things a person may not understand if they have never lived it. But for those who do take a step towards this bold lifestyle, most of us never go back.
Once you’ve tried working remotely in a company of remote peers, it’s very hard to go back to having a commute and working in an open-office interruption factory. The benefits to life and health for most people are immense.
— DHH (@dhh) July 16, 2018
If you are now considering starting some independent work of your own, below are the top 10 qualities and skills, you’ll need to become a successful freelancer.
Work ethic and consistency
Everybody wants to make money but not everybody wants to put in the work.
This is a conundrum we have noticed with even the smartest and most skilled of us. To become a sought-after freelancer however, you must be reliable and consistent.
It is typically tough in the beginning because for most people, the opposite of strong work ethics and consistency is what comes naturally. But a good freelancer must intentionally manage her energy, organize processes, document everything, and curate templates for recurring tasks over time.
These are tasks that take time and do not seem to bring direct returns but yet, without these as the foundation of your business, you may not be standing for long.
Not having a process, documentation or templates will slow you down by taking out chunks of your time and also make you seem less professional to potential clients.
Great communication skills
Being in constant communication with your clients is a vital part of freelance work. Even when it sucks or you have unfavourable reports to share; communicating on time, honestly and clearly will always earn you points.
In order to understand what your clients need, what will work and what won’t, information must flow two-ways between client and worker, and as the worker, you have to initiate these conversations, and be aware and flexible enough to learn each clients’ style and meet them halfway so that results can be achieved.
You should have a number of communication tools installed on your phone and laptop: Skype, Zoom, Slack, Whatsapp, and other commonly used messaging platforms, to maintain client relationships seamlessly and on-the-go.
The thought of negotiation can be very uncomfortable for many people, but having the ability to talk about money comfortably, confidently and intentionally will give you an edge.
You deserve every dollar you think you do, and it’s worth taking negotiation courses and practicing in the mirror to ensure you get paid well.
Don’t over-explain. It raises questions about the truthfulness of your answer. Liars tend to elaborate on details to be more believable.
Client: How much?
Me: $19k. I start when you pay 50%. Does that work for you?
Client: Yes, but why 50%?
— Chris Do (@theChrisDo) September 7, 2019
If you are confident about the quality of your work, it is important that you learn to communicate it, explain your value simply, and set expectations before launching into negotiations.
A lot of freelancers would earn more, and live better, if only they invest in learning a little bit of the psychology of money and how to negotiate better.
First thing a beginner freelancer should do is get to know the standard rates for your services in your industry, and base your price on that as either as exclusive or affordable.
Confidence is a very important trait to possess but imposter syndrome is very real with most freelancers.
Because we are judged based on our work and their results, we tend to be hard on ourselves, which debilitates our confidence – which in turn, leads to poorer results.
It is critical to believe in yourself, your skills and ability to rise under pressure. As a freelancer, you need to understand that having a lack of confidence can end your career.
Clients constantly need reassurance, clarity and value assurance, and you need to be able to give them that.
If you’re running low on confidence, especially when you feel you lack certain skills, focus on building these skills – take courses, read book snippets, and find experts in that field to follow and learn from.
Do not beat yourself up when you make mistakes. Take the lesson humbly and move forward determined not to repeat it again.
Prioritizing daily tasks as a freelancer can be difficult, and this can make or break your entire career. At Week of Saturdays, we use the Eisenhower Box to differentiate between Urgent and/or Important, and it helps set the tone for each week and day.
It is important that you prioritize your tasks according to what will bring you the most returns or value. All other work can be delegated or worked on at later times when you have lower energy.
Since you are working with little to no supervision, one of the best ways to stay ahead is to maintain a semi-fixed schedule and beat procrastination by moving your deadlines closer so you always deliver earlier than expected or on time.
Use technology to compound the effects of your work
Having the right tools is essential for working smarter and thriving.
According to a study conducted in partnership with Upwork and the Freelancers Union, 73% of freelancers agree that technology makes it easier to find work, communicate, collaborate, share and track progress.
G-Suite Apps for Business is a strong arsenal to streamline your work. Google Calendar, Docs, Drive and even Forms will simplify many recurring aspects of your work. Learn to use these tools.
Automation of recurring tasks is key if you want to get much work done quickly. Read this article where we listed some of our favourite mobile apps for freelancers.
Self-Awareness and Knowledge of Yourself
Starting off as a freelancer, you need to know the type of person you are, where your strengths lie, what weaknesses you can improve on and which to ignore.
By knowing yourself, you know better the jobs that fit your personality, skills and principles, and you can go after those specifically instead of shooting blindly at random job opportunities.
Most interviewers now request that you take the 16-personalities test during the “getting to know you” stage as it’s a good way for them to see if you’ll be a fit for the role and their culture. It is also a great way for you to learn to talk about yourself positively and in a convincing manner. Check out our gallery of personality tests and quizzes to help you know yourself better.
Without ambition, you will get stuck in your past or coast through the present. Ambition gives you a reason to wake up and get to work. As a self-employed person, you must constantly remind yourself of your goals – both financial and career-wise.
Feed your ambition – keep it fat.
Make sure you keep the main thing the main thing, and work forward, keeping your big picture in mind always (your entire life path).
Make learning and growth intentional. Visualise your ideal life and use that mental picture to inform your daily decisions.
Try not to get sucked into the constant hunt for new or better jobs. Give room for your creativity to guide you. It is common for freelancers to lose track of why they started freelancing in the first place.
We have hinted at discipline twice already in this article, emphasizing how important it is to a successful self-managed career.
Working for and by yourself comes with the illusion of freedom. And if not checked, you’ll be tempted to do all the fun things you love to do at the expense of completing work on your table. Needless to say, that’s not good for business.
Now, this should have been number One. There are so many jobs out there at different prices, but not everything is for everyone.
Not every job is for you. You do not need to sell your soul to survive. Sometimes, patience and self-preservation will bring you more gain in the long run.
Don’t be too eager to take jobs that you don’t agree with. Knowing yourself and your value is power. So hold on to that and know when to walk away from certain tables.
In another vein, when things you are wrong, when you make mistakes, don’t hesitate to own up immediately and try to fix it.
Working independently means you are the boss of you, and you must learn to produce results.
It is not for everyone, but it’s the best option for those who aren’t afraid to take ownership.
It’s tough, but with the qualities above, you stand a good chance.