As a freelancer, you’re in the driver’s seat of your career. You get to pick your projects, organize your calendar and track your deadlines. You’re also on the hook for your professional development. Your technical competencies are your hard skills. These stand out on your resume because they show that you can fill a specific practical gap for a client or organization. Your soft skills define how you work, communicate and strategize.
Even if you’re a rock star in your technical field, there are several crucial abilities you should develop for better performance and relationship-building across markets. Here are some essential soft skills to focus on for your freelance career.
As a freelancer, your communication skills are what get you hired and rehired. Not only do you have to be able to pitch yourself to potential employers to secure jobs, but you must also build and maintain those professional relationships. When conducting any type of professional engagement, consider your audience, use an appropriate tone and clarify your statements. Especially in remote positions where the bulk of your consultations happen via email, video, or phone conferencing, effective communication needs considerable attention because the nuances of interpersonal interaction can be ambiguous.
Communication doesn’t just happen when you speak. In fact, in many cases, talking less and listening more is what you need to get the work done right. When working with a client, actively listen to what they tell you. Give them your full and undivided attention, and ask clarifying questions to enhance your understanding of their needs. Be empathetic to their hardships and challenges they face by placing yourself in the same situation and relating to their pain. This helps clients build trust and confidence in you, influencing the quality of the work and the relationship.
As a freelancer, you have the benefit of working whenever and from wherever you want. You may have some projects for clients with hard deadlines, but no big boss is breathing down your neck. Therefore, you can operate with flexibility, which is great unless you’re unorganized. If you want to get paid, you must effectively manage your time. Getting organized entails managing your work-life balance and establishing a sustainable routine, so the work not only gets done but is well-executed. Some several tools and apps can help you with your calendaring and scheduling needs.
An invaluable skill for not only freelancers but any professional, problem-solving is the ability to identify an issue, recognize the implications and come up with viable solutions for resolution. The skills you need to become an effective problem solver include the following:
As a freelancer, you’ll work with a diverse group of clients who present various challenges, and even though you’ll have a cache of solutions to recycle from previous issues, you never know when you might run into something new.
Depending on your specialty, freelancing can be highly competitive, challenging, and stressful. Sometimes it’s hard to admit you’re stressed out, but it’s important to frequently assess your emotional state and practice self-care when you need it. Plan for intentional breaks in your schedule, and use that time to do the things you love. Go for a long walk, get a massage or take a mid-day nap. As your business grows and you become more established, you can become more selective about projects, saying no to difficult clients with unrealistic deadlines. Until then. finding balance is the key to your mental health.
Even though you’re often working alone, you may still be part of a team working on the same project. Successful teamwork starts with good communication. Understand that you’re working with people from different backgrounds and levels of experience, with various strengths and weaknesses. It’s not a competition. You and your counterparts should complement and motivate each other, enhancing individual assignments and the organization's overall performance. Don’t just focus on your contribution, but consider how it fits into an overall mission.
Creativity is paramount to triumph in any industry. Innovative technology gave the world robots, but artificial intelligence can’t produce creative solutions to real-world problems. That ability is innately human, and it’s essential. Develop your creative side by engaging with those who think differently than you. Try learning something new in a field outside of your own, such as art or coding courses. Give your mind the space to roam in a different direction occasionally. This will facilitate your ability to pivot when necessary and discover imaginative possibilities for your business.
Because technology is constantly changing, simplifying and enhancing business, agriculture, the arts, etc., you must never become stagnant in your operations. Be willing to learn new systems, and update your functional and strategic abilities to meet the demands of the modern customer. Prove to your clients that you can embrace change and face challenges head-on, regardless of the professional landscape.
As a freelancer, you provide a service to your clients. Therefore, you should be committed to making sure their experience with you is positive. Your customers expect you to turn in quality work, and they hope you’ll remain communicative and efficient throughout the term of your commission. To rank yourself among the best freelancers in your field, you’ll want to maintain excellent client relationships through every step of your operation. This attention to service, even more so than your technical excellence, is how you’ll build a loyal customer base to sustain your freelancing career.
The key to a successful journey as a freelancer is balance. No matter your niche, don’t become obsolete. Continue to cultivate and leverage your hard and soft skills to make yourself an invaluable asset to your clients.