In these troubling economic times, more and more people are opting for the life of a freelancer. In some cases this is simply a matter of preference. Some people are just happier with the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a freelancer. Others have been forced into freelancing as a way to pay the bills after being terminated from a more traditional job.
Anyone reading this post has probably wondered at some point if freelancing is the right move for them.
It’s a difficult question that only you can answer, but I will give you some direction as to what it really takes, character and personality wise, to become a successful freelancer. If the idea of working for yourself appeals to you, keep reading to find out the critical traits and characteristics that most (if not all) freelancers share.
As you probably know, there is no set educational or vocational path to freelancing. There are many directions you can take, mostly based on what type of freelancing interests you. Some of the college majors that lend themselves towards freelancing include:
- Graphic Design
- Information Technology
While a degree is certainly not a requirement for freelancing, it can help especially in the beginning of your career. Having a degree sets you apart from the others in the same niche as yourself. It shows that you are both serious and dedicated to your vocation.
The bottom line is that freelancing does not require a degree, but it can be helpful as you get started.
No matter what area of freelancing you choose, having some prior work experience will be beneficial. In most cases, freelancers don’t become freelancers until after they’ve put in several years at a traditional job in their field.
Having this work experience gives you more credibility as someone who really knows the ropes and can get a job done. Those with work experience often have a better skill set and are seen as more dependable and reliable. Furthermore, if you have prior work experience, you can also use your completed projects as your beginning portfolio; especially helpful in graphics, writing, and programming work.
If you have prior work experience, it can be very beneficial for you to get testimonials from your past employers and colleagues, so don’t be afraid to ask for these.
Of course, prior work experience is not a requirement for freelancing. Some people start their freelance career right out of college or high school. Some begin freelancing while attending school as a means to make spending money and find that they like it so much they simply continue and expand their freelance business after graduation. Just realize that without job experience in your field, it may take somewhat longer for your freelance career to really take off.
Freelance Sales Skills
In their dreams of working independently of a boss or controlling company, many potential freelancers don’t take into account one critical skill that freelancers need…sales skills.
No matter what type of freelancer you are, you will always be selling your skills and abilities to potential clients. Because sales skills are not something most people are born with, this causes many freelancers to quit before they get a chance to really taste success.
While freelancers are often seen as “loners” because of their decision to work from home, often alone, you still need to be comfortable and confident in your dealings with others.
Your lack of sales skills may make it difficult to become a successful freelancer, but there is hope. According to Inc. Magazine there are only 8 sales skills you need to perfect and they are really quite basic and easy.
Freelancer Technical Skills
Even if you’re not in a technical field you will need some technical basics. A web presence is a necessity for freelancers in the 21st century. If you aren’t online, the chances of prospective clients finding out about you is very limited.
The majority of freelancers will need a minimum of two important online spaces: a website or blog and participation in social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc). Those in graphics heavy professions and writing will also need an online portfolio.
In addition, you need to become proficient at monitoring your online reputation. While it is crucial to ensure that clients can find out about you online, it is even more crucial that what they find is positive.
Finally, you need to periodically update your blogs and portfolios to show that you are active online. No client wants to hire someone with a portfolio that hasn’t been updated since 2009.
This is perhaps the most important trait of all. While it would be nice to think that you can begin freelancing and become immediately successful, often it can take months of work before you begin to see success. If you are a writer looking to fast track your freelance business I highly recommend my recently written book: Freelance Writing Freedom in 90 Days. It will show you exactly what I did to go from $0 to $2500 per month in just 90 days. It also covers many of the frequent questions and concerns of freelance writers.
Even if you get off to a great start and have regular work now, every freelancer is subject to occasional work slowdowns. It is good to have both a plan to overcome these slowdowns and the persistence to keep from giving up when things look dismal.
What do YOU Think?
I know I haven’t covered ALL the essential traits for a freelancer, but I think those above are some of the most important. I would love to hear from YOU below regarding any other crucial freelancer characteristics, traits, and skills.