This post is part of the Professional Independence Project series.
With many predicting that freelancers will make up half of the workforce by 2020, you may be asking yourself if freelancing is right for you. Many freelancers often find themselves returning to full-time office jobs because they can’t handle the instability, the pressure, or, as I like to call it, the “hustle.”
Related:3 Areas A Freelance Consultant Must Be Strong In
So, what does it take to sustain yourself as a freelancer? Here are the top five traits you need to master to become a successful freelancer:
As a freelancer, you are the only one responsible for how productively you spend your time. Self-discipline and the ability to stay motivated and avoid distractions is absolutely key to becoming a successful freelancer. When no one’s looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to get lost in one of the countless digital distractions that plague freelancers, whether it’s refreshing HuffPo for the latest headline, checking out the daily flash sales, or watching that cute cat video your friend said you just had
to see (guilty on all counts!). Establishing rigorous work habits is the best way to maintain self-discipline so you can keep your business going in the long run.
Knowing how to pitch and sell your expertise is a skill that takes time to develop but, with practice, you’ll find that honing your salesmanship skills can make all the difference in scoring that big freelancing gig. Most people forget that salesmanship is also important for selling your ideas after
you’ve landed the job. It is your strength as a salesman that will determine whether you can convince your editor to run your unconventional story, or persuade your client to switch marketing strategies.
3. People Skills
Freelancers are independent workers who typically work alone from the comfort of their own home - so why do they need people skills? Because superior people (or communication) skills is often the one thing that will make you stand out from the crowd. It encompasses everything from knowing how to communicate and get your point across simply and effectively (whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone, or in e-mails), to understanding, anticipating and satisfying your client’s unique needs. People skills are part science, part art, with a little sprinkling of intuition on top! Developing a sense for what motivates your clients will be a major driving force of your success as a freelancer.
An all too frequent complaint about freelancers, the lack of professionalism leaves clients with a bad taste in their mouths. Missing deadlines, sending out typo-ridden emails, dressing inappropriately at meetings, or acting in a rude or aggressive manner in general are all symptoms of an unprofessional freelancer. Many freelancers leave their full-time jobs so they can “do whatever they want” and not have anyone to respond to. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. As a freelancer, you still
have clients to respond to (you know, the ones paying your bills?) and a little professionalism goes a long way in keeping them happy.
Resilience is the ability of something to return to its original shape after its been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc. As a freelancer, you will constantly be pulled, stretched, pressed and bent to your limit. You’ll have to deal with frequent (and sometimes harsh) rejection, demanding and unrealistic clients and, of course, the often completely unpredictable ebb and flow of capital. But, if you develop resilience, knowing that you can spring back quickly from a client loss or a failed project, you can press on, open towards the myriad new opportunities that will present themselves to you.
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