As a freelancer, working your way up to financial independence requires more than just being an expert in your field. Soft skills are hugely important for any worker, and freelancers are no exception.
In fact, these skills are probably more critical for freelancers than for anyone, since they play a vital role in finding new clients and building relationships with them that last.
There are actually some soft skills that are even more important for freelancers than they are for others, and the following list of the necessary ones can help you establish or boost your career as a freelancer.
As a freelancer you need problem solving skills and the ability to stay focused in that mode for long periods, persisting until the issue is resolved. Never give up, and never procrastinate.
An editor once gave me a sticker to put on my computer, which read: ‘Do It Now’ – I’ve lived by that advice ever since. Another thing, when you’re facing a challenge, your ‘explanatory style’ will govern how you deal with it. If you see a challenge as irresolvable, you’re more likely to give up, but if you see it as temporary or if you’re determined to solve it then you will.
Change what you tell yourself; how you explain a challenge, and you’ll solve it.
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who can do it, learning how to control your emotions is probably the most critical soft skills for a freelancer. Managing stress is vital for everyone, but for freelancers, it is crucial.
Striving in an area of fierce competition and being continuously productive are not easy tasks and being stressed is a liability. The ability to control your emotions is the first step towards keeping stress at bay, and the way to do it is to recognise what triggers your anxiety.
Whether it’s work underload or overload, an unhappy client, or a last-minute change to a project, try not to spiral down into habitual panic. It can be a game changer if you can get a handle on emotion control.
Develop Organisational Skills
Any successful freelancer will have this one in their toolbox already, hopefully, because it’s a very important skill to develop. Freelancing requires self-improvement from time to time, so if you possess these soft skills already, nothing is stopping you from growing, improving or enhancing them.
But if you’re just starting out as a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, illustrator, web designer, film-maker etc., you know you’re the only one responsible for being organised and getting the work done. There’s no supervisor or editor to steer your course and no team to lend a hand, no assistant to do the research or set up meetings and nobody to manage the project. You’re it.
And if you aren’t disciplined, your career won’t even get off the ground because you won’t be able to cope with the workload. You will need to design a sustainable work routine and learn how to prioritise your tasks, including editing and double checking.
Communication is Essential
A freelancer without communication skills would be as successful in their field as a soccer player who can’t kick a ball. Clients are much more likely to hire you again, based on your ability to communicate. So, no matter how good you are at writing, web design or illustrating, for instance, without communication skills, you’re bound to lose clients.
It’s essential that you ask your client as many questions and make as many suggestions as you need to get the job done correctly. Don’t be afraid of making an idiot of yourself if you’re not sure about something. It’s better than getting it all wrong and having to apologise.
Every client who hires you will be different, so you need to be flexible, and be aware that some of them might not be the best communicators!
Remember, deadlines must be met. Delays are not acceptable, and contacting your client with updates on the progress of the project can also help. You need to be dependable as well – do what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it.
One more thing – a great place for Australian creatives to share their skills and knowledge is The Freelance Collective – a platform that gives top talent a place to promote their skills and showcase their work alongside like-minded creative peeps and be part of a genuinely supportive curated community of talent.