Many people I know didn’t start out as full-time freelancers right out of the gate. Most of them started their freelancing careers as side hustles, some as hobbies that blossomed into money-making ventures.
This makes a lot of sense because freelancing, unfortunately, isn’t for everyone. And diving into the freelancing pool without first testing the waters, like knowing if you have what it takes to survive without a regular paycheck and the other fringe benefits associated with a full-time job, is a risky proposition – particularly if you’re a sole breadwinner and without ample financial cushion to fall back on when the going gets rough.
While freelancing seems like a modern-day career aspiration due to the lure of time and location independence, including freedom from a micromanaging boss and long hours of commute, a freelancer has to possess certain characteristics to make it big.
Here are five of them:
#1. Being results-oriented
Freelancing isn’t like a regular job where you “show up and get paid.” Admit it, about half the time you spend at work is unproductive work, and you still get paid for it. In freelancing, showing up is just half the battle. Delivering results is what clinches the deal.
#2. Time management
Freelancing is a business, and running a business isn’t necessarily a walk in the park. With the many things on your plate (deadlines, marketing, taxes, health insurance and other statutory contributions, business permits and everything else needed to comply with the law, among other things), you need to know how to properly manage your time.
That includes learning how to stay away from distracting online activities like spending too much time on social networking sites and keeping your email open the whole time.
#3. Communication skills
Freelancing can mean constant back-and-forth between you and your client even before you start a project. Of course, things have to be crystal clear (the scope of the project, your client’s expectations, due dates, rates, and more), or you risk wasting your time and energy if you’re not 100% sure what you’re getting into.
Also, as the work progresses, you will have to keep your client apprised. (In my experience, even if they don’t require that you send them updates every now and then, clients appreciate knowing what you’re doing rather than guessing.) If delays are to happen, you should be able to properly communicate that as well, and in a timely manner.
#4. Marketing skills
Most writers I know, myself included, suck at marketing. For a business to make money, however, marketing is a must, unless you already have a steady stream of clients lining up to pay for your services. Otherwise, to find paying clients, you need to market, market and market some more.
Last but definitely not least is tenacity. Freelancing is not for the faint of heart. If you give up at the first sign of difficulty, you’re likely not going to get past the first base. Freelancing isn’t easy, especially at first. If you want to succeed, aside from knowing what you’re getting into, you have to be willing to put in the time and effort to make it to the top of the freelancing ladder.
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas Edison
The above is not an exhaustive list. If you have other characteristics you think are important to succeed as a freelancer, please share them in the comments below.
Image credit: suwatpo | FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Raspal Seni says
Edison said it very well. I heard a story, some time ago. A woman swimmer was crossing some long channel. She couldn’t see her destination, probably due to fog or something. Her guide in the steamer/ship kept telling her that it’s not far now. Keep swimming, you can make it. But she kept saying she wanted to quit.
What happened? Just a few hundred metres from the destination, she quit. She wept when she came to know this. What was the reason she quit? She couldn’t see her destination clearly due to the fog!
We need to see the destination in order to achieve success, or to reach that destination. You won’t keep walking for days and months if no one can tell you how long is your destination or how long you need to walk more.
Talking of ladders, I remember two proverbs from my childhood:
1. The ladder of success is never crowded at the top
2. The ladder of success is half-won, when one gains the habit of work
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Maricel Rivera says
Hey, Raspal, you know what, your comment is one of the best I’ve seen so far. It’s comments like yours that make a post more worthwhile, that add flavor to an otherwise boring piece.
I love your ladder quotes. Really. And it’s funny because the ladders in the title and final words of the article were not intended to be there. 🙂
Thank you for dropping by, Raspal, and for sharing your insightful comment. I appreciate it. 🙂
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The major difference between freelancing and a daily job is that in freelancing you need to have a clarity(as mentioned in the article) on the results you want to achieve however a daily job is all about being assigned a task and getting it done in the given time.
Freelancing gives you authority over your work but it brings along a lot of responsibility as well. Freelancing is a tight rope which when walked cautiously gives you the success else you slip off the rope.
I completely agree with Raspal. You need to have clear visibility of the destination.