Qualities of successful freelancers
Becoming a freelancer is often described as being your own boss, and with good reason. The most successful freelancers think like entrepreneurs in order to keep track of everything they need to be on top of to make their business work.
If you’re thinking of setting up as a freelancer, there are certain personality traits that will make starting your own business more achievable. They’ll help you to find clients, service their needs and retain them as recurring customers, all whilst managing your finances and focusing on pushing your business forwards. Keep reading to learn which qualities can help make you a great freelancer.
Not having a boss means the buck stops with you - you’re responsible for staying focused and getting the job done. Distractions are everywhere, from chores around the house, to notifications popping up on your phone, to the demands of family, friends and pets. If your business is going to succeed, you’ll need the self-discipline required to push past diversions and keep at it.
But self-discipline doesn’t just apply to getting your work done. It also means finishing work at appropriate times. With no one checking over your shoulder, it can be tempting to just plough on and work excessively. Taking time off as a freelancer can be difficult too, but good self-discipline can allow you to prepare and plan your holidays so you don’t have to worry about work in your free time.
As a freelancer, it’s important that you keep a close eye on your finances to monitor what is and isn’t working for your business. Being a one-man band means it’s up to you to make a change if that’s what’s needed, and staying abreast of your finances can help to prevent panicked last-minute decisions.
Cash flow issues are behind many small businesses failing. If you don’t have enough money coming in to cover your outgoings, you won’t be able to sustain working as a freelancer. Not everyone is financially-minded, but hiring an accountant or bookkeeper can help you to keep on top of your finances.
Good time management
Whether your business model involves being paid per project or per hour, good time management is key to client and job satisfaction. A successful freelancer will accurately track time spent on projects to ensure they are paid what they’re owed. In turn, they’ll be able to provide clients with reliable estimates for how long tasks will take to complete based on previous projects.
Time tracking might sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. With a range of productivity apps on the market, you can master time management and make creating invoices straightforward.
Freelancing isn't for everyone. Being your own boss means you’re the one motivating the whole business - there’s no one else to give you deadlines or orders. This means you’ll need to have a strong base of inspiration to keep you going, or risk losing enthusiasm for your business. On days where you’re lacking in motivation, it can be useful to remember why you started out as a freelancer in the first place to get yourself back on track.
From a client’s perspective, you are one option among several. In order to be taken seriously and compete with larger businesses that might have more resources, you need to earn the trust of your clients. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Showing good communication skills
- Fulfilling your promises
- Completing your work in a timely manner
- Maintaining high standards of work quality
While it can be tempting to dress down when working from home, it’s important that you present a professional appearance to clients when necessary. If your job requires video conferencing, you should dress appropriately, limit distractions and background noise where possible and treat it like you’re in an office setting.
When working as a freelancer, it’s not always possible to maintain a regular, structured 40-hour work week. Just as your projects can vary hugely in size and complexity, so can your working hours. One week, you may have lots of spare time, whereas the next you might be pressed to get your projects completed before a deadline.
A good freelancer is adaptable to such circumstances - even if it doesn’t come naturally. Productivity apps can be helpful in managing a variable workload, allowing you to plan ahead and complete work in advance when you find yourself with time to spare. You can also use notes, calendars and reminders to keep track of deadlines, meetings and other time-sensitive restrictions on your work.
Good networking skills
Networking is paramount to any freelancer. As you are the only representative of your business, it’s vital that you make connections within your industry to spread the word about your products or services. This can be very useful if you ever need assistance from people in your field - for example, if you need to recruit employees as your business grows.
Making the effort to go to networking events, and hand out business cards may feel like a waste of time in the short term, but you might be grateful for those connections in the future. Networking isn’t limited to offline interactions either. Online networking can also be hugely beneficial, using channels such as blogging, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Finally, a good freelancer needs to persevere. The freelancing life may not be a walk in the park, but there are significant rewards to be reaped and it's the ideal role for those who want to be challenged.
Additionally, there are things you can do to ease some of the stresses of working freelance. Saving up a ‘buffer’ fund can be a great way to support yourself in the event of unforeseen circumstances affecting your earnings, as can taking out freelancer insurance. It can also be helpful to speak with friends and family about the demands of working freelance - their understanding and support can make things easier if you have to cancel plans or work late.
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