This isn’t a guide how to be a successful freelancer. It is more about what qualities and personal traits you’d need to succeed as a freelancer.
Maybe this is the most important quality as without it, you’d never be able to handle you work and life as a freelancer.
Being a freelancer, you will have plenty of opportunities to do interesting and fun things, things you like. You’ll be tempted to do them every time an opportunity presents itself. And if you do – you’ll end up playing chess, walking the dog, drinking beer, and whatever else you like doing literally all day!
But then, while you’re having fun, your work will suffer. You’ll miss deadlines, you’ll upset your clients, you’ll lose clients and potentially – money. Having fun all the time is always at the cost of a job well done.
Setting a working schedule, including freelance working hours, is paramount for the organization of your daily activities – work or play.
Being a freelancer can be hard sometimes, especially in the beginning when your email inbox is full of rejection letters and not interview invitations. Not to mention your goal to actually land a job!
It is of crucial importance that you believe in yourself and your skills and abilities.
It is of crucial importance to not give up when the road is steep or has bumps. It is of crucial importance to be persistent and to not stop looking for clients. You will need just one or two to notice you and give you a chance to prove yourself. Then it gets easier.
Time management skills
This is not about working hours. It is about estimation – how much what type of task would take; how many tasks you can complete per day or for a certain period of time, and so on.
Planning your time wisely and following your plan are of crucial importance for your productivity. If you do it well, your client will be happy – and so you will be in the end of the work day or work week.
Check out an old post I’ve written about using Google calendar for better time management – it can get you started on the whole time management thing 😉
If you want to be treated as a freelance consultant and not like an employee, you need to prove your independency and earn the trust of your client. Being professional is the best policy. What does this mean?
To sum it up in a few words, professional freelancers let their work speak for them. They always do their job on time and with the agreed quality; they keep their promises and honor the preliminary arrangements with their client; they communicate well and in timely manner; they are honest; they are ethical… basically, everything that you, as a freelancer, would expect from your clients!
If you have been an employee for a long time in the “wrong company”, you may be used to being dependent. Meaning – you may find it normal to have someone constantly checking up on you, following your every step, checking your work, and telling you what to do.
The moment you become a freelancer, you have clients and not “keepers” who call themselves “the boss”.
You no longer will be told what to do. You need to be initiative. You need to ask questions. You need to suggest ways to improve the project and the overall outcome. All of this is highly valued by your client.
When you show initiative, you demonstrate your interest in completing the project on time and with high quality. And who knows – maybe this client will give you another project soon enough 😉
I have mentioned before my principles as a freelancer. I would suggest you think carefully what your principles are and always stand by them.
Nobody likes to be misled or lied to, especially if they pay for high quality work and professional consultation. Being a freelancer, it is your responsibility to do your job. If you compromise on your principles once, I promise you it won’t be the last time.
You will start working with clients who are twisting your arm for money, control, low quality work for less money, and more. There are plenty possible scenarios. The only way to keep your reputation in tact and to reduce (if not eliminate) the stress at your work place is to stand by your principles, always.
Determination and responsibility
As a freelancer, often you will have to make decisions and to take responsibility both for the decisions and for your own actions. You will have to own both your successes and your failures. You will benefit from the ability to assess the situation and make decisions on the spot, too.
If you don’t have these skills yet – don’t worry. Your work will teach you – that ability comes with experience. When you do have it, it will definitely be your advantage. Clients seek and appreciate determination and responsibility. Well, excluding bad clients, of course – they don’t.
Being flexible will help you in situation assessment and decision-making. It will also help you when you are looking for ways to diversify your portfolio and skills and looking for new opportunities and freelance trends. You need to know how to analyze information. You need to be ready to adapt; to learn new things if the workforce market demands it.
Your flexibility will allow you also to take rush jobs from clients who need a task to be completed urgently, with short and quick turnaround time. This type of last-minute tasks are not mandatory, of course – you can always decline if you are not available; or to ask for more money for it.
However, if you are flexible and do the job despite the short notice and quick turnaround time, this client will appreciate it and will remember it. This client will call you again because they will know they can rely on you in hard times, too.
In most cases, freelancers work exclusively online. This is especially true for non-American, non-British, non-Canadian and other leading countries freelancers. So most freelancers use exclusively email, chat, voice and video calls, and similar programs to communicate – online, through a computer, never in person. Therefore, the communication should be well thought and precise, at all times.
Reply to emails within 24 hours. If you can’t do it for some reason, send an email confirming you got the message and telling the other party when you will be able to give them what they asked for or answer their questions. Watch your language and tone.
If the client wants changes, always have a written confirmation of those changes.
One of the next posts would be about communication with clients as this is a very important part of the freelance daily work.
Susan Cooper/findingourwaynow.com says
Diane, these tips are so right on for any freelancer. I love your determination because there is so much a freelancer needs. Determination really sets a good freelancer apart from the others. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, Susan! Glad you liked the tips – and yes, if we don’t have purpose, we can achieve nothing 😀
Lorraine Marie Reguly says
I think you hit the nail on the head with the nine points you included. I can’t think of any others, except maybe “patience”…with yourself and with others! 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Lorraine – and for your addition. Patience is needed in the every day life of the freelancer indeed!
Jason Butler says
Those are some great tips. Discipline is my favorite.
Thanks for your comment, Jason – glad you liked the post and found something for yourself in it!
I’ve been doing freelance for over ten years (has it been that long?). Unlike the people you mention, I mostly work with NJ people, many of whom I do sometimes meet in person.
One does have to be disciplined. And one has to keep on one’s toes with marketing. And develop lasting relationships with clients. And understand that life/technologoy changes, so one has to go with the flow and learn the new ways. Fast.
Thanks for your comment, Leora – and for adding a bunch of other things a freelancer (online or not) should have. I can tell you’ve been freelancing for so long – you basically added enough bullet points for another post on the topic 😉
Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB) says
Self-discipline and focus are big ones for me, but I would also add the ability to forgive one’s self for not always being the ideal freelancer. My motivation went out the window after my move, but gradually my old schedule is falling into place again once I quit being so hard on myself.
oh, this one is SO important! I totally agree, Jeri – we should definitely learn from our mistakes but not punish ourselves for them. Thanks for adding this and for stopping by!
Patricia Weber (@patweber) says
Terrific traits Diana. Foundationally if you lack any of more positive selfs – self-confidence, self-image, self-esteem – a person would be second guessing and doubting themselves at times. Persistence would be unsustainable. Focus would be cloudy. Communication could be garbled.
Thanks for your comment, Patricia! True that – i totally agree that believing in our skills and the can-do attitude is of crucial importance. if we don;t have that – we won;t succeed as freelancers. Thanks for the addition!
Diana- From the hiring aspect of a freelancer it is important for me that the person has principles. With the principles I feel comes the points you made.
Thanks for your comment, Arleen!
I totally agree. And i have blogged about it, too 😉 I see you have left a comment under that post as well but for all readers who stumbled upon this post and are thinking about your comment, here is a quick link to that old post about the principles of a freelancer.
Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) says
Assuming you have or are working to develop the traits/habits you mention in your post, I think one of the hardest things for some freelancers is to commit to learning the business part of freelancing. We tend to go to school to train to be a thing — an engineer, a teacher, a doctor or (in my case) a lawyer. In most professional schools, they don’t teach how to run a professional business. They certainly didn’t back when I was in law school in the late 70’s.
Thanks for your comment, Suzanne! I totally agree and this actually calls for a new blog post! Putting it on my long to-write list – thank you for the feedback and the post idea 😉
Fabulous article. I shared it on my Facebook page. Hope you get a lot of traffic!!
Well, i didn’t LOL – not more than usual, i mean 😛
Nonetheless, thank you for your comment and for spreading the word, Wendy! I am in love with your blog (so happy i found it!) so i am thrilled you like mine too – hope to see you here regularly, i know i will visit yours as much as i can! 😀
Debra Yearwood says
Great points! They are applicable to just about anyone who wants to do business. An employee who just wants to do what they are told, but take no initiative is not going to help an organization grow.
I think your point about having, knowing and FOLLOWING your principles is particularly important. It’s the thin edge of the wedge when you let go of your principles. Eventually it will result in you doing a series of jobs that you get no joy from and that you are not valued for doing. It can eventually lead to you not having a business at all.
You’re so right, if you compromise on your principles one time, it won’t just be the one time.
Thanks for stopping by, Debra! And you re right – i keep on blogging about freelance (as that’s what i do and rarely see myself as a small business owner in that relation) but most of the tips and advice i give is applicable to any small business owner indeed, thank for reminding me that!
respected diana it was indeed a brilliant note that seamlessly work on improving the skills on not only regarding the true professionalism but also help to gain strength on sub conscious labels of ones intellect,immensely awesome and equally inspiring and influential it was