Top 5 qualities of a freelancer

4 min
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1. Reliability

It should go without saying but it’s worth repeating because being reliable in the eyes of your client is absolutely “key” if you want to succeed as a freelancer, says independent PR consultant Michele Bayliss.

“Following through on my promises and meeting deadlines is very important. Every single time” says Bayliss, who has more than two decades under her belt as a self-employed communications professional.

“Clients and journalists don’t have the time or patience for missed deadlines or work that isn’t delivered as promised. When you say you are going to do something, it has to happen.”

Julia Kermode, chief executive of The Freelancer & Contractor Services Association, confirms: “In my role as a CEO at the FCSA, I rely on a team of top freelancers with expertise in their field to support me to get my job done.

“A good freelancer needs to be reliable and take the initiative to deliver what they’re good at to get the job done without too much micro-management.Once you’ve built up a good working relationship with a freelancer -- who never lets you down, they are worth their weight in gold.”

2. Faithfulness (aka ‘Knowing when to let go’)

Giving the opportunity to your fellow freelancers, client staff or anyone else you work with for them to become reliable to you is equally vital, says freelance copywriter Bryony Pearce.

“One of my worst traits is that I don't trust other people to do things exactly the way I would,” admits Pearce, owner of freelance writing consultancy Keyhole Content.

“If that sounds like you too, you’ll just end up burning yourself out and wasting money by paying someone to do something and then going over it all again yourself anyway. Basically, have a little faith in others and learn to let go!”

3. Business-like (Show it in your approach, thinking, actions/work processes)

Many of the numerous freelance opportunities which veteran digital and computer consultant Alan Watts has secured and executed follow the below course of action:

  • Sell (yourself, your service/product), then;
  • Manage (the project, your time/ workload) and finally;
  • Provide (the product, service/work you’ve promised)
  • ,

Of the ‘sell’ stage, Watts says: “As a freelancer, you invariably have something to sell. That sounds obvious, but most opportunities or roles or interviews will attract a large number of responses. So what makes you different?

“You have to demonstrate you can do the job the client wants doing, and that you can land on their site or workplace on day one and immediately be productive. Freelancers don’t usually have time to learn on the job.”

On the second ‘manage’ phase, the freelancing veteran advises: “You always have to be good at time management as a freelancer, especially if you have multiple clients.

“Keeping track of work to be done and deadlines to be met is your problem. There won’t usually be a [client-provided] Project Manager driving your workload. Although most freelancers usually come to think that is actually a good thing!”

Referring to part three – actually providing the service, and in advice, all freelancers should heed, Watts said: “Ultimately it’s about mindset.

“You can -- in fact you must think of yourself as a free-standing individual, carving your own commercial path. If you get things wrong though, that means there’s nobody to bail you out.

“So you have the freedom to organise your work – and life -- in the best way to suit yourself, provided your client doesn’t have different ideas! And always keep the separation between you and the client clear in your head -- you are not an ‘employee’ in any sense of the word, you are a service provider. That distinction is becoming increasingly important.”

Watts was alluding to HMRC recently trying to prove to tax tribunal judges that several freelancers, including the A-list broadcasters Lorraine Kelly, Kay Adams and Paul Hawksbee, were not bonafide freelancers eligible for the perks of freelancing, but akin to employees and therefore owing of years of employment taxes. All three of the Revenue’s cases failed.

4. Proactivity (aka ‘Thinking on your feet’)

“I’d like to think I’m very proactive in my work as a freelance PR worker,” says Bayliss, who often prepares press releases featuring her clients’ reactions to potential announcements before the announcements are even made.

“In my line of freelance work, being proactive is just as important as being reactive. It means clients can relax knowing that I work hard to get desirable results for them that will ultimately help their business to thrive.

“So I don’t need to be micro-managed. I know what I’m doing and I’m tenacious in my efforts to get the results I want to see that I know will help my clients. That might mean knowing when to speak up – clients are paying for your expertise and knowledge, so it is essential for me to know when to be vocal. Acting on their behalf and taking their concerns into account without me having to stop, revert and ask what those concerns are, is paramount.”

5. Realism (aka ‘Knowing your limits’)

Time-efficient freelancers are realistic in their grasp of their own skills. They are also aware that there’s invariably only one-person – themselves – in their commercial empire. It’s something freelance copywriter Bryony Pearce still struggles with.

“Do I always know what's worth my time and where my area of expertise lies?” she asks. “Well, I recently spent a ridiculous amount of hours redesigning my website trying to be thrifty, but in reality, I wasted a lot of money because that time could've been spent better elsewhere. Plus, my design attempts were absolutely bobbins! I ended up paying a designer to do it in the end and the results were just worlds apart.”

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