Top 5 skills you need to become a freelancer

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Becoming a freelancer is no easy feat. When you decide to become a freelancer, you will essentially sign up to be the owner of a very small, micro-sized business. This will mean that you will need to think of all aspects of starting and running a business, from marketing to business finances. The good thing about freelancing is that you can start very small and have low startup costs depending on what field you want to work in.

In this article, we will look at the top 5 skills that are desirable in a freelancer. We won’t say that you absolutely must have them because going freelance will teach you a lot. It’s essential, however for you to be constantly learning and picking up these skills along the way.

1. Your core skill

This will be the set of skills in which you will freelance, for example, a project manager will have their core skill as project management. It’s essential to have these, as this is how you will be making your money. Depending on what field you work in, you may need to take courses or acquire relevant qualifications to be considered skilled.

Whether you are a new freelancer or have been freelancing for years, you will need to keep on top of your core skills. Going with the example of photography, the photography industry is not the same as it was ten years ago. Therefore, you will need to invest in keeping up with the trends and the industry changes.

2. Marketing skills

Any good business will need a good amount of exposure. This can be through various platforms, in fact, you will probably need to invest in multiple different platforms to ensure that your business is out there. The following are the platforms you should invest your time in to get started:

  • Social media – This is essential for any sort of business in modern-day. Social media is inexpensive and effective, however, will require a good level of maintenance.

  • Website – Every freelancer will need a website as a portfolio to showcase their work.

  • Freelancer Marketplaces - Whether it’s the Freelance Directory or PPH, there are a number of marketplaces that can bring you clients for a small investment.

  • Word of mouth – Although this is not something you can do, it’s good to encourage happy clients to share your work/contact details with potential clients.

You will need to market yourself and your skills and marketing skills will help you with this. It might also be good if you have analytical skills that complement your marketing skills. This will help you evaluate, which platforms are best and what you need to do to better and grow your business through various marketing channels.

3. Management skills

You’re a freelancer and you will be working by yourself, so why are management skills vital? This is because, although you don’t have a team or other people working under you, there will be other things you will need to manage. For example, you will need to effectively manage your time to get your work done. You will also need to manage other aspects of your business such as finances. Management skills are essentially being organised and staying on top of your workload.

4. Financial skills

This is another part of your freelance business that you will pick up as you go. You will need to issue invoices, chase those invoices and make sure you are getting paid. You may also have suppliers with whom you will need to make sure that you are paying. You will also need to keep up with the latest tax rates and allowances and file your self-assessment on an annual basis. It’s recommended, that you seek the help of a freelancer accountant so they can help you manage your taxes. For example, the following are the things a freelancer accountant can help you with:

  • Your annual self-assessment tax return that you have to submit at the end of January every year.

  • Advice on how to best run your business (whether you want to run it as a sole trader or limited company).

  • Help you choose the right business bank account.

Financing skills will consist of managing your finances, negotiating with clients and suppliers as well as being able to analyse what you need to do to help you save money.

5. Communication skills

Communication skills are essential for freelancers. You might not be communicating with others (clients, suppliers etc.) on a day to day basis. However, you will need to be able to effectively communicate with clients in order to understand their needs and provide the best possible service. Communication skills will also play a key role in actually securing clients. Whether you need to deliver a pitch or just convince a potential client that you can fulfil their demands, you need communication skills to do this.

Being able to secure clients will be what keeps your business alive, therefore being persuasive and clear with what you can deliver is vital.

It’s important to note that you will have a natural inclination to some of these skills, however, some or even most of them won’t come naturally to you. However, having skills in all those five areas will help you succeed in freelancing. You will learn and grow as you take on clients and work, so there’s no need to be intimated by the skills list.

More on handy tools for freelancers getting started.

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