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Do You Have What It Takes to be a Freelancer in 2024?


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It’s 2024. Time to start doing what you’ve always wanted to do!

If that’s freelancing, then hold your horses. Although 77% of full-time freelancers believe they have a better work-life balance since going solo, a freelance career can be very challenging. That’s why many people try and fail.

There are a few things you should know before you dive right in. It can be cutthroat, so here are some character traits that work best with your side hustle:

Self-Discipline

A critical skill to possess (yes, it is a skill) is the ability to be your own boss. Sure, who doesn’t want to watch TV all morning before moseying over to the desk? But, it affects the workday. Effective time management is critical in a freelance business. You must be able to tell yourself when the time is to work and when the time is to play. There should be a clear definition between the two. No one else will be your boss.

If there is a way to carve out a home office, this is a good start. When freelancing is how you pay the bills, then the job must be treated seriously. If you procrastinate through a deadline, that client may never call again. Or worse, they might leave you an awful review that could affect future work. 

For the organization of activities, it’s paramount to set a schedule and stick to it. 20% of large organizations (over 1,000 employees) use 30% or more remote workers, so opportunity abounds. Exercising self-discipline always equates to making money.

Tech Knowledge

The more platforms you pick up, the easier the job will become. Since freelancing is a very general term, there could be a number of different software tools a contractor could find useful. In order to impress potential clients, you should have tech skills. 

35% of freelancers use an online portfolio to market themselves (particularly freelance writers, bloggers, graphic designers, and other artists). You don’t want to fall behind on competition because you lack knowledge in the digital arena. Always stay “in the know” for the best software.

If you work from home, it’s important to spend some part of downtime researching and learning new tools of the trade. If you’re a newbie and a tad boggled on where to begin, consider some of these systems to complement your workflow:

  • Task management
  • Collaboration/communication tools (email, chat, video)
  • Password storage
  • Graphic design
  • SEO 
  • Social media scheduling and listening
  • Time tracking

If you’re going to make money, you also need a tool for finance and tax management. If you’re charging an hourly rate, time tracking software is a must.

Competitive

The independent workforce is growing…and growing…and—you get the idea. It’s larger than previously recognized. 20-30 % of the working-age population and the EU-15 countries are engaged in some form of contract work. Continuous freelance work is about persistence. The gig economy waits for no one. It’s important to believe in yourself and the skill set you offer or competitors will eat you alive. When you stop looking for clients is when the competition is over. 

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55% of gig workers also maintain full-time or regular jobs. However, to be a successful freelancer, you can never leave a client hanging. The quicker the response rate, the more jobs you win. It’s as simple as that. Fast follow-up is still one of the most effective ways of winning a project. Remember, this is time-sensitive and temporary work. An organization is not taking a week to hire someone for a month.

If you are using an online platform, clients are usually looking to hire within that same browser session. This means you want to be astute with notifications and have something put together to answer quickly, yet professionally. A copy of a general proposal with links to work and/or a resume is always a good start. A personalized cover letter is even better.

The same applies to your response during the course of a project. If the client reaches out with questions or asks for updates, respond within a workday or less. The quicker a freelancer replies, the more likely people are to hire them back. It’s good to have an idea of how long certain tasks will take and how much is on your plate before you give a client availability. 

Embrace Every Platform

Don’t be shy. The freelance economy is wide open and there are now hundreds of places online to find freelancing jobs. Don’t do yourself a disservice and limit efforts to one channel. You should have multiple hands in many cookie jars. In addition to Google, a few other platforms to consider include:

  • Upwork
  • Fiverr
  • Freelancer
  • Taskrabbit
  • And more…

Try and open a profile on each one to broaden horizons.

Initiative

You have to take charge to convince clients who have never met you to invest their money. It’s not as easy as it sounds. That means, working to create opportunity where there is none, asking questions when you don’t understand something, and consistently adding to your small business. A freelancer must take initiative, otherwise, who else will?

Full-time employees with permanent jobs usually look to their supervisors to spur productivity. When you work for yourself, that boss would be YOU. Do one thing each day to further develop your brand and freelance jobs will fall in your lap.

Authenticity

If you bend on principles, you will never be happy with a project. A positive online presence depends on the ability to keep promises. Don’t make it a habit to miss deadlines. Of course, everyone has things come up in life. As long as you communicate, people are generally understanding. If you ghost, you will irritate business owners who could then give you a bad review. Once a digital reputation is in jeopardy, your money will surely suffer. 

Think carefully about what your principles are. Don’t be afraid to write out your own set of rules and standards to abide by. When things go wrong, you will be the only one around to set them right. Part of being prepared is staying authentic and true to the brand (yourself). Be 100% honest and transparent with clients. If you don’t think you can do a job, turn it down. Don’t accept and attempt it with poor quality work. It could affect future decisions to hire you and won’t make it to the portfolio anyway.

Caving on your ethics also allows bad clients to engage. You will start seeing people trying to pump you for pennies and twist your arm for low-paying work. To always stay close to top clients, maintain a good reputation and be authentic. 

Passion and Skills

Many people have a terrible misconception that being an independent contractor is easy and flexible work. In fact, most freelancers will tell you, it can be much more stressful than a 9-5 day job. That’s because everything is riding on your shoulders. In order to really succeed, it’s not enough to just possess the attributes listed above. You must have a deep passion for the work to sustain the lifestyle. It can require consistent, round-the-clock effort. Many freelancers do not have sick days or paid holidays. Most work straight through.

A love for the job will naturally help to build skills. Modern technology means no one ever “knows it all” and things change every day. New tools are developed that blow yesterday’s out of the water. Passionate freelancers are always researching and staying on top of trends in their industry. It drives actions both on and of the proverbial court. 

Individual workers who have found the right niche always deliver the best results and receive the highest-paying jobs.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Negotiation skills
  • Organization and planning
  • Scheduling
  • Finance and tax management
  • Consultation and networking
  • Team-building and project management
  • Product development
  • Branding and digital marketing

Final Thoughts

Take some time to pause and reflect. It’s not so much as having every skill necessary when you first start out. It’s more about the passion and drive to pursue this line of work. Is this really something you can envision yourself doing? Can you time manage with self-discipline? It’s a costly error if you misjudge and have to reenter the workplace after 6-months of nothing.

One useful practice is to make two lists. The first is a set of qualities that you bring to the table and the second is a list of characteristics you must work on to seal the deal. Understanding strengths and weaknesses is also the first step to effective time management. You won’t waste energy building traits you already possess. Instead, as a new freelancer, you can focus on areas that need inner development before presenting to clients. Being aware of weaknesses helps you improve on them.

Overall, being a freelancer has advantages and disadvantages, just like any other job in the world. Those that love it and do it well, call it one of the most liberating decisions they’ve ever made in their life. As a freelancer writing this, I have to say I agree.

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