At some point in your career, you’ll probably be in the position of either hiring a freelancer for a project, or offering your own skills in that role. So what makes a good one?
A-list freelancers are hard to pin down because of their agile, varied, and seemingly random skills. Raw talent and the ability to deliver work on deadline certainly contribute to a freelancer’s hire-ability, but really successful freelancers — those who are consistently in high demand — also have leadership skills that are easily distinguishable from average freelancers.
According to a recent survey, 77% of all freelancers claim passive reasons for freelancing, including the need to earn extra income on the side, a disinclination to work in an office, and “no other preferred career” — not exactly the most inspiring motivators for people whose success depends of exemplary service, and client referrals. If freelancing is merely a hobby, as soon as you interact with your client, it’ll be obvious.
True professionals edge out their competition by setting goals, and desiring deeper satisfaction and esteem from their work. They also pay high regard to personal development.
Top performing freelancers are in high demand because they develop personal qualities that elevate their basic services and enable them to work with a variety of clients. Good leadership qualities will not only make you a happier freelancer, able to deal with challenging clients and projects, but they’ll also attract others who want to work with you.
Do you want to be a superstar in your field, with plenty of repeat clients and referrals? Whether you’re a writer, graphic designer, web developer, or and expert in some other field; you must think like a leader.
These five essential qualities will make you shine.
If there’s one thing most freelancers agree on, it’s that regular clients are valuable and rare. Businesses hire freelancers for needs-based projects. Once the project is complete, the freelancer must find new clients, or bid on new projects. For freelancers, the revolving nature of the work keeps things interesting, but it also means dealing with a wide range of prospective customers and personalities.
“Excellent communication skills are a must.” According to ZipRecruiter.com, communication skill is the quality most requested by employers, mentioned in 51% of all employment ads. Freelancers that struggle to communicate are at a serious disadvantage, especially since they must customize their communication style to accommodate the work styles, cultures, and personalities of so many different prospects and clients.
The secret sauce? Learn and practice good listening, speaking and writing skills. In business, people portray varying levels of ability in getting their ideas across. Bridging the communication chasm allows you to share and interpret concepts and ideas that are important to your clients. Can’t write? Speak. Can’t talk? Write. Can’t speak or write? Listen and execute flawlessly.
Most entrepreneurs recognize the importance of hiring people who are “smarter” than they are in certain areas of expertise. That’s why they hire freelancers instead of doing the work themselves.
They have a kernel of an idea, but they hire you for better, faster, experience-based results. If you’re new at freelancing, you may be tempted to “take orders” like a waiter, but you’ll gain your client’s respect if you trust your gut. Your expertise has value; sometimes it just takes confidence to voice your opinion about how to meet your client’s goals.
The reality is that many times the client doesn’t know the whole picture. Top-notch freelancers will step into their roles as experts, while still showing a humble intention to deliver great service.
No job is ever exactly the same. No matter how many times a freelancer approaches similar projects, it’s never a one-size-fits-all process. Repetition can dull results if you’re not taking a fresh approach to each new job. Even when you know your target market like the back of your hand, and develop your niche service around it, you should never keep your creative process locked in a box.
If you no longer flow with inspiration, you’re not going to have much fun, and neither will your client! Train yourself to see each new project with fresh eyes; tried and true expertise should never be equated with “lackluster and boring.”
Long-term professionals are proud of work they add to their portfolios. Your excitement and open-ness about each new project should keep your client intrigued enough to come back for more, and rave about you to others.
The more you know, the more value you’ll add to your services. Most truly valuable freelancers make it a point to always be learning from others, both within and outside their field of expertise. An ongoing education makes you so valuable; you will be untouchable compared to the person in your industry who knows just one skill.
By the way, as this article suggests, business and leadership knowledge counts. Think you don’t have time to learn new skills? Then simply expose yourself to ideas, concepts, and trends your clients care about. Listen to audio books and relevant podcasts in your spare time to stay ahead of the game.
This may be the most important leadership quality a freelancer possesses. A great leader offers encouragement and helps others accomplish their goals, which, as a freelancer, should be your goals, too.
You must be equally invested in your clients’ success as your own; otherwise your career is just a series of meaningless tasks. View your customers’ projects from their point of view to align your heart and skills with theirs.
As your leadership skills increase, both you and your clients will enjoy the benefits of higher standards.
Your turn: what other leadership skills are pertinent to your success as a freelancer?