Born To Be… A Freelancer?

It’s an argument that’s been discussed on the Internet time and time again. Are the qualities that make for a successful freelancer part of one’s genetic makeup, or are they learned?

It’s the old nature versus nurture discussion brought to the freelancing roundtable for discussion: which is most responsible for the qualities that make a freelancer successful?

What do you think?

There are strong arguments for either position.

Arguments For Nature

Some of the characteristics that lead to freelance success would seem to be inherited:

  • Some people just seem to be naturally more independent
  • Some seem to naturally gravitate towards the sales that are necessary to bring in new business
  • Often the knack for a certain talent (whether it be for writing, design, or programming) that enables one to freelance seems to be something some people are born with
  • Some people seem to be innately more comfortable taking risks than others

Arguments For Nurture

Many of the characteristics of successful freelancers are actually skills that can be learned:

  • There are many articles, blog posts, forums, and even classes that claim to teach one how to set up a freelance business. Some claim to have found success as a freelancer by following one, or more, such programs.
  • Many people start their freelance business only after a long and successful traditional career. You can probably name people (Hint: I’m one of them) who took the skills that they learned from conventional employment and used them to develop their own freelance business.
  • Often successful freelancers claim that they benefited from the guidance of a mentor (an older, more experienced freelancer).
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration has classified the notion that one must be born an entrepreneur a myth and has a whole page devoted to dispelling it.

My Argument: Neither

My own argument is that freelancing is not necessarily something that one is born with, but neither is it necessarily something that one can always be taught.

(Personally, I find the first choice to be a bit fatalistic. I can just imagine someone copping out saying, “well, I couldn’t be a successful freelancer, no matter how hard I tried, because I just wasn’t born to be one.

As far as the second choice, that of being taught to be a freelancer, we all know that passing a course doesn’t necessarily ensure success.)

Rather, let me suggest that the crucial ingredient for successful freelancing boils down to one key ingredient – Desire!

Desire was the key for me, and I’m willing to wager that desire was also the key for most successful freelancers.

In my own case, I actually worked for a very long time (17 years) in traditional employment. I was doing well, too – getting great performance reviews and regular raises. When I decided to leave the company, two different managers tried to talk me out of it. I was probably the last person that anyone would have expected to become a freelancer.

What Changed For Me?

I saw that freelancing offered something that I wanted very much – a flexible work schedule. It was something that traditional employment (at the time) could not (or would not) offer. Thus, was born my desire.

I’ve now been freelancing for over six years, and I can honestly say that I don’t regret my decision at all.

You see, with enough desire, anyone (yes, anyone – not just those born to it) can find a way to learn exactly what it is that they need to know to be a freelance success.

Without that desire one can have all the natural ability, or take all the entrepreneur classes in the world, and (in my opinion) it still won’t work. They won’t make it as a freelancer.

Where do you stand, and why? :)



About the author: Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 18 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts.