Talent Versus Skill — Which Leads to Freelancing Success?

skill-vs-talentWhich do you think is more important for freelancing success — talent or skill?

This topic is rarely discussed in freelancing circles, but most freelancers do have an opinion about which factor contributed the most to their success.

The question of whether talent or skill contributes more to success is a controversial debate for many in the freelancing world (and elsewhere). In this post, we’ll examine both sides of the debate and give you an opportunity to weigh in with your own opinion.

The Central Debate

What is talent? Or, for that matter, what is skill?

Here are some definitions:

  • Talent is the natural ability that you are born with.
  • Skill is a learned ability.

There are those who believe that just about anything that we accomplish, including various freelancing achievements, is a result of our skills.

There are also those who believe that most of what we achieve is because of the natural abilities that we were born with (in other words, our talents).

We’ll start out by examining the case for skill as the main contributing factor in freelancing success.

The Case for Skill

There’s a strong case to be built for skill as a crucial component to freelancing success. If you’ve ever benefited from a training class, then I’m sure that you can vouch for the value of good training.

One of my former bosses fits into this side of the debate. As an avid baseball fan, my boss firmly believed that he could have been a major league player IF ONLY someone had taught him to play the game at a much younger age (like around age four as opposed to age eight) so that he had more time to develop enough skill to become a professional ballplayer.

Do you think my former boss was right?

There are two key ways to improve your skills:

  1. Training — being taught by others.
  2. Practice — putting what you’ve learned into practice.

Other ways to build your skill in a particular area include finding an experienced mentor and reading information that is relevant to your area. By the way, while you are thinking about skills you may want to check out this list of 20 Not So Obvious Blogs for Freelancers. Reading the blogs on the list can definitely help you build up your skills.

That wraps up the case for skill. Now let’s look at the case for talent as the main contributor to freelancing success.

The Case for Talent

There is definitely a case for talent as the basis of achievements, particularly in some specialties.

For example, I know that no amount of training or practice would be enough for me to become a top ten recording artist. I simply don’t have a natural gift for singing. The same goes for art — while I can learn to operate software tools (and occasionally even come up with something clever), I know that drawing (especially by hand) just isn’t one of my strengths.

However, over the years I’ve met excellent natural singers with little or no training and some talented artists who can put a pencil to paper and come up with a great illustration nearly every single time.

Some points to consider:

  • Could naturally talented people benefit from training? In my experience, most gifted people are eager to use training to enhance their talent.
  • Do the gifted absolutely need training to be able to perform in their field? In many cases, someone with natural ability can become quite successful without training.

Now that we’ve looked at both sides of the issue, let’s examine the middle ground.

A Middle Ground

Which is really most critical for a freelancer to have — skills or talents?

This argument has been around for a long time, and there are many aspects to it. While I doubt that we’ll permanently settle this argument today on Freelance Folder, I would like to suggest a practical approach the question.

An old adage states, “It’s not what you could accomplish that counts, but what you actually do accomplish.”

From my perspective, I think the adage is correct. Effort counts for a lot. In fact, I think that someone with drive and determination can accomplish a great deal, regardless of whether they have talent, skills, or both.

What Do You Think?

We’ve looked at both sides of this debate and now it is your turn to weigh in with your opinion.

Is your freelancing business success based on your training and skills, your natural talents, or some combination of both?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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