Essential Skills Freelancers Really Need to Succeed

Laura Spencer

Well-known member

If you are going to succeed as a freelancer, you’ll need more than one skill set.​

Naturally, if you’re a freelance web designer, you need good design skills. If you’re a freelance writer, you need good writing skills. If you’re a freelance programmer, you need to be good at programming.

But that’s not all there is. Successful freelancing requires more than a single skill set. Freelancers and would-be freelancers must be competent in many areas.

In this post, I list 17 skill sets that freelancers need to succeed.

Skills Freelancers Need​

What skills do freelancers really need?

If you’re unfamiliar with freelancing, you may be surprised at all of the skills that freelancers actually use to run their businesses.

In alphabetical order, here’s a list of skills that freelancers need that most people don’t think about:
  1. Accounting skills. When you freelance, you are essentially running a small business. That means that you must perform basic bookkeeping tasks. You are also responsible for paying taxes, which are generally more complex for freelancers than for individuals.
  2. Communication skills. Freelancing is all about clear communication. As a freelancer, you must express your ideas and requirements to prospective clients, current clients, and other freelancers.
  3. Estimating skills. How long will a project take? Successful freelancers need to be able to answer this question so that they can schedule their time effectively and still earn a profit.
  4. Interpersonal skills. The stereotype is that freelancers work alone and don’t need interpersonal skills, but that’s a myth. Freelancers interact with prospects, clients, and other freelancers.
  5. a Marketable skill. This is probably the skill you think of when you think of freelancing. We say that someone is a freelance designer, writer, programmer, and so on. The truth is that we are all so much more than a single skill.
  6. Management skills. Freelancers often need to manage others. They may outsource tasks to get a project done or hire subcontractors. They may even hire a virtual assistant for help with routine tasks.
  7. Negotiating skills. Negotiations are a key part of freelancing. Freelancers must be able to work with their clients to establish an acceptable work agreement and terms.
  8. Networking skills. A successful freelancer is a good networker. Freelancers must be able to network both online and offline to develop relationships with potential clients.
  9. Problem-solving skills. Good freelancers are problem solvers. It’s common for unexpected problems to occur during the course of a project and the freelancer must solve those problems.
  10. Project management skills. Each freelancing job is its own project. The freelancer is responsible for making sure that it gets done on time and according to the work agreement.
  11. Proofreading skills. It’s important to turn in projects that are error free. That means that each freelancer needs to check his or her work carefully for mistakes before they turn it in.
  12. Public relations skills. As a freelancer, you must promote your own freelancing business. You are responsible for developing and marketing your freelancing brand.
  13. Research skills. Freelancers are their own research and development department. You must keep current with new trends and technologies to discover what works best for your business. Freelancers also need to do research on future clients.
  14. Sales skills. As freelancers, most of us don’t consider ourselves to be sales people. But good sales skills are often what it takes to close a freelancing deal.
  15. Scheduling skills. As a freelancer, you are responsible for determining whether or not you can meet promised deadlines. You are also responsible for making sure that you aren’t overcommitted.
  16. Stress management skills. With everything we freelancers have to deal with, stress can be a real problem. But stress can slow us down and make us sick. A successful freelancer develops effective ways to deal with stress.
  17. Time management skills. Freelancers can’t afford to waste time. There’s no boss looking over our shoulders to make sure the work gets done. A good freelancer is a good time manager.
As you’ve probably noticed, many large companies have people (and sometimes whole departments) dedicated to these tasks. But the freelancer does it all. (Or if they can’t, they have to find someone who will help.)

Your Turn​

What essential freelancing skills did I forget? Which skills do you think are the most important?

Share your answers in the comments.