How to Become a Successful Freelancer: 8 Tips

freelancer working at a cafe

If there’s one question that people have about becoming a freelancer, it’s usually, “What does it take?”

Freelancing is the dream for many people, which makes it feel completely out of reach and impossible at times. But it’s not.

Sure, there’s quite a bit of luck involved in making it as a freelancer. But beyond that, there are a few qualities you should possess to set yourself up for freelance success (and a fulfilling freelance career).

Here are eight qualities you need to succeed as a freelancer:

1. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Being a freelancer requires a pretty high degree of self-awareness. For starters, you have a way less rigid work environment, which makes it all the more important for you to know where you thrive and where you fall short.

Is it way harder for you to get quality work done from the couch or when you’re still in your pajamas? You need to be able to recognize that, and then—even more importantly—do something about it.

Even further, freelancing means you’re a one-person show most of the time. It’s important that you know what areas you excel in and which ones you struggle in so that, if and when you can afford to delegate some tasks, you offload the most draining ones.

2. Be Disciplined

Similarly, nobody is going to be there to force you to crack down and get to work. There’s no boss watching you out of the corner of their eye or colleagues to judge you when you spend an hour online shopping instead of working.

If you’re going to be successful, you need to be a self-starter. Not everybody has that level of discipline to motivate themselves, but it’s an undeniable requirement for people who want to make it as freelancers.

3. Be Persistent

Persistence is always important, but particularly when you’re just getting started and desperately trying to track down work. Seriously, if I could grant you a peek at my sent emails from way back when, you’d laugh. Practically all I did was follow up on pitches and cold emails. I was persistent to the point of being obnoxious.

While I don’t recommend doing that same thing and checking in frantically (ahem, guilty as charged), you need to be dedicated and willing to put in the legwork. A successful freelance career won’t just happen to you—you need to make it happen.

4. Be Resilient

There’s one word you’ll hear more than anything as a freelancer: “no.”

I’ll admit that it’s disheartening, and I’ve indulged in way more sob-induced ice cream binges than I’d care to admit. But rejection is the name of the game, and you’re going to need to let it roll off your back.

Don’t think you’re someone who can develop a thick skin? As brutal as it is to hear, you might not be cut out for a career as a freelancer.

5. Be Organized

Freelancing isn’t all about working on dream-worthy projects in the corner of a coffee shop. You’re responsible for a lot of different tasks.

You need to keep track of your income and expenses. You need to promptly reply back to client emails and stay on top of your deadlines. You need to keep your files sorted and your workload streamlined.

Needless to say, the best freelancers are organized. Not only does this make their own lives easier, but it also ensures that their clients feel confident that they’re working with someone who has their business in order.

6. Be Outgoing

You don’t necessarily need to be outgoing in the traditional sense—you will be spending a lot of time alone, after all. However, you do need to be able to be a little aggressive to land new clients.

If you want to grow your business (and of course, you do) you’re going to have to be comfortable networking and approaching strangers, whether you’re doing it in person or virtually.

7. Be a Skilled Communicator

It’s funny how many people think that freelancing is their excuse to not have to deal with people on a daily basis. Allow me to burst your bubble: being a freelancer involves a lot of communication.

Arguably, you need to be an even better communicator than you need to be in a traditional office environment, since you don’t have the luxury of saying something in passing or yelling over your cubicle wall.

You also need to be willing to have hard conversations—like negotiating a higher rate or breaking up with a client—and handle them tactfully and professionally. There’s no boss or other colleague to take care of that dirty work for you.

8. Be Flexible

Flexibility is a key perk of the freelance life, but it’s also a core demand. You’ll be dealing with an ever-changing workload (not to mention income), and you need to be able to roll with the punches.

Freelancing for a living requires a certain degree of adaptability. If you’re somebody who prefers predictability and stability over anything else, being a freelancer might only increase your stress level.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Does this list capture absolutely everything you need to make it as a freelancer? Definitely not. But it’s certainly a start. Ensuring that you possess (or at least can work to possess) these eight important qualities will get you started on the road to freelance success.

Written by: Kat Boogaard

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