It’s a common conundrum faced by anyone who has ever been new at anything. (So, basically, all of us.) You need experience to get started, but can’t get started without experience. This fun little vicious circle can be especially frustrating for a new freelancer.
Before I started freelancing, I had already worked for several years in my field (Instructional Design). I had both broad and specific experience in key areas, and was up to date on the latest trends and changes. I had even earned a Graduate Certificate in Instructional Design to shore up my credentials. Still, I questioned whether my skills were good enough to compete for those coveted freelance jobs.
I let fear hold me back from freelancing for a long time. Too long, in retrospect.
Farewell to Fear
For new freelancers, that perceived lack of experience can make you worry about how you’ll ever get any traction. You may also be tempted to compare yourself to others in your field who are more experienced, knowledgeable, and established.
As someone who has been freelancing full-time since 2018, I can tell you that both of these are counterproductive and self-sabotaging. More importantly, they are totally unnecessary activities that will waste your time and postpone your progress. Here’s why.
While it’s generally true that the more time you spend working on your craft, the better you’ll get at it, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a valuable skill set to start with. (Of course, there is a basic level of ability that you need in any field in order to get hired. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that you have that basic level or are diligently working on it.)
What you also most likely have is a secondary set of skills that you’ve learned by working in various roles and through life experiences. While you’re bringing your technical skills up-to-speed, harness the power of those secondary skills to:
- demonstrate competence
- bring value, and
- differentiate yourself to prospective clients.
Instead of worrying and comparing, here are four skill sets that you can leverage as a new freelancer when your technical skills are still a work-in-progress.
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According to Wikipedia, soft skills include people skills, communication skills, and other social and emotional intelligence attributes that help people work well with others. And, soft skills are now more sought after than ever.
Forbes Magazine listed the top 5 in-demand soft skills in a recent article. In addition to some of the typical soft skills mentioned previously, they also included creativity, persuasion, collaboration, and adaptability.
More soft skills consist of problem-solving, stress management, self-discipline, and accountability.
In other words, the soft skills tent is large. And, the chances are good that you already have a solid set of soft skills that would impress a prospective client.
Leverage your soft skills as a new freelancer by:
- identifying your core soft skills, and
- emphasizing those that can benefit any project you’re applying for.
Project Management Skills
If you’ve worked on projects with schedules, budgets, or other resources, you’ve probably had some experience with project management activities.
I work with actual Project Managers regularly, and I highly respect what they do and how they do it. They take all things scheduling and tracking to a whole other level that amazes me. I’m grateful for their guidance, and I always try to learn a thing or two to make their lives easier and contribute more effectively to the success of the each and every project.
That said, you don’t have to be a certified Project Manager to have a valuable set of project management skills. Do you excel in leadership, communication, negotiation, critical thinking, or risk management? These are all highly desirable project management skills that you can leverage as a new freelancer.
We all use administrative skills, professionally and in our daily lives. Sometimes, they can become so second-nature, that we don’t even realize how much we use them. As a freelancer, don’t underestimate the power of strong administrative skills.
You’ll often times be working alone, maybe even remotely, and will need to be your own administrative support person. Administrative skills include organizational, technological knowledge, time management, being detail-oriented, and the ability to anticipate needs and requirements.
Take an inventory of your administrative skills. Leverage these by highlighting them in your professional summary and demonstrating them as you work on each project.
People Management Skills
Just like with project management skills, you don’t have to be a people manager to have people management skills. Some of the top people management skills are motivating others, training, delegating, team building, and providing feedback. If you have experience in any of these, you have people management skills
Freelancing and entrepreneurship is appealing to some people because of the perception of working for yourself. I mean, that’s what puts the ‘free’ in ‘freelancing’, right? That’s true to an extent. But, not completely.
With rare exception, the overwhelming majority of us technically work for someone else even when we work for ourselves. And, this work is often done with others – in teams, partnerships, or the like. This is why people management skills matter.
As a freelancer, you still need to know how to work well with others, manage information, receive and provide feedback, communicate professionally and effectively, and stay positive. Leverage your people management skills by identifying opportunities where you’ve used these skills in a team or collaborative setting, and share how they benefited the project outcome.
Take Time to Reflect
Wherever you are in your freelancing journey, it’s a good idea to take a step back and assess your skills – technical and otherwise. As you go along, you’ll continue to gain new skills and improve on others. Skills are dynamic and it’s important to take stock of all the skills you have to offer as a freelancer. Your freelancing career will thank you!
5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Freelance
Five Steps to Finding Your First Freelance Client