Qualities of a Successful Freelancer [+Tips]

It’s cliche to think that freelancing is only for stay-at-home parents who aren't able to commit to a full-time job; or introverted individuals, who’d rather sit at home alone without expending effort to build camaraderie with their colleagues. In fact, freelancing has now become a lifestyle by choice, ushering in a new life of mobility and versatility.

In the previous Freelancing 101, CakeResume covered a series of freelancing pros and cons. By now you already probably know that it’s not easy to break into this industry; some of the qualities you should embody before jumping in this industry can be later accumulated through experience, but the rest are closely tied with your personality. 

If you still want to give freelancing a go, here is a comprehensive list of traits and tips you should focus on.

3 Qualities of a Successful Freelancer

1. Strong Self-Discipline and Time-Management are needed

Self-discipline and strong time-management skills should be second nature to you. Basically, freelancing entails managing each aspect of your work: from your schedules and deadlines, the occasional clients from hell, and an insurmountable amount of work (or few and far between, it depends). That's why CakeResume puts self-discipline on the top of the list; it’d be hard for you to succeed as a freelancer without it. I admit it’s hard to resist temptations, it’s natural to do what your heart desires when an opportunity presents itself. Working at home requires detailed time management. Here's a fun fact: sometimes a 15-minute break can turn into a 4-hour Ricky and Morty binge. Brewing coffee, walking your dog and soaking in the sun sound incredibly pleasant, but your work is probably at stake.
Chances are you’ll miss deadlines, anger clients, and ruin your own reputation. You aren't punching a clock, and you don't have a boss looking over your shoulder, so living as fully as you wish could spiral into a full-blown disaster if you don't have everything planned out to the T. Having a fixed working schedule makes your clients happy since they know when they can hear back from you. It also becomes a habit, that may help make you become more efficient and productive in the future. 

2. As a freelancer, You Should Always Keep Learning and Keep Grinding

As was mentioned in Freelancing 101, you have to wear many hats, such as marketing or advertising to name a few. No doubt in the future, we’ll be seeing newer, cooler, and possibly weirder jobs that are currently still impossible for us to imagine. With the ever-changing industry landscapes, you have to always be on your toes and expose yourself to different ideas and methodologies.
For example, becoming more tech-savvy would be a great option since people are becoming more and more reliant on technology. Learning and optimizing more skills can help make you more competitive in your career. Everything is in flux and once a change takes effect, it will ripple out to the wider economy, of which you’re but a small part of. Bear in mind that enriching yourself with new information and skills now will help you greatly in times of uncertainties later on in your career.

3. Strong work ethic

To attract more clients, you have to act professionally. Once you’ve built a solid clientele, referrals and word-of-mouth advertising from your existing clients can further pave the way for a successful career in freelancing. How? It's as simple as responding to emails within 24 hours and taking the initiative to ask the right questions. For example, figure out the budget and objective of the project, as well as who the stakeholders are—identify the real decision-maker lest you be micromanaged by tons of irrelevant people.
All these will help you solidify your reputation because you're able to understand and communicate clearly what's needed to be done, and provide effective solutions for your clients. It’s what kickass freelancers do—letting their work speak for themselves. Clients don’t care if you’re working in your pajamas or if you haven’t stepped out of the door for three consecutive days as long as you can uphold your end of the bargain and deliver quality work on time.

Further reading:Working from Home Starter Pack: Freelancing 101

3 Tips for Freelancers-to-be

Now, you’ve tapped into the three critical qualities needed for a successful freelancer, to be more specific, CakeResume also offers some tips for you. There’s actually no strict boundary between qualities and tips for a successful freelancer, they’re all equally important and we want nothing else but providing you with real constructive and solid advice. These tips can help you be more mentally prepared to embrace what life is going to be like as a freelancer.

3 Tips for Freelancer-to-be

1. Flexibility is the Synonym of Freelancing

On top of new skills, learning to become more flexible and adaptable to the changes increases your value and makes you indispensable. We all know that adapting to change is hard; it’s different from being spontaneous or doing whatever you want. However, it helps with decision-making, skills diversification and understanding freelance trends (coming soon, wait for it!) so that adjustments can be made accordingly. You have to be comfortable with changes, and good at compromising while safeguarding your principles!
Highlight this one: You have to get in front of people’s noses and be super proactive because projects don’t magically land in front of you; sometimes a project you’ve been eagerly anticipating falls through; sometimes a client screws you over; sometimes last-minute work is offered (of course you can turn it down, but if you do well, you gain a recurring client); and yes, occasionally you're the one who commits the blunder. I can go on and on about different scenarios but the bottomline is that adaptability is crucial. Flexibility also comes to play when you have no financial stability starting out; you might have to sacrifice certain luxuries, and that’s why an emergency fund for at least six months is crucial. (Here's a quick refresher on Freelancing 101) Overall, you have to always prepare for the best and hope for the worst, and try not to let uncertainties cloud your judgment.

2. Self-love, really?

You’d think it’s second nature, but as advanced as we are, 21st-century humans have little capacity to love oneself. It’s a luxury, really, especially in the freelancing industry. You’re constantly reminded of the negatives each time you come into contact with a client who doubts you. There is some good news though: you have a lifetime to learn how to love yourself and develop a philosophical outlook while you're working in this competitive industry. So yes, freelancing gives you room to nourish both your secular and spiritual self at the same time. No irony here.
What’s true though, is that if you lack a positive image of yourself—from your self-confidence, self-image, to your self-esteem—you’re bound to second guess or doubt yourself when no one is validating your worth, especially since your friends and family might not understand the value of freelancing as a career choice. Imposter syndrome starts to creep in, and by then the damage would've already been done and would take a lot of work to beat and undo.

3. Live by your principles, motto of a freelancer

You need to understand your value so that you can persuade others of your worth. Being assertive with your principles will help you filter out the difficult clients. As a freelancer, you need to be firm when you negotiate with your clients, standing your ground when you encounter those who want quality work for little money. You have to figure out how to keep your reputation intact, and one way is being firm with lines you won’t cross!

  • Assertiveness
    Make sure you’re being paid fairly. Price your work in a way that's proportional to your level of talent and the time you'll invest in the project. Don’t join the “race to the bottom,” it’ll only compromise your integrity and cause you trouble later on.
  • Freedom
    Don't allow yourself to be micromanaged by your clients, it can make you feel like you have no control over aspect of your work. It’s a pet peeve of many freelancers.
  • Effective Communication
    it’s the minimum threshold of a successful collaboration. You have to make sure you understand the client’s needs and at the same time get the client to understand your terms (with pricing, deadlines, contract terms, etc.). Clear communication is beneficial to both parties.
Further reading:How to Boost Your CV with Freelance Work

Moral of this story

Congratulations on sticking with me up to this part, I can see how determined you are to become a freelancer. I'm glad I didn’t scare you away as the things I mentioned aren't easily achieved. Honestly, I can go on and on about all the qualities you need to have as a successful freelancer, but I believe these are the essentials that will aid you in wading through the murky waters of the freelance industry. If you get cold feet after reading this, I recommend that you rethink what made you consider becoming a freelancer in the first place. Ask yourself, "Will becoming a freelancer help me reach my ultimate goal?"

In an upcoming article you’ll get to know the most up-to-date freelancing trends and how to utilize them for your benefit! So, stick with me as there’s still a long way to go. HANG IN THERE!

Further reading:Secrets of How to Become a Freelance Writer in College

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