Remote work has garnered lots of attention since the beginning of the pandemic, chiefly because many people have been forced to work from home. We’ve heard common pros and cons coming from work-from-home mothers and CEOs alike, who are failing to adapt to this otherwise beneficial practice.
However, these are people accustomed to office work and traditional “work values.” Freelancing is another matter entirely.
Let’s discern among the two terms first:
- Remote work is any kind of work performed remotely. While it doesn’t equal the term “work from home,” it is commonly confused with it. You can work remotely from your home, backyard, a nearby café or from anywhere else on the globe.
- Freelancing or, more precisely, online freelancing, is a subtype of remote work. The difference between freelancing and other types of remote work is that it doesn’t have to be coupled with a contract with one company. Many freelancers work on a per-project basis, and many more still transform into digital nomads.
In this sense, freelancers need to build a reputation to be offered better projects/jobs, meaning they need to continually improve their skills and have decent marketing skills to be able to represent themselves successfully. On top of that, they need to be tech-savvy, no matter their profession, and always have a backup option should anything go wrong.
Let’s see which skills are important for freelancers to be successful.
1. Hard Skills
The hard skills freelancers need don’t really differ that much (if at all) from the hard skills office workers need to have. These are linked exclusively to the choice of education and vocation. Common occupations among freelancers include writing, editing, tutoring, marketing, customer support, graphic and web design, virtual assistance, photography, sales, bookkeeping, accounting, sales and coaching. Any kind of consultancy is also common.
However, freelancers absolutely must be tech-savvy and versed in a variety of online tools, particularly communication tools and at least common freelancing apps (Slack, Asana, Trello and similar).
2. Soft Skills
When it comes to soft skills, on top of the usual ones deemed beneficial in any business environment, freelancers also need to learn to be culture-sensitive because, sooner or later, they will find themselves working with clients from different countries and often in international teams, keeping in touch exclusively online.
Interpersonal communication and critical thinking, therefore, top the list of soft skills all freelancers should develop, regardless of their profession.
Additionally, keep your operations lean, and become an excellent judge at what costs are absolutely necessary, and which are not.
3. Time Management Skills
As we’ve all seen during this pandemic, newbies to remote work often have difficulties with time-management skills. The chief reason for this is rooted in the misconception that freelancers tend to procrastinate a lot.
This view is not only offensive but is also removed from the truth. No matter where your workplace is, the tasks you need to perform remain the same.
That being said, people who decide to become freelancers and have no previous experience with performing their tasks under different rules, absolutely need to learn to manage their time.
This doesn’t apply only to the work schedule; rather, ALL daily activities need to be accounted for, at least in the beginning.
This is especially important for freelancers with more or less a regular routine (as opposed to per-project freelancers who shift their schedules all the time to accommodate projects), e.g, customer support representatives and virtual assistants because if they fail to prioritize and allocate sufficient time for each task, they won’t be able to cope.
4. Negotiation Skills
As mentioned above, freelancers don’t have the benefit of salespeople advertising their services. That’s why it is absolutely crucial for every freelancer to learn to negotiate.
First, in order to be able to make a living from freelancing alone, freelancers need to know how to convince clients that they are the right person for the job. In most cases, this “convincing” takes place online, meaning that traditional body language won’t help much.
“Netiquette” has its own rules, ups and downs, and there are numerous little factors to consider, too. I.e., it is generally considered unprofessional to attend an online meeting with your kids playing in the background. Sometimes, even a background showing anything else than a blank wall will be deemed unprofessional.
On top of that, negotiations freelancers face are somewhat different than what office workers come across. For starters, usually everything starts in writing (application process, a proper CV and portfolio, etc.), meaning that freelancers also need to not only be excellent communicators (which many people nowadays, sadly, aren’t) but also familiar with the appropriate business language.
Depending on the potential employer, the approach will need to change. Also, much depends on the client’s nationality. E.g., correspondence with a Briton is way different from correspondence with an American. Some clients prefer professional etiquette, while others adopt a more laid-back approach.
Simply put, freelancers need not only to be versed in different communication techniques and have decent negotiation skills, but they also should be able to balance between these variables.
5. Decision Making
There are many decisions to make when you’re a freelancer. This transcends the usual perception of task and time management in more ways than one.
For starters, freelancers need to learn to read people. Not every client is honest – let alone fair – and not every project is what it seems to be at first glance. Even if only one of these factors goes astray, consequences may be disastrous.
It’s fair to say that communication breakdowns happen more often in online communication. Because meeting people in person allows discussion participants to clarify any potential misunderstandings on the spot. In written communication, this is rarely the case. Things can go south easily, even with one seemingly small miscommunication.
Therefore, freelancers need to know when to accept a project and when to let go and, more importantly, need to be able to make decisions quickly.
Decision making is a skill people polish their entire lives, but for freelancers, one simple miscalculation may make all the difference between a whole month of plans and making ends meet.
Freelancing is a great opportunity for anyone to make changes to their lifestyle as they see fit and live just the life they deserve. However, in order to reach the level where projects will keep coming back to you on a regular basis, you need to invest significant effort in time to learn multiple skills that will help you even perform better, and still allow you the freedom to use your leisure time how it should be used.
Our advice is: keep your mind sharp, be familiar with online trends, learn new skills regularly and know technology. Learn to adapt quickly to any changes, keep your operations lean, and you’re good to go!