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Top 5 skills you need as a freelancer

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

Working as a freelancer has its fair share of perks. Apart from choosing when to get up in the mornings, you have flexibility in deciding where to work, what to work on, and control of your financial future

In 2015, a study by the freelance job board Upwork reported that about 32% of the Australian workforce were engaged in freelance work, equating to nearly 4.1 million Australians. 

With the rising number of millennials embracing the “gig economy”, and more businesses open to outsourcing expertise, freelancers may just be the workforce of the future. It’s possible to gain a lucrative career out of “being your own boss” – but of course, this comes with having a crucial set of both soft and technical skills under your belt.

Below, we discuss the top five skills one needs to survive the world of freelancing. 

5 must-have skills for freelancers

  1. Time management.
  2. Social media marketing.
  3. Communication.
  4. Finance.
  5. Persistence and motivation.

1. Time management.

woman with glasses looking at watch

It’s important to treat your freelancing career like you would a typical office job. Keep a daily or weekly to-do list of all your project goals and urgent deadlines. Once you’ve prioritised your tasks, stick to a strict schedule each day. Makes sure it maximises your productivity and maintains life balance by organising your freelance work alongside other daily commitments. 

Like with any professional job, ensure you stay on task by eliminating any distractions. This could involve unplugging from social media or simply getting out of bed to work, avoiding the temptation of sleeping in or lazing around. 

Maintaining structure in your day is vital. You’re now wholly responsible for how you use (or waste) your time. The deadlines aren’t as daunting once you’ve established a disciplined routine, and you can confidently take on large amounts of client work while remaining a reliable, efficient worker. 

2. Social media marketing.

social media concept

When self-employed in a one-(wo)man business, the ability to sell yourself is critical. 

Though traditional networking events are a great way to meet potential clients (as well as experts in your field), research has shown the increasingly high success rate of finding freelance work online. In fact, 68% of Australian freelancers agree that online technology has made it easier for them to find new client work. 

Take advantage of this online market by having a good grasp of productive social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or even Instagram. These sites are high-traffic channels for promoting your services, creating online campaigns, and making online connections with others in your field. 

On top of that, get familiar with freelance job boards such as Upwork, Freelancer, and FlexJobs.

With millions of Australians uniting on social media, it’s vital to get your freelance business onboard. Savvy social media marketing can help you get in touch with relevant businesses in need of your skills – or who can refer you to others that do. At the very least, you can build an active, positive reputation online for yourself, and increase your visibility among others in your industry. 

3. Communication.

young man speaking on the phone

Whether you’re meeting clients in person or sending out business e-mails, communication is a mandatory soft skill for any freelancer.

Studies show that after one negative experience, 51% of clients decide to never do business with that individual or company again. It is therefore important to know how to build strong, positive client-freelancer relationships with others; conveying a clear understanding of their needs and expectations. 

Freelance coach Diana Marinova notes four key ingredients to quality communication skills in business: clear, professional language; replying efficiently; asking as many question as necessary, and ensuring that all agreements are established in writing. 

Having excellent writing skills will also help you stand out from the competition. Knowing how to write in a coherent, concise, and error-free manner not only further conveys your professionalism, but is largely more effective in selling your ideas and business proposals. 

4. Finance.

money management concept

Working in freelance comes with tons of freedom – but simultaneously at the loss of company perks such as paid leave, super contributions and having someone managing your monthly pay. 

You are now fully responsible for your financial stability, which means developing a firm grasp of financial management and basic accounting skills

Firstly, it’s crucial to establish how much your services are worth. Ensure you aren’t underselling yourself, but that you aren’t overselling (and, as a result, turning off potential clients), either. Figure out how much your competition charges; either by reaching out to freelancers in your field or consulting salary websites like PayScale, and set your rates accordingly.

Secondly, learn to budget. According to Forbes, financial experts recommend living by a 50/30/20 rule – this means aiming to live on 50% of your income, having 30% set aside for “flexible expenses”, and putting 20% to your savings. Sticking to this can help you achieve your long and short-term financial goals. 

Finally, learn how to manage your taxes. Ensure you’ve got your ABN set up, get familiar with PAYG instalments, and know what you might be able to claim as freelance-related expenses on your tax return. Making personal contributions to your super is also highly recommended. For first-timers who might find this process overwhelming, you can always consult with an financial expert or accountant to help you out. 

5. Persistence and motivation. 

motivation concept

Last, but most certainly not least: it’s imperative to stay persistent on this career path. While it comes with the flexibility every worker desires, freelancing can ultimately be a risky, unstable venture. But for those who push through – it’s absolutely worth it.

Studies show that 58% of freelancers who moved from a traditional job wouldn’t choose to go back, no matter how much their gig paid. It goes to show how rewarding this occupation can be, despite the uncertainty and financial insecurity. 

However, when setbacks arise, one must strive to keep focus. Concentrate on your goals and continuously reflect on the necessary steps to achieve them. Dress for success, even if you’re working from the comfort of your own home. Psychology research shows how this actually has an impact on your professional mindset. Set up a proper office for yourself, and consistently aim to improve your skillset. 

As mentioned above – treat your newfound role as a serious business, and the results will surely follow.
Freelancing can be a tough gig, but there wouldn’t be a booming industry if it weren’t as fulfilling. Having these standard skills are a surefire kickstart for any budding freelancer – and in time, you may just become your own boss at what you love. 

Think you’re made for a freelance career?

One vital element of freelancing is continuously upskilling in your field; this helps you get ahead of the competition. Here at Upskilled, we have over 80 qualifications  – from business to natural therapies. Delivered flexibly online, you can study at your own pace, while still tending to your freelance commitments. Level up your skillset and get started on a course today. 

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*By providing your information, you agree to our Privacy Policy and to receiving email and other forms of communication from Upskilled. You are able to opt-out at any time.