Five Essential Skills Of A Successful Freelancer
There’s no one recipe for success in the freelance world.
Many factors can speed up or slow down your solopreneur journey.
And a lot depends on what YOU define as success.
But—like a pinch of salt in cooking—some ingredients will go well with any recipe.
With these five skills, you can never go wrong no matter what’s your business goal.
1. Embracing your fears
Fear might become your biggest enemy both in private and business life. Fear of failure or fear of criticism may paralyse you and take your breath away. It can become so powerful that you’ll lose control and start a downhill ride. While it’s impossible to completely get rid of fear, you can always learn to embrace it.
How to do it?
Start with small steps. If you’re afraid of failure, imagine your worst-case scenario. It will help you analyse all possible situations and prepare for recovery procedures. Usually, the worst-case scenario isn’t as bad as it initially seems. Very often it doesn’t happen at all. But by being prepared for the worst, you can reduce your fear and come up with a strategy to prevent potential disasters.
The same is true for the fear of criticism. No one judges you as much as you judge yourself. Instead of thinking about how others will perceive you, simply do your work as well as you can. In most cases, your actions won’t be evaluated at all because most people are too busy minding their own business. Everyone is so concerned with their own needs, goals, and problems that no one will give your speech, website, or social media post a second thought once they leave the event or shift their focus to a more important task.
2. Choosing progress over perfection
Perfectionism kills 80% of projects. I’ve experienced it first-hand. Not because I’m a perfectionist, but because I live and work with one.
It’s hard to collaborate with someone who requires 100% perfect results, 100% of the time. Collaboration becomes cumbersome when your partners can’t delegate tasks or when they’re never satisfied with any achievement. When a perfectionist ends up working with a realist, their worlds collide. Eventually, mutual frustration builds up and both parties decide they’re better off alone. But there’s another way.
Instead of aiming for perfection, focus on progress. For example, keeping to deadlines agreed upon with your customers probably plays a key role in your business. If your client asks you to create a project proposal by Thursday, submitting a perfect copy on Friday won’t be better than a good enough version delivered on time. You’ll need to define your priorities, set realistic goals, and get used to trade-offs. Good enough is sometimes good enough—you can’t be perfect in all circumstances. But you can shift your focus to progress.
3. Prioritising your self-care
A freelance business is only as healthy as its owner. You can’t serve your customers well if you don’t take care of yourself. To set the right tone for your day, start with a self-care routine. You don’t have to wake up at 5 am to squeeze in two hours of jogging, yoga, and meditation before your work (although it helps 😊), but you need at least 10 minutes for yourself to align with your goals and focus on what matters to you. Your morning routine can be as easy as thinking about what you’re grateful for, journalling, visualising your goals, breathing deeply, or simply enjoying a glass of water in silence.
When you take time to look after yourself on all levels, wonderful things happen. You can boost your energy and get ready to serve and help others—your customers, your business partners, your family, and other people around you.
4. Practising empathy
When I was a student, my biggest goal was to become my boss. I thought this would be the best way to avoid people. My dream quickly came true, but I was wrong. You can’t avoid collaborating with other humans, even if you’re a freelancer working from a home office. Maybe great social skills are not essential in your line of work, but you’ll always need some dose of empathy.
Researchers have found that empathy is one of the key skills in the business environment. With the ability to share another person’s experiences and emotions, you can become a more effective leader, a more productive team member, or a better account manager. In other words, empathy helps you communicate. It’s an important skill that can decide whether your business will thrive or die.
The best way to practise empathy is to listen. Truly listen. With patience, without judgment, without thinking about what you will say in response. This is the first step towards seeing the world from the point of view of another person.
5. Practising non-attachment
With non-attachment, you can see the world as it is. You can concentrate on the act of doing—whether it’s promoting your business, pitching your offer to new customers, practising yoga, or learning how to drive. It’s about focusing on the journey, not on the outcome. It helps you enjoy the process.
Non-attachment implies putting effort into whatever you do, but without being fixated on the result. In this way, you’ll learn to see everything from the right perspective: as passing clouds that come and go. It’s not the outcome that matters. It’s not the amount of money you earn, it’s not the ambitious goal you have to achieve, it’s not the difficult skill you can master. Being obsessed with your results will only lead to disappointment, especially if things don’t go as you had imagined.
When you focus on the task at hand, trying to perform it as well as you can, chances are you’ll end up with a decent outcome. On the other hand, when you’re only thinking about how rich, famous, or successful you’ll become after publishing your mobile app/book/online course/website, you might easily get distracted. In this state of mind, you’re more likely to rush through your projects, make bad decisions, or take unnecessary shortcuts.
Freelancing is not all roses and unicorns. But it can become more “rosey” and “unicorny” if you learn to enjoy the journey. When you embrace your fears, prioritise your self-care, focus on progress, and become more empathetic.
Do you want to find out more about dealing with fear, perfectionism, and other obstacles?
Grab a copy of my new book, “Successful Freelancer’s Mindset“, to discover a smooth road to your successful freelancer’s life.