9 Freelance Skills and Steps to Develop Them (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 31 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Freelancers are self-employed professionals who offer services based on their expertise and talents to a number of clients on a flexible basis. Many individuals choose to work on a freelance basis because they want more control over their work-life balance. If you're interested in becoming a freelancer, exploring some hard and soft skills that are beneficial to freelancers can help you succeed. In this article, we discuss nine important freelance skills, provide steps to help you improve these skills and explore some popular freelancing jobs.

9 essential freelance skills

Here are nine essential freelance skills that freelancers can develop to increase their success and earning potential:

1. Communication

Freelancers communicate with clients directly to understand their expectations and requirements and to outline and clarify project details, such as deadlines and budgets. Having outstanding written and verbal communication skills can ensure that freelancers understand what a client's goals are and can provide useful updates on the progress of a project. Communication skills are also important when freelancers are trying to secure new clients and build long-term relationships with existing clients. Here are some examples of communication skills:

  • Active listening: This skill involves listening attentively to a speaker to understand what they're saying clearly.

  • Presentation skills: This refers to an individual's ability to hold people's attention by making a presentation interesting and engaging.

  • Negotiating skills: Negotiation is a key communication skill for resolving conflicts.

Read more: 4 Types of Verbal Communications (With Examples and Tips)

2. Industry knowledge

Since freelancers usually work independently without having managers and supervisors to guide and give advice, possessing rich industry knowledge is an important skill for freelancers. Industry knowledge refers to the accumulated knowledge and experience in a specific industry and often involves more than academic content learned in school. Here are some examples of industry knowledge:

  • knowledge about clients' needs and requirement

  • knowledge about particular marketing tactics

  • knowledge of market and competitors

3. Time management

Freelancers usually work on more than one project concurrently and have several deadlines to adhere to. Having strong time management skills is essential for freelancers who want to succeed in their industry. You can consider creating a monthly and weekly schedule that allows you to better organise your time and remind you of important deadlines. Here are some other methods that you can use to manage your time better:

  • Minimise distractions: Digital gadgets usually distract us from focusing on our tasks. You can try to put away your phone for a certain time during the day, which helps you focus on a particular task.

  • Create a to-do list: Having a to-do list can keep you more focused on more important your tasks. It helps you to identify which components are most important.

  • Break things down: You can try to break a large project into smaller chunks. This helps you monitor a project's progress better to ensure it stays on track.

4. Accounting

Equipping yourself with accountant skills is essential if you're self-employed. As a freelancer, you may have many clients, which involve tracking different invoices and payments to monitor your earnings. Consider using spreadsheet software to track your various clients, projects and payments. This is also essential for calculating any taxes required to be filed.

5. Marketing

Marketing skills refer to the ability to promote products and services. Although you may not be a marketing specialist, having good marketing skills allows you to attract more potential clients to become more successful in your field and increase your earnings. Actively promoting yourself can help you reach more clients. For example, if you specialise in an artistic field, consider developing an online portfolio for clients to review your skill and style. If you're in software development, consider creating some personal projects that display your technical abilities in programming.

7. Technology

Freelancers often rely on using computers to communicate with their clients and they usually complete their projects using various computer software. For example, freelance graphic designers usually use design software on their computers to create products. Ensure to develop relevant technology proficiencies to help you more efficiently complete your tasks. Consider taking classes or obtaining certifications to develop your skill set.

8. Writing and research

If your expertise involves content writing and copywriting, having excellent writing and research skills is essential. For example, as a copywriter, creating grammatically correct and engaging content is essential. Having strong research skills also allows you to find information from reputable and reliable sources, which is required in many industries, such as financial analysis, marketing and product development.

Related: 20 Marketing Skills to Highlight on Your Application

9. Creativity

Clients often look for freelancers who have creative mindsets. Being creative allows freelancers to brainstorm unique project ideas while still meeting clients' expectations and requirements. Providing innovative and effective ideas can help you impress clients who may refer you to other businesses to expand your network.

4 ways to improve freelancing skills

If you want to know how to improve your freelancing skills, here are four methods that you can consider:

1. Find a mentor

You can find a professional mentor that you can learn from to improve your freelancing skills. This can be someone who you admire. You can reach out and arrange an informal meeting with them. A professional mentor can give you advice on your career path and provide guidance on how you can develop your skills based on your own personal experience.

2. Observe other freelancers

Consider observing other freelancers. You can use professional networking sites or become a member of a professional organisation for your industry to connect with freelancers in your field. You can observe how they manage different projects and what methods they used to improve their industry knowledge.

3. Enrol in a class or training programme

Hard skills are more difficult to improve and learn by yourself. If you want to improve your technical skills, you can enrol in a class or training programme which provides you with a more practical learning experience. You can consider enrolling in online classes that fit your working schedule. Certification courses are also a great way for developing your skills while also improving your qualifications.

4. Ask for feedback

When you turn a completed project into a client, ask them for feedback. Receiving feedback can help you better determine which skills you can improve. Apply any feedback, suggestions and notes you receive from clients to future projects to continue improving your skills and the quality of your work.

Related: How to Ask for Feedback After an Interview (Plus FAQs)

Freelance jobs that you can consider

If you want to change your career and are considering working as a freelancer, here are some freelance jobs that you can consider:

1. Freelance graphic designer

Average base salary: $304,128 per year

Primary duties: Freelance graphic designers are responsible for conceptualising visuals based on clients' requirements, such as designing company logos and websites. They help clients choose the appropriate colours and layouts for each graphic and test graphics across various media. Some also work closely with copywriters and creative directors to produce the final designs.

Related: What is Freelancing?

2. Freelance photographer

Average base salary: $158,863 per year

Primary duties: Freelance photographers work closely with clients to discuss their expectations and understand how the clients are going to use the image. Photographers then select the appropriate photographic subjects and carry out research to prepare for an image shooting. After the shootings, they may use photo manipulation software to edit the images to get desired results.

3. Freelance translator

Average base salary: $311,321 per year

Primary duties: Freelance translators translate a wide range of documents, including commercial, legal and financial documents. They carefully read through the original documents and translate them to another language while retaining the original meanings. To ensure the accuracy of their translations, they also research legal, technical and scientific phraseology to find the correct translation and edit the initial translation.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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