What Does It Take To Be A Freelancer?

Here’s the thing:

While freelancing can be one of the most rewarding and lucrative career options for creative professionals…

…it comes with significantly more responsibility than working a regular 9-5 job.

Alongside juggling the various different facets of your business, you’ll also need to be prepared for adversity in your career (such as fluctuations in your income.)

If you’re thinking about taking the plunge with your freelance career, you’re probably wondering exactly what it takes to be a freelancer. Do you need to be an expert in your field? Do you need to have a courageous personality?

In this edition of Freelancers’ Corner, we’ve once again brought together our incredible global freelance community to give you the lowdown on exactly what it takes to be a successful freelancer.

Ready? Let’s get started!

What Does It Take To Be A Freelancer?

Vlad Savva, Music Composer in Russia (VladSavva)

You have to master a valuable skill.

Vlad highlights the need to become a master of not just any skill, but a skill that others will find valuable. Whatever industry you’re looking at breaking into, make sure to become good at the aspects of your craft that clients are specifically looking for.

For example, a budding web developer might consider specializing in full-stack development in order to make themselves as well-versed and valuable to a range of clients.

Jelena Vukolic, Designer in Serbia

A lot of courage and believing in yourself, your ever growing talent and dreams.

While freelancing can offer incredible benefits, the road to success is certainly not an easy one.

With fluctuating income, high competition and the need for self-reliance, it’s all-too-common for freelancers to begin questioning their skills and abilities.

While self doubt is a completely normal aspect of freelancing, it’s important to keep things in perspective and remind yourself why you’re passionate about your craft.

As Jelena points out, your skills as a freelancer are ever-growing. By remaining confident in your ability to adapt and improve, you’re bound to make it past the tougher points of your freelance career.

Raf Tad, Animator in Armenia

A dream.

Much like Jelena, Raf notes the importance of having a dream and being passionate about what you do.

By choosing a field you’re truly passionate about, you’ll be intrinsically motivated to work each day and see yourself to success.

Nikki Jain, Graphic Designer in India

A bit of courage, a bit of passion, a little calculative risk, hard work and good amount of hope.

Nikki points out that it takes a well-balanced set of skills to be a freelancer.

While you’ll need to be courageous, you’ll also need to be calculated. 

While you’ll need to be hopeful, you’ll also need to be hard-working. 

By developing a good balance of soft skills, you’ll be able to use them in conjunction with one another to succeed in your freelance career.

Florence Hill, Musician in the Dominican Republic

Without a doubt, it takes a lot of discipline, dedication, commitment, persistence, and most important of all: good communication skills!

Much like Nikki, Florence highlights the need to have a well-balanced set of soft skills.

However, she particularly notes the need for good communication. 

Communication lies at the heart of your freelance career, enabling you to:

  • Spread the word about your freelance career
  • Sell yourself to prospective clients
  • Provide a good client experience with your ongoing projects

By being able to communicate effectively, you’ll almost-certainly be able to manage all the soft aspects of your freelance career.

John Meiring, Animator in the UK

It takes concentration and patience, a lot of patience. Especially with yourself. In essence it also takes a lot of dedication to get the job done in any way you can, with freelance there is no such thing as ‘impossible’ with timing and dedication.

John emphasizes the need to have a can-do attitude as a freelancer.

Client work is often highly-varied and given on a tight deadline. As a result, you’ll need to be both focused and adaptable to when juggling different projects to make sure they’re all done to the best standard possible.

Jake Schneider, Music Producer in the UK

Two main things:

  • Passion about the work you’re actually doing.

  • Excitement over fear of the unknown, as you don’t know where your next project will come from

Jake notes the need for a passionate personality as well as the ability to thrive in uncertain conditions.

Many freelancers are intrinsically-driven by uncertainty as it motivates them to maintain a steady stream of client work. Therefore, if you’re someone who’s motivated by uncertainty, it’s highly likely you’ll thrive as a freelancer.

Jake rounds things off by explaining how freelancing is a way of life rather than a traditional job:

It’s all a mindset. You have to love your work and the spontaneity of being a freelancer and then you will enjoy it. Being a freelancer is a way of life as opposed to a “job”.

Miloš, Music Producer in Serbia

To be honest, If you want to succeed as a freelancer, you will have to be more experienced than average. I’m speaking from experience because I still haven’t done any jobs, and I’ve been doing music production for 2 years now.

Miloš urges prospective freelancers not to jump the gun on their career to early. In order to go it alone as a freelancer, it’s imperative to have a good handle on your industry before you make the leap.

Many freelancers will first work for an employer in their chosen field before moving to full-time freelance work. While it might not seem ideal, working for someone else for a year or two will fast-track your knowledge and provide you with the necessary skills to be a successful freelancer.

Justin McPhee, Animator in Australia

Passion, hard work, and getting your name out there. The best freelancers love what they do; it can help get you through the hard work needed to get better and better. In short, if you have something that you love doing, and can find people who would want that from you, that’s a great start!

Justin shares an important sentiment:

The best freelancers love what they do. 

If you truly love what you do, the necessary soft skills will fall into place.

You’ll be personable with clients because you’re passionate about their project. Similarly, you’ll be hard-working in all aspects of your busines because you truly enjoy what you do for a living.

Kyle Misko, Composer in New York

Besides providing most excellent service that you can, it most certainly takes being able to communicate at the most excellent level possible. Following communication – we have networking – which goes hand in hand with communication. Being able to not only speak well with your clients once you are working together, but also learning HOW to approach your clients, and, of course, what networking is all about – where to find them.

Much like Florence and Nikki, Kyle notes the need to develop a set of closely-related soft skills that work hand-in-hand with each other.

He also shares some valuable insight into how to be a good communicator:

Finding your inner voice and your personality, and do your best to bring it to words on screen as this is most always your first way to communicate. Those who know how to sell their product, are, for good or bad, prevail over those who can only get the work done well.

Finally, Kyle outlines the need to be both patient and dedicated in order to be a successful freelancer:

Patience and dedication, as this work doesn’t come easy, as anything else there with a worthy result. It takes time, especially in the beginning, some are more lucky than the others, but just like with anything else – developing your own method, learning and watching out for what’s going on in your area is always crucial.

Matt Banky, Songwriter in the UK

A real passion and love for what you do, to do it all hours of every day. You also need to be switched on in terms of business to make sure you can offer a deal that’s fairly priced, but one which allows you to survive and make a career.

Aside from being passionate about your field, Matt stresses the importance of knowing your worth as a freelancer.

While you won’t want to be unreasonable with your prices, it’s important not to undersell yourself. While many freelancers think that undercutting the competition is a way to bring in clients, it’ll diminish your worth in the long-term and make you less attractive to more lucrative clients.

Yevgeniya Tyumina, Videographer in Spain

It takes a lot of courage to start. It’s very risky, but absolutely worth it. You cannot just start being a freelancer overnight; you need to prepare yourself both psychologically and professionally. It’s a different lifestyle than working a 9-5.

Yevgeniya argues that it’s crucial to be both patient and determined in order to be a freelancer. As keen as you might be to get started with your freelance career, it can take years to hone your skills to the point of being able to go it alone.

If you’re willing to put the work into preparing for a successful freelance career, you’ll most-definitely develop the skills required to make you successful when you finally make the leap.

And there you have it! A full account of exactly what it takes to be a freelancer If you enjoyed this post, why not check out some of the other posts in our Freelancers’ Corner series?

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