Everyone dreams of being their own boss, but taking the leap into freelancing is daunting at best. One question looms over the head of every aspiring freelancer: Will I be good at this? Your ability to design is obviously the biggest factor in your success, but there are other skills that are integral to being a happy, lucrative freelancer. So before quitting your day job, here’s a quick checklist for the top 5 skills needed to succeed at freelancing!
Many designers are more used to working in a dark corner, torching their eyes with the glowing light of a Macbook on their lap then they are to being in a crowded room full of business owners. Freelancing is built on the ability to obtain clients, and sadly they don’t just walk up to you and ask for work. You need to be proactive and network, which means brushing up on your communication skills. And once you land the client, you need to be able to clearly understand the project scope and articulate your thoughts and opinions of the designs you send to them.
A great way to learn how to network, talk to strangers, and speak your thoughts clearly, consider joining Toastmasters. They have local groups that regularly get together to practice public speaking in a constructive environment.
Although freelancing sounds like a dream job, there are going to be days or weeks where you feel like you’re screaming into the void. What keeps you going during these stormy times? It’s not the money, but rather the passion behind your craft. If you find designing boring, or you lose interest after 4 hours of work, chances are you’re not going to last in the freelancing world. A 9-5 job that allows you to forget your work once you clock out is probably better for your bank account and your sanity.
Unlike regular jobs, the only accountability you have in freelancing is your client. That means you need to stay on top of things and deliver by your deadlines. It might even mean you need to learn how to establish deadlines so you don’t end up cramming 13 days of work into 24 hours. A good habit to get into is utilizing time management tools so you don’t overbook yourself. Trello is a solid choice, or even taking advantage of something simple like Google Calendars.
Whether you charge a flat rate or an hourly rate, producing work at a slow rate doesn’t help anyone. Either you’re going to be working far too many hours for what you’re getting paid, or you’re going to have angry clients who are upset that you take four times as long as someone else and they’re paying dearly for it. Now this isn’t to say you should do poor quality work. But being able to work efficiently becomes a prized skill that sets you above other designers, both in the freelance world and the agency world.
Some things that help streamline your work is time management tools, having an organized filing system on your computer, and learning shortcuts for Adobe programs (check out a useful chart here.)
You’re not going to be a household name overnight. Heck, designers are rarely household names, no matter how incredible they are! So remaining confident in your skills despite the lack of recognition keeps the job from draining your passion. Most importantly, this doesn’t mean being satisfied with where you’re at, but rather pushing yourself to improve. Seeing the quality of your work grow is the most satisfying confidence boost you can receive. Having a Behance portfolio is a good way to receive constructive feedback, as well as plugging into a Reddit or Dribble community.
Improving these five skills can help make you a better designer and a happy person. What are some of skills you think are crucial to successful freelancing? I’d love to hear your thoughts and highly value shares! And if you like what you see here, check back next week for more tips, tricks, and inspiration.