Chances are you’ve spent most of your career so far working for someone else. Maybe you’ve been planning your freelance business in the evenings after work. Or perhaps you’re currently on maternity leave – or have taken time out after having kids.
What if working for an employer or managing a family means you don’t have the skills you need to run your own freelance or home business?
Well, the good news is, you probably do have most of these skills – and the ones that you don’t, you can learn (or delegate).
Top 7 Skills Every Freelancer Needs
It’s been proven in countless studies that multi-tasking is a bad thing in terms of productivity, action and achievement.
And, while I’m not advocating doing 100 different tasks at once, the reality is that as a freelancer, you are going to have to do WAY more than just your core work if you want your business to be successful.
In other words,
Congratulations on Your New Role as Chief Cook and Bottle Washer!
It’s not as bad as it sounds but you need to get to grips with the fact that you will need to deal with most of the aspects of running a business (funnily enough).
Marketing, invoicing, writing emails & web copy, managing social media, promotions, networking, winning new work, account management, IT issues, purchasing, stationery, petty cash…
You get the picture.
PROS = No two days are ever the same
CONS = You have to do stuff that you hate, or that you have no experience of (although you can turn that into a pro. It is personal development to learn a new skill after all!)
TIP: figure out what your strengths are and where you’re in need of help and either consider outsourcing (you can use low cost sites like UpWork or Ffiver to hire a freelancer to design your logo or put together a basic WordPress site) or invest in some training. Or a combination of both depending on your budget.
“But I HATE networking!”
Yep, sure, I know you do. But I’m not talking about sleazy networking events where everyone is selling and no-one is listening to each other. What’s the point of those?
Take a fellow freelancer for a coffee to pick their brains – or discuss potential collaborations.
Meet local small businesses (aka potential clients) at local chamber of commerce events.
Tell everyone that you already know what you’re doing, who you help and that you’re looking for business.
Remember, your network isn’t just your former colleagues or professionals – it’s everyone you know from your neighbours to other parents at the school, to your best friend from school.
PROS = you’re meeting people face to face and have the opportunity to create a great impression and stick in their minds – and vice versa.
CONS = often people struggle with the idea of networking – and if it really is out of your comfort zone, read these tips on how to get the most out of a networking event without ‘selling yourself’.
You have this fantastic idea for your freelance business, you have the logo in your mind, and are raring to go – but do you have a clear strategy of where your business is headed, what your vision is, who your ideal client is…?
Planning isn’t sexy. (Although I love planning!)
In my experience there are 2 kinds of people, those who hate planning – so don’t do it or do it badly. And those who love planning – so much so that they often get stuck tweaking their plans rather than taking action.
The truth is that there’s a balance. Make sure you strike it. Get your business objectives and goals written down, write down your marketing strategy – and you will hit the ground running.
PROS = you will know where your business is headed and why which will help you to focus on what you need to do to grow and stop you wasting time on activity that isn’t going to help you to achieve your goals.
CONS = there aren’t any cons to planning really – as long as you build flexibility into your plan with regular reviews, which makes sure that you can take advantage of opportunities and adapt to any challenges that come your way rather than steadfastly sticking to the plan regardless.
TIP: Read this and this and start to sketch out your business and marketing plans today.
Refer to my earlier point – lots of people feel uncomfortable ‘selling themselves’ and saying how good they are. But you know what, you need to get over yourself.
You don’t have to talk endlessly about being a ‘guru’ (frankly, I think that anyone who calls themselves a guru probably isn’t one) or about how wonderful you are.
You don’t have to be the bubbly person at the ‘party’ who everyone loves. Or the loud one who gets everyone’s attention.
Talk confidently about what you do – with the emphasis on the impact that you make to clients. THAT’S what potential clients are interested in.
“I provide small businesses with social media management services. My last client saw sales increase by 50% in the past 6 months, thanks to existing customers making further purchases from them as a direct result of more engagement via social media.”
Is a lot better than:
“I’m a social media maven. I love small businesses and I love Twitter. I can help you to love Twitter too by showing you the results regular engagement can have.”
Both might be true but the former talks about how what you do specifically helps your clients.
But I’ve not had a client yet. What can I say?
Are you doing what you used to do in your previous work? Talk about the difference your work made to your employer. You don’t have to pretend they were a client. People understand that everyone has to start their own business somewhere.
Doing something completely different from your former career?
Why not do some pro-bono work with the specific purpose of getting you a red hot testimonial? Just make sure that you agree the work in return for a testimonial and word of mouth recommendations if they’re happy (which of course, they will be) BEFORE you start the work.
PROS = if you don’t promote your business, you don’t have a business. If this is an area where you really don’t feel comfortable, ask yourself how you can get around that.
I hate making phone calls so I NEVER cold call (although it can have fantastic results, I know). I get around this by sending an email first and then a follow up call, which is far more within my comfort zone as I have a ‘hook’ to discuss.
If you’ve no social media experience – but that’s where your clients are – there are loads of resources online – free and paid – that can help you with this, so you can get started easily. Check out your local business groups to see what training they offer too.
CONS = promotional activity can take up a huge amount of time – and in the early days of your business, you will spend most of your time on this trying to win clients (or you should). Make sure you get a balance between promotions and delivering work to ensure that you can sustain the growth in your business.
TIP: in the early days, promotion will be a huge focus for your business. Once you’re up and running, make sure you schedule in an hour a day (at least) to keep your business name out there and make sure that you are consistently winning new business.
Get my free eguide Be A Client Magnet, that shows you how to successfully win more clients for your freelance business for more advice.
You will market yourself, have a business model that you believe in, and be the best at what you do – but people will still say no.
There will be times when you think you’ve made a perfect pitch to your perfect client and you just don’t get the work.
You will have a pricing structure in place and some potential clients will try to drive your prices down (stay firm unless it’s worth it to your business to take a cut e.g. it’s a good client to add to your CV).
TIP: Remember, when people say no it’s not a reflection of you or your skills. It may be that it’s not the right time for them to consider your services. They may not be able to afford you (in which case, they’re not your ideal client anyway). They may just have brought someone in to do what you’re offering. The list goes on.
People will say no and you don’t have time to be crushed by it. Be disappointed that you’re not going to get a chance to work with them and then move on.
6. A Sense of Humour
Don’t worry, you don’t have to become a stand up comedian and make your clients laugh – but when the computer won’t connect to your WiFi, and you have 3 hours internet research to do for a client; when your client comes back with YET ANOTHER set of changes; when your youngest has used up all of your paper on her ‘art project’ – you will need a sense of humour.
Try not to let everything that goes wrong send you into a tailspin. Your stress levels will thank you for it.
Clients understand IT issues – they have them too.
Try to smile – even if you don’t feel like it – when those changes come through – it’ll change your attitude to dealing with them.
And printing stuff off on paper isn’t good for the environment anyway.
All of the above of course leads me to possible, the most important skill of all:
Printer broken? Send it as a PDF.
WiFi playing up? Head to the nearest library or cafe.
Kids driving you crazy and you’ve a deadline to meet? Organise a playdate with their friends (at their friends house obviously!)
Of course, if you’re also a parent, you’ll already have this skills in spades.
These are the skills that I’ve had to call upon during my 7 years of running a freelance business. Are there any others you would add to the list?