8 important soft skills freelancers need to have

Every freelancer needs to have a set of skills that go beyond the hard skills of their trade. In this article, we’ll look at some of the best soft skills that freelancers need to have in today’s market. You’ll be a much more well-rounded candidate for jobs by cultivating these talents.

Leon Cordier
Leon Cordier

When you think of freelancing skills or most in-demand skills in today’s labor market, you often hear about programming. While programming is a good skill to have when looking for freelance work, there are other skill sets out there that can be just as profitable. Hard skills like programming are only a part of the puzzle when it comes to the freelancer tool kit.

Increasingly, employers have recognized the need for soft skills in the workplace. Having the ability to work with a team and communicate is just as important as knowing how to write code. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best soft skills that freelancers need to have in today’s market. By cultivating these talents you’ll be a much more well-rounded candidate

What is a soft skill?

So, what are soft skills? They can be defined as skill sets that are desirable for all possible professions. Rather than being technical skills that require certificates and training, these skills are more personal or even interpersonal. Often this means skill sets that reflect your personality and productivity, as well as how you navigate social networks.

Hard skills aren’t the only skills that can pay the bills. Soft skills like communication, thinking creatively, and teamwork all have their place in the work environment. Just because you are a solo professional doesn’t mean you work alone. These are the best soft skills to learn as a freelancer.

Effective communication skills

Communication can be summed up as the act of giving information to someone else by various means. Chances are that there’s going to be a point in time where you’re going to have to do this for one of your jobs, regardless of the field you’re in. Being able to communicate effectively requires fine-tuning several little skills together.

Communicating effectively leads to a clearer understanding and makes things smoother. From a business point of view, all transactions are a result of and require communication to facilitate the deal. Good communication skills also mean being able to impart information to clients and team members alike.

Practicing good communication skills means practicing things like:

  • being an active listener
  • practicing empathy
  • treating people with a level of respect
  • understanding body language
  • displaying confidence
  • finding the right medium to communicate certain messages.

While practicing all these little things may seem tedious, the reward will be well worth it.

Problem-solving skills

Autonomy as a freelancer has its perks, but it also means that you are going to have to figure things out for yourself. Having the skills to solve problems means that you can be more independent. It means having solutions to the difficult questions your team and your clients have.

Having the ability to solve problems makes you an indispensable asset to whatever team you’re working with. Your peers or clients will be confident that whatever assignment you are given will be handled by someone who can assess complicated situations and come up with solutions. It also means that you’ll have a lot more leeway with your work because people trust that you can handle anything that comes your way.

Proper problem-solving skills require someone who can analyze problems and also someone who can research to dig up information. You should also:

  • Try being more knowledgeable about the technical details of your field
  • Practicing solving problems will give you confidence.
  • Be decisive with your decisions.

Maintaining a positive approach

While it may seem cliche on the surface, maintaining a positive approach is a great skill to have as a solo professional. It means that people are more willing to work with you. You’ll see opportunities that others don’t, and you’ll have the mindset to go and make it happen. You’ll notice a marked difference in your mindset when you look on the brighter side.

Having an optimistic approach makes you more likely to apply for that freelancer gig instead of talking yourself out of it. It gives you the confidence to overcome obstacles rather than feeling defeated. It’ll keep you going even when dealing with your own mistakes, giving you the motivation to improve.

Being positive means practicing positivity. You should do things like keeping stock of all the good things in your life, surrounding yourself with positive experiences, and pushing yourself to do more. Also, you should learn to be more forgiving of people to let go of extra baggage. Another key skill you can learn is learning how to deal with rejection or criticism. Being positive requires changing your outlook on things, but it will benefit you in the long run.

Teamwork skills

Teamwork makes the dream work. It’s very likely that even as a solo worker that you’ll be collaborating with a team when doing your work. That’s why it’s one of the best skills for freelance work. Having the ability to do well with others and excelling within your role is a great skill to have for freelance work.

Collaboration is important for a variety of different reasons. It helps generate new ideas, it helps solve problems, and it supports morale. Being a part of this process and contributing to it is key to any sort of productive relationship. It also means that you’ll be more effective and supported when you’re part of a good team.

Teamwork skills overlap with the skills required to communicate effectively. Effective teams communicate well, so having effective communication techniques is a big plus. Being able to perform your role confidently and reliably is another key aspect of being a good team member. Collaboration is a key aspect of business practices, so you should ensure that you can work well with your future teams.

Ability to accept and learn from criticism

Accepting criticism has to be one of the hardest skills to master in life, both professionally and personally. Somehow you must have the emotional maturity to separate the sting from the critique to hear advice that can make you a more productive worker. It’s not glamorous but it’s one of the most important skills you can master.

Learning how to accept constructive criticism makes you better at your job. You’ll be able to learn from your mistakes and the wisdom of others. By being able to digest criticism and apply the suggestions in a meaningful way, you also show teammates, and any other actors you work with that you listen to their suggestions and take them seriously.

The first step to improving how to accept criticism is about self-control. You’ll need to find ways to not take the critique personally and to manage your initial reaction. It’s important to be humble and not dwell on criticism. Once you can manage this, then find ways to process the actual criticism in a way that you can apply the advice if the critique was constructive. It’s hard to do, but learning how to handle criticism helps you get better at your craft.

Stress management

Managing stress is key for your professional development and your personal health. Professional life today is filled with enough problems that can cause the build-up of stress, leading to poor health and burnout. Freelance jobs, in particular, can be especially stressful for solo workers because of the added responsibilities you take on.

Learning how to manage your stress is key to a productive career and a good life. There are several different methods to choose from such as meditation, going to the gym, or just decompressing after work. Find what process works best for you and build it into your schedule. Low-stress levels lead to a better working environment and less compromise in your life.

Ways to practice managing your stress include;

  • Finding ways to limit the accumulation of it (this might mean taking the extra time to organize your work or focusing on one task at a time to avoid headaches)
  • Avoiding work conflicts that aren’t important
  • Learning how to set boundaries between your work and your life
  • Maintaining a positive attitude.
  • And finding a way to balance your career and your personal life healthily.

Managing creativity and innovation

Freelancer jobs require having a certain degree of creativity and innovative thinking. Creativity comes in many fashions: making observations, connecting things, experimenting, and creating new things or processes. Creative and innovative skills are among the best skills to learn to make money.

Creativity doesn’t just have to mean being a clever writer or making sketches. Creativity is a skill that other skills are built on. For example, being creative helps make you a better problem solver.  Managing these skills and knowing where best to apply them can make you a more productive worker as well.

While some people may be naturally creative, you can learn how to flex those muscles. Try taking different approaches to your tasks or charting them out in visible ways to see if you recognize different patterns. Exercise your brain regularly by reading, writing, or some other hobby that encourages thought. Something as simple as changing your environment can even be stimulating, so be sure to see what fits you.

Leadership skills

Leadership skills are some of the most profitable skills to learn. That’s because being a leader requires the combination of so many other skills and talents that it is difficult to master. Being a leader can take different forms, but it requires you to be able to organize people towards reaching a goal. Being a leader can mean being a visionary or a logistician or being a cheerleader, but it all has the same end goal.

Being able to take command of a project or a situation is a great skill to have because it means things get done. It’s essential to any group or organization, uniting the workers while creating a good and productive environment. Good leadership is infectious in that it inspires other members of the team to be more productive, helping reinforce a positive environment.

Leadership then should be included in the top in-demand freelance skills. Being a leader means being decisive and being responsible for your decisions. It also requires you to be an effective communicator and team-builder. You must also have the ability to demonstrate your ability to get results and solve problems. It’s not so much a single skill but many others rolled into one.

That’s why practicing leadership skills requires you to take the lead on certain projects or in certain circumstances, especially when you have technical knowledge of the issue. You should then practice those other composite skills: team building, communication, problem-solving, teaching/mentoring, and targets. It’s probably the most difficult skill to master, but that’s why good leaders are in short supply.

Applying these skills

When you read articles about the “most in-demand skills for the future”, you’ll often encounter a list of hard skills that you should find online courses or workshops for. While it’s important to have the appropriate technical skills for your career, it’s equally important to develop your soft skills.

These skills, unlike hard ones, are applicable regardless of your field. They are always useful and always in vogue. Most importantly they are real skills that you can train and develop given the resources and time. So, when considering if you have the right skill set for a job, take into account things like your ability to work within a team as well as do the job.

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Leon Cordier

I'm an American guy living overseas that likes to write for a living.