Career Hacks

10 Qualities Every Freelancer Needs

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Being a freelancer requires tenacity, hard work, and a good mix of these 10 qualities.

Freelancers are self-employed, have a flexible work schedule, and typically work from home for more than one client at a time. Unsurprisingly, data from the most recent U.S. census shows experts predicting “that freelance businesses will grow by 1.5 million in 2014”.

Although visions of working from home in pajamas while doing laundry and catching up on Netflix paints an enticing picture, it isn’t often the reality. In fact, it is hard work (mixed with a few other key qualities) that every freelancer should expect and possess.

Take a look at the 10 qualities of the most successful freelancers, and decide if you fit the bill for the self-enforced work world.


As a freelancer, your success depends on optimizing your time to work smarter and not harder (or longer). With a gamut of productivity tools on the market, you’ll want systems that work for your unique circumstances. Whether by using project management software like Asana or harnessing the power of Google Docs to share documents, it’s all about streamlined processes that ease collaboration and efficiencies.

One of my top tricks is to time block my calendar for everything from detailed tasks, such as writing a prospectus, to scheduling my workouts at the gym. Things may shift a bit but protecting your calendar gives you a fighting chance to fit it all in.


You’re in business to make money and that means bringing in revenue and watching where you spend it. Forget the bells and whistles and start with only what you absolutely need to set up your business. Create a budget, stick to it and review consistently. If bookkeeping isn’t your strength, hire someone to do that job—don’t cut corners when it comes to managing your finances. And start paying yourself immediately, even if only a small amount in the beginning.


Author Jim Rohn once said, “Motivation is what gets you started and habit is what keeps you going.” Your habits determine your quality of life. Bottom line is that bad habits (negative behavior) produce negative consequences and conversely, successful habits (positive behavior) produce benefits and rewards.

What habits are holding you back? Do you habitually show up late for meetings? Are you slow to reply to emails? Do you procrastinate on paying your bills? By replacing these patterns with successful habits, you will build a solid reputation with your clients and take pressure off yourself.


Being responsible for every decision and having to resolve every bump along the way can take its toll. Being resilient means embracing feedback, using that information to choose a path, and executing with confidence. Most importantly, it means bouncing back after inevitable pitfalls.


Boundaries are essential for every part of your life, but even more so when you work from home. Have a dedicated room for your office or, if space prevents that, separate your workspace from everything as much as possible. House rules should dictate that there are no interruptions during your work time. If you are working with more than one client, you may need boundaries to allow dedicated time for their projects. If you end up with too many demands from one client, it can monopolize your time and short-change others of your time and focus.


Your clients will trust and respect you if you have honest, open dialogue with them. That means updating them on the status of a project and the hurdles that have presented themselves, as well as admitting your mistakes and even saying no when they ask for something that you can’t deliver. And never mind the “under promise, over deliver” mentality. Tell them what they can expect and over-deliver in the way of excellent work ethic, superior customer service, and an exceptional outcome. People will remember you and recommend you as someone with integrity when they can trust you.


Ongoing learning will continually expand your expertise, knowledge, and the range of tools that you use in your work. Whether through e-learning, webinars, accredited courses, or simply reading business books to harness new trends or technologies, exercising your brain will go a long way to ensure that you are current.


Whether creating a team of champions or getting a mentor, you will need to build quality relationships that support, encourage, and move you forward. Surrounding yourself with a positive network will not only elevate your knowledge, but also offset the feeling of loneliness that can result from working alone.


A freelancer needs to be flexible, with the ability to adapt. Clients will want to work with a problem-solver who can seek better ways to correct a situation and adjust the plan accordingly.

When juggling clients, a freelancer may also need to adjust their work schedule. If more rigid work hours are a better fit, this might not be the ideal career choice for you.


Leadership isn’t always just the act of leading someone else—often, it’s the ability to lead yourself. Your clients will hire you because you possess expertise that they need and can effectively guide them to successful results. True leaders think for themselves and have internal motivation to start new projects, and persistence to complete them. With strong leadership qualities in your toolkit, you will build value for your clients and elevate your reputation as a freelancer of choice.

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