In order to become successful at freelancing, you need a mix of certain qualities. I’m not talking about skills like web development, accounting, or sales.
Business is based on trust. Trust in that each side in a transaction will do what they say they will, or at the very least that they will act sane.
With any type of service business, including freelancing, trust plays a bigger role than usual.
Your client has to trust you to do what you say you do. That you know what you’re doing. That you will make things better for their business.
With services, there isn’t a tangible object the client can see, hold, and touch. They are relying on your skills and expertise to accomplish their goal.
For them to accept and pay for something like that, they have to believe in you. They have to trust you.
I’d say 90% of someone’s trust is built up over time based on honesty.
One lie can destroy years of trust and goodwill.
The first quality you need is honesty. Without that, you become the stereotypical consultant who parachutes in, charges and arm and leg, and leaves everyone wondering what the hell you actually did.
Desire to do good
This leads to the next quality, a desire to do good.
You have to want to help your client.
They have a problem you can solve and you want them to hire you so you can fix it for them. Making their business better. Improving their life.
You can’t just be in freelancing for the money. Eventually you’ll run out of “fresh meat” clients and you’ve have to move onto another scheme.
(And freelancers and consultants like myself get to come in and clean up the mess left behind with the client)
Just like how a doctor should always avoid doing harm, you need to desire to do good.
Big and little picture thinking
Another quality of successful freelancers is the ability to look at both the big picture as well as the small details.
You should be able to zoom into the detail work and see how something is put together. And you should be able to zoom back out and see how that impacts the business as a whole.
Some of the smartest technical people I know have a hard time with freelancing because of this. They zoom in on the details and do amazing work, but they can’t zoom out and relate those details to the business. Without someone else on the team to help them, they ended up losing the project.
If you had to choose, it’s better to be able to see the bigger picture than the details. The bigger picture is what your client sees. The bigger picture also has a lot more areas of opportunities to adjust, tweak, and improve.
These three qualities aren’t the only things you need to be successful as a freelancer. But time and time again, these three come out as big influences on how successful you can be.