I fell in love with the freelance lifestyle in college. While I took a few of my courses online, I was also able to secure remote internships and part time freelance jobs. My flexible, yet fulfilling and lucrative remote work lifestyle allowed me time to also volunteer at multiple sites in town and spend quality time with my family. I quickly learned that the remote work lifestyle was for me; it was flexible and allowed me the quiet time to be productive at my craft. After a few years of mixing on-site positions with freelance ones, I’ve learned that I’m not only proficient at remote work; it’s my passion.
Not everyone views the freelance lifestyle as ideal. One of the biggest questions I would receive from friends was, “How do you work and study at home all day by yourself? Don’t you get bored?”
I’m an introvert and a creative person, so the answer is a resounding no! In fact, this kind of quiet, focused, inward type of working has always made sense to me. My inherent self-reliance has made remote work very natural, and my disdain for working in a crowded, bustling corporate office matches the inverse, confused look on my extraverted friends’ faces.
Many people claim that they could never work remotely, especially alone, because they would not be able to focus or stay motivated. Some people are afraid that they won’t be able to blur the lines between professional and personal. These are valid concerns, and of course, the freelance lifestyle is not for everyone. In my years of remote work, I’ve found that there are 5 main traits that the remote worker or freelance entrepreneur should possess in order to succeed in such an environment. These traits are:
- Independence — with an ability to collaborate
A freelancer isn’t necessarily anti-social. Remote workers should be able to collaborate well, both with clients and project teams. He or she must also be comfortable with being alone for much of the day. If you thrive professionally when you’re physically surrounded by co-workers, the freelance lifestyle may not be the best choice for you; or, as an alternative, you can try a co-working or public space.
As human beings, we’ll always have an innate need to connect with others from time to time to network and receive a fresh perspective. This is normal and much needed! Webinars, face-to-face networking groups, and business lunches can be a great way to recharge with other remote workers — this will allow you to stay inspired and on top of developments in your industry. You may also be able to receive advice about projects and clients from fellow freelancers who have done it before.
2. Flexibility — with a touch of firmness
Flexibility is key. Your schedule and types of projects can change day to day, or week to week. You may even have to change your business model or project management process in order to better your business. Either way, confidence and the ability to make quick decisions are crucial.
Firmness comes in when you must say no. Even though it stings, you may be at capacity and unable to take on a project during a busy time. On the flipside, some clients and projects are simply not a good fit. It takes courage and self-understanding to know which projects aren’t going to work for you. It pays to prequalify prospects, sniff out bad clients, and, just as importantly, know your personal limits.
3. Self-motivation and strict adherence to deadlines
It’s YOU that must prioritize your deadlines and commitments, and no one else will do it for you. The only nudge you are going to receive from a client will be more in the form of a shove, asking, “Where is my project?”
You need to be great, not just good, at managing your schedule and subsequently, the stages of your project. And if you do ever blow a deadline, you have to be responsible and mature enough to own it. Strategies to avoid breaking deadlines include padding them by 25%. That way, if you deliver early, you look like a hero.
If you’re not excited about your work, and can’t self-motivate yourself to do it — you’re probably not in the right place anyway!
4. Organization Skills
Success doesn’t spring from chaos! It doesn’t erupt from chaos, either. Organization skills are crucial to run your own show, especially if you own the business. Because you need to deliver and run the business itself, you need to keep all of your ducks in a row at all times.
Luckily, organization is a skill you can learn. You can even take classes on organization. As long as you find a way to stay disciplined and organized that works for you, you can be a successful freelancer.
5. Confidence and patience
If you’re creative, patience may not be your #1 skill! However, this is another skill, like organization, that you can easily cultivate if you enjoy and desire to thrive in the remote work lifestyle. Practice patience with projects, clients, and people who collaborate with you. This is the only way to maintain crucial, long-term client relationships as well as collaborative relationships with other creatives.
In addition, the patience needed to run a business that will inevitably ebb and flow, mixed with the confidence above, will allow you to stay level-headed in a world all your own.
Putting It All Together
While remote workers and freelancers ascribe to a variety of skill sets, there are a few soft skills that should be apparent (or developed) in every professional so they can focus and thrive in a remote environment.
By staying organized, setting schedules, staying confident in your work, and having the entrepreneurial mindset to always look for service holes and new ways of doing your work, you can enjoy the remote lifestyle in a bright, opportunistic, growing economy of freelancers.