What soft skills do you need to be a successful independent worker?
Is there a formula for success in flexible, independent work?
If you’re thinking about diving into life as a flex worker, you may be wondering whether there is a secret sauce for independent success. Considering that anyone thinking about freelancing should have mastery level skills in their areas of expertise, insight into what makes one person more successful than another can be elusive.
Studying commonalities among successful professionals brings it into focus and helps illuminate the secret sauce for freelancing success.
People who strive to deliver the highest value in their professional or occupational capacities are often conscious about cultivating soft skills—those you take with you regardless of your role, the organization or sector where you work. However, when it comes to a job, whether it be as a full time employee or independent contractor, those skills can be an asset.
As the number of people freelancing continues to climb (at most recent count 56.7 million Americans report as freelancers), your soft skills can help distinguish you among a sea of freelancers.
The 4 soft skills flex workers need the most
1. Personify a service mentality.
It doesn’t matter what you do or who your customers are, in your professional role, you’re going to go further if you’re always thinking from a customer service perspective. For instance, when a client or prospective client sends an email, respond in a timely fashion (i.e., within minutes or hours, not days) and with a level of formality (i.e., not as if they are your colleague). People focused on customer service say “thank you” instead of “no problem.” For insight on adopting a service mentality, read this great column by customer service expert and keynote speaker, Micah Solomon.
2. Have a curious mind that’s ready to learn.
As a freelancer, you may be part of organizations and/or doing work in fields that are new to you. For most people, the experience is akin to having a bunch of jobs and starting new ones all the time. Bringing an attitude of open-mindedness and an eagerness to embrace and react to new information will go a long way. CareerBuilder provides an overview of the value of curiosity and fast learning. For an in-depth exploration of learning agility, check out this article.
3. Adopt entrepreneurial thinking.
Being a freelancer is different from being an entrepreneur. But applying an entrepreneurial approach to your freelance work will help you go farther. Entrepreneurialism means being visionary and strategic. Freelancers need these qualities to drive success and to help them in continuously delivering great work for their clients. Entrepreneurialism also means having an attitude where you get it done, even though there are tasks you may not see as your usual bailiwick, such as invoicing, planning and executing your website or online portfolio, managing your digital presence, along with a host of other, not-so-sexy tasks.
4. Recognize yourself as a brand.
Your understanding of personal branding can drive you in building your soft skills. If you’re looking to learn about branding for freelancers, you can start with this helpful article. Figuring out your brand isn’t complicated -- it comes down to presenting your core professional purpose authentically and consistently. Taking a thoughtful approach means you’ll make it easier for clients to see a clear connection between their needs and your unique ability to fulfill them.
If you embody a service mentality, have a curious mind, are ready to roll up your sleeves and present yourself as a brand, then you’re already on the right track. If you haven’t thought much about any or all of these soft skills, it’s never too late to begin cultivating them. In the process, you’ll deliver a better quality of service and deliverables, ultimately enriching your freelance life.