Few and far in between are the freelancers who do just one thing. Because we are essentially one-man (or one-woman!) companies, it means that whatever our specialty, we often are required to do other things, perhaps as additional services for customers, but also marketing our services to potential clients, making bids and proposals, doing our own bookkeeping and accounting, accepting payment for services rendered, and so on.
Previously, I talked about the importance of (and how to find) your niche market and the skill set to succeed in it, which forms the core of your business as a freelancer. But there are also other, auxiliary, aspects of your business that you can’t afford to ignore or neglect if you want to become a successful self-employed professional. And there are skill sets you need to develop to supplement that core business and make it more profitable.
Let’s take my life as a blogger for an example. Apart from MommyGinger.com, I also blog for ManilaReviews.com, so one way or another, I’ve been blogging for several years now. It’s all too easy to think that setting up a blog only requires that you be a good writer, but you’d be wrong about that. Here are a few basic skill sets every blogger should have:
- Writing: You don’t have to have perfect grammar, but having the skill to effectively communicate what you want to say is vital to attracting and keeping readers. You also need to develop a particular voice and style for your blog, one that helps you connect not just with your readers’ minds but with their hearts as well.
- Photography: In this day and age, not many people will read a solid block of text on a blog without any pictures to speak of, so you’ll have to know what attracts the eye so you can take or select good photos. This becomes even more important for food, travel, fashion, and other lifestyle blogs.
- Technical: Yes, you can hire a designer or buy a template for your blog, but while you don’t need to learn to code, you still need to know enough to make small tweaks and adjustments to make your blog your own and troubleshoot when need be. It can be time consuming and expensive to go to a designer for every little change you want to make.
- Marketing: If you want your blog to pay for itself, you’re probably going to be looking at advertisements and sponsorships; for personal blogs, endorsements are great too. If you want to maximize earnings and preserve the integrity of your blog, you need to have the marketing savvy to understand how the content you publish as well as the products and services you endorse fits your brand.
So just from this one example, you can see how I need to wear many hats as a blogger—and my blog is not my only business, so you can only imagine the madness that results if I don’t manage my time and my clients’ expectations properly!
Still, this multi-hatted nature of freelancing presents a two-layered challenge if you’re just starting out. First, you need to determine which skills to hone so they do you the most good and you earn the most money, and second, you’ll need to actually learn and sharpen those skills.
For the first, think of drawing a flower the way we learn it in kindergarten. The center is your core competency or specialization — your niche in the market place. Inside that “center” are the skills you absolutely need to keep your business robust. Then draw the petals around the center. Each can contain a skill set that attaches to that specialization and makes it more appealing to your clients. Now, you may need to focus on certain “petals” over others, but it’s still good to know what those other aspects are—and where to source people with those skill sets should you need them. One way to do that is to expand your network, to talk to people who are experts in those fields, join meet-ups (the Freelance Blend monthly meet-ups are great for these) or online groups.
To get a crash course in necessary skills, you can do your own research or look into workshops. In fact, you may want to check out the PayPal Freelancer Community Workshop series—more on this later. Apart from workshops like these, you can also join online courses such as those offered by Udemy, Coursera, and more. You can also find lots of video tutorials on YouTube as well as informative and inspiring information from TEDTalks and the many, many podcasts produced around different industries and interests. In this day and age, you don’t need to go back to school to go back to school, if you know what I mean!
I will always encourage exploration as a freelancer: Learn a little about a lot of things so that you can make an informed decision about the few things you want to learn a lot about. And you never know when those little bits of knowledge will come in handy when dealing with a new client or business opportunity.
And yes, you may find yourself feeling like the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland from time to time, especially if you’re a mom! We are constantly putting on and taking off different “hats” or roles, sometimes even wearing more than one at the same time.
But one of those skills you’ll have to learn is organization and time management—to find a method to the madness. In the same way you try on many different hats, then settle down with a collection of headgear that complements your looks and personal style, you should also explore the different skill sets that relate to your career, then develop the ones that you are comfortable with (or which you actually enjoy), as well as the ones that help you grow your business.
Do you have any tips or resources you’d like to share with me and other Mad Hatters reading this? If you’re keen to learn more about things that you’ll need to flourish as a freelancer, i’ll be having another session on November 18, 2017 for the PayPal Freelancer Community Workshop series. The details are on this link: http://bit.ly/PayPal5thFreelancerWorkshop
Continue to follow also the other freelance experts Fitz Villafuerte, Abe Olandres, and Liz Lanuzo. Check out the full schedule below, and join the PayPal Philippines Freelancer Community group on Facebook for updates on the venues. Hope to see you there!