5 Skills To Help You Succeed As A Freelancer - RD249

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Without these skills, your design business will struggle. It sounds so easy. You’re good at designing, so why not start freelancing or start your own design business?

For the record, my definition of a freelancer is someone who does design work on the side while working another job in or possibly not in the design space. If you design things for clients on your own, and it’s your only source of income, meaning you don’t have an employer elsewhere, you are not freelancing; you are running a design business.

But regardless of whether you call yourself a freelancer or a design business owner. Working for yourself requires a different skill set than simply being a good designer.

You could have the most amazing portfolio of design work. You could be a wiz in Photoshop or Illustrator or InDesign, or maybe WordPress, Webflow or whatever tool you use. It doesn’t matter what skills you have as a designer. If you want your business to succeed, you have to run it like a business. And to do that, you need business skills.

There are numerous business skills that will help you get ahead. Most of them, such as file management, you can learn along the way.

However, there are five essential skills you need to succeed. Skills that the most successful designers use, be it freelancer or owner of a design business. They know the importance of these skills, and they know the success or failure of their business depends on their ability to master them. If you don’t possess these skills, you need to develop them ASAP if you want to ensure your endeavour's success.

So what are these all-important skills I’m talking about?

Communication skills. Building Relationships. Thinking Strategically. Time Management skills. Money Management skills. 1 Communication Without good communications skills, your business is doomed to failure. The ability to communicate properly is one of the most important skills you can have as a business owner.

Every client you talk to, every design proposal you write, every pitch or presentation you make will succeed or fail based on your communication skills.

Not only are good communication skills required to articulate and understand ideas. But clear communication can also save you and the client time and money.

The better you are at communicating, the more comfortable clients will be working with you. The better you are at communicating, the more professional you will appear to people. The better you are at communicating, the easier it will be to build and foster relationships with your client. Plus, good communication skills can help you when dealing with different personalities or when discussing difficult topics.

Many designers are introverts. Myself included. But being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t have good communication skills. You might have to work harder at it than an extravert does, but that’s easily accomplished.

Improving your communications skills will help you stand out from other designers who lack this skill. Not only will you be seen by your clients as a good designer, but also as a strategic partner and problem solver.

How to Improve your communications skills. Use a tool such as Grammarly to check your written communication. Reading books such as Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People. Join ToastMasters or hire a speech coach. Record your conversations and play them back, listening for areas you can improve on. (you need a client’s permission to record them) Improving your communications skills will go a long way to ensuring your business’s success.

2 Building Relationships. Have you heard the saying, it’s not what you know, but who you know?

Relationships are one of the key elements to any business’s success, even more so for service-based businesses like yours. The most successful designers out there know the importance of building relationships. Not just with clients but with everyone they meet, including fellow designers.

Every person you meet is an opportunity to start a relationship. Why is this important? Because every connection you make can lead to referrals, new clients, new projects, friendships, maybe partnerships and who knows what else.

If you’re a people-person, this should be fairly easy for you. But even if talking to people comes naturally to you, you have to learn to do it with purpose. Stay professional while you build your rapport. Building relationships takes time. But the payoff is enormous.

My Podcast Branding business grew to what it is today because of the relationships I’ve made in the podcasting space. You never know when one of the many relationships you’ve nurtured will lead to a new client or project. So keep building them.

Even when a relationship isn’t working out, it should still be nurtured as you back away. That means being cordial and considerate, even while turning down a client. You don’t want to burn any...
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