In this guest post, Ksenia Larina, chief marketing officer for Lemon.io, discusses ways that a person can become a successful freelance developer. From building confidence to avoiding burnout, these tips can make the difference between a long-term freelancer or a short-lived tenure.
It’s pretty common when people think that to start freelancing as a developer, one needs to be good at coding.
Actually, that’s not the type of mindset that makes them successful.
If you are serious about freelancing, it’s crucial to treat it like a business. A set of hard skills such as the ability to build a website or understand a database can’t guarantee you a steady stream of clients and the highest rates. Soft skills are of huge importance too.
In this article, we are going to share a list of soft skills developers need to keep in mind (and master) to grow and sustain their freelance businesses. Let’s get started.
Now, you are probably wondering why curiosity is essential for a freelance developer. And that’s a good sign (because you are already curious). But seriously, a freelancer needs to always be eager to learn a lot and be interested in technology, innovations, and new solutions.
This will become a huge part of your life as a freelance developer. If you are curious and your work is almost your hobby, you won’t be mad and disappointed seeing new technology coming up and you being unable to satisfy clients’ needs.
Also, this character feature may lead you to join some professional communities, where you will exchange experience with your colleagues and learn even more.
2. Self-assurance and confidence
As a freelancer, a person who sells services, you need to have confidence in what you offer. If you don’t believe in your ability to do something, potential clients won’t either.
It’s no surprise that freelancers face self-esteem issues more often than full-time employees because there might be weeks and even months of success and a brilliant job. But then, for some reason, they can have less work or no projects at all. This “dry spell” period may cause their self-esteem to drop. They start to think that the lack of tasks results from being lazy or not good enough at what they do.
To avoid such a scenario, you need to understand that confidence is not a gift. You can learn and improve it.
Here are a few practical tips on what you can do to increase your self-confidence as a freelancer:
- Find the time in your schedule to learn and improve your skills but don’t limit yourself to hard skills. Learn to talk with confidence, persuade people, and sell your services.
- Keep your portfolio up to date by including new work that reflects your abilities, interests, and values.
- Network in dedicated communities and always ask for feedback from clients to be able to grow.
3. Sales and negotiation skills
As we already mentioned, knowing how to present and market yourself to potential clients is crucial to freelancers.
If you want to feel happy looking at your bank account, you need to master sales & marketing. If you want to have the luxury of picking the best clients and projects, you need to incorporate sales & marketing in your work as soon as possible.
Indeed, everything related to selling may feel scary, but if you choose to keep silent, you won’t be able to grow your freelance business.
We have a few quick tips that will help you market yourself better. Just choose which ones suit your goals and implement them consistently.
- Create an online portfolio on your personal website or a reliable freelance platform
- Be visible where your target audience spends time
- Leverage social media
- Get your reviews from clients
- Ask for referrals
- Pitch your services on a consistent basis
Keep in mind that it’s easier to work with your current clients further rather than finding new ones. So, you will need to take care of your current clients to keep them in the long run. Here is when you need to master excellent negotiation and communication skills.
4. Time management
When you are a freelance developer, you usually have flexible working time. On the contrary, your clients might have full-time jobs. So, they want you to be sensitive to deadlines and deliver tasks on time. Therefore, it’s essential to be able to manage your time correctly.
Estimating how much time you need to finish a particular task is a really useful skill for a freelancer.
On top of that, even if your client doesn’t have tight deadlines, wrong time management may lead to a situation when you have tons of things to do in a queue and have no time to relax or learn something new.
Use these time management tips and stay productive during the workday:
- Track your time
- Turn off notifications on your smartphone and don’t check social media while working
- Take breaks. Ideally, these should be some different activities. Choose walking or exercising over surfing your Instagram feed
- Consider giving yourself set working hours
- Use time management and project management apps such as Trello, Asana, Toggl
- Prioritize your tasks
- Consider delegating some tasks such as accounting, marketing, or something that is easily replicable
- Find your most productive hours during the day
- Change where you work
- Always have days off
- Don’t overbook yourself
5. Stress management and finding work-life balance
Freelancer work can be stressful. And stress is unhealthy.
If you have a bad month or failed with a project, don’t blame yourself for it but take the time to think and analyze what you can do to avoid such mistakes in the future. And if you have a great month and earned a lot of money, don’t forget to acknowledge the success and praise yourself for doing such a good job.
Many freelancers fall into the trap of following the money. They are scared that it would stop if they slow down. However, if you feel exhausted, don’t keep forcing yourself because you will burn out quickly. Learn to listen to your body and relax.
Remember, even if you always enjoy your freelance job, you can do numerous other things in life each day. Go out, play guitar, work out, go to the beach, cook, play with your dog, celebrate with family and friends.
Ksenia is a brand owner and CMO for Lemon.io with 7+ years of digital marketing experience. Being a writer herself, Ksenia seems always to know what kind of content a website needs the most – and when. And launching a recognizable brand with its voice and quirk is something Ksenia can do best. In fact, this is how Lemon.io was born.
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