It can be difficult to start out as a freelancer, especially with little or no experience. As you start planning your freelance career, you may be wondering, “How do I gain experience?”.
Thankfully, gaining experience as a new freelancer isn’t a lost cause. In this article, we will look deeper into ways to gain experience as a freelancer, as well as the essential skills that every freelancer needs to succeed in the industry.
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Essential Skills for Freelancers
A person can possess two types of skills: soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills refer to personal attributes that may help a person to work well in a business context, while hard skills refer to abilities that were learned or trained for and qualify a person for a specific job.
Both soft and hard skills can be learned, and regularly improving at both is incredibly important for professional success and growth. Below are some examples of soft skills that freelancers should possess:
- Good communication
- Time management
- Attention to detail
- Conflict resolution
The above soft skills are essential for succeeding in a freelancing career. For example, all freelancers should be able to motivate and discipline themselves to complete their work on time, and they should possess good networking skills to help them acquire new clients and make valuable business connections.
How to Gain Experience as a New Freelancer
Depending on your chosen niche, there are a variety of different ways that you can gain experience as a freelancer. Gaining experience and building up your portfolio are essential steps when becoming a freelancer, and below are some ways that you can do so.
Offer Your Services Pro Bono
‘Pro bono’ means that you are willing to complete work at no cost to the client. If you are making the transition from traditional work to freelancing, then it can be easier to offer your services for free without risking your financial stability. Find potential clients, explain that you are looking to gain experience, and will complete a small project for free in exchange for honest feedback and a testimonial.
Freelance Job Boards
You can search freelance job platforms such as Upwork for jobs aimed at entry-level workers or smaller projects that you think match your skills. This allows you to gain practical experience while still earning some income.
Network and Collaborate
Connect with other professionals in your industry, both online on platforms like LinkedIn and offline. Offer to collaborate on projects or offer your assistance to established freelancers or small businesses. This not only helps you learn from experienced individuals, but also expands your professional network.
Take up some personal projects to practice and showcase your skills. For example, if you are a copywriter, write some copy on different topics and use that in your portfolio. You can present this work to future potential clients to provide a reference for your skills.
One of the most important things you can do as a self-employed professional is continuously improving your skill set. You can do this easily by listening to podcasts, reading blogs online, or taking short courses.
Our Freelance Foundations course is free of charge and aims to provide you with all the essential skills and knowledge you need to start your freelance business.
Internships & Apprenticeships
You can also search job boards for internships and apprenticeship opportunities within your niche. Some of these may even provide you with some income while you complete your learnership. This can provide valuable hands-on experience and mentoring opportunities.
Starting out as a freelancer may seem challenging, but gaining experience is possible with the right approach. By focusing on developing your essential skills and following the steps outlined above, you can gradually build your experience and portfolio.
Remember, persistence and a commitment to self-improvement are key to long-term success as a freelancer. With persistence and dedication, you can establish yourself in your industry and find your first client.