Photo by Carol Magalhães on Unsplash

7 Things They Don’t Teach You In Freelance School

Brad Bartlett


7 skills you need to have so that you don’t blow up your freelancing career.

Ahh, the things they don’t teach you in freelance school, am I right?

(What freelancer school, am I right?!)

The skills you need to be a successful freelancer can take quite a long time to master. Sometimes, they’ll even change in the span of your career.

However, there are a handful of skills that all freelancers should have. Developing these skills will help guarantee your success as a freelancer and lay the groundwork for any future projects you take on.

However, before we get to the list, here’s a question to answer:

What are you hoping to get from being a freelancer?

  • Do you want more flexibility and control over how much or when, or where you work?
  • Maybe earn some extra income while still having plenty of free time for other things in life?
  • Need an extra stream of revenue because your job doesn’t pay enough, but don’t know where to start marketing yourself as a freelancer?
  • Want the satisfaction of doing something entrepreneurial and making your own decisions?

Maybe you just love the idea of working for yourself, and it sounds like a dream come true. But not having all the facts is dangerous, and you could find that freelancing isn’t what you expected it to be.

The answer to that question matters because it will become the fuel that drives your career. Your “why” will be what motivates you on the hard days and drives you to excel in areas that you are weak.

Now that you have your “why” in mind, here is a list of essential skills that I think every freelancer needs to know. If you’ve got some of these skills under your belt, you’ll be ready to start asking for more work.

But if you have all of them, well… it sounds like freelancing is right up your alley!

1. Time Management

Freelancers are their own bosses, so they need to know how to manage themselves.

This means being able to keep track of what you need to do, when you need to do it, and the best way to do it. (So you don’t burn out in a blaze of well-intentioned glory.)

With so many responsibilities, freelancers have a lot go on in their heads at once. That’s why keeping an organized list of your tasks is not only helpful but necessary.

It can be as simple as a list on your phone or an app that you use, or something more complex like project management software, but it needs to be comprehensive enough that you can take care of everything without getting overwhelmed.

Planning ahead will also help you lessen the chance of losing track of time and blowing deadlines.

If there’s a lot to do in the next week, set aside some time each day to work on it, so you know what you have coming up.

You can even split things by hours if need be, so every hour is accounted for no matter how much free time you have.

2. Social Media Marketing

Social media is all about networking.

While you can advertise your freelancing work on social media, the best way to promote your services is by doing it naturally.

Try sharing blog posts or articles related to your skills and talk about how they might be helpful for people you know could use them.

Use hashtags relevant to what you’re talking about and try to participate in conversations on Twitter and Facebook.

It also helps to have your own website, even if it’s just a simple landing page with examples of your work and an email list that you can use for reaching out later.

That way, people who may not be following you now can still check out what you’re offering later when you’ve built up a bigger audience.

3. Copywriting

The ability to write clearly and concisely is essential for any freelancer’s career, but particularly those who offer content writing services or copywriting.

Clients want their message communicated as effectively as possible, and that means you need to be able to explain things in a way that makes sense to them but is also easy for their audience to understand.

Writing should be pleasant to read and engaging enough that people want to keep reading.

If it’s technical or scientific in nature, you need to know the right terms without alienating people who aren’t familiar with your subject matter. You might even have to communicate complex ideas or emotions in just a few words.

When writing for clients, it’s not just about selling them your services.

It’s also about making sure they don’t feel like you’re trying to trick them into hiring you or that they’ve wasted their money because the copy they got was difficult to read and hard to understand.

Always remember, great copywriting is clear, concise, and thorough.

4. Graphic Design

More than ever before, professional graphic design is expected with just about any project you can think of.

From web hosting to content marketing, businesses are looking for people who not only know what looks good but can communicate with them to figure out what they need their product or website to look like.

Whether you’re working on a logo, creating infographics, or making Facebook cover photos, knowing how to communicate with your client is just as important as having the right design skills.

If you have the ability to create things that are visually appealing, customers will notice it and come looking for more of your work. Think about what you can do to make your portfolio stand out from the competition.

5. Proficiency in an Industry-Specific Coding Language

Here’s one you may not have thought of — learn how to code!

If your client is looking for someone to develop a mobile app, it helps if you know how to code. If they’re hiring an online marketer, having knowledge of HTML and CSS can also help you better understand what needs to be done and why.

You can then use that information when explaining things to your client in a way they can understand.

Knowing how to code is extremely helpful for designers, copywriters, and marketers, but it’s not the only language you need to know.

You’ll be amazed at how much you stand out from the crowd just by knowing a bit of coding.

Depending on what kind of work you’re looking for, knowing how to speak in an industry-specific language will broaden your options when finding clients who are looking for someone with your capabilities.

6. Networking

The best way to find clients is by referrals, which means you need to be able to network effectively with other freelancers in your niche.

The more people you know, the better chance you have of someone passing your name along when they’re talking about what they do and who they know that can help them.

You can also offer to share or trade referrals with other freelancers and give and get recommendations when you’ve completed a job together.

If you’re just getting started, it helps to reach out to successful freelancers in your industry and ask if they’ll mentor you. Offer to help them out or see if they would be willing to share their favorite resources with you.

The web is full of incredible freelancers who love to help one another. They may even be willing to look at your portfolio or do a test assignment to give you feedback and let you know what they think.

This is also a good opportunity for you to get an inside look at how they work and what it’s like to build their own freelance business so you can learn from their experience.

7. Finances

For many freelancers, it’s common to be their own accountant.

Not only are you responsible for how much money your business makes but you need to know what expenses are deductible and how much time you can spend on something without having to pay extra taxes.

You’re also responsible for keeping track of all the money clients owe you and making sure you get it.

If you’ve worked with a client for six months but haven’t been paid, they may not know the process for getting your money back (or even that they owe you money).

You need to make sure everything is documented and set up correctly so there are no surprises at tax time or when you’re trying to sell your business someday.

Plus, you’ll want to learn how to best build your own retirement accounts and develop your business.

Is Freelancing Right For You?

Everyone has skills and abilities that can be used to build a successful freelance career. Before embarking on your freelance journey, know what you’re getting into by knowing these 6 essential skills that will help you along the way.

If you are ready to take the jump, you can get help finding clients and managing your time by using a freelance platform like, Fiverr, or UpWork.

These platforms connect businesses and individuals looking for freelancers to solve a problem, sell a product or get a project done.

Remember that no matter what industry you’re in, there are people who need the services you can offer. Whether you’re just starting out or looking for a new challenge after years of working for others, know that freelancing is a rewarding career that allows you to work from anywhere and be your own boss.

What do you think? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!



Brad Bartlett

Professional Freelance Copywriter. ( Musings on #freelancing, #productivity, #self-development, and more!