In an increasingly crowded market, you have to be the whole package.
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5 min read
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Freelance business owners can and should build incredible soft skills, whether you're on the side or full-time. Whether you choose to stay in business for yourself or ultimately turn it into a full-time position with sophisticated soft skills, you are competitive in the marketplace.
Employers are increasingly struggling to find the right fit for soft skills. Three out of four reported that the youngest college graduates simply didn't show up with them. And even if you do freelance for these companies, you need to be able to use soft skills to get the job done, especially if you want the opportunity to do repetitive work. And trust me, that's what you want.
Soft skills encompass non-technical aspects that are essential to working with a client or as part of a team – collaboration, prioritization, time management, communication and critical thinking. When you come to the table with the technical ability to get the job done and the soft skills, you can become a sought-after freelancer overnight.
Related: 4 Soft Skills You Will Need to Improve Your Career
Listen carefully to read between the lines. In open communication, customers and team members often reveal valuable details that tell you exactly where other people have missed out. Make a note of these when you are making notes about potential projects or expectations.
If your prospect was completely upset that their last freelancer made them spooky, email your recap and suggest next steps within hours of the meeting closing. It shows that you have listened and that you are organized. There are so many people who do not listen to these pointers, let alone use this knowledge to their advantage. This will set you apart from other freelancers, and it takes so little effort that it's a breeze.
Ask for feedback
Customers who don't give you feedback? You miss the chance to hear constructive criticism and to make your own work more objective. First of all, it's really painful to hear someone say that your work product is not perfect. Adjusting to reasonable feedback and the ease of work are as rare as diamonds in some freelance niches. Being able to hear feedback and not take it personally makes your job a lot easier and opens all kinds of doors.
When I started writing my first book and preparing for my first TEDx talk, I was immensely grateful to have had people criticizing my work for years. It had honed my ability to know what to back off and what was really fair feedback that would make the final product better.
If your customer doesn't give you feedback, ask for it! Even if they don't have negative feedback, it is very helpful to know what they love about working with you. This information can be converted into testimonials or even used to attract future customers. Think how great and honest it would be to be on your latest pitch when clients say you are the easiest contractor they have ever worked with. Let others sell your soft skills whenever they can, and in this feedback loop, you pull that data away.
Improve your time management skills
If you can streamline your own business, then potential freelance clients want some of that magic in their own business too. If a customer asks you how to prioritize, you can provide specific answers. "I get up early and work all day" or "I only do one thing at a time" won't change it. Discuss how systems and structures not only determine what to do first, how to do it, what tools to use, and how to speed the process without compromising.
When customers ask for it, use specific cases. Discuss how you recently helped another client achieve a goal before a deadline or with far less stress than the client expected. This is one form of social proof that is really powerful, even if not directly from that other customer.
Related: Soft Skills Critical to Career Growth: Here's Why
Nobody is perfect, but the more you can look for learning opportunities, the better your soft skills will become. Look for learning options that will help you develop strategy, work with others, or communicate with others. This can be done as a mentor or even in a group learning environment. It can also be helpful to make up for the lack of work experience when you're first starting out.
Soft skills can even make your personal life more successful, but they are becoming increasingly important in the professional world. Wrap up the one-two in skills and soft skills to generate retainers, referrals and testimonials in your freelance business and you will become an asset for your clients and their companies.