Trying to get a freelance job? Oh sure there are so many jobs that you can see on job boards which could even be the reason why you thought of trying to be a freelancer. Seeing so many available jobs will surely make you think that you have something to land on when you try freelancing. Maybe you are right but maybe you are wrong! Because being hired isn’t that easy. Getting jobs is about skills. Skills are your passport to get through and standout from the rest of the freelancers.

So, if you just want to do freelance because you have seen that there are wide ranges of jobs online, then you are on the wrong track. You have to prepare in order to join the elite world of freelancing. It’s not just like getting a pretty dress so you can be welcomed in a party. You need to be wearing the right shoes and you should bring a passes with you. Then that is the time you can enter the world of freelancing. Your shoes are your self-confidence and guts. Your passes are your skills. You need these to get jobs. Remember that you will be hired for a job to perform skills.

What are Skills?

what are skills

Skills refer to one’s ability to do something with minimum time and effort. This is an ability acquired through practice, study and sustained effort to come up with good work results. It also refers to one’s capacity to carry out complex activities. Well, to make it simple, skills is one’s competence and ability. It can be a domain-general or domain- specific skill. When we speak of domain-general skills it refers to skills that can be used in all or for many types of jobs like time-management. Meanwhile, domain-specific skills refer to a skill that can be used for a particular job like logo designing. Say for instance, you are a freelance designer. Your domain-general skills may include project management, time management, good communication skills and good public relations. Your domain-specific skills are graphic designing and logo designing. The combination of different skills will tell you what career or job is right for you.

Now let us look into the types of skills. There are four fundamental types of skills.

1. Foundation skills. This is the basic type of skills that is needed by everyone in order to work. It involves how you deal with people, how you come up with ideas, how you think and what personal qualities you have. These four areas are needed in all types of job both online and offline.

2. Marketable skills. This refers to skills where you can make money from. This includes all the foundation skills and all the skills that you can see on job requirements.

3. Transferable skills. This refers to skills that you can use to many type of jobs or you can transfer to one occupation to another.

4. Motivated skills. This refers to skills that you love doing like diving, knitting, and others. This could point to your hobbies too especially if you are really good at it.

Knowing the different types of skills can help you identify what your skills are. Some of us are not yet totally aware of what you can really do. Being oblivious of what your skills and capabilities is one of the reasons why you are unable to get a job. You might be applying for the wrong job where your skills are not suited. So, it is important for you to determine your skills.

How will you know your skills?

How will you know your skills

Knowing your skills is not an easy task. But you need to determine them for it would guide you on the right career for you. People who are successful are those who are able to clearly pinpoint their skills. This happens since they are able to work really well on tasks for it is their forte. Some people who have jobs may not be happy with what they are doing and might not even excel because of their inability to determine their skills. So, to avoid being “misplaced” for a job, you need to know your skills. How?

You can do these steps:

1. Know yourself. Failure to do this will make it totally hard for you to determine your skills. So be sure that you know yourself well, your interests and your personality. Make a list of it and check on the skills you posses for each personality or interest.

2. Know your strengths. Your strengths are those points where you are good it. Check on what these are and determine the skills you use for them.

3. Know your priorities. Each of us has different priorities. What’s yours? List them and write down what skills you need to achieve them.

4. Look back to previous jobs. As you do this, write what your functions are for previous jobs. Write the job title, what tasks you do and then the skills needed to work on those tasks. Repeat creating that list for all the jobs that you have undertaken, including your current job.

5. Consider your hobbies. Your hobbies are not just for fun and leisure. There are also skills that you perform and acquire from them. Write down your hobby and then the skills you use for it. Repeat that for other hobbies you have.

6. Include volunteer work and community activities. If you are part of a club that extends help to others and conducts different activities for the community, you can also include that. Write down the activity, your key role and what skills you used for it. Do that to all the other activities you did.

Well, if you have started writing, I am sure you have written so many skills already. A very long list of skills will amaze you that you can actually do so much! Yes, unless you try to assess yourself, you really won’t be able to know what your skills are. Your list of skills is now too long to present in a resume. See? You are capable of doing lots of things. Of course, you won’t be posting all those skills in your portfolio! Clients and prospect employers will go dizzy reading your long list of skills. Now, choose those skills that are marketable and transferable for these are the ones you need to get a job. To make it easier, select those that will match your job goals. So, I bet you are now ready to get a job. But hey, not yet. It’s 2013!

So what if its 2013?

So what if its 2013

Well, aside from the fact that it is another new year for all of us, it also means that there is something different going on for freelancing and for other jobs as well. Do you know what that is? Every year, there are new and better technologies coming, creating new jobs and needing new skills as well. For 2013, the skills you have last year may no longer be suitable for the jobs this year or shall I say, your skills will need more improvement in order to have a sure spot on job boards.

In this time of computer technology, freelancing is a sure hit. Whatever freelance job you are into, you are surely using the computer but it is not just computer skills that clients look for. What matters is how one will be able to apply it with the right mindset and logic. Personality still comes in even if you are just working on your own computers. Even the manner of dealing with clients online is very much important for a freelance job. So, let us now jump in to the skills that freelancers need in 2013. This is what you have been waiting for!

Skills you need to win jobs in 2013

1. Good communication skills.

Good communication skills

Having good communication skills lets you have good connection and relationship with your clients. This refers not just for personal conversations or telephone conversations but even through emails and chats. For freelance jobs, communication would be mostly done online. Observe proper email etiquette, communicate professionally and amiably at the same time, have a formal tone when replying to messages and be polite all the time. Respect begets respect. Start showing your respect by your manner of communication. Part of having good communication is constantly updating your clients for design projects that you are currently working on. That can even give you a good brand for your freelancing. More related reading in Tips for Effective Communication with Design Clients.

2. Marketing skills.

Marketing skills

You really won’t be able to succeed in freelancing if you will not have good marketing skills. Marketing could be one of the most taxing jobs but is also the most rewarding. The more you market online, the more jobs you will get. That is also the same case when you have your own website. If you have good promotion skills using social media, you will get more visitors and readers for your site. That would also mean more earnings for you. So, look into online marketing well and if you think you are slow for this part, you have to develop it now for you will need this a lot.

3. Critical and creative thinking skills.

Critical and creative thinking skills

These two are both thinking tasks but are different from each other. Critical thinking is more on logic and reasoning. This allows a person to keenly look at a situation and end up with a good solution. Also, this will help you to determine the right things to do especially when you are working on difficult projects. There would be some problems that you’ll encounter while working but with good critical thinking skills, you will be able to overcome it with a smart solution. Creative thinking is of course important since you are into designing and you would need creativity. This is the ability to innovate new things with the willingness to play with ideas and possibilities. You can read more about this in Helpful Creative Thinking Tips for Graphic Designers.

4. Monitoring and assessing skills.

Monitoring and assessing skills

If you think this one is not necessary, you are wrong. Remember those invoices you failed to send? How about your problem clients or maybe unsuccessful projects? Well, these things will not happen if you were able to monitor them well. Unsuccessful projects could be the result of not being able to look into the details of the project really well. You must have failed to have good note-taking during a meeting or you must have failed to understand what the client really wants for the project. Invoices that you forgot to send are a great no no. You will end up not getting paid for a job unless your client is honest and responsible. But if you aren’t lucky, your client will act like he forgot about the project or would murmur so many complaints about the output resulting into unpaid efforts. But if were able to monitor all your transactions well, everything will be smooth sailing. So, that is where being organized comes in too. Aside from monitoring, you also need to have good assessment on things, people and situations. Like if you have a client, check if he is a good client or if he would not give you some problems. You have to Be a Watchdog to Smell Bad Clients. Learn to look into situations too so you will know the proper thing to do.

5. Active listening.

Active listening

Listening is always needed. If you are having a chit chat with a friend, he would feel bad if you will not be attentive to what he is saying. That would be the same case when you are talking to your client. You need to listen to everything he has to say. Also, another important reason why you need to listen to your clients is that you have to be able to get what he wants for the project. Listen to unsaid things because the most important ones are sometimes left unsaid. This happens especially if the client is not certain of what he wants. So listen attentively and actively. You can be aided in listening well if you do note-taking while you are talking to a client. Read How to Attain Effective Note-taking in Client Meetings to help you about this.

6. Financial management skills.

Financial management skills

For freelancers, financial matters are quite a challenge especially that there is no fixed income. But you will be able to get through it if you know right financial management. You should also be able to determine your rates, monitor invoices and many others. Without good financial skills, all your efforts in working will be wasted since you might end up with nothing on hand especially when slow freelancing times come.

7. Project management.

Project management

Every business and career would need good project management. It involves planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources or components of a project to achieve specific goals. This can be your total management of your design projects from clients to invoices. You have to develop this well for without good project management, things could fall off anytime. When you are armed with this skill, you are able to have a good focus on your goal. Smart goal setting is also part of this but it is more of how you will get to that goal.

8. Complex problem solving.

Complex problem solving

You will really not be able to do away with problems and challenges while freelancing. But if you have good complex problem solving skills, you can come up with easy solutions that would be give benefits to all parties. Like if a client complains about your design, you can handle it well by giving solutions at once instead of arguing and making the situation even harder. This can also help you become better in decision making.

9.Social skills.

Have a good project offer

Aside from your public relations with people around you, you also need to have good social skills online. You have to be a people person both online and offline to get clients from both areas. Have a good online branding in order to have an exceptional online impression which can lead to more clients. Make use of social media to promote your work and to get jobs. This is important to all freelancers.

10. Exceptional design skills.

Exceptional design skills

These days, clients and employers in job boards are setting higher standards when it comes to design. This is because of the high number of freelance designers wherein a significant number of that produces high quality designs. Therefore, the competition is high and you need to have exceptional design skills so you can get design jobs. You can develop your design skills by constant practice and you should always be willing to learn every day. Here are some Easy Steps to Improve Your Graphic Design Skills.

So, those are the skills that you will need to win jobs this 2013 and maybe for the next years to come. What is important is your constant development of your skills. You have to improve your skills and not just stick to what you have right now. Always see to it that you move to a higher level of excellence for this is what you exactly need to get hired. Another thing, you should also learn new skills from time to time. Before we finally close this, allow us to leave three valuable words for you. To get a job, all you need is ASK – Activity, Skills and Knowledge. With the right skills and knowledge, you will be able to arrive to relevant activities that are vital for your success. So, start with developing your skills where you can get knowledge and learning. From there, act!

Exceptional design skills

It’s Your Turn Now

Which of the aforementioned skills do you already have? How do you plan to develop them? Do you think you are already capable of getting freelance jobs this year?

Ronald Bien

About the author: A Graphic Designer and the founder of Naldz Graphics. He launched Naldz Graphics to help the Design Community in providing quality design resources and tutorials.


  1. I am a confident person so a think almost of the aforementioned skills I already have and I used to use those skills to improve my ability.

  2. Your article is so motivating to improve our skills.
    Thank you for the tips.

  3. I gathered a lot information and knowledge from your article.

  4. Great post, very informative and too the point. I feel that the most essential asset has to be critical and creative thinking skills.

  5. hey ronald… just wanted to say thanks for the amazing site… so many helpful articles and tutorials…. you rock brodda!!



  6. Great article Ronaldo,

    Another thing I would recommend freelancers to do is to create a blog and write at least once a week on something useful in your niche. This will get you more exposure as well as make you an authority in your chosen profession.

    Creating a blog takes a lot of skills such as managing time, building relationships with readers as well as interacting with different people. All this will make you stand out in your interview and differentiate you from the others.

    After creating my blog, I’ve managed to get lots of enquires about my services which is “graphic design”.

    Anyways, I’ve learnt a couple of new things from this article. Great to see you writing an in-depth post. 🙂

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