12 In-Demand Freelance Skills (And How To Learn Them)

Updated January 6, 2023

Side view of a person working from home, sitting at their dining table and typing on their laptop while their dog walks by in the foreground.

Freelancers are self-employed people who complete both short-term contracts and long-term work. They work in a variety of fields, doing projects and filling roles for clients on an as-needed basis. Learning the hard and soft skills freelancers use can give you the tools you need to become a successful freelancer.

In this article, we discuss the concept of freelance skills, provide a list of these skills to help you identify and develop them and explain ways to highlight your skills on your next job application.

What are freelance skills?

Freelance skills are the abilities that equip individuals to better communicate with companies, advertise their services and complete their work for clients efficiently. They usually complete contract work, which is when a business hires them for a specialized task or service. They are self-employed, and companies refer to them as contractors rather than employees. Freelancers can use their skills to work in several fields, like education, web development, writing, editing, graphic design and accounting. Freelancers may use their skills to complete the following duties:

  • Track the time spent on projects

  • Meet all project requirements

  • Consult with clients on project ideas

  • Contact clients with questions

  • Handle several projects at once

12 essential freelance skills

As a freelancer, you can use various hard and soft skills to highlight your specialized abilities. These skills include:

1. Communication

Communication skills help freelancers consult with clients on project requirements, like deadlines, materials and content. Using great verbal and written communication skills ensures accurate work and can enhance the overall quality of a project. They can also use these skills to express ideas for improvements and changes to the work.

2. Negotiation

Freelancers commonly use contracts that create deals between themselves and the company they're working for, which includes information about compensation and project requirements. To ensure that you and your client have similar expectations, you can use negotiation skills that help create fair contracts.

Related: The 6 Stages of the Process of Negotiation (With Tips)

3. Industry knowledge

Freelancers often work independently without much guidance, so it's useful to have a strong understanding of the industry. Since freelancers might not work in a traditional workplace setting, they may rely on their own knowledge to complete projects. Therefore, it's especially important for them to have confidence and a deeper knowledge of their field.

4. Marketing

Freelancers within the marketing field can use marketing skills to help their clients build strong and reputable brands. They may have an understanding of how audiences perceive a business and how they can improve a brand to make it more marketable and popular. This skill is especially useful when freelancing for marketing or advertising firms.

5. Graphic design

As a freelancer, you could use a logo or image to represent your services. Having graphic design skills helps you better represent your freelance services accurately. For example, if you're a freelance writer who specializes in educational content, you might use a logo that represents schooling, like textbooks or chalkboards.

6. Creativity

Freelancers can use creativity to enhance their projects and optimize their skills. Creativity could help them brainstorm project ideas while still meeting a client's expectations and requirements. For example, if a freelance graphic designer produces high-quality, unique material for a project that sets them apart from other freelancers, it may make clients want to continue using their services.

7. Project management

Since freelancers typically complete several projects during the same time period, it's vital that they have extensive project management skills that help them stay organized, goal-oriented and proactive. Freelancers can track upcoming deadlines and prioritize their projects according to the order in which they're due. For example, a freelance construction project manager may manage the schedule for several construction laborers and ensure the timely completion of the entire project.

8. Empathy

Freelancers may work in human resources as consultants. People who work in this field often possess empathy, since they work with numerous employees, and sometimes handle sensitive topics. Typically, individuals can strengthen their empathy skills by familiarizing themselves with conflict resolution and actively listening to colleagues.

9. Writing and research skills

Freelancers use writing skills for projects that involve content writing, copywriting and blogging. Companies typically need freelance writers who can produce meaningful content while remaining unique and interesting. To better understand the information they're writing about, they perform thorough research that offers context and background knowledge.

10. Web development

Web development skills are ideal for freelancers who work with technology. These skills include programming, software development, website creation and coding. People who are familiar with more advanced software programs may impress clients by creating well-formatted websites.

11. Social media

Freelancers who work in marketing often create visual content for a company's social media page. Having social media skills allows freelancers to grasp the kind of online content that draws attention. They can also use this skill to learn how they can get audiences to interact with a company while staying up to date on social media trends.

Related: Freelance vs. Full-Time Developers: Differences and Similarities

12. Data analysis

Freelancers who work in the data science field gather, interpret and evaluate data. They could use data analysis to analyze a company's sales, target audience and marketing campaigns to identify areas of improvement and create plans to boost company sales. Data analysis can be a useful skill to learn if you freelance in industries like retail, manufacturing, hospitality, marketing or finance.

Related: How To Find Freelance Magazine Writing Jobs

How to improve your freelance skills

To improve your freelance skills and become a more in-demand job candidate, you can:

1. Take part in volunteer opportunities

Volunteering can help you improve your skills. Consider spending some time each week devoted to volunteering to build up your skill set and gain valuable experience in your industry. To find opportunities within your field, research local businesses that are looking for volunteers with your skill set.

Related: How To Find a Volunteer Job (With Tips for Where To Look)

2. Practice project management

Since a large part of freelance work involves completing projects, improving your project management skills can help you finish projects faster while still producing high-quality work. To practice project management, try prioritizing important tasks by using a planner. Exercise being proactive by completing projects before their deadline.

Related: 32 High-Paying Freelance Careers

3. Focus on transferrable skills

You may find more work if you have excellent transferrable skills. You can apply for jobs outside of your specific field that require the same knowledge and skills that you use in your traditional role. Consider focusing on your communication, time management and organizational skills to better market yourself.

Related: 8 In-Demand Skills for Freelancing

4. Observe other freelancers

Observing other freelancers in your field can help you learn how they navigate projects and use their time effectively. To find other freelancers in your field, use professional networking sites or join a professional organization for your industry. For example, a freelance writer may join a writing organization specifically for writers who work as freelancers.

Related: Setting Freelance Graphic Design Rates (With Tips)

5. Ask for feedback

When you turn a completed project into a client, ask them for feedback. Receiving feedback can help you better determine which skills you can improve. Apply any feedback, suggestions and notes you receive from clients to future projects to continue improving your skills and the quality of your work.

Related: How To Ask for Feedback at the Workplace in 7 Steps

How to highlight freelance skills

Here are a few ways you can highlight your freelance skills in your cover letter, resume and job interview:

Freelance skills on a resume

When submitting a resume to potential clients, it's useful to highlight your skills and show why you're a good fit for a project. Create a section of your resume dedicated to freelance skills, and you can also include skills throughout other sections, like education, work experience and summary. Adjust the skills on your resume to the role you're pursuing. For example, if you're applying for a freelance writing project, include skills related to writing.

Emphasize your skills in the experience portion of your resume, where you can explain previous projects you've worked on and the specific skills you used while completing them. You can also list achievements on your resume that highlight your skills, like if you've had several repeat clients, which shows that you consistently produce high-quality work.

Related: How To List Your Skills On a Resume (With Template and Examples)

Freelance skills in a cover letter

You can use cover letters as a way of introducing yourself to potential clients while giving them a brief glimpse of your previous experiences and skill set. Display excellent writing skills in your cover letter by using professional and clear language. You might also show close attention to detail by ensuring your cover letter is free from any spelling errors and formatting issues.

Related: How To Calculate Freelance Marketing Rates in 5 Steps (With Tips)

Freelance skills in a job interview

A job interview is a great way for you to show your time management and organization skills. In your interview, share specific stories from freelance projects you've worked on that had strict deadlines and required excellent time-management skills. You can also share your standard process for completing projects, which shows that you follow a routine and meet deadlines regularly.

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