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August 14, 2018 By Jen Mathews

3 Strategies for Long-Term Freelance Career Success

August 14, 2018

By Jen Mathews

Read More from Jen Mathews

August 14, 2018

3 Strategies for Long-Term Freelance Career Success

By Jen Mathews
Senior Public Relations Manager

The gig economy is redefining how employees approach their careers. Taking a page from freelancers, they’re moving from team to team or job to job, searching for the next experience that will help them grow, develop and acquire new skills.

Deloitte describes this new model as “the 21st century career” — rather than a traditional long-term career, it’s a collection of careers. And a different employee experience defines each of those careers.

As a freelancer or solopreneur, you drive your own experiences. But are you also taking a long view of your career?

Let’s face it, you’re so focused on acquiring the next gig, you may not be taking the time to ponder your career. Besides, why should you contemplate it when you love what you’re doing, right?

Being able to create your own experiences is an awesome perk. But if you’re not strategic about your long-term career trajectory, you’ll end up with nothing but a series of disconnected projects.

The gig economy is booming but that means that competition is also growing. You need to position yourself for sustained success.

Highlight Soft Skills

It’s common for freelancers to work on a team of employees from different parts of an organization. You may not realize it, but your contribution to those projects goes far beyond your specific area of expertise.

Unless all you’re doing is executing someone else’s vision, you’re bringing all sorts of soft skills to the table. Superior communication, analytical thinking, persuasion skills, long-range thinking — these are just some examples.

A big mistake that many freelancers make is turning their work into a commodity or focusing all efforts on their technical expertise. Think about the soft skills you bring, and also how to package them for you next project proposal.

Amp Up Professional Development

Learning on the job is not a typical freelancing perk — no client wants to pay you to learn new skills. Not to mention no employer is footing the bill for seminars and workshops (and for your attendance time).

Look at professional development as an investment. And you can always find cheap or free resources. For example:

  • Lynda.com has video courses on everything from how to design a website to how to lead a cross-functional team (some libraries even offer free access to patrons).
  • Many top universities offer free classes through Coursera; just pay a small fee if you want a certificate of completion.
  • Some professional conferences have a virtual option, so you don’t have to spend travel funds to attend in person. (Depending on your field, also check the free live classes through CreativeLive.)

Find Ways to Innovate

The workplace encourages and expects employees to innovate, but what does that mean for the freelancer? How can you innovate if you’re not involved with a client long or deep enough?

What do the innovators who inspire you have in common? Chances are, they’re not afraid to:

  • take calculated risks
  • challenge conventions
  • embrace mistakes as growth opportunities

If you feel like your freelance career has plateaued, challenge how you’re doing things. It may sound scary, but remember, it’s up to you to define your next experience.

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