Matching Your Skills to the Internet Freelancing Market
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Online freelancing sites are like online dating sites, in more ways than their users and even owners would care to admit. :) In both cases, the members of these sites are looking to “make matches”—to find others they are compatible with. But where dating sites seek to pair up individuals on the basis of personalities and interests, with freelancing sites the primary “currency” is skills. Accordingly, as a new freelancer especially, you will want to begin your career by examining your skills and how well they match up with what clients are looking for.
I recommend starting out by making a simple list of your basic skills. This doesn’t have to be detailed or exhaustive; the main point is to get you to step back a bit and think about what you’re trying to get out of freelancing, and what you can offer to a client. At the same time, try to be creative in really thinking about your work skills; the more skills you can bring to the table, the more likely you are to get your freelancing career off the ground.
The two key questions to ask yourself are:
The first question is the more important of the two; after all, clients will hire you for what you can do for them, not for yourself. Yet it’s important to realize that the most successful people are the ones who enjoy what they do and are skilled at it. The obvious advantage here is that work is more enjoyable if you like what you’re doing than if you don’t. The less obvious advantage is that the enjoyment and capability form a feedback loop, where your enjoyment helps you work better, leading to more enjoyment and so forth. All of this positive energy is very likely to increase your chances of success as a freelancer.
If you find that the intersection between the lists of tasks you do well and those you enjoy is small, or even non-existent, then you need to take a step back and reevaluate your plans and priorities. If the idea behind starting freelancing was to support yourself while developing your skills and doing what you like, and you can’t find a way to do this, then perhaps freelancing isn’t the right path for you after all. On the other hand, not everyone undertakes freelancing with the eye towards it being a journey of self-fulfillment—sometimes you just need the money, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You just have to be honest with yourself about what you’re doing, and why.
Incidentally, don’t believe the old platitude that “if you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s not work”. For most people, work is work, and even if they do enjoy it, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t rather do something else. (Okay, there are some people who really love their jobs so much that they’d rather do nothing else, but they are few and far between.) I personally have fallen into this trap: I had someone ask me “what do you want to do?” and when I didn’t answer “write”, I started to have a crisis of confidence about whether or not I wanted to continue being an author. Well, the truth is that I’d rather play video games or take pictures or putter in my garden or play with my kids than write. I enjoy writing as a work activity, and that’s what you want to aim for with your freelancing as well. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of boundless excitement about this or any other work activity, or you set yourself up for disappointment.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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