An ongoing challenge of being a freelancer is the unknown of what’s next. To stay consistently employable, freelancers must update and refine their marketability — constantly. Of full-time freelancers, 65% are “updating their skills to ensure that they are marketable as the job market evolves,” according to the Freelancing in America: 2017 study, versus a minority of full-time non-freelancers who do the same.
Whether you freelance or not, the need to stay employable — and showcase your marketable skills — is obvious. Here are seven steps to help you highlight and build skills that match your career goals, all while sustaining a freelance lifestyle.
As with any new project, research is always a good place to start. Look up projects, position descriptions, and job titles that fit your current qualifications and where you want your career to be in the next five or ten years. Collect words, terms, and phrases that match your current skill set and the skills you want to develop. Don’t limit yourself to one industry or function either — you never know what inspiration lies in an area you have not yet explored.
ProTip: Write out the position description of your dream job, or one that you want to have in the near future. What skills and experience would you need to be successful in that role?
2. Gather feedback
Ask your clients, coworkers, friends, and family about your strengths and weaknesses. Allow them to be as honest and transparent as possible — let them think of skills on their own rather than feeding them options, even if it’s through an anonymous survey. Give yourself feedback, too! What do you think you’re great at? What skills could use work?
ProTip: Friends and family will likely have a different perspective on your unique qualities. Think about how they apply to your work.
3. Identify your top skills
By now, you have multiple lists: your current skill set, your target skills, and your strengths and weaknesses. See how the first two lists relate to your third. The matching strengths are your unique identifiers, and should be how you showcase your work. The matching weaknesses are areas you should focus on developing. Find common themes and pare down your skills into a handful to focus on.
ProTip: How are you working on developing those weaker skills? Be specific and ready to respond if someone asks you about them.
4. Measure your impact
Show your value on past projects by putting numbers to your work. If there isn’t a way to quantify your impact, explain how you uniquely contributed to each project. Connect your key skills with your impact and experience in brief sentences; write longer descriptions on projects that highlight particular skills.
ProTip: Write a brief, comprehensive description about your experience, skills, and impact — this is your elevator pitch.
5. Update your presence
Using the language you developed around your skills, impact, and experience, update your social media, website, and resume. Keep longer descriptions on your website, while your resume should include more concise language about your specific tasks and impact. Constantly update as you start and continue projects; highlight your measurable impact on projects once they’re completed. Make sure that your work is listed consistently across sources, too.
ProTip: If you work in multiple functions, or are looking to pivot, consider creating separate resumes and webpages to focus on each.
Whether you’ve just started a new freelance project or are in between opportunities, always keep up with your network. With your updated documents always on hand, maintain your current relationships and continue to meet new people through social media, meet-ups, alumni networks, associations, and resource groups. You never know who might end up needing your expertise!
ProTip: Write generalized templates to expedite your responses, and edit to personalize before sending. Keep it short and sweet — only a bit longer than your elevator pitch.
Regardless of where you are in your freelance career, these seven steps are not meant to be completed only once. Iteration is imperative to staying competitive in today’s ever-changing job market. Skills that are in demand today may be completely different tomorrow, regardless of industry or function.
ProTip: Consider updating your employability a freelance project. Keep up with it on a regular basis.
We are in the new age of work. To maintain employment security, freelancers must constantly revisit their experience and skills, and showcase transferability as they jump from project to project. Be confident in your employability and always be ready for the next step.