How Freelancers Sharpen Their Skills and Learn the Art of Running a Business

A common myth we often hear about freelancing is that independent work doesn’t provide meaningful career opportunities. We recently dispelled this misconception using data from the Freelancing in America report: 72 percent of freelancers say they have the amount of work they want or more.

Curious to know what our community of freelancers thought about it, we took to our social channels and posed the question: “How have you grown as a professional while freelancing?”

The answers were clear. Freelancing not only contributes to professional growth, it does so in ways that would never present themselves in a more traditional job.

Freelancing provides a unique way to learn and sharpen skills through multiple projects collaborating with a variety of clients from all over the world—all with unique project needs. With each new client or project comes a new learning experience and growth opportunity that allows a freelancer to build on their current knowledge and add to their expertise.

Additionally, since freelance professionals run their own service businesses, they can also learn and build on the skills necessary to run a business. These include marketing, finance, and communication skills that may not be needed in a typical employment position.

As a result, freelancers repeatedly find that a key benefit for their clients is partnering with someone who not only understands how a business needs to be run but who also shares a passion to succeed with them. Such shared goals can ultimately bring better results.

Here is a sample of what the professionals on Upwork had to say:

“I have learned more in 2 years as a freelancer than I did in decades working full time. As a fashion designer in the corporate world, you tend to get pigeonholed into one specific category. Freelancing allows me to work on a huge range of products. For a really creative person that’s a dream come true.”
Leila Shams, Fashion Designer

“Freelancing empowered me and gave me the opportunity to put my skills into use—communicating directly with those who needed them—to improve these skills accordingly, and to be trusted with much more important and considerable projects than I ever was as an employee.”
Alexander Foß, German Translator

“Working for yourself inevitably means handling things that feel out of your comfort zone, as tackling all sides of the business requires activation of different aspects of your personality. Since you are the one in charge, the health of the business invites constant introspection about what aspects of yourself could be getting in your way, as well as which are beneficial. It has spurred personal and professional development as I’ve examined these unique items for me. Becoming a better version of myself has undoubtedly allowed me to offer more to my clients, helping me offer the experience of working with me as opposed to just a service.”
Julie McAlinden

“Oh wow, I’ve learned a lot being a freelancer on [Upwork]:

  • How to be more service-minded.
  • How to manage time more efficiently.
  • How to be more communicative, flexible, and understanding.
  • How to be more patient.
  • How to brand myself and stay consistent.
  • How to work independently.

When I first started on Upwork, it was transitioning from oDesk and there were a lot of changes and new developments. Coming from being an employee to self-employed was a big adjustment and it showed, as I treated my transactions with clients as if they were my employer. Not a completely bad thing but when it came to client experience and finding my niche, my mentality needed an adjustment. Long story short, I went from being a below 80% rated freelancer to Top Rated. I wear the badge with pride and it carries over in all of my business and personal life experiences.”
Evelynn Jones, Sales and Marketing Expert

“I have two books in draft thanks to my Upwork experience: ‘A Poorfessor´s Diary’ and ‘How To Be A Writer Without Starvation In The Attempt.’

In both of them, I show my resilient story about how I turned from a 10$/month teacher in Venezuela to a Top Rated Freelance Writer.

[I have] a master’s degree in Educational Counseling and Educational Sciences PhD. [It took] almost 10 years e-studying, but it was on Upwork where I actually began [to be] a successful writer who survived a crisis in Venezuela thanks to the tools I acquired working and learning as a freelancer.

As a freelance writer through Upwork, I learned that the more problems you resolve, the more money you will earn. And it is the most fair and healthy thing I have learned as a freelance writer. There is no college that teaches you that as writer.”
Luis Ramones, Writer and Professor

If you have the desire to do more with your skills and feel starved for variety at your job, perhaps starting your own professional services business is for you. Beginning with a side project can give you a good indication if freelancing is something you’d enjoy.

Interested in seeing more of the discussion?

Check out the thread on our LinkedIn channel. And don’t forget to follow us while you’re there so you don’t miss out on our weekly discussions about working with freelance talent.

Editor’s note: Responses edited for grammar, spelling, and clarity. The statements above are those of their authors and do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork.

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