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7 Habits of Highly Effective Freelancers

Updated on June 2nd, 2022

In April last year, I quit my job to become a full-time freelancer. I had been side hustling for about eight years, but finally pulled the trigger and went out on my own just last year. In the months since my income has risen to double what I made at my old day job! As a member of the six-figure freelancer club, I came up with seven habits consistent with effective freelancers.

They Maintain a To-Do List

I use a combination of multiple to-do lists, and without them, I couldn’t keep all of my projects and to-dos straight. Some of my favorite task and to-do managers include sticky notes (built into both Windows and Mac computers), Asana, and Google Keep. Other popular options include Trello, Evernote, or paper and a pen. It doesn’t matter what you use, as long as you really use it and it works for you.

They Understand How to Prioritize

As an online freelancer and blogger, I am constantly barraged by emails. If I wake up with less than 20 emails in my inbox, it was a light morning, and that is before 7:00 am. Knowing what to focus on, what to deal with later, and what to ignore has become paramount to my productivity.

They Practice and Improve Their Skills

Whatever you produce, how you practice is how you will perform. Always work to produce high-quality results for clients and always seek to improve your skills and performance. I often warn that you shouldn’t “let perfection get in the way of progress,” but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always strive to improve and output the very best result possible.

They Create and Test Diverse Income Streams

When I quit my job in April last year, about 70% of my income came from freelance writing, 25% from website development, and 5% from my own blog. Testing and experimentation, and implementing the 80/20 rule, have led me to a six-figure income. Plus, if anything ever goes wrong where one of my income streams suddenly ends, I am not stuck starting over from zero.

They Under Promise and Over Deliver

When it comes to deadlines, quality, or anything else, I follow the same rule that I learned from my Camp Director when I was on the staff at a Boy Scout Camp many years ago: under-promise and over-deliver. If you consistently beat expectations and deadlines, clients will think of you first when they need an important project completed. That brings more work and dollars into your pocket while also improving your reputation.

They Look at the Glass as Completely Full

Once I asked my Grandpa Joe if the glass is half full or half empty. His response totally surprised me. He said that it was totally full. It was half-filled with air and half-filled with water. Just because you couldn’t see the air didn’t mean the glass wasn’t completely full. Just having an optimist “can do” attitude is not enough. The best freelancers know that there is always an upside to every situation and power through difficult times.

They Know How to Gracefully Say “No”

You can’t say yes all the time. Learning when to say no is hard enough as it is, but learning how to say no is just as important. When you turn down a project or a client, it is vital to do so with a friendly attitude and not burn any bridges. Relationships are the key to success in much of life, and freelancing is certainly included. Keeping strong relationships even when a project isn’t the right fit will ensure you have plenty of work for years to come.

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a personal finance expert. He received an MBA in Finance from the University of Denver in 2010. Since graduating he has been blogging about financial tips and tricks to help people understand money better. He is a debt master, insurance expert and currently writes for most of the top financial publications on the planet.

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