6 Skills and Attributes Freelancers Should Develop

In a recent post I described how I discovered the benefits of being and using a contract CFO. My next post dug a little deeper into why companies should consider a contract CFO. In my last post I more broadly discussed the pros and cons of freelancing. In this post I will continue that theme and look at six skills and attributes freelancers should develop. I approach this from the perspective of a contract CFO, but most skills apply to all freelancers.


1. Organized. Effective time and information management is critical. Freelancers have to keep up on what is going on with several different companies possibly in completely different industries. Clients will expect you to be up to speed and on top of responsibilities just as if you were a full-time employee. I use tools like Evernote and Remember the Milk to keep track of everything.

2. Problem solver. This sounds cliche, but the ability to quickly solve a wide range of problems is a major factor that separates a valuable advisor from a clerk. For example, contract CFOs need to be the expert on financial matters. They need to know how to account for that complicated transaction. They need to know to interpret the data. There's no one else to ask.

3. Quick learner. This is related to problem solving, but it is important for freelancers. When they take on a new client they need to very quickly learn the business and industry. The client does not want to pay a freelancer to learn.

4. Tech-savvy. This is true in any field, but tech skills can differentiate a contract CFO. There's a shortage of professionals proficient in both accounting/finance and technology. Technology is inseparable from business process, and in a small company without significant IT resources, a CFO who understands technology is valuable.

Technology has been an integral part of all my roles. I landed one role because, in addition to CFO responsibilities, I was able to lead a software implementation to integrate sales and accounting. With another company I took several separate systems, including bookkeeping in Quickbooks, order tracking in Google Drive, and CRM in Salesforce.com and implemented Netsuite to consolidate all those functions into one system.

5. Confident. Many of us suffer from impostor syndrome, meaning we are convinced that we are frauds and don’t deserve the success we have achieved. It’s easier for companies to get rid of a freelancers than employees, so freelancers need to consistently prove their value. It’s easy for freelancers to fear that their clients at any time will discover they are frauds and let them go. Allowing that fear to motivate rather than debilitate requires confidence.

6. Likable. Competence is not enough; freelancers must also be likable. Companies will only hire freelancers they like, and they will only keep freelancers they continue to like. They might put up with a challenging employee or find an assignment that suits that person better, but they most likely won’t feel that kind of a loyalty to a freelancer.

This list could be much longer, but I think it’s representative of some of the most helpful skills and attributes for freelancers.

Question: What other skills and attributes do you think are important for freelancers?