July 22, 2021

Do I need qualifications to be a freelancer?

Written by Martin Baxter

There are some careers where the entry path is pretty defined and constricted. Take medicine for example. No one’s going to let you barge into surgery and start operating on patients without top A-levels, a medical degree, and several years of on-the-job training. But freelancing is a little different. In theory, anyone can start their own freelance business and build it from the ground up, whether they have a ruck of qualifications or if they’re just at the very beginning of their career. There are freelancers with PhDs, and there are freelancers who left school at 16. There is no one route to freelancing success, and that’s one of the great things about freelancing and what gives us such a diverse and multi-faceted community.

That said, if you’re setting up as a freelancer, you’ll need to attract clients, and clients are going to want some evidence that you’re the right person for the job. That might be a university degree or a specific professional accreditation you’ve achieved. But equally, it could come from experience built up over time, or demonstrating that you have a unique way of working or thinking. In this blog, we take a look at how to sell yourself and your skills as a freelancer – whether you’ve got the pieces of paper to prove it or not.

If you have qualifications – let the world know

While qualifications aren’t essential for most freelancing opportunities that come along, it’s definitely a good idea to shout about them if you have them, especially if they’re relevant to the job. In some industries, skills-based qualifications and vocational training will be more valued than academic qualifications. Any type of qualification or training undertaken demonstrates commitment, hard work and the ability to see projects through to completion – all important qualities that clients look for in their freelancers. It might seem obvious to say, but so many freelancers forget to highlight their qualifications in their marketing. Make sure your list of qualifications is up-to-date and included prominently on your CV, website or portfolio.

Experience is everything in freelancing

Even the most highly qualified person can flounder on a project if they don’t also have the required experience to be able to deal with it. Often, you’ll find that new freelancing clients are more interested in your experience than your education. Think about the skills you have built in previous roles, either paid or voluntary, and how they apply to your desired area of freelance work. Many people have worked in a similar role professionally for a firm before they decide to “go it alone” freelancing, or some people pivot from other careers to pursue a passion as a new beginning. Whatever work experience you have, there’s bound to be skills, experiences and learning that you’ve gained from it that are relevant to your freelance work. It can be helpful to keep an up-to-date list of skills, completed projects and experience on your website, portfolio, CV or LinkedIn profile – somewhere that they’re easy to share with clients.

If you’re completely new to an industry or are trying to break into a competitive field, like graphic design, photography or media, you might want to consider short-term unpaid work-experience placements at first to build up your CV and portfolio. However, it’s important that nobody works for free for an extended period of time – even at entry-level your skills and time have value. Genuine work experience placements should be time-limited, and reputable companies will usually agree to cover expenses at the least.

Make connections between qualifications and skills

Many people will be graduating this summer with shiny new degrees, but not much idea of how to make them relevant to the work they want to do. If your degree is unrelated to the field that you want to work in, that doesn’t mean it’s useless. One thing that can be key here is thinking about the transferable skills that you’ve built up throughout your studies – research skills, teamwork, writing with clarity – these are all highly sought-after skills by businesses in all industries and it will impress potential clients if you can identify exactly what it is about your education that makes you stand out. If you’re lucky enough to have one, make your degree more than a piece of paper.

I’m just starting out as a freelancer…

For anyone who is just starting out as a freelancer, finding ways to articulate your qualifications, skills and experience – in whatever combo you possess them – can be a daunting task. Spend some time thinking about what your assets and strengths are. Mapping them on a piece of paper and seeing how they link to your desired freelance work can be a useful exercise to help you shape your marketing messages and understand how best to sell yourself to potential clients. Take a look at our blog for new freelancers if you’re just starting out and looking for tips on how to get your freelance biz off the ground.

One credential that you’ll definitely want to shout about as a freelancer is your business insurance. Holding professional indemnity and public liability insurance policies shows your clients that you’re a safe pair of hands who takes risk seriously. Clients like the reassurance that they’re protected i anything goes wrong, and you will benefit too from the peace of mind that a dedicated legal team will have your back should you get accused of making a professional mistake, or causing someone injury or harm in the course of your work. To get freelance business insurance sorted in just seconds, head to our website.

About Martin Baxter

Read more blog posts by Martin Baxter


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