In part one of this blog post I discussed the rise of freelancing, and the increased demand from businesses for freelance talent – so what skills are required to thrive in this flexible, freelancing world? First, freelancers need EQ as well as IQ. We've seen a shift from businesses predominantly valuing left-brain skills, such as technical capabilities and subject expertise, to taking a more balanced approach where right-brain skills, such as adaptability, are equally in demand. In short, since freelancers have to become rapidly effective within new environments, businesses are looking for people who not only know what to do but also have the skills actually to do it and make change happen.
At Vario, we work closely with an experienced psychologist at a people performance firm to ensure that all candidates who join our hub and become ‘Varios’ have the qualities that clients tell us they need. From our work with Gill, we know that freelancers must be calm under pressure, emotionally resilient and able to adapt to both the people around them and the environment they’re in. They will often be required to make quick decisions and display resourcefulness in the face of unexpected situations, and therefore, agility, tenacity and courage to face obstacles are all crucial traits for any successful freelancer to demonstrate.
Faced with a lack of certainty, we also know that freelancers also have to be confident in their ability to secure their next role, and must develop strategies, such as careful financial planning and continuous marketing that will ensure they are regularly in work. Keeping up with changes in technology as well as industry developments is essential, and will make the freelancer marketable whatever environment they operate in.
So what does this mean for people who want to become freelancers? First of all, prospective freelancers should be clear about what they're signing-up to. Freelancers are not usually entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are usually fiercely independent whereas those seeking self-employment typically value the control and flexibility that’s possible through freelancing but also want to work for the benefit of the team. Second, prospective freelancers should critically assess their own skills and personal situation to ensure they support the demands of freelancing.
One example of a successful freelancer is our Vario Megan, a 27-year-old lawyer who trained with a major international firm, dealing with construction disputes, banking, insolvency and IT litigation. She enjoyed the role, but – like many others we’ve seen – wanted a flexible career that allowed her to balance challenging legal work with other interests close to her heart. She secured her current assignment at an energy multinational through Vario due to a combination of her technical skills and her hands-on, commercial approach. She balances this work with volunteering for the Samaritans and says, "Working as a freelancer enables me to give more back to society and pursue a number of different avenues that fuel my interests and feed the soul.”
At the other end of the spectrum, David was a partner at a leading regional law firm specialising in mergers and acquisitions before he became a Vario. He had excelled professionally but after 18 years in private practice, was looking to find a new way of working. As he told us, he wanted more 'colour' in his life and saw freelancing as a passport to a wider range of opportunities.
Both Megan and David have thrived in freelancing because of their interpersonal, as well as technical skills.
It’s clear to see that the world of work has changed dramatically and that freelancing, which often gives greater control and flexibility than traditional approaches to work, is on the rise. Not only does this reflect the needs and desires of the modern workforce but also the fact that businesses are increasingly using flexible resourcing as a way of gaining competitive advantage. As our experience reveals, for many professionals, and especially those in the law, success will mean demonstrating a combination of emotional intelligence and the right technical skills.