After being in the freelance market for the past two months (and still not being able to land a job), I had a realization that was difficult to swallow:
While I had developed my soft skills, my hard skills were so raw that they were not ready to help possible clients.
When you're a freelancer, you can grow your practice or your business using your soft skills. But, in order to start your freelance practice, you need hard skills.
My soft skills are good (though I hope they are great), but my hard skills are not good enough to cater to a client's simplest need.
You may be wondering, what are hard skills and soft skills?
In my own words, hard skills are the skills that get things done. They are the skills that enable you to directly create something of value. They are the skills required in the traditional jobs we know of.
Examples of hard skills are programming, accounting, designing, selling, supporting customers through voice or text, painting, drawing, and so many others. The key here is that these hard skills directly create value.
On the other hand, soft skills are the skills that make the process of getting things done easier.
Examples of soft skills are leadership, communications, building relationships, organizing, and so on. These skills add value albeit indirectly.
The problem was that when I began my career in accounting and finance, I focused on developing my soft skills. I wasn't able to develop my hard skills to the point that I can use them by myself to cater to clients' needs. I only learned parts of a complete service or a complete solution. In order to serve clients’ needs, I always had to work in a team.
Then, when I decided to start a career as a freelancer, I realized that the style of writing that I was good at (or so I think) was inspirational writing. But, that type of writing is a soft skill. What's needed in the freelance writing market are technical writing, SEO, content marketing, and copywriting, among others. Those are the types of writing that get things done, sell more products, and increase the visibility of blogs and websites. Unfortunately, those are the types of writing I have yet to develop in.
There's nothing wrong with developing your soft skills. But, if you want to start a freelance career and directly add value to your potential clients, you need to develop your hard skills first.
Today, what I want you to do is to make a list of your hard skills. Then, think about how you can use them to serve other people's needs. That's how you start a practice. Better yet, go to the market (like Upwork) and get a feel of the skills clients actually need.
Also, like with writing, a skill can either be soft skill or a hard skill. The key is to be more specific about your skill and ask yourself whether your skill directly or indirectly adds value to others. If it directly adds value to others or if it enables you to create something tangible, then it's a hard skill.
[Update: Should you go deep in developing your skills or should you go wide? Read the second part of this post here.]