How to Stay Competitive in a Saturated Freelance Market

I’m probably preaching to the choir, but landing a gig these days is no walk in the park.

And the reason is quite simple. Over 1.57 billion of the total 3.38 billion global workforce are freelancers. Even worse is that this figure keeps increasing every minute and adds to the already saturated freelance market.

That means you have to put in more effort to compete with dozens or even hundreds of other freelancers for a spot. If you want to stand out and gain some edge over other freelancers in the same niche, you will need to add more competencies or skills to your portfolio. 

In this article, we will share some of these essential skills to keep you on top of your game despite the growing competition in the freelance market.


7 Skills Freelance Writers Need to Stay Competitive

1. Essential Technical Skills

What comes to mind when you hear “technical skills?”

I’m not a mind-reader, but there’s a high chance most people would think of strings of codes and all sorts of programming stuff.

That’s technical. However, that’s not all there is to it.

According to Phil Strazzulla, Founder of SelectSoftware Reviews, “Technical skills also include your ability to use essential tools in your day-to-day activities, an acceptable proficiency in operating a computer, basic knowledge of best security practices, knowing how to navigate the internet, and many more.”

Let’s assume you’re a content writer for health brands. You don’t need to learn niche-specific tech skills like programming or data analysis. 

But you should at least be able to work with Google Docs, integrate it with third-party optimization tools like Grammarly, upload and manage content on WordPress, or use AI tools such as ChatGPT for ideation.

Most importantly, every freelancer should be able to navigate communication tools like Slack, use AI tools to fast-track workflow, and use common data-management programs such as Excel spreadsheets for personal records and invoicing.

These often-overlooked technical skills add a badge of professionalism to your profile. Remember that hiring managers need freelancers who can start working right away, not those they need to baby-walk.

Check out these free learning resources for essential technical skills:

2. Creative and Content Skills

Content is for writers and creative for designers only? Not really. 

As a freelancer, you’ve probably had times when you needed to whip up one or two proposals. If you’re a regular on freelance platforms such as Toptal, Fiverr, and Guru, then you might be sending as many as a dozen proposals weekly.

That’s content creation. 

When you send out cold emails with attention-grabbing graphics to C-suite brands or personalized LinkedIn requests to business founders, you also create content. The same thing applies when you’re chatting and trying to onboard with your client.

It’s worse if you frequent busy platforms like Upwork. You don’t have time to wait for another freelance writer to help you craft the perfect pitch line. In barely 10 minutes, your client has likely received over 40 applications.

Source: Upwork

So, cut to the chase by upgrading your proposal writing skills. If you want to be more creative, adding a little humor here and there to impress your clients, you can go for basic copywriting courses. You won’t become Brian Clark right away, but that’s enough to express your creativity.

You should also be able to design simple graphics and cook up a short video clip for use on your profile, freelance platforms, and email proposals. In this case, learning Canva will come in handy. Check out this in-depth list of graphic/design tools that will make your life much easier.

Access free learning resources for creative and content skills:

3. Social Media Management

Social media has become a go-to job-seeking channel for freelancers besides the usual freelance platforms. That’s not surprising since 97% of Fortune 500 companies have an active account on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. Moreover, over 99% of marketers use social media to boost and build their brand.

So, where else should you sell your services if not there?

Now, here’s the problem. With over 4.9 billion social media users, your profile can go unnoticed even if you publish dozens of brilliant posts daily.

According to Lankitha Wimalarathna, Founder & CEO of Hiveage, “It’s very difficult to make a cut on social media unless you already have some tens of thousands of followers or you understand how the algorithms work. This is beyond the generic strategies such as posting twice a day or using AI-generated pictures on your profile.”

Based on that, you’ll need a good knowledge of individual social media platforms and what works best for them. For instance, funny video clips and attention-grabbing news take precedence on platforms like Facebook. On the flip side, authority content and leadership pieces are more valued on LinkedIn and receive more traffic.

More so, clients today are not just looking for writers who can craft top-notch content – they want creators who can also amplify and distribute that content via social media channels.

As the market becomes more saturated, having social media management skills is an invaluable asset that can differentiate you from other freelance writers. This allows you to provide end-to-end content solutions, making you an attractive candidate for partnerships with brands, publications, and agencies who are looking for writers who can seamlessly blend content creation with social promotion strategies to maximize reach and engagement. By offering a package–both content creation and amplification, you open up opportunities for higher-value collaborations and a competitive edge in the gig economy.

Access free and paid learning resources for social media management here:

4. Project Management and Organization

Freelancers have the flexibility to shuffle between different clients, even as many as a dozen at once. But that also means you’re bound with different deadline shackles, and it’s quite easy to lose track of your to-do tasks.

According to Jennifer Burton, General Manager at Oaks Dumpster, “What makes you a professional freelancer is not your Pro badge on Upwork or followers’ count on LinkedIn. It is your ability to create a balance between your projects and manage them so well that you don’t end up getting burnt out.”

Time management is also a contributing factor to productivity and efficient task management. If done well, you won’t have to sacrifice quality just to meet deadlines.

In this case, Roman Zrazhevskiy, Founder & CEO of MIRA SAFETY, suggests learning techniques like Pomodoro and Eisenhower Matrix. He says, “Eisenhower matrix divides your tasks into four categories—important and urgent, important but not urgent, can be delegated, and neither urgent nor important. This helps you focus on one task at a time based on priority instead of getting overwhelmed by the loads of things to do.” 

You can also boost your productivity by making use of tools like Asana, Trello, and a time-tracking tool such as Clockify. All these come together to ensure you have a smooth workflow and deliverability.

Source: Trello

Access free and paid learning resources for project and time management here:

5. Soft Skills

To become a web developer, you need to learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript, or Excel and Python to become a certified data analyst. These are all hard, niche-specific skills.

On the other hand, soft skills are those day-to-day competencies that focus on you rather than the job. This includes communication, your ability to manage stress, openness to constructive criticism, time management, and teamwork.

Soft skills like communication and listening are particularly crucial to your success as a freelancer, and the reason is just as Sturgeon Christie, CEO of Second Skin, says. “Clients respect freelancers that can communicate their ideas smoothly, understand non-verbal cues, actively listen to pick even the most minor information during briefs, and revert back intermittently with progress updates.”

Other than communication, most employers want to see how well you handle feedback—whether you get overwhelmed with each constructive criticism or find it easy and flexible to integrate suggestions provided. They obviously want a freelancer who does the latter.

Good communication, quality active listening skills, and the ability to handle feedback will help you build a smooth client-freelancer relationship and retain your contracts in the long run.

7. Adaptability and Problem-Solving

Your clients have issues or pain points that they’re personally unable to solve—maybe due to resources, time, or limited ideas. Sometimes, they might also be clueless and unable to provide a brief on how to accomplish the task assigned to you. 

That’s where your problem-solving skills come in. You should be able to think out of the box and show them a new perspective to achieving their goals. Then, highlight the steps you’ll take to get there and prove why you’re the best person for the job. 

Likewise, adaptability holds a lot of stake in the freelance world. The reason is that several factors influence the freelance market daily.

Take ChatGPT and DALL-E as a good case scenario. Most writers and artists have lost their freelance clients and full-time jobs since a good number of companies now turn to cheaper AI tools to meet their needs. 

Source: Dall-E

But it’s also important to note that some people are perfectly taking advantage of this shift to boost their presence and produce better results in the same niche instead of sulking or getting grounded.

Primarily, your ability to adapt relies on forecasting possible changes ahead, making provisions to cushion the effects of these changes, and expanding your influence of work or upskilling. It also includes trying out new technologies to see their possible impact on your freelance role, digging out the best bank accounts for freelancers, and continually networking to find new clients and opportunities. Adaptability means being proactive!

7. Continuous Learning

OpenAI released ChatGPT 4.0 to replace version 3.5. We all saw a leap in functionality and capability. There’s also news of another incoming version update in some months, adding to the growing concerns of AI taking over human jobs.

However, that shouldn’t be a problem if you continuously refine your skills. Your goal should always be to write better than yesterday, create more awesome designs than a week ago, become a virtual assistant that all clients can’t afford to lose, and scale your game.

To do that, you’ll need to invest in courses (free and paid), join growing communities that are relevant to your niche, network with other freelancers on social media, or pay for professional consultations. Gain value even if it costs you a buck. You’ll earn it back.

Most importantly, you can upskill—add new, complimentary skills to your catalog. Let’s assume you’re a freelance content writer for health brands. You can take copywriting courses and create sales copy, not just blog posts, for your existing clients. This increases your value and earnings simultaneously.

Future-Proof Your Freelance Career

With increasing saturation in the freelance market, standing out from the competition is a priority. Differentiate yourself by constantly updating your skillset—familiarize yourself with essential tools like AI assistants; hone your creative and content skills for more compelling proposals; and learn how to market your brand effectively. 

More than technical expertise, prioritize soft skills like:

  • Project management
  • Time management
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving

Above all, commit to continuous learning and upskilling to remain competitive and indispensable in an ever-evolving gig economy. Regularly reassess your capabilities, identify gaps, and proactively acquire new skills to maintain your marketability and succeed as a freelancer.

Over to you—what skills are you planning on developing this year?