As every author, artist, and game designer knows — this career is not a static one. There is always something new to learn: settings, systems, writing styles, personality quirks, your likes and dislikes, etc. In fact, one of the most exciting things about being a freelancer is just how much “new” there is.
While there are a lot of business-related skills you need to navigate the turbulent freelancing waters, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the social attribute (and complementary people skills) you also need. Freelancers need to have a strong social attribute to work independently and with others. There are, as I alluded to earlier in my column, a *ton* of ways a business may function. While some manufacturing processes and sales cycles may be the same, there’s a lot of different ways to craft an RPG – but the big component to that is people!
A lot of writers are painted as introverts in the sense that we are energized when we have some time to ourselves and large crowds drain us. This is sometimes leveraged as a positive attribute or a stigma, which is why your personality is so crucial to your ability to freelance, because you’ll figure out who you can work with and who you can’t. (If you have the chance, check out this really awesome chart about freelancing inspired by Neil Gaiman’s recent graduation speech.)
There’s a lot of egos in the industry (in *any* business, really) and you will have one of your own to manage. As a freelancer, you’re providing a service for a specific project, and there’s more pressure on you when someone doesn’t know who you are or what you can deliver. But the system isn’t perfect. You’re going to interact with people you don’t like, write crappy projects that never see the light of day, and take on more work than you can handle because you’re freaking out about money.
Once you understand what you can and can’t control, then you’ll be able to add the second (and, in my opinion, most important) attribute you need. The second attribute you have to have as a freelancer is flexibility.. If you can learn how to roll with the critical hits, you can do anything and you will be successful.