Day 1: Make An Inventory of Your Freelancing Skills

January first

This is Day 1 of 31 Days to Start a Freelancing Business (Or Make Yours A Better One). Every day, we will focus on a specific task you should carry out in order to start a profitable freelancing business. Even though this series lasts 31 days, feel free to go at your own pace. And if you’re already freelancing, it still helps to go through these tasks again. You’ll find ways to improve and make your existing freelancing business even more profitable and more enjoyable than it is. I’ll be doing it with you!

So you’ve decided to start freelancing. Congratulations! It’s a leap of faith, whether you were thrust into it by a lay-off, or it’s a dream you’ve had for years.

Either way, it pays to start right. And let’s begin with YOU.

What Can You Do, Exactly?

Begin by making a list of all your skills. Grab a big, blank sheet of paper and a pen or pencil and just list down each and every thing you can do.

Don’t think about this too much. This is similar to a brainstorming exercise where you don’t edit, evaluate or judge any of your ideas yet. The only criterion is that everything you write should be something you can do – a skill you already have in your field. So please don’t include your hobbies here, unless you want to freelance in that area!

Don’t think about whether  you’re good at it, enjoy doing it, or think there’s a demand for it.

Think of skills you picked up while you were employed. Things you have formally studied or trained for. And don’t forget skills in your field that you learned on your own.

Write until you can’t think of anything more. And then ask your friends and family what they think you can do (again, not what you’re good at but what you can already do). Stop only when you’re sure you’ve exhausted all the possibilities.

Should you write on paper or the computer? Use what works for you best. Personally, I brainstorm much more effectively with paper and pen, preferably a very large and very blank sheet of paper. Otherwise, it feels like the lines on the paper constrain my thoughts.

But that might not be the case for you. Maybe your brain gets cranked up when you’re in front of your computer screen. If that’s the case, then type your list onto your computer.

Now We Analyze

After completing your list, you may want to take a break before moving into the next part of today’s task: analyzing your skills.

Now is the time to look at your skills and decide:

  • which skills are you really good at?
  • which skills do you enjoy doing most?
  • which skills are in high demand?

Ideally, you’ll identify a few skills that fit all three descriptions, as represented by the middle portion of the graphic below, where all three circles overlap.

Skills Graphic

Don’t worry too much about the third item yet (demand). You’ll be going back to that on a later date, when you find out what your target clients want.

I suggest you transfer your list of skills into a matrix like this:

Freelancing Skills Matrix

Again, don’t over-think this exercise. The important thing is to be both thorough and honest.

Today’s exercise will be one of your bases for putting together your service packages. But don’t get ahead of yourself. We’ll be taking things one step at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Relax and enjoy the exercises. Because if you’re not having fun, then what’s freelancing for?


PS: If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Crystl

51 Responses to Day 1: Make An Inventory of Your Freelancing Skills
  1. Tess Taylor
    October 1, 2009 | 3:19 pm


    What a great idea – helping those that are thinking about starting or improving their freelance business! Sometimes, the hardest part of getting started is identifying what marketable talents you have. This article addressed that in such an easy-to-understand way!

    I am at the “need to improve” my freelance business stage so I will definitely be coming back to learn more.

    Best Regards,
    Taylor Resources Writing LLC.

  2. Kathleen
    October 1, 2009 | 4:08 pm

    Great idea! I actually just started doing this on my own so I can clearly define how I want my business to develop. I look forward to seeing how this progresses. I expect it will be very helpful. :)

  3. Becky Blanton
    October 1, 2009 | 7:24 pm

    Great place to start – with an inventory. But the best advice is the column where you ask people to check what they do well and what they enjoy doing. No matter how good you are at something you don’t enjoy doing, it can make you procrastinate and really kill your time!!

    I’m looking forward to this 31 day challenge! Good idea!

  4. Chris Anderson
    October 2, 2009 | 10:30 am

    I kind of did something similar to this when I set up my portfolio site. Although I didn’t write it down. I think I’m going to. Great start Lexi
    .-= Chris Anderson´s last blog ..Efficiency and Time — Ordering Chinese =-.

  5. The OMV - Good Skills + Passion = Success
    October 2, 2009 | 12:03 pm

    [...] post was inspired by a fel­low free­lancer Alexis Rodrigo. Her recent post on her blog called Day 1: Make An Inven­tory of Your Free­lanc­ing Skills may con­done more to free­lancers, but I think it will be use­ful for every­one to find their [...]

  6. Alexis
    October 3, 2009 | 10:27 am

    Thanks for the comments, everybody! If you’re following along, please share what insights you get from the exercises. You never know who might benefit from your wisdom.

    And do send me your suggestions if you have any.

    See you again soon!

  7. Richelle
    October 27, 2009 | 7:50 pm

    Wow what a great idea… i’ve got lots of reading to do considering I am starting at day 1… but having been a freelancer for some time now it will add as a great refresher and guide to if I did things the right way!
    Thanks lexi for a great resource… looking forward to the rest of the days :)

    • Alexis
      October 27, 2009 | 10:05 pm

      Welcome to the Savvy Freelancer, Richelle! I do hope you find some useful stuff in this series of blog posts. Please chime in with your own wisdom as you see fit. It looks like you’ve been freelancing longer than I have and we can all learn from each other.


  8. TraceyJoy76
    October 29, 2009 | 2:29 pm

    WOW!! It’s one thing to have an idea it’s another thing to write it down. Sometimes your brain is on over load and you simply cannot focus. This has put everything in step by step order which is how I learn best. Now I have clear concise stesp to begin freelancing. Nice start for me Alexis, much appreciation.

    • Alexis
      October 29, 2009 | 3:00 pm


      As I mentioned to you on Twitter, you’re one of the inspirations for me when I decided to write this series of posts. It’s the step by step guide to start freelancing that I wish I had when I was starting out. I hope you find it useful.


  9. Priyanka
    March 29, 2010 | 3:06 am

    wow!!!! gr88 work ……I was just looking for s’thing like this to kick start what i was planning for sometime now. I guess now i will be able to excute my ideas into relaity…..
    Thank you so much….. i really mean it

    • Alexis
      March 29, 2010 | 8:56 am

      Thank you for the feedbank, Priyanka! I hope you find the series really useful.

  10. Elvis
    April 26, 2010 | 10:46 am

    How do I add my avatar to my replies?

  11. Elvis
    April 27, 2010 | 7:30 am

    Thank you Lexi! Now the world can see me! LOL!

    • Alexis
      April 28, 2010 | 1:22 am

      Yes, it’s nice to see you, Elvis!

  12. Melinda
    May 14, 2010 | 3:10 pm

    I’m late to the party, but I am starting from Day 1. Thank you so much for this. I’ve started my list and oh, goodness, it is so hard to come up with more than the basics. I guess I just don’t pay attention to what all I do, or don’t think of something as a skill. We are our own worst critics, right?

    • Alexis
      May 14, 2010 | 3:42 pm

      Hi Melinda! You’re not late at all. The important thing is to get started. You’re right about being your own worst critic – watch out and get out of your own way!

  13. Jerry Markham
    May 25, 2010 | 3:55 am

    Thanks for posting this Alexis. I started my company over a year ago. My only real client has been myself in promoting my music through my art. But I need to REALLY get things going.

    I’ve made my lists of skills I’m good at and skills I enjoy. This may seem like an odd question, but how does one know what skills are not only in demand but HIGH demand?

    Looking forward to the next email.

    • Alexis
      May 25, 2010 | 4:20 pm

      Hi Jerry, It’s a good idea to hang out where your Ideal Clients are and get to know what services they look for. Online, you can do this by joining groups, lists and forums, or even by simply monitoring certain keywords on Twitter.

      Offline, you could attend conferences, trade shows and other opportunities to meet with your Ideal Clients face to face. Get to know them and you’ll have a feel for what services are in high demand.

      Hope this helps!

  14. Mylène
    June 24, 2010 | 3:22 am


    Thanks a lot for this ! Next week I will have my first (paid) job as a freelance and I’m kind of nervous about this, because it forced me to focus on what I need to do to really start as a self-employed personn !

    Your step by step schedule is a great relief, it helps me to look at what’s important and calm down ^^

    Maybe I will find out that it is not so hard as I think it is…

    Anyway, thanks for your blog, I’ve read it for a few weeks now and found good tips !

    (and sorry for my english ^^)

    • Alexis
      June 24, 2010 | 8:35 am

      Thank you for the feedback, Mylene. I’m so happy you’re finding the content of this blog useful. Good luck on your first freelance assignment. Just do your very best for your clients each and every time and you’ll be fine.

  15. Nikki
    August 23, 2010 | 4:49 pm

    Hi! I really appreciate this information. I recently graduated from my graphic design program and I’ve been having difficulty finding a job. I have always wanted to be a freelancer and be self-employed but I didn’t have a clue where to start. This whole Freelance in 31 days idea is fantastic and I plan on seeing it all the way through. Hopefully as a result I’ll have a viable income and won’t require a full time job.

    • Alexis
      August 23, 2010 | 4:57 pm

      Glad you’re finding the information helpful, Nikki. All the best to you!

  16. Karine Delvare
    August 26, 2010 | 3:48 am

    Hi Lexi, I’m happy I found out your series of articles, so just in case other people come late like me, I will play the game and post my thoughts.

    I’m in quite a special position right now, I started freelancing while having my first child, and stopped some monthes ago while expecting my second one (I live in France, where we have the opportunity to stay at home 3 years to raise any child from the second one, while being awarded a small monthly income – I made my choice !) So now I have 3 years to prepare my freelance come-back, which is both very long and pretty short given all I hope I’ll be able to do.

    As for skills, I find it pretty hard to constrain myself to things I only already master, as I intend to make the most of these 3 years and get good at the skills I would love to sell then.

    Another thing I find difficult, is to separate “what I do well” and “what I enjoy doing”, because I only enjoy skills I am already good at. So, if I want to train myself in some skills I do not know well enough to sell yet, I still wonder if I will really enjoy these skills when I will master them, and if I am not just driven by the idea that they will sell well. Right now, I cannot tell if I will truly enjoy them, because I may discover in my training process that there are parts of the field that I dislike (like, when I was all excited with XHTML/CSS as long as it was pure semantic valid beautiful code, and then I understood most clients ask for old IE compatibility and all my perfect code had no place in the real world…)

    That being said, with the time I have, I have the luxury to try training several skills and deciding later on if they are all worth it or not. But I don’t want to make that decision too late, I’d like to come back to freelancing with at least one great expertise, and that asks for time and commitment.

  17. Danilo Diaz
    August 31, 2010 | 9:54 am

    Hi Alexi,
    Sometimes it’s very hard to think and brainstorm all the skills you have. What I do is that I start on the in demand side first.

    To my surprise, there are some in demand jobs that requires some skills that I didn’t think of I possess.

    It’s very easy to find what the market wants. I just go on some freelance bidding sites like, and I take note all the open and close jobs out there that require skills that I had.

    The more unique skills you have, the less is your competition and higher the pay.

  18. Bonnie
    January 10, 2011 | 1:37 am

    I think this is going to be the ground-breaker for me! I have been working on trying to get my freelance business up and going, but have had no success past the initial stage of planning. I love the way you have put this together and I reallly believe it will help me,

    • Alexis
      January 10, 2011 | 8:33 am

      @Bonnie – I’m happy to hear you’re finding the 31-day series useful, Bonnie. Thanks for the feedback. If you have any questions, just post them in the comments section of the relevant post, and I’ll respond as soon as I can.

  19. Marie-Ange
    February 9, 2011 | 5:37 am

    Hi Lexi,
    I have considerably progressed in my use of your program since my first message: at first, I tended to read in my mailbox those of your mails that called my attention according to my own reflections, sometimes several days after reception. This was because I had registered to various useful newsletters, so I received a lot of e-mails along with the daily one of “31 Days”, and because I was doing a lot of researches for my project. But I realized I was not efficient enough, and felt a bit lost in the process after a while.
    After a few days, I decided to start it all over again, but much more « seriously »: I did a table with all the titles of your lessons, imported the content in Word format in order to ensure access even without Internet connection, and created a planning to set a day for each lesson. In the meantime, I had also found out more precisely what my service offer would be. So now I am following my planning, but with a clearer idea of what will likely be the most important for my business.
    And in that sense, the first lesson was very useful, even if I had done something similar a few months before, in order to update my CV. But this time, knowing better what kind of services I would like to offer made me much more efficient and goal-oriented. Also, asking friends what they think we can do can be very rewarding in itself ! The only thing I find difficult to evaluate objectively is what I am good at : in that field, I think there can be a great difference between what we think and the reality. So it only works if one has done a certain task for a time long enough, and with enough external feed-back, to be able to state that one is, indeed, good at it.
    This is the interesting part: I am certain that there are a lot of different ways to get the benefits of the 31 Days’, whatever the reader’s profile is. To take my own example, after several years in a public service, I did a Master in Marketing last year as long-life training, so many of the concepts and ideas you explain are already a bit familiar to me.
    But what make people keep on reading your lessons and want to use them is directly linked with the way you elaborated them : definitely user-friendly, accessible to anyone, while at the same time very solidly built.

    • Alexis
      February 9, 2011 | 9:50 am

      @Marie-Ange – Thank you very much for your feedback. I admire your determination to work through the 31 days and get your freelancing off to a good start. I have no doubt you will succeed, because you are so diligent and committed.

      You’ve also given me an idea for how I can take the 31-day series to the next step. Watch out for it in a future email :-D

      External feedback is crucial to discovering our gifts. I should add that to the post. Often, we take for granted the skills we are good at, because they come so easily and naturally to us. We think everybody else can do it, or that it’s “ordinary.” So it definitely helps to recall or ask your friends, family and former coworkers (whom you trust and know won’t undermine your confidence) what they have observed to be your strengths. You just may be surprised with their answers.

      All the best to you, Marie-Ange!

  20. Brian
    April 28, 2011 | 4:02 pm

    Hi Lexi, I have been reading your blog off and on for close to a year now with working as a freelancer always in the back of my head. Having a full-time job and a family I would pick up a project here and there, never really getting a solid footing in it. Now I have found an opportunity to really jump into freelancing and put my best foot forward. Recently I lost my job and have become unemployed. I immediately picked up a project that I am currently working on. In order to be sure that I reach the success that I’m seeking, I started 31 days on today.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience.

    • Alexis
      April 28, 2011 | 4:05 pm

      @Brian – That’s one way to jump into freelancing! I wish you all the best. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to post them here or send me an email.

  21. dafcreativity
    May 13, 2011 | 9:05 am

    Great ideas and i wish i have gotten this some years ago!.

    • Alexis
      May 19, 2011 | 1:44 pm

      @dafcreativity – Thanks for the feedback. It’s here for you now :-D

  22. Sanjeet
    May 17, 2011 | 11:24 am

    Dear lexi i am a very simple ria developer from india and i am planning to start freelancing and your great tips are so useful for me thanks a lot

    • Alexis
      May 19, 2011 | 1:43 pm

      @Sanjeet – Thank you for your feedback. I wish you the best in your freelancing!

  23. Lucas R. Tucker
    June 1, 2011 | 5:07 pm

    Thanks for the series of posts. i found them 3 days ago and have decided to start a blog documenting my work at each assignment. Thanks again.
    Lucas R. Tucker´s last blog post ..Day 1- Make an inventory of your freelancing skills

  24. Coco
    June 11, 2011 | 10:30 pm

    I like your post, but no matter how good you are at something you don’t enjoy doing, it can make you procrastinate and really kill your time.
    Coco´s last blog post ..Why Inventory Management Software is Important

  25. [...] Day 1. Make an Inventory of Your Freelancing Skills [...]

  26. Kenn
    August 10, 2011 | 10:59 pm


    Hey Lexi, this post is a winner. You definitely want to spend as much time doing things that fit all three. Great exercise Lexi!

    I recently read a book, “Happier” which highlights that the work or activity that you do ought to:

    1) make you happy now (while doing it)
    2) be beneficial in the future (benefits later)

    So, in addition to your model of doing things that do all three (good at, enjoy, in demand), it’s also helpful to find stuff that is both beneficial now and beneficial in the future.


  27. jobatonline
    November 11, 2011 | 7:54 am

    Great Idea my dear I like your post, but no matter how good you are at something you don’t enjoy doing, it can make you procrastinate and really kill your time.
    jobatonline´s last blog post ..কেন পিএইচপি ইউজ (PHP Use) করবেন?

    • Alexis
      November 11, 2011 | 3:05 pm


  28. olawoyin tunde
    December 7, 2011 | 1:11 pm

    I am planning to start a freelance business,i am good in writing seo article and also i have skills in designing word press site and also face book fans page, but i am thinking of starting up a web presence for my freelance business.
    I will like to know if that is a better idea for a starter like me and also a freelancer from the part of world i’m from,Nigeria.
    I hope to read a follow up comments from any one.
    olawoyin tunde´s last blog post ..The real Benefits of STOPING SMOKING.

  29. Sharna Sammy
    March 12, 2012 | 10:31 am

    Hi Alexis
    Thank you for your tips on how to start up freelancing. I’m still trying very hard to discover these skills and how I can make money from it and enjoy it. I feel as if I hit a brick wall each time I try different website’s advice. I think, and I hope, this one will help me find the answer I’m looking for.
    Thanks again for providing this very valuable information. I look forward to going through each day with you and everyone here. Now, I see I’m not alone in this :)

    • Alexis
      March 20, 2012 | 12:02 pm

      @Sharma Sammy – There is no one way to succeed at freelancing. Do what resonates best with your style, personality and goals. I wish you the best! And, yes, you are not alone!

  30. Justin
    August 20, 2012 | 1:29 am

    I love this it is just what I needed. As part of these exercises I want to try to post on every one of these. my thoughts on the first one as I said I love it. Really helped to look at what I am good and what I enjoy and what I think others might want. The part about brainstorming was also helpful because its easy to over think and get bogged down with the details. Thanks for a great first day I will be doing these at a faster pace so moving on to number two.

  31. Karen
    June 26, 2013 | 12:26 am

    Wow this is a very practical tip on assessing your skills. I will use this one and share with my friends.
    Karen´s last blog post ..Write to Argue

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