So you’re thinking about going freelance.

There has been a lot said lately about the shift in the economy to a freelance marketplace. Some predict that as much as 40% of the American workforce will be contingent – which includes freelance and contract work – by the year 2020.

Pretty much any job can be freelance or contract – from software development to engineering bookkeeping and sales – but it’s particularly well suited to developers and programmers, designers and writers.

Freelance does have its drawbacks – no job security, no fancy benefits – but it also has a lot of perks – no self-assessments or team building activities. And one can do pretty well as a freelance writer, though these days I suggest you style yourself as a “content provider.”

But not having the security of a regular position and entering into a more uncertain world requires a certain type of personality and a particular way of doing things. Here are some essentials you need to make it as a freelancer.

Confidence: There is no room for shyness. You’ll have to get over any issues you might have there. A freelancer is always looking for work. Even when you’re working, you should still be looking for work. This means networking, searching job boards and signing up for newsletters. It also means cold contacting strangers and offering your services. Never underestimate the value of a cold contact. People will tell you it’s a bad idea. They’re wrong. You have to be willing and able to talk to strangers and sell yourself.

Excellent research skills: Before you approach anyone you need to learn everything you can about them and their organization. This applies to any job search, of course, but more so when you’ve approached someone out of the blue and they’re already wondering why you’re wasting their time. Wow ‘em by demonstrating that you know what they’re about, then show them why they need you. You will also need to be able to research facts, sources and experts, among other things.

Thick skin. Unless you’re the luckiest person on the planet, you are likely going to experience a lot of rejection — probably more than you think you can handle — and maybe even worse than that, silence. Even if you’re the best at what you do. You know why? Because people suck. Half the time they won’t even open your email or give you the chance to show them how good you are. They won’t reply to you, even to say “Thanks but no thanks.” They can’t be bothered with you. They might be shooting themselves in the foot, but they don’t know it and they don’t care. Get used to it. Keep trying. You have to believe that someone will eventually say “yes” instead of “no.”

Organizational skills. Ideally, a freelancer runs his or her business like a well oiled machine. You need to govern your own work hours. You’ll need to keep charts of your jobs and project due dates, records of your invoices and records of all the pitches and jobs you’ve applied for or bid on, as well as of all the people to whom you’ve reached out and whether they’ve responded or not. You’ll also need to sock money away, so you’ve got something to give the government come tax time. It’s a lot to keep track of.

Ambition. You have to be self motivated. There is no external boss pushing you or looking over your shoulder. This doesn’t mean you work for no one. You work for your clients and they can often be very, very demanding. But you’ll have to push yourself to find and do the work. You must be constantly sharpening the skills you already have, learning new ones, making new contacts and setting new goals. Always be reading, and staying on top of industry trends, so you don’t miss something and fall behind. That’s how you grow.

You’re your own business now. You have to stay on top of things. if you don’t, you will fail. But don’t worry, you can do it. I have faith in you.