In part one of our Top 10 Challenges Every Freelancer Faces, issues such as unrealistic demands all the way to late payments were addressed. Part two tackles a few more personal problems, especially those that can be problems of our own making. So just what are the biggest issues for freelance contractors?
The average freelancer works on their kitchen table, while occasionally you may have a spare bedroom kitted out with a desk and chair to call your base of operations. But, more often than not, being a freelancer means spending a lot of time in the company of one person: yourself.
Other than making plans to socialise outside of work hours, a good way to curb the loneliness of freelancing is to try working in a co-working hub. These are commonly found in big cities – with great examples across Manchester and London – and give you the chance to work in an office space surrounded by other freelancers. These are relatively cheap and very flexible, meaning you can choose to go whenever you feel like it.
The benefits to a co-working space are multiple. Not only does it make you leave the house everyday and see someone other than your cat – and yes, we agree, ‘Tiddles’ is the best coworker you have ever had – but it gives you a chance to connect with other freelancers on a professional level. Who knows, you could meet someone whilst in a co-working hub who helps you take your freelancing to the next level. The potential is there and if not, at least it can help reduce the feeling of isolation that can creep into the freelancer lifestyle.
If you don’t want to leave the comfort of your home office, there are also plenty of networking opportunities out there. These events give you a chance to meet new like-minded people, allowing you to socialise in a more formal setting and make some very potentially lucrative connections. Networking may seem daunting at first, but a good connection here and a friendly nod there can really open doors for your freelancing efforts. If nothing else, it gives you a chance to talk to people who are in very similar situations to yourself.
With no boss to yell at you, only a client who will be completely oblivious if you rush the work the night before, it is very easy to become a victim of your own procrastination. This is a major problem for your freelancing efforts. Especially as, most of the time, you only have yourself to answer to.
There is no easy solution to procrastination, unfortunately. But, there are a few things you can do which can help to prompt you into making work a priority. These things include a checklist and a timetable. Both do the same job of separating your time into different tasks for you to work on, just in different formats. Choosing between the two will entirely depend on your work process. However, a timetable is good for you as it gives you a definitive start time, stop time and ensures that you get everything done in a good time.
Sometimes, fighting back against procrastination is just a case of willpower. Which, as a freelancer, you need to learn early in order to reach your full potential.
You may have escaped the typical 9 to 5, but that doesn’t mean that you will suddenly have sensible working hours. In fact, it can more often than not mean the exact opposite. Especially as there is no one to tell you to stop working – unless you have an irritable spouse – you could end up working far longer hours as a freelancer than you ever did in an office.
In some cases this is fine. Longer hours means more work done, which means more money in the bank at the end of the month. However, it is also very easy to burn out under these conditions and find yourself too stressed out to actually get any quality work done.
So, how do you solve the problem of never knowing when to stop? Setting yourself rigid working hours, 9 to 5 or otherwise, and actually sticking to them is often the only way to ensure you don’t wear yourself down too quickly as a freelancer. This takes a little self-control, which may be lacking in the first place, but it is important in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle as a freelancer.
If this is a struggle for you, choose a time of day when, no matter what, you drop work and start practising your hobby. Whether you leave the house for a run, jump onto a gaming console or simply go out and water your garden. Making the move to fulfil another task is vital in order to break yourself out of work mode and try to make your hours more manageable in the long term.
Sometimes, no matter what your actual freelancing job, you can almost feel more like your client’s personal assistant than anything else. Constant updates, long daily calls and emails the size of a small novel can all be extremely time-consuming to deal with, yet you feel like this is something you have to do in order to keep the client happy and the money coming into your bank account.
Solving this one is a case, no matter how difficult or rude it may seem, of sticking up for yourself. Say no, the work is not complete yet and I will update you when it is. Cut off a call when appropriate if it is getting too long. Reply to long emails with short, but firm, statements that you don’t have the time now, but you will address the various points at a later date more convenient to yourself. This all links back to managing your client’s expectations – as explored in point two – be clear on what you can and cannot be held accountable for.
It can be difficult and awkward, especially if you are not used to telling people no. But, once you do it once you can do it over and over again. Meaning you have the power to curtail needy clients before they ever get a chance to become too much of an issue for you.
This can be both a positive and a negative aspect of being a freelancer. One day you will have lots and lots of work to do, while another day you will have barely anything and spend your time twiddling your thumbs instead.
As a freelancer, feast or famine is an unfortunate reality that you will face on a daily basis. But, it doesn’t have to be this way! Instead of wasting the time that you have spare during your ‘famine’ cycle, spend that time finding new clients and marketing yourself as a freelancer! This way, your time is spent productively and you will be able to make actionable steps to help break yourself out of the down famine curve.
Simple things such as making a LinkedIn post about being available, while they may only take a minute could land you a new client or at least work needed to help you through your downturn. Doing nothing, at the end of the day, is the worst thing you can do as a freelancer. So, even when your workload is not as full as you would like, make sure you have something productive to do!
At the end of the day, life will always be very up and down as a freelancer. But, knowing and understanding this gives you the opportunity to meet these changes head on and even take advantage of them in some cases!
Look out for Part 1!
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