Often perceived as a dream-come-true for those who are still at their 9-to-5 office job, freelancing is a flexible, malleable beast. But precisely due to its highly adaptable nature, it’s easy for those who are new to the game to either idealize the experience, or simply not conduct the necessary preparations for them to enter and stay in their desired career with success.
It’s far from perfect, especially in an increasingly competitive environment, and for all your education, experience and other values, there is no unwritten promise that you will not come across obstacles. Chances are, you will, and they might deter you from pursuing your freelancing gig at all, but if you do your best to prepare for the hurdles, you’ll give your future career a decent opportunity to thrive.
Overburdening yourself with work
It’s one thing to be eager to succeed and take on new projects with enthusiasm, but burnout is no joking matter in the world of freelancers, especially those who are just making their way into the already massive work universe. Yes, by all means, accept projects of reasonable scope and difficulty until you figure out the intricacies of time management, organizing yourself across several tasks and recognizing the limits of your workload so that the quality of your work doesn’t suffer.
Moving forward – In order to stay realistically engaged on a daily basis, set up a schedule that includes regular breaks. Take your mind off your work by taking on something that relaxes your body and your mind, so that your can start afresh later in the day.
Learn to say no, because this will help you dedicate your abilities to the project you’re already handling, without risking your clients’ dissatisfaction or jeopardizing your own reputation. They will respect you for your honesty, and they’ll gladly take you into consideration for their next project. The same doesn’t apply if you work until breaking point and disappoint your clients with poor work.
Your immune system will suffer
The fact that you’re isolated from the rest of the world (which is a whole different issue) doesn’t mean that you’ll be any safer from getting a cold every now and then. Unfortunately, fevers are as common among freelancers as they are in your typical office – if not even more prevalent, if you’re not careful with your environment, or your diet and exercise regime. But unlike your 9-to-5 job that gives you health insurance and other benefits, including paid sick leave, freelancers have to cover it all on their own.
Protecting yourself – First and foremost, you need to take control of your environment. Freelancers do have the freedom to work from cafes, libraries, parks, or wherever they please, but if you’re just starting out, it means you’ll spend your working hours in a place with the safest internet connection and where you are certain you’ll be distraction-free. Simply put: your home.
When designing your little home office, make sure you procure a back-supporting chair to avoid later aches and pains, find the best air purifier to get rid of pollution and airborne allergens, get a water bottle to stay hydrated instead of loading up on caffeine, and pre-prep your meals, so that you don’t end up skipping lunch because you’re on a tight schedule.
Finally, no matter what you do, you need to be financially ready for the moments you do get sick. Always put some money into your private sick fund, and you’ll be able to finance yourself through those days or (hopefully not) weeks while you’re unable to work. This is where your ability to say no to work will be tested – stay persistent and your clients will appreciate it.
Limiting your work options
Many new freelancers stick to a single source of work for the first few months of their career, simply because they wish to test the waters and see which areas work best. But, with limited sources comes the risk of limited work, so you’ll often find yourself with no projects at all, as you have yet to prove your worth to the community, hence you’re still not the first choice for your expertise.
Spreading your wings – There’s a fine line between overburdening yourself with work and completely restricting your work sources. Get acquainted with other freelancers, they are not just your competition, in a sense, they will be your recommendation if you play your cards right. The freelancing culture flourishes best when its members know whom they can rely on to get recommended for projects when someone cannot take on more work, and to whom they can pass on their own offers if they are already otherwise engaged.
Plus, the online world is brimming with freelancing networks such as UpWork and Freelancer, but also numerous companies that are happy to outsource some of their work. Explore your options, research them thoroughly and in time, you will discover which clients need work at what times, and if there’s a dry spell on the horizon, you’ll know where to look for extra work.
A lack of socializing and networking
Most traditional jobs, in addition to a fixed income and health insurance, offer many perks such as teambuilding opportunities, seminars and conferences to attend, specialization courses, and of course, you have your free time to do as you please. After five, you can take up any sport, head to the gym, or just relax with a few friends in the pub. But freelancers often spread their work throughout the day, work late hours, sometimes even at night, and networking is practically non-existent.
Unless: You start working in a collaborative office space where you’ll meet all sorts of people from and outside your field of work. They may be a gateway to an interesting project, a fun conference, or a useful source of tips, or just coffee pals when you’re all on a lunch break.
Time-management is of the essence for every freelancer as well, and the sooner you master the art of scheduling your work and recognizing your output limitations, the easier it will become to manage your daily duties and juggle work with your social life. It may seem daunting at first, a few slipups, all-nighters and even some procrastination might be inevitable, but you’ll soon be on the right track. Preferably, not alone.
These are just some of the most common freelancing challenges that await just around the corner, but fear not – there will be many others as well, some of which will be uniquely your predicaments, others all-too-typical for the freelance lifestyle. Brace yourself, keep at it, and even these hurdles will become a pleasure to overcome once you start experiencing the many perks of your new professional path.