Top 3 freelancing challenges and tips to overcome them, from PeoplePerHour freelancer Tahir

As you look back at your success and wins of last year, it’s the right time to think about what’s there this year – and make some motivational resolutions and goals. The starting point of every goal-setting exercise is ‘assessment of the environment, key factors, and trends.

The Freelance Economy is growing as the number of businesses embracing virtual contractual staff is increasing day by day – and so is the number of people adopting freelancing as a career.

According to the Study by Freelancers Union and UpWork, roughly 57.3 million Americans worked as a freelancer in 2017 – and by 2020, 40 percent of the total US workforce will be freelancing. The self-employment trend is the most popular among Millennials who now consist of 47 percent of the Gig Economy.

And this is not just the United States, even the developing (particularly Asian) countries like India, Pakistan, and the Philippines are also witnessing the rapid adoption of “being your own boss” framework and earning millions of dollars.

However, there’s another side of the story as well.

While the number of freelancers has definitely increased, the flow of work, quality of leads, income sustainability and work-life balance have been hit hard. 62 percent of the freelancers agreed that lack of sustainable income and work-life balance are their key challenges.

Moreover, there are some issues surrounding healthcare and other social benefits – because, in most of the freelancing contracts, the client isn’t responsible for healthcare, utilities, and overhead costs.

I’ve summed these challenges in the three segments – and listing them down with tested advice. I do believe that you can cope with them and turn these challenges into opportunities in 2018.

1. Unsustainable Income

No matter your niche, if you aren’t good at client retention, work-flow will continue to haunt your business.  To avoid this, a number of freelancers stick to one or a few clients and keep playing safe. This is a good strategy to some extent but some folks may feel creative burnout if they remain with one client or on one job.

As you move further into 2018, I would advise you to study the seasonality and trends of your business in 2017.

  • Did you receive an influx of work at a specific time, month or quarter?
  • Was there a rush of new business activity during a particular event?
  • Does your clientele belong to a particular segment or industry?
  • Which client/niche was the most profitable?
  • What skill-set or tool was the most in-demand?

This will help you prepare for the remainder of this year with practical insights and plan your pitches accordingly.

2. Work-life Imbalance

One of the bad habits that many freelancers (including me) fall prey to, is putting a lot of pressure on themselves to do more and more. While strengthening the bottom line is always the primary goal, don’t let the freelance work take control of your life and ruin your health and relationships.

This year, make a firm resolve to do the following:

  • Set the boundaries between business and personal time. Never answer any business email during personal time or late hours. If you’ve got some spare time, spend it with your friends, family, or books.
  • Learn to say “No”. There are people who, in order to win a client, commit to remain available around the clock, which is insane.
  • When negotiating with clients, professionally communicate your business hours and availability.

3. Client Management

Freelancing or any service business is largely dependent on effective client management. The most important thing in is to manage the expectations and ensure customer satisfaction.

Any time there is a conflict, it’s primarily because of some gap in communication or expectation. In order to ensure that you enjoy a healthy business relationship with clients, set some basic rules and communicate effectively.

For example:

  • When negotiating a contract, be honest about your skills set and don’t hide any limitations you have.  This will help them set the right expectations.
  • Communicate your working-hours and availability. Be firm not to engage with clients during ‘personal time’ (not counting the exceptional cases).
  • If your business engagement involves some additional subscription or overhead costs, communicate it to the client from the beginning.
  • Deadlines are deal-breaker – try to set a flexible and easily manageable deadline, and if it can’t be met, communicate to the client in advance.
  • Learn to say “No” if you aren’t comfortable with the demand, deadline, tool, project or anything else. A good client will not mind hearing “No”.

The Bonus Advice

Being a jack-of-all-trades is good, but mastering something is even better. If you want to earn more and win more clients, drop the jack-of-all-trades bit and narrow down your service niches.

When you list down a focused skill set, develop deep expertise and earn a competitive advantage in terms of quality and quick turnaround. Don’t consider this as limiting yourself – as we’re living in the “Economy of Subject Specialists”. Businesses are ready to pay more for the subject experts as compared to generalists.

Featured Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash