5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Freelancing

surprised businesswoman laptop

The idea of being a freelancer appeals to a lot of people. After all, whenever you mention this profession to your peers, they often think of romanticized scenarios involving you and your comfy pajamas, an endless source of clients and money flowing in every single time.

Indeed, being a freelancer definitely has its perks. You can set your own hours, you can work from home, you can choose your own clients and you can let your creative juices take the reins.

But then, you already knew about these freelancing benefits, right? That’s why you ventured into freelancing in the first place!

How about the downsides? Are you aware of them?

My friend, save yourself the hassle of career heartbreak and read on—before it’s too late.

1. The first month will be excruciating torture.

You wake up early to prepare for your corporate work, when you suddenly realize you just quit your day job. You feel scared out of your wits, thinking if there will be money coming your way.

You feel weird because your usual work structure has not been established yet. You might even blame yourself for quitting your day job.

Advice: My friend, relax for a while and cool down. Get a piece of paper and a pen and start listing down a tentative schedule. Set a time for:

  • brainstorming your brand;
  • creating your company materials (website, contract and business cards, among others);
  • marketing your services; and
  • actually doing the nitty-gritty work

You’re bound to mess up and forget this schedule once (or twice) in a while, but doing a small action to bring structure back to your life works wonders for your peace of mind.

2. Bad clients exist and they will try to take advantage of you.

Credits to Hugh McLeod

Credits to Hugh McLeod

The freelancing world is tough because of the competition. What makes it tougher, however, are bad customers who intentionally take advantage of you.

There are clients who:

  • offer nice compensation at first but vanish once you’ve sent the completed project
  • demand you to do work outside the agreed project description
  • tell you to lower your rate
  • ask you to revise your work for more than three times without pay

Advice: There are many factors involved in this, so…

  • Spend time to actually connect with your customers. Relate to them in a professional way. Give them subtle advice when they need it. Message them regularly and inform them about your progress regarding their project.
  • Invest in legal counsel to produce a basic contract that you and your client need to sign. Make sure to customize every contract according to mutual agreement. Also, use simple words so the client can easily understand the main premises.
  • For invoicing and collecting, include the terms in the contract as well. After spending a lot of time doing the project and expecting payment, you don’t want clients to say “it wasn’t in the contract…”, do you?
  • For the clients who are notorious for late payments and limitless demands, learn to say “no” to them. It’s better for you to spend your time and talent on someone else.

3. There will be feast and famine. It could happen anytime.

One day you’d be swamped with abundant projects that you may barely have enough time to shower, while the next day you’re out of paid work! The world of freelancing is unpredictable. Feast or famine may strike you anytime.

Advice: This is where discipline is important. If you think that being a freelancer means doing creative work and waiting for clients to approach you only, think again.

Freelancers are essentially entrepreneurs. We run our own company.

  • Set aside time for marketing and networking each day. Connect to your clients (or potential clients) via social media platforms, ask about their day and just be professionally friendly. Start with 5 people.
  • If you’re just starting out, post on bidding sites so you can have projects to be showcased in your portfolio. Make it a mission to bid on 5 projects a day. Be wary of bad clients, though. See #2 again.
  • Every time you receive income, save at least 10% of it for your emergency fund for when famine comes. You don’t want to be that desperate person who receives every job that comes your way just to be able to pay the bills. You’ll just attract bad customers.

4. Sitting in your home office all day, every day makes you bored, lonely and unhealthy.

buried under a pile of paperFor the first months, you’d love freelancing. You’d love the feel of waking up late, eating breakfast slowly and lounging in your comfy pajamas. You would savor doing the work you love and talking to clients you like.

It’ll feel like you’re as free as a bird.

But eventually, like a bad marriage, it might feel like you’re a caged bird, if you’re not careful.

 
Advice:

  • Diversify your “office”. Being a freelancer means you can have a mobile office – you can literally take your laptop with you and work everywhere you want. Don’t get stuck at home. Work in a quiet coffee shop, in a nice library or in a peaceful park.
  • Socialize outdoors. The key to being a freelancer is still finding balance between work and play. Take your job seriously while still keeping in touch.
  • Exercise. You don’t have to go to a gym and be a gym buff. Dancing and running are good for a start. You’d do well investing in a health insurance plan, too.

5. You will get beat up and hurt figuratively but you’ll get over it.

The freelancing profession is challenging. In addition to registering your own freelancing business, filing taxes, getting insurance, collecting late payments and actually working, the stress of whether you’re doing a good job or you’re failing in life will get to you.

Clients may not like your work, no one may give you a project and someone may choose not to pay you.

Sometimes, you may even feel on giving up on freelancing. You may even think it’s not right for you.

Advice:

  • Choose your niche based on the topics you’re passionate about. Write about things that inspire you so that when famine comes, you’re still bound to keep going. Love your craft.
  • Be confident. I know it’s easier to say it, but being confident is one of the key traits of a successful freelancer. Don’t be afraid to give suggestions or correct a mistake. Good customers come to those who know what they’re doing.
  • Get over it. Some clients will give you bad feedback while some will sing praises about you. If you know that you’ve done your best and yet the client still insists on giving you bad feedback, let the client go. Learn from the experience and smile – you can get over it.

Keep going. Being a freelancer has its ups and downs, but ultimately, it’s going to be one of the best experiences you can ever have. You won’t have an overnight success but that’s okay.

Important things like freelancing take time.

And once you’ve invested your time and talent on it, you’d realize that, in the end, it was all worth it.

[mojo_shortcodes_alert style="white"]Lianne Martha M. Laroya is a pro blogger & freelance writer committed to providing writing services that produce compelling content to passionate small & medium enterprises. A nurse entrepreneur, Lianne believes in winning at all aspects of life so she founded The Wise Living. To avail of her writing services, simply connect with her on Twitter, @MsLianneLaroya [/mojo_shortcodes_alert]

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  • http://www.yourecommerceguy.com Arnel

    I was about to give up freelancing but when I read this post, I realized that I’m not the only person experiencing such circumstances. The biggest downside of my career was when I trusted a client too much, worked for him too hard, only to find out that he’s a scam.

    • http://thewiseliving.com Lianne @ The Wise Living

      Hi Arnel. I know what you’re going through right now. Keep on fighting – you will find great clients as long as you keep searching for them. :)

    • Ram

      Always ask for upfront or only do a trial work to avoid scam.

  • http://blog.odysen.com Matt

    Words of wisdom from your experiences, especially tip #5. Just sticking with it long enough you’ll eventually learn a 100 or 10,000 things that you didn’t know or do before, but it’s hard, takes time, dedication, practice, patience and a sense of humor every now and then doesn’t hurt.

    • http://thewiseliving.com Lianne @ The Wise Living

      Hi Matt,

      Thanks a lot for commenting! :) I agree – freelancing is a matter of patience and perseverance as well. As long we have the passion for it, we can get profit in no time! And yes, a huge dose of sense of humor works wonders. ;)

  • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

    Thank you, Lianne, for the great advice. All five situations will happen to any freelancer, and it’s really up to has to be smart and calm about them. I admit that back when I experienced a road block with a client I thought was a great person to work with, I was very emotional, disappointed to the max, that I actually lashed out on him before saying goodbye.

    Very. bad. move.

    Your tips have certainly been a reminder to get back down to earth and realize that freelancing isn’t easy, and it helps to know that we are not alone in one or all of these predicaments. ;)

  • http://thefitpinoy.com Malds

    Great post. The last advice reminds me of the first time I got scammed. I was so depressed I stopped working for 2 weeks. I had to drop all my other jobs that time. I just couldn’t get myself to write anything.

    I got over it after awhile though and I’m happy I pushed through. Would never have gotten to the point where I am now if I had just given up.

  • http://blog.unsayuso.com/arnis-adventures-day-1/ Zion

    I can totally relate with this especially with being scammed. My freaking first client was a scam and boy was I disappointed. As much as I wanted to stop freelancing, I didn’t because I believed there is more to the freelancing world than scammers. Thankfull, I persevered and I’m currently enjoying a stable income with a great boss! :)

  • http://happyphilippines.com Happy Philippines

    I’m smiling while reading this, all true, can relate. At least now I know I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing! :)

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

      Thank you as well for reading! You’d be surprised of how large the freelancing community really is.

  • Giovanni-Carlo P Bagayas

    Hi Stef,

    My account at odesk was suspended for the reason that I had low feedback and had a number of dispute, but actually it is not they mistook my help tickets asking for technical help as disputes since there system is automated. I tried to talk with the customer help but they just repeatedly keeps on answering that their reviewing my account and will just reinstate my account after reviewing but until now they don’t reinstate my account.

    By the way, how to perform guest blogging?

    Best,
    Gio

  • Justine

    Hi,

    This is really an insightful article. I am not a freelancer (not yet). But this just gives me what I need to know. Very helpful indeed. It would be nice to read more articles like it.

    Sincerely,
    Justine

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

      Thanks Justine!

  • http://www.pcos-tryingtoconceive.blogspot.com ryz

    Spot on!

    Being a freelancer for 4 years, I have experienced all of this. When people tells me how ‘lucky’ I am now that I have full time, steady clients, I would tell them it is not luck! Because for 4 years I went through pain, I even tried to go back to the BPO industry because I didn’t really had clients for a few months. Good thing I pushed through and now, I am back, stronger with clients that are nice and jobs that are stable. It’s not about being lucky — it’s about continuing despite knowing these 5 things, because for sure, everyone starting to freelance will experience these at some point.