Top Challenges Freelancers Face & How to Address Them
Whether you are new to freelancing or an experienced self-employed writer, you know that freelancing comes with its challenges. I have collected some ways to manage the most common drawbacks of freelancing.
Feast or Famine
Balancing inconsistent workflow can be a major issue and one that takes several years to stabilize. To address it, save actively when you are busy and schedule professional development and marketing activities for slow times. It’s a good way to avoid disappointment when the workload drops (suddenly); instead, you will be able to switch to an equally important, revenue-generating task with a fresh mind.
- Have savings for 6-12 months.
- Plan business and personal expenses carefully.
- Know your insurance and investment/banking options well.
- Keep a list of professional organizations so you turn to quality resources you can trust.
- Identify top marketing resources so you don’t have to sift through repetitive information.
- Consider an ongoing part-time contract with a company to ensure some stability, initially.
A flexible schedule often implies rush projects and overlapping deadlines. To keep work and life separate, consider the following:
- Set your standard for responsiveness (1-3 business days).
- Decide on the number of times you will check email during the day to avoid distractions.
- Have a stable health routine and/or a place in your home for regular breaks from work.
- Know your energy levels and manage your energy, not the workload or the hours per se.
- Complete the most demanding tasks during your most productive hours.
- Write down all action items for the day and for the week.
- To minimize client anxiety (if applicable), acknowledge message receipt and provide an estimated delivery time. Give yourself enough time (you can always deliver before the deadline).
- Notify some clients in advance if your schedule fills up fast or you need to be out of office when expecting their revisions.
Billing and Unpaid Invoices
You need to protect your business while meeting your clients’ expectations and building trust.
- For short projects, consider charging 100% advance payments.
- For longer projects, request a 50% advance and a contract.
- Prepare professional invoice templates with your logo. Send an invoice once the client confirms the order or before, along with the suggested service description, to set clear expectations.
- Draft professional, persuasive estimates that focus on the value you deliver.
Some clients may take up more time because they lack knowledge of their needs and your services. You have several options: educating clients, assessing the project for red flags, and declining the project.
- Assume the best (the client lacks experience and is willing to cooperate).
- Educate the client by providing a clear definition of your services, package levels, prices, deadlines, number of revisions, and the improvements they should expect.
- Design a flyer to answer FAQs and/or offer free introductory phone calls (10-15 minutes).
- Ask the first round of detailed and specific questions about the client’s project to assess how cooperative and motivated the client is.
- Questions can include inquiries about available budgets, deadlines, or past experience with similar projects.
- If you are not getting clear answers and there is more emotion than logic, politely decline the project.
- If a client is reasonably challenging, consider your pricing strategy to allow for extra time for emails and other administrative matters.
Lack of an Immediate Team
While you are working alone most of the time, the editorial community is always present and available through professional Facebook groups (EAE Backroom, Conferences for Editors, EAE Ad Space, Editors’ Association of Earth, Business + Professional Development for Editors, Binders Full of WRITING JOBS), Copyediting-L email discussion list, LinkedIn, professional association memberships, conferences, and local chapter events.
- Network online and in person.
- Allocate a budget for paid memberships and conferences.
- Build relationships with colleagues you trust for mutual referrals and advice.
Lack of Benefits
Write a financial plan with clear data on how much you need to pay yourself for the following:
- social security
- taxes and business licenses
- medical, disability, and life insurance
- vacation time
- sick days
- retirement plan
- other business expenses
Factor the price into your effective hourly rate.
Marketing and Administrative Tasks
It can be overwhelming to do everything single-handedly.
- Consider hiring an accountant, a web designer, and/or a social media marketing professional.
- Use social media as a teaching tool, not a sales channel.
- Learn 2-5 marketing channels you enjoy and master them.
- Build your secondary marketing channel(s) through the primary one with automatic reposting.
- Make marketing a regular, meaningful, and enjoyable activity.
- Know your core client groups very well and be where they can find you.
Learning to work with these aspects and not letting them distract you from landing interesting and stimulating work may take time. It’s an ongoing challenge. If you are adequately prepared and strategic, these aspects can be mitigated over the years, allowing you more space and energy to enjoy your output and the perks of freelancing.
Resources for freelancers:
Job Application Process for Freelancers (Editors Canada blog)
Job Search and Application Strategy for Freelancers (ACES blog)
Conferences for Writing, Editing, and Publishing Professionals
How to Design a Flyer to Advertise Your Services
Summing up 10 Years of Full-Time Freelancing
About the author:
Tanya Mykhaylychenko is a professional resume writer with a background in content writing, university teaching, and IT staffing. She is a member of Editors Canada and Career Professionals of Canada. For more information, please visit https://tm-editorial.com/about/.