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5 common challenges for freelancers

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Last editedMar 20234 min read

The freelancer life can be good with more freedom and a better work-life balance, but there are also plenty of freelancer challenges to face. Here we look at the biggest challenges faced by freelancers:

Here we take a more in-depth look at these six freelancing challenges and explain how you can overcome them.

Finding clients

Acquiring clients is the most frequently cited challenge faced by freelancers. It is especially an issue for new freelancers who haven’t built up a body of work or worked with enough clients to establish a word-of-mouth reputation.

While this may be an intimidating prospect for new freelancers, it is not insurmountable.

The best thing you can do at the beginning is build up your online presence and use your chosen social media platform to present yourself as an expert in your field. This gives you somewhere to point prospective clients to verify your abilities and gain some insight into what you can do for them.

Also continue honing how you approach clients. Devise different approaches and track their effectiveness. Above all, be persistent.

Growing your client base as a freelancer

Some tips for finding and retaining enough new clients to keep your freelancing career profitable include:

  1. Establish an online presence quickly via LinkedIn and other social platforms. This is  the first step in building your brand.

  2. Establish yourself as an expert in your field. Post thought leadership articles on LinkedIn, write guest blog posts for notable presences in your industry or speak at industry-wide events.

  3. Make time for networking. Attend local events and get to know new prospects. This is a skill in and of itself.

  4. Be proactive. Make sure you set time aside to email existing contacts from previous jobs, ask people who you’ve worked for to write testimonials for your website or recommend you on LinkedIn. Join professional associations and don’t be afraid to network with other freelancers. They might just know someone who would benefit from your services.

Increasing pay rates

Increasing your pay rate is tough for freelancers due to the competitive nature of the job. There will always be someone willing to undercut your rates , let alone if you want to increase them with an established client. You can easily increase the rate you demand for new clients, but you should look to add clear value to your higher rates when you do so.

For example, a good copy writer who understands effective SEO keyword placement is more valuable to a client than someone who is just a good copywriter. Acquire some additional expertise that complements your primary freelance skill and present yourself as a higher-quality freelancer, and thus worth that higher pay rate.

You can increase pay rates very fairly by:

  1. Investing in building, developing and diversifying your skills

  2. Focusing on a niche in which you are highly knowledgeable/experienced

  3. Avoiding freelancer sites that are renowned for being low-skill and low-cost

  4. Targeting new clients with larger budgets

  5. Using data to justify rate increases, showing that your services generate more value for the client than your services cost

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Maintaining productivity

Being your own boss is great until your motivation wavers and you don’t have someone else there to answer to. Maintaining productivity is one of the most significant freelancer challenges as it is the key to overcoming many of the other freelancer problems.

You must identify the time of day you are at your most productive and build your working day around that period. Examine your environment and see which elements help or hinder you. You may need a brighter light, a more comfortable chair, or fewer distractions from pets or outside noise. Perhaps you work better by going somewhere with other people, so try working in places such as:

  • Libraries

  • Cafes

  • Media centres

  • Shared workspaces

It’s all about figuring out what works best for you, so pay attention to your moods and what may be affecting them.

Meeting unrealistic demands

Every experienced freelancer is likely to have had clients with unrealistic expectations. All you can do is set very clear and distinctive outlines detailing what it is you can do as freelancer, and exactly what it is you are charging for.

If a client asks for more on top of what was originally agreed, you can refer them back to the outlines. Also make it clear from the beginning that additional work beyond the original agreement incurs additional cost.

Getting paid on time

A main challenge is ensuring that you actually get paid for your work, which is naturally vital for managing your finances as freelancer.

Unfortunately, many freelancers are commonly paid late and do not penalise clients for breaching their contract terms. In fact, according to the Credit Protection Association (CPA):

  • Over 40% of UK companies that hire freelancers pay them late

  • Late invoices were paid an average of 2.5 weeks before being paid

  • Only 7% of freelancers charge clients for late payments

While most clients will be professional and organised, some will be less so. Fewer still may be somewhat unprofessional in how they handle payments, so it is good to have a system in place to ensure you get paid on time every time.  If you’re unsure how to do this, take a look at our guide to freelance payment terms.

Businesses, including freelancers, can get paid up to twice as fast by accepting GoCardless payments on their online invoices. You can collect your payments by Direct Debit automatically whenever they are due, plus you can automate cash collection and reconciliation with your existing invoicing software.

Aside from forming good bookkeeping habits, increase your chances of getting paid on time (and in full) by:

Working alone

Even if you enjoy your own company, loneliness may be a freelance problem.  A 2018 survey by Epson found that 48 per cent of freelancers found it a lonely professional life. The isolation of life as a freelancer may prove detrimental to your mental health unless you proactively mitigate it. 

Some ways to do this include:

  • Using co-working spaces (which can also yield great networking opportunities)

  • Using virtual spaces to connect with other freelancers online

  • Scheduling opportunities to catch up with friends, contacts and other freelancers on your lunch break

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