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“At least you can sleep in, probably until 10 a.m! I so wish I could do that!”
This is the response that Betty, a friend of mine who works for a local bank, gave me, right after I had told her that freelancing isn’t for everyone. She had been complaining about the latest antics her mean boss had done the previous day. As far as she was concerned, she had the boss from hell while I had it easy peasy!
I laughed, because I don’t wake up at 10 a.m. I don’t have the luxury to do that. But this just exposed the fact that people aren’t aware of the challenges that freelancers face.
Freelancing is the best career choice that I ever made. I said goodbye to the stone-faced boss, some cheeky, ever-talking and gossiping workmates, a fixed salary, and lengthy morning commutes. I, however, said hello to new things; things that elevate and demotivate me at the same time. Now that we are clearly aware of the benefits that freelancing has awarded us, allow me to highlight the biggest problems that freelancers face and how you can solve them.
I am a member of several freelancing Facebook groups and when I asked in one of these groups, “What is your biggest challenge as a freelancer” this came up as number one!
At the office, you had rules that said you had to be at work by 8 a.m. or you had to meet some benchmarks, or, sometimes you had to work overtime. What about now? Do you at times sleep until the sun is hotter than your pans? Do you binge watch 4 episodes of Blacklist (or your favorite series) from 9 a.m.? Do you allow your friends to stop by at any time and endlessly chat about the latest trending stories? Or do you leave your workstation whenever you mind suggests so? Well, all these are instances where you lacked self-discipline!
Rather than punish you for I was once a victim, let me help you out. Keyword: be strict with yourself. Create a schedule like a school timetable, complete with time and rules. Indicate when you will be at your “office” working, set resting times, decide when to wake and retire, then set targets. If possible, print this out and fix it right next to your workstation. I’ve done it and it works like magic!
2. Time Management
The internet is an angel and a devil at the same time, what with all the catchy headlines bombarding us everyday.
‘SHOCKING: MAN SWALLOWED BY ANACONDA FOUND ALIVE AFTER 40 DAYS’ or some other crazy story.
You quickly click on the link only to realize that you have wasted your precious 15 minutes reading yet another nonsensical story. Remember that if you were at the regular 8 to 5 office, all of these would not be possible.
What to do? Make use of the schedule that I previously mentioned.
A things to do list is a must-have for every freelancer. I cannot overemphasize this.
Once you have set your working hours, do nothing but work! Have the courage to resist any distractions such as your TV or a friend. You can allocate your leisure time to such.
3. Lack of Self-motivation
I am the kind of freelancer who doesn’t miss having a boss. But maybe you do. Maybe you can recall those days when you had to work with a cold or do some extra hours because you had not met your benchmarks. The point is, you had a boss and you had to meet the targets so that you received your dues.
I, at times hold meetings with self and I argue about taking one day off my routines. “It’s my choice, anyway!” I at times say. When you find yourself inventing excuses not to work, classify that as lack of motivation. What to do? You can cure this by having a friend or a group of freelancers to share with. If you realize that other people are working hard as you watch a movie, you will probably be challenged to work. There are plenty of freelance groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that you can join.
Here’s another one solution. Ask yourself, “What is my ‘why’?
Why did you decide to become a freelancer? Probably because you needed extra income or for many freelancers, because you wanted to be in charge of your own time. Keep your why in front of you and it’ll keep you motivated.
You can also calculate the amount of time that you waste and convert it into money form. For instance, if you earn $10 an hour, that means you’ll lose the same amount for every hour lost. That should get you really motivated!
Lastly, set goals – time-based goals and see how motivated you become as you attain them one by one.
4. Fast, Reliable Internet
Slow internet is another problem that freelancers face, especially in developing countries. Without good internet, everything stops. In fact, slow internet was listed as one of the most annoying things on the planet in 2014. Unfortunately, human or natural errors will always cause this problem.
In the light of this, I try my best to have the best connection. Yes, slow and unreliable internet is inevitable, but you can minimize the disappointment. First of all, find out which network provider is the best in your area. Do not use any provider just because your friend says it works well. Second, find a reliable provider, i.e. one who is stable. Last but not least, do not go for the cheapest because, in most cases, cheap internet will disappoint you.
5. Lack of Steady Workflow
Regardless of what you are: data entry assistant, academic writer, transcriber, binary trader, graphic designer and all else, we have low and high moments regarding work. Today, you might have tons of work to do, then, tomorrow, you have to fight for the few low-payment jobs available. That’s feast and famine for you. Again, this is inevitable but not overwhelming.
What to do: One, work with sites that have regular work flow. This way, even during the dry spells, you’ll have a bone to chew. Second, diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I bet there is more than one website where you can get your freelance work from.
Third, maximize on the times of plenty harvest. Work as much as you can then store the surplus for the drier times.
If the ants can do it, so can you, dear fellow freelancer.
6. Longer Working Hours
I know you eagerly waited to hear about this. You must be a unique freelancer if you never worked in the dark or exceeded your set working hours. It happens! At times, your body is in overdrive and you just feel like working and working and working. Other times, it’s simply because you bit off more than you could chew. Sometimes, though, some of us have to work during the wee hours because of time difference: the clients might be up when we should be asleep!
What to do: Don’t take on more work that you can handle but if you do, outsource to qualified affordable freelancers. Believe me, they are there. Adhere to your schedule so that you don’t push work forward that would have fitted into your regular working hours.
As you can tell from this blog post, freelancing is not as easy as it appears. Being your own boss doesn’t mean reduced roles, more comfort and getting rich quick. Freelancing means an expanded role, deeper self-control, extra self-discipline, better time management and potential alignments from the normal working routines. What we have discussed are simply the challenges that freelancers face: they should not scare anyone.
In conclusion, I would suggest that you love freelancing together with its challenges. Remember what Confucius said? “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Over to you. What are some of the key challenges that you are facing right now?