This is a guest post from Jake Poinier. Jake Poinier pulled the ripcord on his corporate parachute to become a full-time freelancer back in 1999. He blogs regularly as Dr. Freelance and runs an Phoenix-based editorial services firm, Boomvang Creative Group.
There are lots of things to love about freelancing: freedom, flexibility, and those splendid days when you get 2 or 3 checks in the mail. But what about those times when things don’t run so smoothly? Based on the past few years of Freelance Forecast surveys, here are the four most common day-to-day problems that freelancers face…and some thoughts on what you can do about them.
Uncertainty. Year after year, this — and its kissin’ cousin, “feast or famine” — ranks high on the list of freelancer dislikes. So, how do you address it? Turn it into a positive! Think about it this way: You are fortunate enough, my fine freelance friend, to have the power to choose what you do every day. Back in your corporate cube days, you did whatever TPS report cover sheet the boss handed to you. Now, it’s up to you. If you want to improve your motivation or self-discipline, I highly recommend Rory Vaden’s new Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success. Best self-help book I’ve ever read.
Slow pay and no pay clients. This isn’t just the main pet peeve of many freelancers, it’s the top reason they fire customers. So, how do you get people to find their checkbook and a pen, and put them together? A couple of steps can help:
- Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be too timid to do so soon in the process. If you have an invoice that’s 30 days late, a reminder is appropriate. Caveat: Nobody likes a pest, and there are organizations that simply pay slower than others; trying to rush them is counterproductive.
- Offer an installment plan, so they can pay off in 2 or 3 checks. I have found this to be a great way to de-escalate a situation that can be somewhat embarrassing for a client who’s short on cash.
- Let them know that you can’t do any further work till the payments are up to date.
Finding new business. Ah, the holy grail of freelancing! But as I comment here, I’d like to amend that slightly: Finding new business that’s right for you. Here are two thoughts on where to start:
- Personally, I love cold calling — and I know there are some people that would rather jump out of a plane without a parachute. Pick a target audience, give it a try and you just might find, as I did, that it gets way easier and more lucrative with practice.
- I agree 100% with Jenn Mattern, who wrote a piece called “Where can I find high paying freelance writing jobs?” for my blog last year. Her philosophy is that asking “where” is actually the wrong question, because the best freelance jobs aren’t advertised. You have to find them…and that means, whether with a cold call or other warm/cold contact, pitching them directly.
Social isolation. This is an interesting one, because it definitely polarizes the respondents to the survey. Many feel very strongly that social isolation is a big-time downer, whereas others like the peace and quiet that solo entrepreneurship brings. Oddly enough, I am an extrovert but count myself among the latter. To keep the occasional cabin fever from setting in:
- I meet at least one friend, client or fellow freelancer for coffee or lunch every week, without fail.
- I play in a Thursday business golf league, which is not only fun, but has brought in business.
- I volunteer for a local rowing regatta, which meets weekly or every other week for about 6 months a year.
- I’m not a huge fan of networking groups, which strike me as fake-banana fun, but I have quite a few friends who swear by them. Your mileage may vary.
Side note: There’s one final item that ranks high from year to year, but I’m afraid there’s not a darn thing you or I can do about it: healthcare costs. But that’s a different story for another day.