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Don’t Go Back To Your Day Job! Fixes And Checks That Can Save Your Freelancing Career

Managing your money is hard. It’s especially hard when your job never seems to reward you financially for the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears that you pour into it. Every year it seems as though the cost of living climbs a little bit further out of our reach yet our wages always seem to fall just short of meeting this rising cost. This is no coincidence. It’s because we live in the era of wage repression. Many corporations deliberately underpay their employees to protect their profit margins. They know that in a capricious economy where the recession of 2007-2008 is still fairly fresh in people’s minds, most will endure whatever their employers subject them to and think themselves lucky that they at least have a job. For some, though, this status quo simply isn’t good enough. They become tired of feeling like they’re locked in the trunk while someone else has their hands on the steering wheel, dictating where their life goes.

These people may find that they find more success, greater monetary reward and a whole lot more personal fulfilment by monetizing the skills and abilities they’ve gleaned trying to climb the greasy pole that they were convinced was a career ladder in the free market. They’ve eschewed the nine to five and begun  working for themselves on a freelance basis. They may have started their freelance operations as a side hustle managed alongside their day job or they may have opted for a clean break and dove into the world of freelancing headfirst.

The good news is that there’s a whole host of advice and information out there to help disenfranchised wage slaves to shake off the shackles of the nine to five and carve out a niche for themselves in the freelancing community… But there’s decidedly less to help you on your way when your journey has already begun but you can see yourself starting to flounder. The world of freelancing is extremely liberating but it’s also fraught with perils and pitfalls. When work dries up, deadlines seem insurmountable and clients’ demands can become more and more unreasonable it’s not uncommon for freelancers to consider throwing in the towel and going back to their day jobs with their tails between their legs. If you’re considering this… Don’t! At least not yet. You endured great risk and personal sacrifice to get where you are and you owe it to yourself to do everything you can to save your freelancing career. That’s why we’ve created this list of checks and fixes which will hopefully be useful in getting your freelancing career back on track…

How productively do you handle dry spells?

Unless you’re extremely lucky and were able to hit the ground running in your freelancing career and have a healthy portfolio of clients who provide enough money to help you keep your finances afloat, dry spells are inevitable. Most freelancers in most fields find that they encounter dry spells when their clients have no need of their services or require less work. How they handle these spells can be what separates the successful from the also-rans.

As tempting as it may be to regard dry spells as a cause for alarm and despair, they should in fact be viewed as an opportunity; a break from the norm that allows you a little more time to handle the more administrative aspects of your business. Here are just some of the ways in which you can use your dry spells more productively;

  • Develop your networking skills by joining freelancing groups on social media
  • Build up a bank of work which you know you will be able to sell at a later date, even if there’s no client demand for it right now.
  • Revisit your portfolio- Does it really represent the best examples of your work? Is there anything that you’ve produced more recently that may serve better.
  • Gather client testimonials. The voices of your satisfied clients are worth their weight in gold and will lend legitimacy to your brand and build value in your work, allowing you to command higher price tags.
  • Give your online and social media presence an audit (more on that later).

Are you charging what you’re worth?

Do you work for 10-14 hours a day and yet still find that you barely make enough to pay the bills? Does the crushing weight of your workload make every deadline seem like a frantic race to the finish line? Living like this can be extremely stressful and in many cases it’s completely unnecessary. It’s understandable that a lot of freelancers who are nascent in their careers may think that the only way to gain a market share is to race their competitors to the bottom. But undercutting them on price can leave your career constantly on the back foot. You won’t want to increase your prices for fear of alienating your clients but carrying on like this is unsustainable.

Don’t be afraid to charge clients what you’re worth. If you’re unsure of how to do this, this Forbes article is useful in helping you to calculate your rates.

Do you manage your money effectively?

Money management can make or break a freelancer. If you’re used to receiving a regular income on a monthly basis it can be jarring when you receive an enormous payday one month yet make barely anything the next. With such inconsistent income, it’s vitally important that you manage your finances effectively. Luckily, we’ve prepared a guide on this very subject. Don’t allow yourself to become intoxicated by lump sum payments. Calculate your monthly living allowance and withdraw that from your business account. The rest should be kept in reserve for leaner months.  

Are you keeping set hours every day and sticking to them?

As keen as you may be to prove yourself and your skills to the world, it’s worth remembering that you benefit absolutely nobody by burning yourself out. It’s tempting, especially early in your freelance career to take on so much work that you’re putting 12-14 hours work in every day in order to meet your deadlines. Inevitably you will burn yourself out if you carry on at this rate. Your work will suffer, mistakes will be made and your reputation will be compromised. And when you’re a freelancer your reputation is of paramount importance. Give yourself set working hours every day and stick to them. If you’re unable to meet your deadlines within these hours you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and should either up your rates or focus your efforts on securing higher paying clients.

Have you taken a long look at the efficiency of your processes?

Time is money when you’re a freelancer and it’s vitally important that your processes are as streamlines as possible to ensure that you stay productive throughout your day. When you find your rhythm as a freelancer it’s tempting to just keep on doing what you’re doing and trust that as you get more experienced you’ll get faster. While you may pick up some speed as you build your experience, this is no substitute for auditing your processes and equipment to ensure that you’re making efforts to streamline, truncate and automate wherever possible.

Although you may be conscious of overhead costs, outsourcing can be extremely useful here and is likely to result in greater long term profitability. Just check out Dataserv to see how you could automate your AP processes and allow yourself more time to make money. Remember that under investing in your business can be every bit as crippling as reckless spending.

Does your online presence say the right things about you?

Your online presence is a calling card to potentially thousands of prospective clients… So make sure that it’s saying the right things about you. You need to show prospective leads that you’re a consummate professional who produces first rate work for a fee that’s more than reasonable… But making schoolboy errors in web design or using a pre-programmed WordPress template can make you look like a rank amateur. Invest in a web designer to develop a slick looking website that showcases your skills and professionalism while also including testimonials from happy and enthusiastic clients.

What about your social media?

If you use social media for professional networking, it’s vitally important that you maintain a professional veneer when using it. Avoid discussing religion, politics or anything else that may alienate or offend. Don’t talk about your clients and certainly don’t brag about how much of a fee you command. Your prospective clients will likely take a long look at your social media feed before deciding to give you a chance and it absolutely needs to say the right things about you.

 

Have you become over reliant on your regulars?

Your regular clients are a reliable source of revenue. In fact they’re your bread and butter… But don’t make the mistake of assuming that they’ll be around forever. As unpalatable as it may be, the truth is that businesses go under, marketing budgets dry up and businesses of all shapes and sizes encounter times at which they need to tighten their belts and outsourced services are often one of the first things to go.

This mans that you should never stop networking and hustling for new clients, even if you’re receiving regular works from those reliable clients who’ve become your bread and butter. You also can’t afford to take them for granted. Try to find ways in which you can show them not only that you value and appreciate their business, but also that you bring value to them and are more than worth your fee.

Even when times are hard, it’s better to fix the problems that are wrong with your freelancing career than to slink back to a day job you used to despise!