/  advice   /  Freelancing – What to Do When Times Get Hard

Living a freelance lifestyle is no cake walk. Anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t being honest. There are plenty of perks to wanting to go rogue and be your own boss. But there are plenty of pitfalls and uncertainties along the way as well.

Sometimes, things just get plain bad. You have a dry spell, a difficult client, you aren’t paid well or on time, etc.

Being an entrepreneur for a lot of people is also a huge leap in self-confidence. Sounds like a great time, but taking full responsibility for sourcing your own income takes a huge leap of faith, and often doubts about yourself will come flying out of the woodwork.

This is all completely normal and understandable. Because if you succeed or fail, the only one you can really blame for it is yourself.

I just wanted to write up about these different and inevitable experiences and offer some advice that’s worked for me to get through the harder parts of freelancing.

Dry Spells:

These happen to everyone. It can last a day, a week, a month, a few months, or even a few years. It can also be crippling to your self-confidence if you can’t find work. But one thing to remember with dry spells is the only thing you can really do is just try and find more work. The rest is out of your control.

Some avenues to find work doing dry spells are the following:

  • Ask for referrals from past clients
  • Go to networking events more often and make friends
  • Research your industry or market, and see if there are any niche markets or up and coming industries you could break into
  • Cold call places you’re interested in

Difficult Clients:

A  few dud clients happen to everyone, and when you’re starting out it’s often hard to tell who is good to work with and who isn’t. You get better at weeding out difficult clients as you progress.

Some things to do if your client is too demanding, demeans you, or won’t pay:

Too Demanding:

  • Always stay calm and professional, even if the person you’re dealing with is not. Having a standard of professional conduct as a freelancer is essential to running a good business
  • Try and educate your client in a nice, fair, calm way if their expectations aren’t realistic. Often people don’t understand the amount of work it takes to create something, especially in the art world.

Demeans You:

  • Again, stay calm and professional. Do not resort to demeaning your client or treating them unfairly and unkindly.
  • If you made mistakes, own up to them and apologize.
  • Try and finish your work with them as soon as you can so you don’t have to deal with their draining presence any longer than is necessary

Won’t Pay:

  • If your client is refusing to pay you and you have the agreement or contract in writing.  Give them friendly a heads up that they’re late at first.
  • If the first thing doesn’t work, it’s time to threaten legal action. There are some lawyers who help out creatives for free. Try and get in contact with one to see if they can help you for no pay or to just send a threatening email or phone call.
  • If they still refuse to pay, it’s now time to go full legal on them. Get a lawyer and get serious on suing your client if they are refusing to pay.

Self Confidence Issues:

Entrepreneurship is a personal journey as much as it is a business one. It requires really examining yourself and taking full responsibility for creating your own income. The blame and glory both fall squarely on your shoulders if you succeed or fail.

There is a real thing called imposter syndrome that often happens to people when they become successful. They feel this they aren’t supposed to be at the job they have, and at any point they’ll be found out and shown how awful and terrible they really are at their job.

It happens to entry level employees and CEOs alike. It’s also pretty normal. So if you’re feeling this way know that you’re probably doing just fine, and that your thoughts don’t equate to reality.

Another thing that seems to work for me is making more tangible, measurable things I can look at in order to feel good about my accomplishments as a freelancer.

It’s kind of like a mood board for yourself or about your business. It often helps me keep my perspective and not get so caught up in sad sod thinking, or being over confident as well. Both aren’t good.

Happy freelancing!