I remember my first ever freelance writing gig as clear as day. That was about 11 years ago, while I still had a 9 to 5 job and working on my thesis. It was an exhilarating experience, for I never thought I could make a decent amount writing on the side. I think that was a defining moment for me. I knew that one day, I would find a way to write full-time.
The universe had a different plan, though. It took me a while to finish that thesis, and I had to find a steady job to live. I stayed in the corporate world for another five years, all the while writing content on the side.
Then I got a break. THE break.
So here I am many years later, finally living that freelance dream.
For the most part, it has been what I’ve imagined it to be – the freedom, flexibility, and the challenge of learning new things constantly.
On the other hand, there were some things I wasn’t prepared for before I made that decision to leave a comfortable day job. I learned these things along the way, and sometimes, I wish I had known about them before I started.
But that’s how hindsight is, so instead of dwelling on them, I’d rather share some common freelance writer problems that you will likely encounter. If you’re just starting, read on, so that you know what to expect and thus be prepared to face these problems head on.
1. Having an entrepreneurial mindset
Many freelance writers transitioning from part-time gigs to full-time freelancing tend to focus on the attractive potential of working at home, not having to answer to a boss and all the perks that are associated with the career.
However, there is one crucial aspect that you must never ever forget: you need to think like an entrepreneur and treat freelance writing as a business.
If you’re going to rely on freelance writing for income, then you will have a huge problem if you don’t see it as a business.
Before you start, make sure you understand what starting and running a business entails and whether you can handle it.
For useful information, visit the U.S. Small Business Administration site.
2. Streamlining financial processes
There are many aspects of running a business, but, arguably, the financial side is of the highest import. Being an entrepreneur requires at least basic knowledge of invoicing, bookkeeping, and dealing with taxes.
You can always hire a professional to handle your finances, but if you’re not earning a lot yet, you can do it yourself. Even if you have an accountant, it is still in your best interest to know your financial processes so you can avoid being scammed.
The good news is that there are a lot of resources that will help you streamline your financial processes.
One of the first things you need to get right is your invoicing. Sending your clients invoices can be done the old school way – an email or a spreadsheet perhaps. While that works, things can end up being a tangled mess, especially when your business gets bigger and you have more clients. To avoid mistakes and headaches on your part, use an online invoice tool that will organize your clients and invoices.
Another common freelance writer problem is not knowing exactly how to accept payments online, or the options to do so. Everyone knows PayPal, so that is usually the go-to method. However, there are many other alternatives, and it is best to offer these as clients may not always want to use PayPal. Read this article for more information: 7 Forms of Freelance Writer Payment You Can Accept.
3. Drawing the line between work and play
This is one of the topics that is usually brought up when talking about the freelance lifestyle. I could be wrong, but it seems that even the most seasoned freelancers still encounter issues with work-life balance.
Newbie freelance writer, listen carefully. It is easy to talk about the importance of work-life balance, but implementing it once you’re working at home full-time is a totally different story.
You’ll either end up working too much or neglecting work because of other obligations. Either way, something will always come up, and before you know it, you’re killing yourself with stress because you can’t juggle things anymore.
So, before you take that leap, make sure you understand just difficult it will be to separate work and your personal life. From the get-go, decide how you are going to draw the line.
Some things you can do:
- Have a dedicated workspace. If that’s not possible, consider renting a co-working space.
- Set work hours, but be flexible when something urgent comes up.
- Set your priorities.
- As much as possible, take time off. That includes weekends and occasional vacations.
In short, don’t wing it. Have a plan.
4. Running out of ideas to write about
When you first start, you’ll be as excited as a kid going on his first field trip. It is likely that the thought of having a difficult time writing and thinking of topics to write won’t enter your mind; but trust me, it will happen.
As you become more experienced, you’ll find that there will be days (sometimes several in a row) that you just can’t write anything decent no matter how hard you try.
Accept this fact, and you won’t be too frustrated when it happens. After all, it will pass. It happens to the best of us.
5. Experiencing really lean months
One of the biggest risks of going freelance full-time is the uncertainty in income. Some new writers may not realize just how big this risk is.
There will be months when you’ll be so flush you feel like you’re on top of the world, but there will be months that you might not earn enough or even nothing at all. Nada. Zilch.
How do you prepare yourself for these periods?
Common budgeting sense.
Set aside a rainy day fund.
Make small investments (which will eventually grow) and make your money work for you. Learn more about investing from FINRA.
When the lean months come, you’ll have something to fall back on.
6. Learning to say no
Knowing when to say no comes easily to some people, but if you aren’t one of them, you’ll have to learn to take your stand. You’ll have to learn to say no to new or additional work even though it means more money. This is made even more difficult because of the desire to “hoard” money while you can. But, if you don’t know when to stop, you’ll end up being bogged down, unable to deliver, or hitting the wall of burnout.
You may enter the world of freelancing thinking you can never have too much work. While this is true to a certain degree, there comes a point when you need to acknowledge your limits.
You’ll also have to learn to say no to friends and family. You’ve probably heard irritating stories of how other people think that freelancers can just drop whatever they’re doing whenever. Well, that’s 110 percent true. Even if you feel guilty about not being available for a casual lunch or doing your grown up son’s laundry immediately, learn to set boundaries and say no. Just carve out another time for those activities. See problem number three above.
7. Dealing with difficult clients
I’ve been very fortunately in this regard. In all the years I’ve been freelancing, I’ve only had one online client who disappeared on me without paying.
What you need to realize right now is that not everyone will be so lucky. Many a freelancer has been a victim of scams, so better know about different types of scams.
On the bright side, there still are a lot of legitimate clients to be found. The problem is that you will encounter at least one that will be a pain to work with. Again, arm yourself with information so that you can avoid wasting your time. Read 5 Types of Freelance Writing Clients to Avoid At All Costs.
Starting a freelance writing career may very well be the best decision you’ll make in your professional life. Just make sure that you know what you’re getting into and equip yourself for success.
New freelance writers, did you foresee these problems? Experienced writers, what tips can you share with our community?
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