The 5 Biggest Headaches When Freelancing

Freelancing can sound so ideal – you’re your own boss, set your own hours, pick what you want to work on and what you don’t. Lovely, wonderful, and supposedly idyllic. But there is a dark side to freelancing, as you shall soon see. I have been freelancing for several years now and have dealt with a host of issues, some good and some absolute headaches.


Here are the top 5 headaches:

  1. Getting Paid – The good part is, as I stated above, you are your own boss. The first headache is that you are your own boss. That means it’s up to you to pursue collection of your invoices for work performed. If a client doesn’t pay, you have to know what your legal recourses are such as how long to let it ride out before putting a lien on them, filing for collection, etc.
  2. Being Listened To – Freelancers are often hired as consultants to help out with situations that are short-term or where an outsider is needed. Oddly, the client then often turns around and does something else for a variety of reasons. As long as you get paid, it’s just an annoyance (and feels like a big waste of time). But it also means that you can’t use them as a reference for other work.
  3. Setting Time Limits – Freelancers set their own hours and also often work from home. For many of us, the tendency is to start working the moment we get up and to stop when we start dozing off at the computer – at least that has certainly been my routine. Resist the urge. Set time limits, or you will burn out.
  4. Knowing When to Move On – A lot of freelance projects are for set times (3 months, 6 months, a year, etc.), but some are set to go on for as long as both parties want. Over time things can change, such as your client’s business getting better or worse or their focus changing or your own interest in the project falling off. You need to know when it’s good to say “Enough!” and move on. I stayed with one project over five years, and by the time I finally saw it was time to go, things had gotten a bit testy and the pay rate (plus issues with not being paid in a timely manner) had taken their toll on my psyche.
  5. Competitors – Since freelancing is often seen as easy and a joy, lots of people crowd into it, trying their hand for awhile, and as such you have to compete with them to get clients. Plus the clients take a chance on a newbie who is asking a very low fee and may or may not get satisfactory service. (I’ve cleaned up after a few such situations.)

One of the most crowded areas is for people writing about tea. While I started as one of that crowd seeking something to do when another freelance project went belly up, I entered it with decades of experience in some key areas: writing, graphic design, project management, publication editing and design, etc. So a big plus for you is to find an area where general skills you have acquired can be put to good use. Just keep those headaches in mind and pick an area that interests you.

© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text


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