Navigate the challenges of freelance work

The Top 7 Freelancing Challenges & How to Solve Them

Freelancing as a career path has been growing in popularity for years. More young professionals than ever are looking to try a freelance gig or work entirely on their own schedules. 

But it’s also important to go into this career path with your eyes fully open and ensure you don’t run into common stumbling blocks. To ensure you succeed as a freelancer, let’s look at the top seven challenges freelancers usually face and break down how you can overcome them.

Earning Consistent Income

First of all, you may have difficulty maintaining a consistent income, especially when starting out. Of course, this is a major concern, especially if you're transitioning from a full-time position. You'll still have to keep up with your monthly expenses - rent, car payments, and health insurance. Indeed, the biggest risk of freelancing is that you won't be able to count on a steady income stream until you have a series of regular clients. In the beginning, you may need to fight tooth and nail for every job you want and cultivate a sterling reputation for maximum success. 

Don’t let this bother you too much at first. Instead, make things easier for yourself by saving most of your money and spending carefully. Try to build up a nest egg and sequester as much away as possible when you get some extra money from a successful job. That way, you can withstand the ups and downs of early freelance income streams until your finances are a bit more stable. 

Working for a Low Rate

Next, many freelancers fail to price themselves in the market adequately. They think asking for a lower rate than the competition will lead to more jobs and income.

It might work in the short term but never in the long term. Why?

When you offer your services lower than market value, you attract the worst clients who expect you to do a ton of extra work for mere pennies. Essentially, you engage in a “race to the bottom” with other freelancers. Not only do you not make as much money as you could otherwise, but you also make the freelancing economy worse for everyone involved.

Figure out an appropriate rate for your skills and expertise and set your fees accordingly (Artisan has some great tips for this). Don’t settle for a discount just because you want some early jobs. Instead, focus on attracting clients by streamlining your website, posting ads, and highlighting positive reviews from previous work you’ve already completed.

Not Charging for All of Your Work

Similarly, many beginning freelancers don’t charge for all the work they do. They operate as though only the hours they spend writing, designing, or developing count for their paychecks.

But that’s not the case! You should set your freelancing rates to account for the time you need to run your business. It includes the time spent on things like:

All of this is work and should be reflected in your rate. If a client tries to dispute this, remind them they aren’t just paying for the product you delivered to their inbox. They’re also paying for your expertise, schooling, and all the time you took to hone your skills into what they need.

Getting Lonely

Although freelancing can be very professionally rewarding, it’s often lonely. When you freelance, you don’t have an office you can hop into each day to say hi to your friends or superiors. There’s even little to no chance of an office romance!

However, there are ways to offset the inherent loneliness of the freelancer’s lifestyle. For example, you can:

  • Make a point to get outside at least twice per day, even if it’s just to go for a walk or head to the park.
  • Visit a co-working space to take care of your freelancing work in the presence of other like-minded go-getters.
  • Socialize on the weekends, especially since you won’t have much of an opportunity during your work week.
  • Prioritize your self-care.

Handling Difficult Clients

We get it – it’s tough to dismiss a client in the earliest days of your freelancing career, even if they are rude, overly demanding, or stingy when it comes to payment. The last thing you want to do is potentially close an income stream when you might need every dollar coming your way in the short-term future.

But it's incredibly important to set boundaries as a freelancer. Ultimately, it’s bad for your mental health and professional fortitude if you stick with difficult clients for too long. If a client doesn’t work out, don’t let it get to you; just move on to the next one and keep at your freelancing efforts. 

Overly difficult clients will always exist, but you don’t have to work for them. For every bad client you encounter, there are dozens of high-quality clients you can cultivate relationships with instead. 

Need more specific advice? Check out one experienced freelancer's experience.

Tax Struggles

Tax time is complex for everyone, but doubly so for freelancers. A good first step is to research - to learn what the tax rate is in your state and the country at large. It's a good practice to set aside about 35% of your money for taxes each time you get paid. As a freelancer and a self-employed business owner, you’re charged more taxes than someone who works for a standard company. It’s unlucky, but it’s the truth.

The last thing you want is to be hit by an unnecessary tax bill and extra fees because you didn’t pay your quarterly taxes on time. Make a note of the quarterly tax due dates, and make sure to pay what you owe ahead of time rather than making one lump sum payment at the end of the year.

Doing your taxes may be complicated at first, but as you gain experience freelancing, it’ll become much easier, and you might even get a refund come tax time!

Taking Time Off

Lastly, don’t fall into the trap many new freelancers do - fail to take time off. You need time to rest and relax, both for yourself and for your professional aspirations. You can hardly create the best freelance work in your portfolio if you are constantly tired and overworked!

With that in mind, take a couple of days off each week. Turn off your work phone and don’t check your inbox. As a freelancer, you’ll need to learn how to segment your professional and personal lives, so you aren’t constantly on the clock, at least in your head.

Don’t forget to take vacations every once in a while, too! You might not be awarded sick leave or vacation time, but you can plan ahead by taking a few high-paying jobs early, then using that extra cash to cover your days off enjoying yourself.

As you can see, there are many potential roadblocks you might encounter on your path to successful freelancing, no matter what industry you occupy. However, those obstacles can be overcome, especially if you prep ahead and follow the above tips.

Plus, you can always use freelance job resources like Artisan Talent. Find work with us and get started on your freelancing career today!

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Looking for more tips on freelancing? Don't worry, we have plenty:


About our Guest Author

Fabian Sandoval is an HR analyst for small and medium businesses with considerable experience. He recently launched his copywriting career sharing his insights on employee productivity and streamlining company-wide projects. He specializes in simplifying mundane HR tasks and providing solutions to problems that often pop up in a remote work environment.

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