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  • Writer's pictureEmily Bingham

7 Cold Hard Truths About Freelancing

Updated: May 7, 2023

Are you new to freelancing? If you are, then I’m about to hit you with some truths about the trade. It’s much harder than many bloggers and gurus would have you believe.

But before we start, don’t be discouraged by any of what I’m saying. This is for you to prepare, not to be scared. I want you to succeed as a freelancer. These are just some things I’ve found in my experience. Plus, some advice to help you prevent what I had to go through.

With that, let’s get into some cold hard truths about freelancing.

1. It’s ALL On You

When you work for yourself, you don’t have any corporate policies to bind your or managers to report to. Sounds great, right? Wrong.

Policies are there to protect a business and its employees. And good managers accept responsibility and oversee a lot of things at once. When you work for yourself, all of the responsibilities normally held by a manager or corporate are now on your shoulders.

All these things you never thought about before are suddenly thrown in your face. They’re vital to your success as a freelancer. Almost NO ONE thinks about this when deciding to work for themselves. I didn’t even think about it when I started.

I was in a “screw this” situation. I just left because I couldn’t take it anymore. There was no plan or thought put into how I was going to make money. I had never thought about the things it takes to run a successful business.

2. Doing Everything On Your Own

In the same theme, all the work will be “all on you” as well. As a freelancer, you’ll need to be doing things businesses usually have separate departments for, completely on your own.

You spend a lot more time doing business stuff than your actual service. For instance, there’s accounting, marketing, sales outreach, and more. That’s a whole lot for just one person.

There’s software and apps that will help you, but there’s still work in data entry and setting all of it up in the first place. And without a good budget, then you might not even have the option to get software or outsource tasks.

3. No Steady Income (At First, Anyway)

Unless you’ve built up enough to live off of for a while, your income is going to be extremely unstable. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan. Clients won’t just come to you, especially when you’re new.

I didn’t think about this, so I went without a lot of things. I was stressed all the time because I barely had enough to pay my bills. And, that is just no way to live. And it’s not why I started my business.

You need to have a plan for the time it takes to build a steady clientele. And even then, it’s unpredictable. Clients can and will leave. Or, they may not have a steady amount of work for you. And, depending on what you’re offering, things may not be regular. In this case, I would highly suggest building your business while still at your job.

4. It’s Hard To Compete Against Bigger Companies

To people that are sitting in an office thinking they can do what they do now, and it would be so much easier: think again. It’s not going to be easier. You’ll be competing with bigger companies, which is far from easy.

Bigger companies have bigger budgets for marketing and content creation, so it can be hard to vet against them for customers. But, it’s not impossible. You just have to be prepared to work hard and learn the same tactics their experts know.

And, many bigger companies that you’re competing with will be willing to outsource to freelancers like you. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. But, do it on your terms. You don’t want to regress by becoming part of their business.

5. You May Get Scammed Out Of Money/Work

You always hear about people being scammed by businesses. But, you never seem to hear about clients scamming freelancers. It happens to us too! It doesn’t happen often if you’re careful. But when you’re relying on that money, it’s absolutely terrifying.

It’s scary, how possible it is for someone to either rip you off for your work if you don’t have certain policies and legal things in place. Or, to get work and suddenly disappear, never to pay or be heard from again.

This is scary, for freelancers who do business online. It makes it that much easier for people to just disappear. And, you can’t exactly ask to be paid upfront in most cases, because clients will think you’re scamming them.

6. It Can Be Extremely Stressful

All of these new tasks and added pressures and responsibilities are going to be stressful on you, I’m not going to lie. As I said, it’s a whole lot for one person to manage at first.

All of this stress is going to leave you susceptible to burnout. So, when you make the jump to start your freelance business, I want you to remember to take care of yourself while you’re balancing all of these things.

It’s a lot, l know. But trust me when I say that adding that self-care piece is really beneficial to help you manage all of these things without burning out or becoming overwhelmed and throwing it all away. Because once you’ve burned out, it’s potentially business-threatening.

7. It’s Also Extremely Fulfilling

Despite all of the scary things I’ve mentioned, I've learned freelancing is extremely liberating and fulfilling, especially when you’re doing something you love. You can set your own schedule, make your own rules (within reason), and work from home or wherever you want, depending on your business.

And, once you’re able to reassign and outsource all of those things that you don’t need to be doing, you have more time to make more money. Plus, if you’re already making a good income, you can have that time for yourself.

When you own your own business, you also put yourself in a place where you can make changes in your industry. It’s your business, and you can do what you want with it. And if your clients love it, all power to you, babe!

My Advice For New Freelancers:

As I said, this isn’t to chase you away from becoming a freelancer. It’s to help you prepare for these things that are bound to come up in your path. Here’s my advice to you about what we’ve talked about today.

Make A Plan Before Leaving Your Job

Don’t get mad and leave your job, or decide that you’re leaving today, and will be in business tomorrow. You need to have a financial plan to replace your current income. Because clients aren’t just going to show up the first day you open.

If you’re going to leave your job, you need money to fall back on until you start making money. Or, you can start building your new business before quitting. Start freelancing as a side hustle while you’re still at your job.

I know, it’s going to be a lot of work. But, you’ll need the income replacement before you leave, so you’re not caught in a disastrous situation because clients don’t just come automatically.

Have Systems & Policies To Help You

First things first. When you start a business, get it legal. Get all of the things your blog and freelancing business need to be legal in your country or province/state.

Set up systems that will help you organize and manage all your tasks and get everything done. Invest in software that takes difficult tasks off your hands. Also, have policies and disclosures in place that protect you. And, make sure there are policies for customers (and any outsourced freelancers).

Finally, and most importantly, make sure to draw up good contracts that clearly define payment terms and your policies and have software that makes it easy to pay you and impossible to not pay you.

Make Sure You Pursue Something You Love

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” – Marc Anthony

Since there are a lot of long days ahead of you, make sure that you’re passionate about you’re new business or freelancing services. And, preferably, pick something you know you’re good at, and fits your skill set.

When you’re really passionate about something (and you hold onto that passion), you’re much more likely to actually achieve success. You just have more drive and dedication to doing what it takes to get to that level and to manage it when you get there.

This passion also helps you stay away from the danger zone of burning out, as long as you take care of yourself. Your passion can also do the opposite, so that’s something to watch out for. Nevertheless, always hold on to the passion you have for what you do.

Work With Other Freelancers

You may not have the budget to outsource things and purchase software at first. But once you do, it’s really helpful to work with other freelancers. As freelancers, we get how we all feel, how hard it is competing with other people, and how much better it is when we collaborate.

Instead of having everything on your shoulders, outsource to some other freelancers. Hire someone that knows how hard it is to compete with other businesses to do something you can’t do like accounting or marketing.

You can also work with other freelancers to collaborate and benefit both businesses and share each other's audiences. Finally, you can also network with other freelancers in your niche to ask for advice. Building these kinds of relationships is extremely crucial to future success.

If you liked this post, you'll love 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting A Freelance Business. Read it now!


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