Yes the freelance lifestyle is pretty epic. You have loads of freedom and you can be your own boss, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. You will no doubt hit some stumbling blocks along the way. And it’s how you overcome these that will shape who you are as a freelancer and determine the success and potential of your business.
I’ve started to blog regularly about the freelance world in an attempt to help those who are just starting out, are intrigued by the whole thing, or freelancers who just have general queries. So I thought this time around I will provide an article that demonstrates the gritty reality of being freelance and gives tips on what to do when the going gets tough.
When you haven’t been freelance for long, and things don’t appear to be going too well, it’s far too tempting to throw in the towel. But if you hang in there, and prove to be adaptable and resilient, you just might survive the challenges of being freelance.
Yup, they do occasionally make an appearance. And it can be pretty stressful. Whether it’s super picky clients who want a billion reviews and edits of your project, clients who never get back to you or just plain mean clients.
You kinda have to learn to deal with them all. In the beginning, you tend to work yourself into the ground no matter the client, but as you get more experienced, you can pick and choose. You can make a stand and decide not to work with a client that causes more hassle than they’re worth. Sometimes, you have to put in the effort, on other occasions, you’re just wasting your time.
Cash flow issues
Yeah, cash flow issues aren’t cool, but get used to it. It’s nearly impossible to have a reliable income, as your clients never pay you at the same time. Plus there are those pesky late payers that you always have to chase. But you can make thing easier for yourself by:
- Asking as many clients as possible to pay you monthly on the same date (if that’s what you want, sometimes having little amounts of money come in throughout the month is more preferable).
- Chasing payments every two weeks, at least. Don’t let some payment slip through the cracks.
- Have a spreadsheet and tick off when people pay you (I have to admit I don’t do this, but need to).
- Save. Put money aside for a rainy day when clients are taking forever to pay you.
Argghhhh tax is the most boring topic ever. It’s something that puts a lot of wannabe freelancers off altogether. In the beginning, it’s a bit of a struggle to get your head around everything. Keeping all your receipts, recording info in a spreadsheet, knowing what you can and can’t claim back on tax. This HMRC page should help settle the score. My tips for doing tax are as follows:
- Get a good accountant (obvs).
- If managing your tax and accounts is stressing you out, get some help with all the admin. Sometimes it costs less to pay someone than spend ten hours trying to do it yourself.
- Start doing your tax return well in advance of the deadline, so you have plenty of time to figure things out (and also know how much you have to pay).
- Do not, under any circumstances slack on accounts for months on end, as sorting everything out will be a major ballache.
I’m obviously not going to go into detail here for legal reasons. I’m not an expert. All I would say is if you are self-employed consider business insurance. Protect yourself from any potential issues with contracts etc. This is definitely something to get advice on as soon as (if not before) you go self-employed.
Important decisions about how to run your business
People may ask you to do things you don’t want to do. They might ask you to change how you run your business in some way, and it’s up to you to decide what’s right. Don’t let people bully you into doing something differently if your current processes are working just fine.
People thinking you are always free
‘Freelance’ doesn’t mean you are always free to do whatever you want. Yes, you can mix things up a bit, take time off when you want and have flexible working hours, but it’s not as simple as that.
You will quickly realise that all your friends and family think you are free in the working week to do things, when you’re not. Go for a coffee, meet a friend, go out for the day or even have long phone conversations.
Don’t give in to the temptation, or you will never get any bloody work done. Keep reiterating that you still need to work enough hours to earn a living, just like everyone else. Although in my experience no one really takes this on board, so you just have to stick to your guns.
Getting work done when you are ill/injured/going through a hard time
If you need to take time off when you are employed, you just phone in sick, or get signed off work. When you are self-employed you don’t exactly have that luxury. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. It’s as simple as that. There will be times when you get ill or have personal issues and you need to take time off. Don’t panic, it’s OK to do this. Just remember:
- You can make up the work another time.
- If you have deadlines to hit get that work done and then leave everything else, or see if someone else can help you.
- You do need time off just like everyone else. Don’t work yourself into the ground. One day off with a cold is not going to ruin your business.
- If you still feel guilty, schedule in a weekend or another day where you can make up the work.