How to overcome the most common challenges as a freelancer
It’s been incredible watching the freelance workforce grow over the past decade, along with the opportunities available to them. Independent workers now make up 35% of the workforce, set to climb to 40% by 2020. The internet has made remote jobs more accessible and has enabled people to create tools tailored to building a successful freelance business. There is strength in numbers and we’ve seen great strides in the freelance ecosystem, but there’s still work to be done.
Freelancers still face challenges that make even the basics – like collecting pay – difficult. We need a workforce ecosystem that fosters entrepreneurship and allows freelancers to thrive while building their businesses and serving their clients.
Wanting to dig deeper into these issues and how to overcome them, we asked the CloudPeeps community to share their stories. We explore those below and cover the changes needed for a stronger, more sustainable ecosystem. To contribute your challenges and help us make a difference, take our annual Freelancing Survey.
1) Nonpayment for work and paying for benefits
Nonpayment is the biggest challenge freelancers face. Of course, it’s an issue that needs to be fixed on the employer side – but it goes beyond that. It’s a policy issue. Most businesses are affected by both state and federal laws (the Fair Labor Standards Act or FLSA) regarding pay. Employers are legally obligated to pay their employees, but there is no such law protecting freelancers.
Sara Horowitz of Freelancers Union reported, “freelancers are concerned about issues such as income predictability, debt, and access to credit and other resources. The government doesn’t track data on freelancers well and few policymakers are focused on this growing class of workers and their needs.”
According to Sara, 13.5 million people are already freelancing on the side, in addition to their day jobs. Of those people, 37% have considered quitting their job to freelance full-time. That would add millions more full-time freelancers to our workforce. It’s hard to process that their needs aren’t being met.
The solution lies in better representation for freelancers in politics. More people fighting on their behalf for more policies and laws in their favor. The workforce also needs to provide more resources to help freelancers get paid for their work. And it’s our job as freelancers to make sure our voices are heard – to write to policy makers and to elect people who will listen to our needs.
2) Finding enough work
The second biggest challenge freelancers face is finding enough work. Fortunately, the internet continues to make freelance work more accessible. The CloudPeeps platform provides you with access to quality jobs and the tools you need to manage your freelance business so you can focus on the work. We also help make you more discoverable to clients looking to hire someone with your skillset and interests. Sign up to build your profile and get started today.
Although more freelancers joining the workforce means more competition, demand will continue to grow as well. Focus on showing your work and providing value, and competition won’t be an issue. Start by asking your personal networks if they know of any opportunities. Crush your first couple of jobs and build a stellar portfolio. From there, building credibility and a strong personal brand will happen organically.
Sharing your knowledge is another effective way to grab attention. Share your know-how on a blog, through video, or on social media to demonstrate that you’re great at what you do. If you’re worried about giving away your secrets, don’t be. Your clients are hiring you because they don’t have the time or skill set to do what you do, and you’re the expert.
Consider shifting your thinking around how to make more money. Often times, getting more work isn’t the answer. It’s a matter of getting better work. For more on how to do that, check out this guide to making more money as a freelancer.
3) Setting boundaries with clients
Boundary setting is an age-old challenge for freelancers. If you make yourself available 24/7, your clients may think it’s ok to communicate with you 24/7. As a freelancer, you have to set boundaries and educate your clients on how a successful freelancer/client relationship works.
It’s your job to make sure the scope of your work is clearly outlined in your agreement. When you experience “scope creep” – when a client tries to add on more work without more pay – push back, revisit the contract and negotiate an upsell. However, it’s also in the client’s hands to respect your time and stick to the contract or offer more money.
At the end of the day, effective communication and experience make setting and maintaining boundaries easier. When negotiating with a new client, ask them if they’ve worked with freelancers before. Ask them many questions to get a sense of how they communicate and what their expectations of you and your availability are.
4) Setting up your business
Often times, the challenge is simply getting started. If you’re setting up a business in the US, it’s overwhelming to think about things like LLCs, health insurance, business insurance and taxes. Freelancers outside of the US also face a unique set of challenges in working with global businesses.
The good news is that most of the information you need is very accessible. For example, if you’re based in the US, here are several guides to get you started:
- A guide to health insurance for freelancers
- A guide to liability (business) insurance
- How to structure your working relationships
- A checklist for moving overseas as a freelancer
- 7 tax tips for first-time freelancers
One of the great things about freelancing is that you can start off pretty lightweight. You still need to understand what taxes you owe from day one. But overall, you can usually learn the ropes along the way. Overcoming this challenge is a matter of overcoming the fear of starting your own business. Start small, take on a client or two on the side while you learn what you need to launch your business. That way, you can test the waters and make sure that freelance is for you.
5) Feeling isolated and lonely
Finding a support network helps to fight isolation and learn from others’ experience. If you join a freelancer community (like CloudPeeps!), you’ll get to know lots of people who are willing to share their lessons and resources, like the ones above.
By surrounding yourself with fellow freelancers, you’ll also be able to let off some steam. No one can empathize with you better. Create a brain trust – a group of people to discuss your problems and solutions with. You’ll also be able to help them, which always feels nice.
Another solution is to simply get out of your house. Go work from a coffee shop or library, or join a coworking space. Or, find a pottery class, run club, or book club that helps you get out of the house and thinking about something else. Remember – freelancing is great because it allows you to make your own schedule. Make the most of it!
6) The false perception of freelancers
Peep Rachel Wong said that she often sees people value the experience of a W2 employee more so than a freelancer’s years of experience. All too often, people assume that someone is freelancing because they’re not hireable. But that is almost never the case – it’s quite the opposite. More often than not, a freelancer has many years of experience in their field and once worked for companies full-time. They pursued a freelance career because they wanted a lifestyle that offered more flexibility.
Unfortunately, however, freelancers are often perceived as “flaky.” Peep Addie Whelan said, “a big challenge is how people view you. I think that even friends/family/coworkers see you as someone who can’t get a full-time job, which is a huge challenge.”
The solution lies in the hands of freelancers, companies, and the people making assumptions. It’s each freelancer’s responsibility to scope out their jobs, set deadlines, meet them, and most importantly, communicate it if they’re behind schedule. It’s also your responsibility to collect testimonials and show your work to demonstrate credibility.
On the flip side, it’s a client’s job to talk about their positive experiences publicly. Having analyzed hundreds of jobs on the CloudPeeps platform, we’ve seen far more clients have positive relationships than not. We want to see more companies blogging and posting about their awesome experiences with freelancers. To share how they’ve grown their businesses thanks to the freelance workforce.
Finally, people should realize that there are two sides to every story, then the truth. 😉 There may be more to a story than a freelancer just “flaking.” It’s only fair to look at someone’s work and experience, review their referrals and talk to them before making a judgment.
The freelance landscape is filled with promise
No matter what career path you choose, there will be challenges. At the end of the day, now is an incredibly exciting time to be a freelancer and to be building your own business. There are more resources and opportunities available than ever. And with a growing freelance community, there is more support than ever. By working together, we can overcome these challenges and focus on why we chose the lifestyles we have in the first place. Ready to bring your freelance career to the next level? Join the CloudPeeps community!
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