5 things that will f*#k-up your freelance career (and how to avoid them)

Are you living the dream? If you’re like many freelancers, the answer to this question is a resounding yes! And what’s not to love – the flexible schedules, no boss to answer to, getting paid to do what you love. But we’re also witness to your biggest nightmare – waking up to an empty bank account, zero clients, and the threat of having to punch a timecard to make someone else rich. We want to help you keep that a nightmare, not reality, so we came up with five crucial tips to ensure you’ll sustain your freelance career.

1. Stop selling yourself short, become a marketing superstar

In order to grow a healthy clientele, it’s vital to continually reach out to potential clients. If regular, aggressive marketing isn’t part of your routine then you’re definitely selling yourself short. A client may only need you for a short-term gig or you may choose to stop working with other clients, so having a healthy pipeline of fresh, targeted clients is key to avoiding work shortages and money pressures.

Solution: Commit to nothing but marketing for one day each week – make cold calls, send emails, or connect through social media. Keep it to something you (mostly) enjoy, and make sure to track the results of your efforts (hustle), so you can invest more into what works.

[image courtesy of  Will Laren  ]

[image courtesy of Will Laren ]

2. Give Procrastination the Bird

Sometimes work truly is a four letter word. You don’t always feel like working on projects, but don’t always put them off. Procrastination, in itself, will often make you more anxious.


  • Beat procrastination at its own game by tackling tasks you dislike the most for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. Repeat this until you can mark that pesky task off of your to-do list early in the day. By getting those annoying tasks out of the way, you’ll be motivated and and generate the inertia to complete bigger projects.
  • After trying this, if your production bus still won’t leave the station, then try doodling, messing around on social media, or reading a book for 10 minutes before beginning your work day.

  • Last resort: If you’re absolutely drowning and can’t get started on (or finish) a project, take the rest of the day off to indulge in an activity that refreshes your mind. (However, know that tomorrow you’ll have to work twice as hard.)


3. Stressed Out Much?

The demands of freelancing – juggling deadlines, prospecting for new clients, and handling the demands of personal life – can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s a wonder you don’t go a little nuts. And unless you’re a Zen meditation guru, you will sooner or later find yourself burned out.

Solution: Beat your stress with meditation. Yeah yeah, we know you’ve heard this a thousand times before. But it’s true! Meditation is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, increase focus and job satisfaction, reduce depression and of course, stress. Meditation is also proven to boost creativity, an essential ingredient for freelancers. Do yourself a huge favor – start meditating in small doses today.

[image courtesy of  Greg ]

[image courtesy of Greg]

4. Take a Vacation from Freelancing Island

Going from a set 9-5 schedule to being your own boss is incredibly liberating, but the lack of social interaction can generate real emotional baggage. Constant isolation can have a negative impact on creativity, happiness, and overall health. Squash loneliness with these solutions:

  • Hook up with a co-working space. Not only can working at home leave you lonely, but it blurs the lines between work and home. Having a separate working space can help put things in focus. Co-working spaces provide that place to focus and connect with fellow independent workers.

  • Make a beeline to your local museum or community center. Visiting museums decreases loneliness, boosts self-esteem, and encourages a feeling of community.

  • Join an organized athletic team, club, lecture series, etc. Get out of your own head! Force yourself to interact with a group outside your line of work, ideally one that doesn’t even speak your work dialect.

[image courtesy of  Sean MacEntee ]

[image courtesy of Sean MacEntee]

5. Get Your Money Right

Unlimited earning potential is one of the great reasons for leaving the 9-5 in your rearview. But freelancing also means being extremely responsible with your earnings in order to avoid financial pitfalls. Here are a few easy solutions to do just that.

  • Remember that as a freelancer, you don’t have the luxury of employer-provided retirement plans. So start right now by opening an IRA account. IRAs are interest bearing golden eggs that allow you to put money away for old age, tax-free.

  • Separate your business and personal bank accounts. From your business account, pay yourself a monthly or bi-weekly salary for personal expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, etc.

  • We have a few more dirty four-letter words for you: SAVE YOUR CASH! Being independent means we have times of feast and famine. So be sure to stash away at least 10% percent of your monthly income. It’ll make for a comfy buffer during lean times.

Following these 5 tips can seriously help you avoid freelance nightmares of Godzilla-like proportions... and increase your chances of having a happy, sustainable, and profitable freelance career. Go get 'em!

[Title image courtesy of Chris Piascik]