Whether you’re a struggling freelancer worried about going under or an aspire-lancer trying to ensure your future success, the idea of failure has probably crossed your mind. What is freelance failure? Well, in general terms, the aim of the freelance life is to earn a living without relying on an employer, so freelance failure might relate to not earning enough money to sustain yourself—or having to give up on being a freelancer and go back to an employed job.
So, what are the top five reasons for a freelance giving up…and what can you to mitigate them?
#1 Lack of planning: The most common cause of freelancers failing that I see is a lack of preparedness. In other words, they rushed into freelancing without taking the time to build a reputation, client base, and savings pot before going full time as a freelancer. To mitigate this, I recommend the gradual approach, where you test the waters while you still have an employed job that pays the bills. This way, you can see whether you enjoy freelancing and have a better foundation to build on.
#2 Lack of flexibility: With freelancing, so much is about trial and error, learning, and adjusting. If you go into freelancing with the approach of “I won’t use freelance platforms” or “I will only offer X service”, then you limit your options. You need an open mind about ways to find work and an understanding that it’s about what customers want. If you don’t have this, you become boxed in and limit your earning potential or find you’re offering something that customers don’t want.
#3 Lack of a USP: There are millions of freelancers out there, so what makes you different? How do you stand out in a crowded market, especially as a newbie? If you don’t set competitive rates, demonstrate a particular skill set, and show your personality, then it’s difficult for customers to choose you over your competitors. It’s about figuring out what makes you unique and valuable so that clients choose you, not someone else.
#4 Lack of patience: Freelancing isn’t an overnight thing, but some people think they’ll start freelancing and become successful in a few weeks or a month. In reality, it takes months or even years, and the first year is often a struggle. It takes time, effort, and patience to build your reputation, client base, and earnings. It takes perseverance to stick at it when it seems like you have no clients and keep pitching when you get rejected multiple times.
#5 Lack of enjoyment: Honestly, freelancing isn’t the lifestyle for everyone. It can be lonely, isolating, and challenging. Some people might start freelancing only to discover they don’t enjoy it. They might find that they don’t enjoy the responsibility of making all of the decisions and would prefer having a boss—or they realise they don’t like working alone and need the company of colleagues. Or they find the lack of job stability and income security stressful and worry about paying the bills.
Most of these issues can be overcome, but it’s often a case of balancing how much money you have and how much time it’ll take to figure out the right approach, discover your USP, and build your client base. Sometimes, the money runs out before you get these factors right, in which case you might temporarily go back to an employed job. However, it’s important to see this as a setback rather than a complete failure. You can always try freelancing again in the future, and “failure” really is only what you define it to be.