Read most newspapers, magazines or websites and you’ll find you can have your questions answered on the problems page, usually by an Agony Aunt (or uncle).
It’s no different for freelancers who also seek out solutions to their problems by writing to their favourite Agony Aunt or by searching through freelancing websites and reading the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Some freelancing sites will give you standard advice on overcoming your freelancing problems and some will actually give you great advice.
We’re going to give you some different advice.
We’re going to suggest that most of the problems will go away if you just focus most of your attention on building your business, serving your clients well and taking care of yourself. We’re going to focus on FAQs that shouldn’t have been asked at all, and certainly not frequently.
We know that you’ll probably want better answers than the ones we’re about to give you but we still feel that these are reasonable responses to some of the FAQs we’ve been reading.
We’ve chosen just five of the problems (more later) that are being tackled – by agony columnists, business gurus and bloggers throughout the world on a daily basis – and considered what alternative responses we could come up with.
1. I’m sometimes rolling in cash. These are the only times that I can spend wildly on the things I miss. If I then earn nothing for a couple of months, I find myself broke or deep in debt. What am I doing wrong?
You are obviously new to the freelancing game and haven’t realised that you’re in a different world from the one you once occupied – the one with the monthly salary.
In the past, your salary only had to last until the end of the month then it would be magically topped up by your next salary being paid into your bank account. You may have noticed that this doesn’t happen any more so, the next time you are rolling in cash, tell yourself it has to last you for the rest of the year.
In the meantime, figure out how you managed to be rolling in cash during a particular month and develop a plan that helps you to do it every month.
If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money, spend it on the implementation of that plan. Of course, you will probably have to spend some of it on life’s little necessities like food and shelter but ‘spending wildly on the things you miss’ doesn’t seem like a good strategy to me.
Can you come up with a great alternative and, if so, can you send me a copy?
2. Being my own boss means doing a lot more work than I had expected to be doing. I thought I’d just be doing the stuff I liked doing or is that just a myth?
Don’t get sidetracked.
The stuff you like doing should be the stuff that earns the money. Do more of it and earn more.
Cut the stuff you don’t like doing to the absolute minimum. It would surprise you how little you actually have to do when it comes to administration. I only do about 20% of the admin I did when I started up.
If your focus is on the stuff that pays, you should earn enough to pay someone else to do the stuff you don’t like doing.
The real problem comes when you don’t have the skills to do the other stuff, then you have to pay for it or you have to tap into your collaborative network and do some deals. Can you barter some of your services for theirs? It’s either that or you lay aside time to DIY it. Do it in bite-sized chunks.
But the real deal is to build the business. Cut back on everything that isn’t necessary and outsource the work you don’t want to do.
Create a list with three columns:
Column 1 should show all the things that earn you money
Column 2 should focus on the things that support your business and that only you can do
Column 3 is anything you can’t do or hate to do and that can be drastically reduced or outsourced.
3. I was working a full-time job and thought freelancing would give me a better work-life balance. It hasn’t. I’m now working longer hours. How can I regain the balance?
Welcome to my world but let me ask you this, “What exactly are you doing during those longer working hours?”
Don’t isolate yourself.
It’s not good. You need to get that balance back. Without it, you’ll be unproductive, creativity levels will fall and business will drop.
Get out and meet people, go for walks, visit cafes. Do these things with a friend or with another freelancer or even with a client occasionally, but get away from the work environment. If you have a family, spend time with them. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
The danger comes for many freelancers when they tip the balance too far in any one direction. They forget their clients and the projects they’re working on. They lose contracts, earnings drop and business dries up.
The key to a work-life balance is balance.
4. I don’t seem to be meeting anyone new so my contacts are drying up. Any advice for an isolated freelancer?
Get off your computer, away from your desk and get out more.
You should also be thinking about who exactly it is that you want to meet. Of course you only want to meet clients. I thought that too but I was wrong.
Now I want to meet other freelancers. Those who do the things I can’t do, as well as those who do exactly the same things as me – even if they are competitors.
I want to meet small organisations and big businesses, especially if they have problems I might be able to help with.
I want to meet young people I can help and mentor. I want to meet those who want my advice or who are willing to advise me.
And sometimes I just want to sit in a café and chat to someone on the next table about how their day is going. If you don’t meet a diverse array of people your contacts won’t just dry up, they’ll start to wonder why you’re not as interesting as you once were.
5. Should I have stayed in my full-time job? I seemed to be better off.
Maybe you should have.
So why did you leave? If it wasn’t your choice, why did you choose not to get another job?
Some freelancers will say that they now have much more freedom but maybe you don’t.
Maybe you only have a different attitude.
You possibly thought that you had to be out on your own, in a different work environment, with you in charge, in order to get the freedom you wanted.
Maybe you were wrong. Maybe everything you wanted was right there in your previous workplace but you didn’t adopt the freelance attitude and approach to notice it or go after it.
You were in the ‘salary mindset’ instead of the freelance mindset. You thought being a freelancer meant leaving your job and setting up in business on your own.
It’s not. Being a freelancer means adopting the freelance mindset with all its potent attitudes and approaches. You can also do this in your workplace and turn that work place into your exclusive market place.
Do you have any questions that aren’t here or on our FAQs page? Let us know in the special form on this page. Or drop a comment below.
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