7 Challenges A Freelancer Needs To Overcome To Thrive In The New Economy



So you’ve left your office job in the hope of finding new creative freedom in your work. The only problem is you are now faced with multiple challenges to navigate as a freelancer that stop you from experiencing all the privileges of being your own boss. Here are the 7 challenges a freelancer needs to overcome to fully reap the benefits of working for yourself.

7 Challenges A Freelancer Needs To Overcome To Thrive In The New Economy

Challenge 1: Demands of clients keep changing

Have you found yourself working on a project for a client with a large staff turnover and no project management systems in place? Or even worse, the initial scope of the project keeps changing with the client expecting you to work additional hours without a commensurate change in budget. You can avoid much confusion and misunderstanding of the scope of work by setting very clear expectations at the beginning of the project through a written agreement. Improving your business systems so you have in-built agility to quickly adapt to any changes in client demands also goes a far way in ensuring that changes in project scope do not eat into profits. In the New Economy, you need to connect with other freelancers to keep up to date with ever evolving project management systems and online communication software that helps minimize time spent on tasks while ensuring high quality delivery of services.

Challenge 2: Reality of painful clients

When you first start out with your own consulting practice, you sometimes have to accept any work that comes your way as you build up your experience and personal brand. While at first casting your net wide is a reasonable approach, it is not a long-term solution to building up your freelancing practice. If you agree to work with anyone, the chances are you will end up with a few difficult clients. Bad clients pay late (or sometimes not at all), are constantly questioning your work, don’t value your expertise and have many roadblocks to getting the work completed. If you want to move away from picking the low hanging fruit, you need to learn how to become a specialist and grow into a market leader in your service offering.

Challenge 3: You have to face unpredictable cash flow

There are trade-offs in becoming a freelancer and one of the most painful is giving up a steady paycheck for the solopreneur life. Fluctuations in income levels can hurt your finances, especially if you spend big during the windfall months rather than setting aside cash for when gigs are more difficult to find. Rather being on edge for your clients to pay invoices on time, there are ways you can learn to set up your finances so you can pay yourself a consistent income. It’s also handy to have an emergency buffer just in case you have a dry spell of work. When you are starting out, cash flow can be improved by lowering overhead costs such as opting out of an expensive office space. Being part of a coworking space can reduce pressure on finances as you have flexibility in hiring a desk on a full-time or part-time basis and often includes meeting rooms that you can book for catch-ups with clients. If cash flow is tight but you don’t want to work from home or a cafe all day, innovative apps like Nesk give freelancers the opportunity to rent a desk by the minute, so the office becomes a variable cost that is charged only when used.

Challenge 4: You try to balance work and life

While most adults find balancing work and life a dream never to be realised, it can be even more challenging for a freelancer to find a pathway to switch off from their work brain and enjoy some downtime. Working where you want, when you want does have its perks but can mean that your work and life seem meshed together. This is not altogether a bad thing if your work is purposeful. However if you are engaged in work which is not engaging and meaningful, leaving your permanent job to become a contractor may not guarantee the life satisfaction you are pursuing. As people are living longer and will need to work past 65 to comfortably retire, more people are discovering the need to work in an area that they are passionate about which means discovering their life’s vocation rather than just doing a job.

Challenge 5: You need to become a ‘jack of all trades’

Feeling overwhelmed and you can’t unplug from technology? Whatever your skill set is, no one can successfully manage as a freelancer if they try to be a ‘jack of all trades’ – filling the shoes of marketing manager, accountant and IT support. Even if you can do everything, it’s not the best use of your time and it will eat into your finances as you divert resources away from your “core” business, that is what brings in the revenue. Learning the art of delegation can be a lot easier if you recognise that there are efficiency gains to be made when you outsource supporting functions to those who are experienced and qualified. There are now many platforms you can utilise such as Upwork, Fiverr and Expert360 to select a team of professionals that you can pay hourly and save on overheads like office space and internet as your contract staff work virtually.

Challenge 6: Need to make real world connections

New digital technologies has meant we can connect to people all over the world without meeting them, opening up a new frontier of possibilities for how we work. Expanding your network using LinkedIn and taking advantage of buying databases of business contacts can help in reaching a broader audience. Connecting online however shouldn’t replace real world connections to build your practice. More freelancers are uncovering the need to invest in their local networks and develop strategic partnerships with businesses on the ground that offer complementary services but are addressing the same target market. Building a high-value network with individuals and businesses that are specialised in areas that help establish your own competencies will be one of the defining features of your new life as a freelancer.

Challenge 7: You have to keep hunting for clients

Clients come and go. Without a system for ensuring there is a healthy pipeline of potential clients, you can find yourself facing significant periods of little or no scheduled work which can take its toll emotionally and financially. When you work as a freelancer, it is so important to work in a flow where there is a natural rhythm and momentum. This means minimising the fluctuations of the normal project cycle so workflow is steady and not disrupted. To achieve a steady stream of projects, you can set up client acquisition systems that target the right type of clients and ensure that there is always work on, even if market conditions change.

At The New Economy, we have developed interactive training and innovative systems to help support professionals transition from permanent jobs to freelance work.

The New Economy