Being a freelance writer has been a great business decision for me. As with every profession, however, it comes with its own pitfalls and challenges. In this article, I’m going to break down some of the challenges freelance writers face and how to avoid letting those challenges hold you back from the business of your dreams.
When I first started out as a freelance writer, and I had no clue how to structure my business. Everything was new to me, and so it was a lot of trial-and-error for me trying to figure out what my boundaries were as an entrepreneur, what types of projects I like working on most, and what types of clients I enjoyed writing for.
Over time, I’ve discovered that these 8 challenges kept popping up over and over again for me as a freelance writer. Until I dealt with them purposefully, they were still going to keep popping up. So here’s to you taking the bull by the horns and dealing with them now so that you can shortcut to success faster.
A new freelance business will take as much time as you give it, and time and talent are your two biggest commodities as a freelance writer. You have to protect them, because not only are you a freelance business owner, you’re a person with a life. And isn’t the reason why you started a business as a freelance writer in the first place partly so that you could enjoy your life?
Time management for freelance writers comes down to two different areas. How you manage your time outside of your business and how you manage your time inside your business. Let’s talk about how you manage your time outside your business first.
When I’m talking about managing your time outside your business, I’m talking about deciding how many hours a day you want to work as a freelance writer and how many hours a day you want for everything else. You don’t have to have set working hours – I often do not – but it’s good to know a ballpark figure for how many hours in general you’d like to work per week. If you don’t determine that in advance it’s far too easy for work to take over and Shanghai all your free time.
When I’m talking about managing your time inside your business as a freelance writer, I’m talking about how you divide your time between the tasks of running your business. Knowing how much time you want to dedicate to the different tasks of your business is absolutely vital in building a business by design.
The technical work of your business as a freelance writer, of course, tends to be what pays the bills. But how do you know what to charge if you don’t know how much time you spend in general on the different services you offer?
The best way to figure this out is by doing a time study. Grab a spreadsheet or Google doc and create spaces for every 15 minutes of your day. Then spend a week or two writing down what you’re doing as a freelance writer. I find it helpful to put my tasks into categories: personal development, client work, marketing, planning… you get the idea.
Having a clear idea of how your time spend is going inside your business not only helps you know how much to charge, it helps you determine whether or not it’s time to hire help and what you can afford to pay them. When you notice that a lot of your activities are going towards the administrative or non income-generating activities of your business, it’s time to think about getting some help. It’s far too easy to just stumble through the day-to-day without noticing unless you’re tracking your time.
Lack of Boundaries
No-boundaries business owner, party of one.
I used to be the worst at maintaining business boundaries with my clients. I love serving. It’s part of what makes me a great service provider. But I would go above and beyond, veering into unhealthy territory when it came to bending over backwards for my clients. I finally realized that by not having boundaries, I was actually damaging my business, my client relationships, and my personal life.
Not only can you not serve your clients well without healthy boundaries, but you also can’t grow your business well. Lack of boundaries will suck all the time, energy, and joy out of your business. You will start to resent your clients, and honestly it’s not completely their fault. If you never communicated what you would like your working relationship with them to look like, how would they know?
Do yourself a favor, trust me. Set up reasonable boundaries from the start so that you can continue to enjoy operating your business and serving your clients.
As a freelancer, you are the person in charge. You get to dictate when you work and how you work. If you’re a super self-motivated person, this works great. In fact, your problem might be dialing it back and stepping away from your business. But if you tend to be more of a free spirit who’s less disciplined, motivation can be a struggle at times.
I tend to be on the super motivated side. But that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with motivation from time to time. Make a plan ahead of time to deal with those days when you just don’t feel like turning up. What are your go-tos in order to give yourself a shot of energy to get the job done when you’re just not feeling it? How will you power through when you’re working on the part of a project that’s not your favorite?
Coming up with a plan to deal with lack of motivation as a freelance writer before it happens is the key to surviving it and getting the job done.
Fear of Selling
Every freelance writer’s business depends on their ability to generate leads and close sales. There are multiple ways to do this – networking, organic social media, job boards, cold outreach, paid traffic are just a few.
Once you have leads in the pipeline, then it’s time to go in for the close … but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Hopping on discovery calls with prospective clients can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re just getting started. And it’s made even worse if you have a fear of selling.
Some people are just naturally good at sales. For others, it does not come naturally, and a series of nos can really do a number on your confidence. So what do you do if you have a fear of selling?
Remind yourself that selling is actually serving. By hiring you as their freelance writer, the prospect has delegated something that costs them in terms of time and energy. Now they have an expert at the wheel (you), which will allow them to have more time and energy to devote to the other areas of their business. By pitching your services to them, you are actually doing them a favor and helping them grow their business.
Unclear Work Scope
Nothing sidelines a freelance writer’s project faster than scope creep. If you’re not familiar with the concept of scope creep, you will be. It happens to the best of us, and often clients don’t even realize that they’re doing it.
When I mention scope creep, I’m talking about those moments when the client wants to add “just one more thing” or requests another round of revisions that’s not included in the original scope of work. It’s so tempting to agree with the client just to keep them happy, but imagine if you agreed every single time every single client wanted to add just “one more thing”. You’d be overwhelmed and start resenting the project and the client.
The best way to prevent this from happening to you as a freelance writer is to clearly outline the project scope from the very beginning. List what’s included, and mention what could be added for an additional fee. For instance if the contract includes two rounds of revisions, mentioned that a third round could be added for an additional $150. I also find it helps to include a rate sheet in proposals so the client knows what extra add-ons will cost.
If they need an extra email sequence, you can simply point back to the rate sheet. It takes the pressure off of you because you have made the information plain and clear from the beginning.
No Benchmark Goals
You can’t celebrate what you don’t measure. How do you know what progress is being made if you’re not working towards a goal? One of the big mistakes that I see freelance writers make is letting their business drive them instead of driving their business.
It’s very easy to allow this to happen. Before you know what you look up and realize that your business is in a place that you never intended it to be. The best way to keep this from happening to you as a freelance writer is to put yourself in the driver’s seat from the beginning and steer the ship towards measurable benchmark goals.
Income levels are a great place to start. Goals for the number of clients you land are also a great way to measure progress. Once you hit your first goals, create new ones. Remember this is your business. You are in control, and settling benchmark goals helps you become the leader your business needs.
Feast and Famine
There’s nothing more frustrating in the life of a freelancer than the feast and famine cycle of income. One moment you’re swimming and clients and projects to the point that you can barely keep your head above water. The next, it’s a dry wasteland with no prospects in sight. It’s the worst kind of roller coaster ride, and everybody wants to get off.
Yet it happens all too easily. Juggling client work and prospecting for clients is hard, but you have to find a way to do it unless you love not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from.
So how do you move past the feast and famine cycle? Setting benchmark goals is a good first step. Keep those goals in front of you, and calculate how many sales calls you’ll need to have per week in order to achieve them.
You also need to be marketing yourself, which leads us to the next pitfall …
Not Marketing Yourself
As a freelance writer who earns her living promoting her clients’ offers and services day in and day out, it’s very easy to neglect my own marketing. Resist the temptation! When you ignore your own marketing, you let your lead pipe line dry up and reduce the amount of impact you can have for your clients.
Schedule time everyday to do lead-generating and income-generating activities. This can include organic social media, engaging in groups online, emailing your list, guesting on a podcast or YouTube channel, guest speaking at an online summit, or running paid ads.
It’s not bragging to talk about what you do. Be your own best hype man. Unless you have thousands of dollars to hire someone to do it for you, this is one of the most important roles you have in your freelance writing business.
More From Christa Nichols
Speaking of marketing yourself as a freelance writer, want to learn my five secrets to landing clients – the same secrets that helped me go from zero clients and zero revenue to $250k in just 12 months? Awesome! Join me for my upcoming Client Attraction Crash Course, where over the course of 5 days, I’ll be doing Live trainings in a private FacebookTM group. The crash course is free, and it starts August 23-27, 2021. Register HERE.