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  • Writer's pictureNatashia Larkin

The challenges of being a freelancer

Updated: Mar 6

The challenges of being a freelancer

Over the last seven years, I’ve loved working for myself, taking on exciting new projects and being free to fit my work around my life. 

There are so many great reasons to be a freelancer, especially a completely remote freelancer where you can work, travel and live as you please. 

However, I’d be lying if I said there are no downsides to working this way. 

I have certainly come up against some key challenges and some days (in fact, some months) have been tougher than others. 

So, if you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer, or, if you are already a freelancer and it’s just nice to know you’re not alone in these feelings, here are some of the downsides to being a freelancer. 

It can be lonely 

When you work for yourself, particularly from a remote location, there are times when it can feel pretty lonely. You miss the connection you have with co-workers and seeing people face-to-face on a daily basis. 

Of course, if you’re busy in other areas of your life, you are less likely to feel this way. But if you traditionally rely on work for a lot of your human interaction, the freelance life can become a bit isolating. 

You need self-discipline 

In order to stay focused, stay on track and make sure you get all your work done on time, you need to be disciplined. This can be tricky, particularly on days when you’re not feeling productive, well or possibly even when it’s just sunny outside. 

We all know how hard it is to keep yourself inside working when the sun is shining and the outside looks far more appealing! 

But essentially, what I’m saying is that you have no one to blame but yourself if you fall behind and it could cost you work and your reputation. So you must push yourself to remain productive, manage your time well and avoid distractions. 

It can be unpredictable 

It’s likely that you’ll experience ups and downs throughout your freelance life and this unpredictability can be tough. From quieter periods to unstable income, you have to be prepared for a rainy day. 

And by that I mean, you have to be prepared for slumps, clients dropping out, delayed payments and more. 

On the other hand, you also have to be ready for busier periods, and in some cases, long days or projects that overrun. 

Difficulty switching off 

Although there is the possibility of having a better work-life balance when managed properly, this can also cause problems if you’re unable to switch off from your business and work. 

Without set work hours or a set office space, you might find that you struggle to establish boundaries between your work and personal life. It can be tempting to work long hours and to be constantly available to clients, which can lead to burnout and stress.

Finding regular work 

Unlike a traditional role, if you want to make sure the work (and money) keeps coming in, you have to be proactive. This means that during quieter periods you need to keep looking for work, applying for new projects and pitching your services to relevant businesses. 

You also have to promote yourself and keep putting your name out there. This can be time-consuming, but it’s important for building your professional brand and helping clients find you. 

For some, finding and securing new work is one of the hardest parts of freelance life, especially when you’re first starting out. 

The lack of workplace benefits 

While you get a lot of freedom to go on holiday when you want to, the one thing you don’t get is holiday pay. You also don’t get sick pay and some of the other benefits that come with traditional employment, like a pension scheme. 

That being said, you should set aside money for situations like sickness and having to take unexpected time off. You can also invest in your own pension fund or savings, you just have to be more disciplined and find the best way to do this for your own future. 

Staying on top of your career development

Unlike traditional employment where there may be opportunities for you to get a promotion, freelancing can mean limited prospects for career growth. Sure, you could change your own job title when you feel like it, but in terms of other benefits like a pay rise, this all comes down to the work you pull in.

For some, this lack of a clear path can be tricky. But you can still take online courses, grow your network and strengthen your skills with a focus on personal and professional development.

Plus,  if you continuously market yourself and seek out new and impressive opportunities, your business and knowledge will naturally grow. This, in itself, is a type of development and one that many are far more proud of than simply being promoted by their boss. 

Don’t let any of this put you off 

As with everything in life, being a freelancer has its challenges, but you shouldn't let this put you off if you’re in the early stages of your career or you’re thinking about going freelance in the future. 

There are so many reasons why being a freelancer is great! And I certainly can’t imagine my life or work any other way. Right now, this gives me the freedom and flexibility to enjoy my life to the fullest. 

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