Freelancing can be incredibly rewarding and offer great benefits. Such benefits include higher flexibility regarding one’s personal schedule, as well as improved work-life balance. The lifestyle that freelancing promotes can be enticing especially for those who do not wish to work regular 9 to 5 hours. During the pandemic, Freelancer, an Australian freelance marketplace website, saw its number of users increase from 41.9 million at the end of 2019 to 50.8 million by the end of 2020, which approximates an increase of 21.2%. Amidst pay cuts and retrenchments, some people found a way to make use of their skills and expertise by offering their services as freelancers.
However, as with most other jobs, freelancing does come with its own set of problems and challenges. It is important for freelancers to understand the challenges that may lie ahead, especially those who are just starting out and lack experience when it comes to freelancing. By understanding the complications they may meet during their careers, freelancers can better prepare themselves so they can prevent the issues that they may face or at least tackle them more efficiently.
Many have heard some rendition of a freelancer horror story in which a client tries to ask for special treatment and acts way more entitled than they have any right to. They may ask a freelancer to produce a piece of work for free or try to lowball and request a price that is way lower than what the freelancer set. It can be extremely frustrating for freelancers when people fail to understand the time and effort put into each project. Freelancers are also in no way obliged to accede to people’s demands especially when they are not being rewarded appropriately.
Some other freelancers may encounter clients who have unrealistic expectations or unreasonable requirements. Such clients may ask for a project to be completed within too short of a timeframe or request for work that was not listed in the job description to be done, causing a lot of undue stress for the freelancer. Overly fussy and fickle clients can also serve to frustrate the freelancer especially if they have already made multiple revisions to their work.
To mitigate the issue of low-balling, freelancers can set their prices from the get-go to ensure that their client is okay with the price that is being requested. In addition, requesting an upfront payment eliminates the chances that the client will back out without payment after the freelancer has already put time and effort into working on the project.
It would be helpful for freelancers to delineate their skill sets and expectations for working relationships since it introduces transparency and set things straight with customers. Being upfront about the boundaries they have and establishing what they are comfortable working with is also a good way to make sure that there will be minimal complications regarding both parties’ expectations. One way to do this is for freelancers to list out their conditions in their job or user description. There is no guarantee that employers will read through the conditions that a freelancer set thoroughly, but it can at least save the freelancer some time and trouble from having to answer the same questions about their work over and over again.
Difficulty finding work
Some employers may have misconceptions about freelancers that discourage them from sourcing freelancers to work with. Some of these misconceptions include the notion that “freelancers are not reliable” or that “freelancers lack experience and should hence charge lower prices for their services”. These stereotypes often lack validity and can be eliminated if people are better informed about the nature of freelancing as well as the benefits it can bring to employers and freelancers alike.
One caveat of freelancing is that freelancers may have difficulty sourcing for jobs. While permanent employees generally have a workload that is assigned to them, freelancers have to look for their own jobs by themselves or set up a platform in which interested clients can contact them. Networking is a key area of success for freelancers since it helps them to build a network with other contacts which subsequently creates more job opportunities.
This can be daunting especially for freelancers who are only just starting out. They may feel that their portfolio is lacking and under-developed as compared to freelancers who have been in the scene for a longer period of time and hence experience anxiety about offering their services to others.
While they might be apprehensive to contact others in fear of bothering them, freelancers must keep in mind that connections with others are important and should hence attempt to reach out to others. Even though they may initially lack connections and human resources, one good way to establish connections would be to keep in touch with clients who can refer you to other associates and partners they have. With time, a freelancer’s web of connections can grow which means more opportunities for work thereafter. Freelancers can face challenges when it comes to building a name for themselves but they should not be discouraged from marketing their services.
Poor communication serves to be extremely frustrating for both the client and the freelancer, especially if the project being worked on is time-sensitive. Being unable to exchange feedback and comments quickly can be detrimental to a project. Their schedules might not be compatible with one another, making it near impossible for them to meet up in person. This is especially true given that permanent staff and freelancers are likely to have very different schedules due to the difference in the nature of their jobs.
One benefit of virtual freelance jobs is that employers can work with a greater pool of talents while freelancers see more job opportunities since geographical distances no longer pose an issue. This also means, however, that both parties could be in two countries with very different time zones, possibly causing communication problems between them.
It can be helpful if both parties are able to put aside a time each week so they can consolidate on the project’s progress regularly. While it can be difficult for them to accommodate each other’s schedules initially, standardizing meeting dates and times can be immensely helpful. If they are expecting to work with each other for a longer period of time, they can also establish a collaborative virtual workspace so that they can send messages easily while also organizing the work being done.
By taking steps to ensure that both parties have the opportunity to speak with one another, both the client and freelancer can ensure that the project is going according to plan and that the client’s expectations are being met.
Some freelance platforms like Ravenry allow clients to delegate work to a freelancer, while also offering them a chance to collaborate. This is ideal especially for picky clients so they can work together in real-time and reduce the chances of miscommunication
Broad or vague requests
Freelancers may also find themselves stumped if they receive a job request that is too broad or vague. While some employers may be easygoing and give the freelancer free rein, some may already have a concept in mind but have difficulty verbalizing or putting it in words. This leads them to make vague requests while they already have something more specific in mind. As such, it could lead to a lot of dissatisfaction with the freelancer’s work if they are unable to capture the essence of what the employer is seeking.
In some other cases, the client themself may not be sure of what they are seeking and hence work with a freelancer that can offer new insights as well as a new perspective. With too many concepts that they can consider choosing from, freelancers may find themselves at a loss if the client offers minimal guidance on the concept they would like to adopt for their business.
Considering that a freelancer would have a more rudimentary understanding of the client’s tastes and preferences as opposed to permanent staff who are more familiar with the company culture and branding, both parties may find that having frequent discussions would help to ensure that the project is heading along the right track. Communication is key to ensuring the work that has been produced thus far is up to the client’s standard and liking.
Ravenry also assigns a project manager that will look over the project that’s being carried out. If there is anything vague in the client’s request, the project manager will approach the client on the freelancer’s behalf to request for clarification, hence making sure that the freelancer understands fully what the client is looking for.
While the journey to building a successful career as a freelancer may not be entirely smooth-sailing, freelancers can do more research about what constitutes a good freelancer and take steps to prepare to offer their services to others. By considering the possible challenges that lie ahead, freelancers will find themselves better equipped with the skills and knowledge to tackle the obstacles that come their way. There are definitely more problems that freelancers may face that are not listed in the article, but the ones stated tend to occur more frequently. To sum it up, here are some of the main problems faced by freelancers:
- Difficult clients with unrealistic expectations or unreasonable requirements can frustrate freelancers
- Difficulty in finding work can be demoralising for freelancers
- Poor communication between the freelancer and the client causes the freelancer to have difficulty in understanding the client’s request
- Vague and broad requests by clients can make it tricky for freelancers to ensure that the work they produce is what the clients want