Monday, September 28, 2009

Common Pitfalls that Threaten Freelance Success

If you’re like most freelance writers, you choose this business for the flexibility and financial freedom. In order to be successful, you must be prepared for the challenges of operating your own business solo. Despite a busy schedule booked with clients, there are some who simply become overwhelmed with the responsibilities of operating a freelance writing business and escape back to the nine to five grind.

If you don’t take time to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead, freelancing could become just another job you dread getting up for and facing each day. Here are just a few of the most common obstacles that can get in the way of freelancing success:

No steady income

Some days are better than others. One day you’re fighting clients off with a stick, and the next it seems like they wouldn’t touch your services with a 10 foot pole. This is the nature of the business, especially early on. The cure seems obvious enough: work with a variety of clients instead of relying on just one or two.

A consistent marketing plan can help make that happen. Unfortunately, freelancing is a business where time is money. When you’re desperate for money to cover this month’s expenses, you may feel like you have to choose between spending time marketing your services for future work and working on a low-paying project that pays here and now.

Answer: Ideally you shouldn’t quit your job to start any business without a substantial savings, or you can moonlight as a freelance writer until you build up enough of a steady clientele; but that’s not always realistic.

If things really get tough, consider temping or a part-time job to help fill in the gaps. Remember, it’s only temporary.

Doing everything yourself

I didn’t coin the phrase “solopreneur,” but I sure do love it. I love it because it says exactly what many of us are; entrepreneurs who work alone. I’m a loner by nature, so I was prepared for what it would be like to work 12 hour days by myself. What I wasn’t so prepared for was the amount of work and time it takes to run a business alone.

Accounting, marketing, managing client projects and invoicing all take time. That’s often time away from paid projects, and in the end things still go undone.

Answer: Outsourcing is the ideal solution, but depending on where you are in your business you may not be able to afford certain services right now like hiring a virtual assistant or premium web designer. You may be able to find someone you can swap services with. For instance you offer to write articles for an accountant’s website in exchange for tax filing services. Freelancing forums and social networking sites like Twitter can be a good place to start looking.

Maintaining a work/life balance

This is a challenge for any freelancer. It’s so easy to get caught up on clients projects and the income you’re making and put everything else on the back burner. This is a recipe for burnout. Still, it can be hard to draw a line and separate work from the time spent with family, friends and hobbies.

Answer: Create a scheduled time for work and stick to it. Allow yourself to spend time each day with family, friends or a favorite activity.

Negativity from others

Some freelance writers are constantly defending their career choice to others. Family members may not understand and constantly chide you to “get a real job.” You may have problems with friends and family assuming that you always have free time to chat on the phone, entertain drop in guests or run errands in the middle of the day.

Some clients may not take you seriously because they don’t believe that a freelance writer could be as skilled or experienced. They may not offer you work, or they may offer projects at insultingly low rates.

Answer: Remind yourself every day why you chose to pursue freelancing, and that others are building successful businesses. Bookmark a couple of your favorite freelancers blogs to read each day reminding you of what will come to you if you stick to it.

Also, keep in mind that there are clients out there who know the value of good writing and are willing to pay well for it. You will need to figure out your target market (who needs your services) and start offering your services. Many experts recommend specializing in a certain niche (e.g. real estate, finance, green topics), but there are successful general writers making it work.

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