7 Biggest problems facing freelancers

28 Apr 7 Biggest problems facing freelancers

Freelancing is becoming a popular business model for those with a service or skillset. In fact, 34% of American Workers did some freelance work in 2015. This proves that freelancing is a great way to supplement or replace your current income.

I believe freelancing is the easiest business type to start and it can become a lucrative business for anyone with a service or skillset if they use the right strategy to get started. If you are looking to start a freelance business – checkout How to Start a Freelance Business. I love the freelancing business model because:

  1. You don’t need a lot of capital to get started.
  2. You can get started almost immediately.
  3. You can work around your current commitments.
  4. You can leverage your strengths and market a service you enjoy.
  5. You can earn a generous income and have lifestyle freedom.
  6. You can establish a career and build a business from your freelance service offering.

Above all, I love the freelance business model because of the flexibility it affords for business growth. If you take the time to start your business properly you can scale your business into more passive income streams.

Half of all freelancers say they wouldn’t stop freelancing for any amount of money. 

It just goes to show that freelancers love the flexibility, income and lifestyle they can achieve as a freelancer. While earning a generous income I can work from home and structure my work around my lifestyle – this is a luxury most people could only ever dream of.

Freelancing is a great option for those looking for that extra freedom or escape from the traditional 9-5 environment.

To learn more about freelancing and to avoid the common problems faced by freelancers don’t forget to subscribe to New Stability.

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The Common Problems Faced by Freelancers

After starting my freelance consulting business in 2011 and turning it into my full-time career. I have discovered (some times the hard way) that there is a SMART way and a HARD way to achieve true success as a freelancer. There are a number of common roadblocks and issues faced by freelancers. These problems can hinder your success and freelancers should be aware of these common traps prior to starting a business. This will ensure freelancers get started the right way and avoid these mistakes.

Freelance Problem #1 – Not charging what your service is worth

Freelancing isn't free

So many freelancers offer an amazing service but instead of competing on the value they add to the market they focus on the balance of not being seen as being too cheap or being too expensive.

Have a look at most freelancing markets, there are usually some freelancers who struggle by earning a couple of dollars an hour and other freelancers that charge over $100 an hour. 

What is the main difference between the two freelancers?

The one that charges more will almost always compete on value and explain to the client exactly the problem they are solving and address the concerns of the client.

All freelance businesses exist to solve a problem.

What problem do you solve? 

If you cannot answer this you may find it difficult to compete on value over price.

If you want to know more about pricing, read my post on setting your rates.



Freelance Problem #2 – Not having a strategy for business growth

I see so many freelancers start businesses with their skill set without any strategy behind what they are trying to achieve. Although I don’t believe in over the top structured business plan, freelancers need to know what they want from their freelancing career.

Freelancers can break their business growth into three distinct phases:

Freelance Success Busines strategy. Grow your freelancer business

Without a strategy, freelancers will find themselves working with a lack of directions. Having this structure will help you get the most from your time and allow you to understand what you need to do to grow your business in the right market.

Freelance Problem #3 – Not specialising on a specific service offering

I have found that being a specialist in a specific field is a major advantage for freelancers. Far too often I get in contact with freelancers that describe their service offering as:

logo design, website design, web developing, t-shirt design etc. 

Although you may have all these skills it can sometimes seem to clients that you don’t have one specific expertise. I have found that a lot of clients love to deal with freelancers that do one thing and do that well. Not only does it make you seem like an expert it can also give the impression that they are better at completing this specific service.

As freelancers you can’t take on every job so why not pick one service and stick with it?

From a freelancers perspective having one service offering can make your life so much easier and often allow you to save time when delivering services because you often will have a template or previous work samples you can draw on to help complete the project.

Freelance Problem #4 – Not focusing on the right things

At different stages in your business, you need to focus on different things for business growth to avoid burnout or a business plateau.

Examples of different focuses for your business stage include:

  1. Starting your business – focus on validating your business idea and ensuring you have clients willing to pay for your service.
  2. Growth phase – focus on building a consistent client based and improving your ‘expertise’ in the industry.
  3. Refining you process – focus on automation and processes to get the maximum output for your time.
  4. Marketing – focus on the marketing activities that actually get results. My consulting business targets a very small niche (about 900 possible clients in Australia) which means that spending too much time on marketing activities such as social media won’t have as big of an impact on by business as contacting a possible client directly.
  5. Long-term growth – most freelance businesses have the ability to build more passive income solutions by leveraging your current client base e.g. online training, packaged services, ongoing services etc.

Knowing what will get results can help you avoid time wasting activities that are adding no real value to your income generating opportunities or client services.

Freelance Problem #5 – Positioning your service in the wrong market

Finding the right market for your service can make or break any freelancer business. Far too often freelancers fall into the trap of thinking that having a service that a lot of people want is the only way to get clients. However, if the market is huge it means there is a lot of competition and individual freelancers will struggle to gain any traction.

Rather than picking the biggest market, freelancers should:

  1. Think about how many clients/ projects they need in a year – For example, I only need about 15 clients a year to earn my income so it doesn’t make sense targeting a large market. I found it easier to niche down and own service one group of clients in a market.
  2. Who has the problem you are solving – Target the specific group of people in your market that have the problem you solve. That way these clients will get the most value from your service and be more likely to be repeat clients or recommend you to their networks.

Freelance Problem #6 – Not having an agreement

If you’ve read any of my blog posts before you will know that my most costly mistake as an early freelancer was not having a written agreement. When I was starting my business I didn’t understand why it was so important to have an agreement in writing. It could have been lack of experience or the concept that it would make small freelancing business seem too structured. After loosing about $8,000 as a result of not having a contract I quickly organised a written service agreement.

A written agreement not only protects the freelancer but it also gives the client a set of expectations for the service provided and also demonstrates a level professionalism by the freelancer.

Agreements allow you to clearly:

  1. Outline the expectations for myself as a freelancer and the expectations of the client (yes you need to have expectations for clients – things like providing the feedback required in a time limit is vital.)
  2. Detail the cost of the project (by making someone sign a contract subconsciously they are accepting that this is a professional service they are required to pay for).
  3. Detail the scope of the projects (if this isn’t clearly defined you WILL be doing some or a lot of work for free).


Freelance Problem #7 – Not getting started

It may sound obvious but the best way to get started as a freelancer is to put your service out there. Your first few clients help you validate your idea and help you ensure you will have a service people are willing to pay for.

Want to get started as a freelancer?

Freelance Cover (1)Read my new ebook Freelance: The step-by-step guide to starting a profitable freelance business. This book will help you structure your ideas and ensure you are taking the right steps when you start your business. This book uses a structured system for starting a freelance business using a proven strategy and formula for success based on my experience as a profitable freelancer over the past five years. These strategies can be implemented immediately so you can get started today.

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Do you have a Freelance business question?

Don’t forget to include your Freelancing FAQ by commenting on this post at the bottom of a page or send me an email alycej@newstability.com.

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  • Alyce J
    Posted at 12:10h, 03 May

    What are the biggest problems you face in your freelancing business?

    • frankenmint
      Posted at 05:13h, 05 May

      fees are atrocious if I use an outside service provider #boycottupwork

  • Lindsay Jacobson
    Posted at 00:19h, 10 June

    I have been a Freelance Graphic Designer for almost two years after working for a small printing company, and as a Marketing Coordinator for a Law Firm.

    As a freelancer, my biggest struggles are:

    Managing time effectively to make sure I am balancing all important aspects of running my business. I spend the least amount of time actually designing, most of my time is spent working on passive income, reading and education, finding clients, working on promotional and strategic marketing, accounting, and communicating with existing clients

    Negotiating rates and chasing payments. I hate dealing with the money side of things; quoting rates for a project is never easy no matter how much I do it. Also, I invoice my clients using Freshbooks, and sometimes invoices get lost or go to spam filters (thanks programmers of Freshbooks!), so I always get anxious whenever I send off invoices.

    Managing personalities and expectations. Learning what the client wants and expects from me, sometimes having to read minds, dealing with people who can’t make decisions, or don’t know what they want.

    Isolation. I love the freedom freelancing affords, but working alone all day, everyday sometimes makes me nostalgic for the long lost days of office banter, distracting co-workers, and the camaraderie of working in an office. Sometimes I will go days without having an actual real life conversation with another human—so watch out first person I have contact with! I saved up all my thoughts and experiences to verbally dump on you—hope you like it!

    Convincing clients of the value your skills offer, being an “expert”, getting good, high paying clients. With the internet being a global marketplace, one can get design services and products at any price range, often for very low cost. Competing with freelancers in India who work for $4/hour can be tough, or the fact that everyone with a computer and access to google images thinks they are a designer. I have to constantly sell my skills and the value they offer in order to get paid a fair rate. Never ends.

    Besides the challenges I face as a graphic designer, I still love design and have a grateful heart that I can use my skills to work for independently. My love for creative expression and design, makes all the headaches, pressure, nightmare clients, and self-doubt worth it!



    • Alyce J
      Posted at 15:16h, 13 June

      Hi Lindsay,

      Thanks for your input. The struggles you mentioned seem to be similar to many freelancers especially negotiating payments and the feeling of isolation. I can definitely relate to those days where my only interaction is with my Dog!

      I’m so happy you also enjoy the benefits of working independently. Thank-you so much for taking the time to share your story. My goal with New Stability is to create a community of freelancers to share the flexibility, freedom and financial stability I know freelancing can provide so I really appreciate the honest account of your experiences so far.

      All the best with your business,

  • Joanie Pariera
    Posted at 02:09h, 15 June

    I publish my own books ( ebooks) . Just about to come out with my second one. Like someone said , people automatically assume that we must not make the cut quality-wise and hence we self publish. The truth is that lots of talented people don’t have access to the same opportunities. Moreover the traditional publishing process is too complicated . It is every writer’s dream to earn respectability and some of the tips on this page might help them too.