Freelancing isn’t easy. Though there is a certain amount of freedom and flexibility that comes with gig work or working for yourself, there are also a surprising number of obstacles to overcome — some of which are downright frustrating.
Every job has its pitfalls, but if you are freelancing, it’s likely because the pros greatly outweigh the cons. Still, that doesn’t mean you should constantly have to grapple with the irritating parts.
So, here are some of the top five challenges freelancers face and how you can better manage or overcome them.
1. Irregular Pay
One of the biggest plus sides of freelancing is that you normally get paid more on average compared to traditional hourly rates. However, even though your paychecks might be larger, the flipside is that they often don’t come regularly.
Conventional pay means you get a steady paycheck, but when you work for yourself, sometimes you never know when the next paycheck will come, which can be scary. So, what can you do to better prepare for an irregular paycheck?
Budget — and then budget some more. Payday might be something to celebrate as a freelancer, but the key to staving off financial stress in the in-between is to be more mindful of your spending and learn to budget like a pro.
This can involve making a spreadsheet of all your fixed and flexible expenses and making careful notes of payment dates. If there are some payments that you often miss or are late on, see if you can switch the payment due date to a more convenient time of the month.
You should also set a spending budget based on when you think you’ll get paid and try not to go over budget as much as possible. Other options include shifting your money around or consolidating debt with a new credit card or loan with better interest rates. You should even budget for setting money aside into a savings account for those times when your paycheck is delayed.
For many, working freelance is ideal because it means you get to work from home and have more freedom to get work done when you please. However, there are also some proven downsides to working from home alone all the time.
For starters, it’s much easier to become bored, isolated, and develop feelings of loneliness when you don’t have anyone to engage with during the workday. Some might see this as a positive because it means fewer distractions, but humans need connection. And unfortunately, working from home often means much less socialization during the workday.
To prevent this from happening, try to schedule social interactions in your day, such as going out for coffee with a friend or meeting up with someone for lunch. You can even opt to work at a coffee shop or a coworking space where you will be surrounded by plenty of people to chat and engage with. This can even provide you with more chances to network and boost your career.
3. Difficult Clients
Nothing is worse than a fussy client who always hates your work or clients that micromanage every little thing you do. It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do; some clients are just very difficult to please.
Understandably, this is incredibly frustrating, but it is part of the job. However, you are ultimately your own boss, so if a client is too difficult, you can say no to working with them. This might seem hard at first when you are scared about not getting paid and not knowing if you can find another client to replace them, but you must learn to do what’s best for you and your business in the long run.
You also don’t have to decline to work with them, but instead can work on building more trust with them and setting more boundaries. Make sure they are aware that you are not their employee and that your time is money.
However, it’s also important to keep a cool head and to try to find a way to compromise. While your time is money, it is also their money that is paying for the work you are doing. So try to focus on a way forward and a solution, rather than focusing on what isn’t working.
4. Self-Employment Taxes
Self-employment taxes are the bane of most freelancers’ existence, but they must get done. If you are struggling with this aspect of freelance work, just remember you are not alone. Freelancing has become very popular, which means there are lots of experts and even tools out there that can help you get a better handle on your freelance taxes.
The most important thing when it comes to doing your taxes as a freelancer is making sure you are setting aside money from each paycheck and paying estimated quarterly tax payments. If you wait until the very end to try to pay everything, you are more likely to find that you are short on how much you need, or you could even be penalized by the IRS.
So it’s important to either work with a tax professional or use one of the many services available that help freelancers keep their paychecks and estimated tax payments in order.
5. Interruptions and Disrespect For Your Work Hours
There are interruptions that can happen more often when you work from home as a freelancer. If you live alone, this might not be much of an issue, but for those who work from home as a parent or have roommates, this can be very irksome.
Even if you don’t have family or friends living with you, you might still find that those in your life don’t respect your alternative work hours. For example, if you prefer to work late hours, you might find that friends or family might still show up to visit when you’ve told them not to or call right when you’re in the middle of something important.
The key is to set hard boundaries right from the start. You could simply ignore them, as you wouldn’t be able to answer the door or even your phone if you were at the office. Or you can offer a quick acknowledgement but say something along the lines of “I’ll have to call you back” or “You’ll need to come back later when I’m not working.”
With kids, this is more difficult, but you are also allowed to set boundaries with your children. Make sure they know your work hours, tell them not to knock if your door is closed, give them options for how to reach you if they really need something, and make sure you have a backup for care if needed.
On the whole, freelancing can be incredibly rewarding and offer you the flexibility you need to have a healthier work-life balance. Still, no job is perfect. The key is to take everything in stride and plan ahead as much as possible to prevent all of the challenges above.
There are also plenty of resources out there these days to help, as freelancing has become so commonplace. So take advantage of what’s available to you to make the most of your work situation.