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Mar 08, 2023
Q&A What's the top problem you face as a freelancer?

From getting paid for your value to becoming isolated, here are 17 answers to the question, What's the top problem you face as a freelancer, and what's your solution?

  1. Getting Paid What You're Worth
  2. Staying Disciplined With a Variable Workload
  3. Stabilizing Income
  4. Differentiating Services from the Competition
  5. Assuming It's a Race to the Bottom in Price
  6. Promoting Myself
  7. Scaling My Revenue and Time
  8. Finding Long-Term Clients
  9. Separating Quiet and Busy Times
  10. Meeting Deadlines
  11. Cultivating Self-Discipline
  12. Saving for Taxes
  13. Spending Time on Non-Billable Work
  14. Estimating the Time Needed to Complete Work
  15. Negotiating Contract Renewals
  16. Becoming Too Isolated


Getting Paid What You're Worth

One of the challenges for freelancers is finding clients who are willing to pay a fair price. It can be tough to get the recognition and compensation you deserve, especially when you're competing with freelancers from countries with lower costs of living. They're often willing to work for very low rates, which can make it hard to make a living if you're in a more expensive country.


The best way to combat this is by differentiating yourself in some way. If you're a great writer, focus on that. If you're a master at Photoshop, focus on that. Whatever your unique skill is, make sure you're known for it. That way, when clients come looking for someone with those specific skills, they'll be more likely to come to you instead of someone who charges less but may not be as good.


Don't be afraid to charge what you're worth. If you're good at what you do, you should have no problem finding clients who are willing to pay you a fair price.


Angie Makljenovic, Blogger & Content Creator, She Can Blog


Staying Disciplined With a Variable Workload

As a project-based freelancer, some weeks you have to work flat out and other weeks are comparatively quiet. It can be a challenge to push yourself in the busy weeks and take time to rest or look for new work in the quieter weeks. I try to always set realistic deadlines for myself and for clients, even if it means sometimes turning down work because I can't fit it in. I also tend towards long-term clients that set reasonable turnaround times, as this helps me balance my workload better.


Amanda Napitu, Founder, Improving Your English

Amanda Napitu - Pullquote - Upwork.jpg


Stabilizing Income

As a freelancer, one of the biggest problems I faced was the lack of steady income. Without a regular job, it was difficult for me to budget and plan expenses since there was no guarantee of when or how much I will be paid. To manage this, I have implemented a few different strategies.


First, I tried to build up a stable clientele that I can count on to provide consistent work. This has helped me to ensure that I am receiving regular income.


Additionally, I have made sure to save a portion of each payment I receive into an emergency fund or savings account so that I have money available in case of unexpected expenses or slow months.


Finally, I have created a budget for myself that allows me to allocate my income across my various needs, such as rent, food, and bills. This has enabled me to manage my finances, and prepare for any potential fluctuations in my income.


Shaun Connell, Founder, Writing Tips Institute


Differentiating Services From the Competition

I've done freelance work for most of my career. I'm good at what I do—and so are thousands of my competitors. The hardest part isn't doing the job. It's differentiating yourself from the competition to get the job in the first place.

To do this, find a unique way to approach your work that most people don't do. You might do 90% of the work in the same way as most other people. But that extra 10% that makes your work product unique is what will help you differentiate yourself from others.


When you have it, tell that story. It could be a different methodology or expertise in a specific niche. I do both of these things, and it's helped me to close more business with digital marketing clients. Whatever the case may be, if you differentiate your services from the competition, you'll have a leg up as a freelancer.


Dennis Consorte, Digital Marketing & Leadership Consultant, Snackable Solutions


Assuming It's a Race to the Bottom in Price

One of my biggest issues as a freelancer is the assumption by many potential clients that all freelancers are going to race to the bottom to offer the same service at the lowest price. Clients then also assume that budget is irrelevant and that they'll get the same service from a more expensive experienced freelancer than they would from a cheaper, less experienced one.


My advice for freelancers also going through this issue is to have a vetting process when it comes to taking on clients. For example, as an SEO freelancer, I always charge upfront for a website audit before doing any retained work. This shows me:

1. the client has a realistic budget and

2. they're actually willing to invest in SEO for their site (and not just looking for a perceived 'quick fix' from the cheapest freelancer).


James Taylor, Founder, Digital Tool Report


Promoting Myself

My most important problem is having the time and the mind space to promote my business. As a marketing professional, I create marketing campaigns and content for my clients every day.


However, I find it difficult to promote my own business. It is challenging to take a step back, identify my key marketing messages, and create marketing strategies that I think are good. I find that I have to schedule a day away from the office and distractions to be successful at the task. I look for more organic ways to promote my business like networking and social media.


Pam Georgiana, Freelancer Writer & Content Creator, Pam Georgiana


Scaling My Revenue and Time

Freelancers typically trade time for money. Growing my revenue used to look like taking on more clients, raising my prices, offering more services, and working more hours. But doing all of these things yourself isn't always sustainable or realistic. For example, packing your schedule so tightly that you can't take a sick day or handle clients' urgent requests. As my freelancing business matured, I started implementing new ways to scale my revenue and time. I now have a team to whom I can outsource certain projects. I've also added a few low-lift offerings to my clients that don't take much time on my end but deliver major value and time savings on their end.


My ultimate goal as a freelancer is to grow my revenue without adding time to my schedule. When you have other ways to make money and don't have to be hands-on in every little thing, you've truly mastered the art of career freedom.


Alli Hill, Founder & Director, Fleurish Freelance


Finding Long-Term Clients

At the start of my freelancing journey, my biggest issue was finding long-term clients. I really wanted to develop long-term relationships and work with clients long-term, rather than working on a lot of small short-term projects. To solve this problem, I started sharing my intentions with clients right away. I expressed that I was looking for a long-term relationship.


This resulted in finding clients that were looking for the same type of relationship! I now have a small handful of clients that I have been working with over the past few years! Communicating what you are looking for upfront has been a game-changer for me!


Macy Westlund, Wellness Expert, Macy Michelle


Separating Quiet and Busy Times

I've been self-employed for over six years now, starting as a personal trainer, and then working in digital marketing as a freelancer. Since then, I'd say the main problem that I have had is that work is irregular—there are quiet and busy times.


During busy times, it can be difficult to manage the rest of your life. Your work becomes your priority, and there can be little time for anything else. I often find that my gym sessions are rushed or non-existent, and I have less time to spend with my family. I sleep less and can easily become irritable. Then suddenly, it all changes and everything becomes quiet.


This can be nice for a few days as it gives you time to catch up on the rest of your life. But if it lasts for too long, which it sometimes does, it's not fun. You spend a lot of time on your own when other people are working. You start to feel lazy, and after a time of being so busy, you don't know what to do with yourself. Both can be challenging.


Ravi Davda, CEO, Rockstar Marketing


Meeting Deadlines

As a medical writer on UpWork, meeting deadlines is the top challenge I face. Managing my freelance writing along with my personal Medical blog can be very tricky at times.


Over the years I have seen that meeting deadlines require collaboration with clients to create clear and open communication about when assignments should be completed. And I have found a plausible solution to it. Automated reminder apps and ongoing dialogue with clients have helped me ensure the timely delivery of finished work on several occasions.


This solution is a lifesaver as it helps in maintaining a positive relationship with my clients as they come to rely on me as a trusted partner in producing their projects on schedule.


Rosmy Barrios, Director, Health Reporter


Self-Inducing Confidence

As a freelancer, remaining motivated has been my challenge. While freelancing comes with certain freedoms, there's no guarantee of consistent work, leading to months of uncertainty and waiting for the next project. To stay motivated and productive during such periods, I've begun setting small goals for myself each day—that way, regardless of when or if my next job will come in, I can focus on achieving something every day instead of laboring over the uncertain outcomes. And who doesn't love a confidence boost during slow seasons?


Jimmy Minhas, Founder & CEO, GerdLi


Cultivating Self-Discipline

Excessive flexibility is one of the main issues I have experienced in freelancing. You are free to work whenever you want and not take on a job you don't feel like doing. If you are a disciplined person who doesn't need to be pushed, this is great. But if you need a little stability, supervision, and a strict schedule, freelancing might be a bit of a problem. You end up rushing at the last minute or doing less work than you need to.


The solution to this is discipline. That's the only answer, honestly. Write a to-do list and stick to it. Take on work that you know you can do, not only when you want to do it (challenge yourself). There are millions of workers all over the world doing work they don't want to do in the jobs they hold.


Lydia Mwangi, Content Writer, Barbell Jobs


Saving for Taxes

As a freelancer, one of the BIGGEST problems I often face is paying taxes. With my varying income throughout the year, it's difficult to work out exactly how much I owe at tax time each year.


This can be very risky as under- or overpaying can have expensive consequences. To get on top of this problem, I use tax calculators and budgeting tools to help track where I'm at in terms of my tax obligations throughout the year.


This greatly reduces stress as I know at all times what my estimated tax requirement will be for that financial year and can make adjustments as necessary.


Ludovic Chung-Sao, Lead Engineer & Founder, Zen Soundproof


Spending Time on Non-Billable Work

One of the biggest issues I have as an SEO freelancer is that a very large percentage of my working day is spent on non-billable work tasks—administration (sharing and chasing invoices and so on), marketing to win new work, and various other tasks.


This can be frustrating as it really limits the amount of time I have to work on the actual client work—which is obviously vital, as it needs to be done. This can feel like it limits my ability to find and win new work on an ongoing basis.


Matt Tutt, SEO Consultant, Matt Tutt Digital Marketing


Matt Tutt - Pullquote - Upwork.jpg


Estimating the Time Needed to Complete Work

As a freelancer, one of the top problems I face is accurately estimating the amount of time and effort needed to complete a project. This issue comes up regardless of the payment structure I use. A fixed-price job locks in the price for a client, but if I go over time, I get paid less per hour. Likewise, clients will only be happy if I provide accurate hourly estimates. If I estimate 10 hours and complete a project in 20, they won't be happy, as the cost will have doubled.


To mitigate this issue, I clearly define the scope of work before providing an estimate. In addition, I generally take jobs similar to what I've done before, like writing a blog post. This way, I know what to expect and can charge optimal pricing that is fair for me and the client.


Axel DeAngelis, Founder, Jumpcoast


Negotiating Contract Renewals

The topic of renewing freelance contracts can be...awkward. When working with clients, I often propose six-month retainer contracts. Then, with about six weeks left, I reach out via email inquiring if they are open to renewing our agreement. 2022 is the first time I've experienced clients waiting until two weeks to give me an official response. New year, no new contract. Such a bummer!


Luckily, I had a few inquiries on the back burner. I've learned that instead of saying "no" when I am at capacity, I give potential clients a timeline with a response like, "I may have availability January 2023, but will not know my schedule until [X Date]. I will reach out to you as soon as possible." Keep prospects in your pocket!


Emily Jetter, Freelance Marketing Consultant, Emily Jetter Marketing


Becoming Too Isolated

As a freelancer, the one problem that almost made me nearly give up would be working alone. Working alone might seem like heaven and all, but there are times when you get overwhelmed by the workload. Moments when you have to brainstorm on a project, but the ideas just aren't forthcoming.


In these moments, you would wish you had someone to ask for help, but sadly help isn't coming. Yes, it can be very frustrating. Complete isolation can also be detrimental to one’s mental health, but I solved this problem by connecting with other freelancers in my niche. Doing this allowed me to collaborate with them on some projects and share ideas. I also created space to catch up with friends and family during weekends. After all, perfection comes when the mind is one with the body.


Megan Green, Writer, HowSociable


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