Working for yourself might mean flexible hours, the opportunity to work from home and working on projects you’re truly passionate about, but there are some downsides. Tricky clients, tax return time and unstable internet connections all rate highly on the list of freelancer irritations. But there’s one big enemy every freelancer has to deal with.
Guess what? Your worst enemy is probably you.
10 reasons freelancers are their own worst enemy
1. Saying yes to everything
In a recent chat to a group of freelancers, I discovered that a common issue we all faced was struggling to turn away work. There are a number of reasons behind this – financial, fear of upsetting the potential client and concern that turning away work now will lead to no work later on.
However, it’s healthy to say no to some projects – particularly if you’re not 100% about them. Equally, there are times when a client will ask for more than you can give. Marie Forleo has a fantastic video on How To Be A Class Act When Saying No, if you’re not sure how to say no. As Marie mentioned, you can always refer the client onto a freelance colleague if you don’t want to say no straightout, which will hopefully lead to them returning the favour at some point in the future.
2. Not focusing
You’re a great multi-tasker, right? You can do your work while watching TV or taking ‘short’ Twitter breaks, right? Wrong. There are very few people who can actually effectively multi-task. By focusing entirely on the project in hand, without the distractions of TV, radio or four tabs full of Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube streams, you’ll get it done faster and probably to a higher quality. Schedule in email, social media and relaxation breaks.
3. Taking on too much
In a similar vein to the ‘say yes to everything’ habit, taking on too much is the best way to end up as a frazzled freelancer. While it’s good to have a fairly busy workload, you don’t want to have so much work that you’re unable to retain any form of work/life balance.
4. Not taking breaks
Take all your lunch breaks in front of your laptop? Never give your eyes a break? You wouldn’t let an employee do that, so why not give yourself a break? If you struggle to fit in breaks, build them into your calendar or diary. Fit in half an hour of exercise or a spot of housework if you’re at home, or a chat with a friend.
5. Not sticking to work hours
Do you find yourself finishing work on time at 5pm every day? You’re one of the lucky ones. Most freelancers I’ve spoken to find their work eating into their evenings and weekends – often voluntarily. This is usually because freelancers genuinely enjoy their work. However, do try to keep one day a week work-free, and finish by a fixed time several times a week.
6. Not asking for help
Asking for help when you’re self-employed is tricky, whether it be asking a client for further clarification or needing to rant. I’m fortunate enough to have a great freelance support network – from my fiancé to a group of freelance friends who are happy to bounce ideas around. A network like this is essential for keeping your sanity when working for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it!
7. Planning too much
I spent the majority of 2012 making lots of plans….but never getting round to implementing them. In 2013, I’ve done less pre-planning, and I’ve already put more projects into place in the last couple of years than I did over the whole of 2012.
It’s easy to get lost in the details. But putting things into action straight away and planning as you go often leads to much better results. Have a read of Re:Work to find out more about this theory.
8. Not networking
Networking is a nerve-racking business – the real-life kind, rather than the online social network kind, that is. Because it can be intimidating, many freelancers shy away from attending local networking events, but the right events can bring you contacts that can directly impact the success of your business.
9. Leaving admin until the last minute
I know I for one am guilty of leaving all my admin until the last possible minute. I’ve been making an effort this year to put aside a couple of hours every Friday afternoon to tackle any admin, which means I don’t have it hanging over me on the Monday when I return. Systems are also handy to have in place, like a filing system, online storage and an accounting software tool like Quickbooks to stay on top of your accounting.
10. Not switching off
The biggest barrier freelancers face in developing any kind of work/life balance is switching off. While many employed people can do their 9-5 then leave work at the office, freelancers often find work inspiration popping up at inconvenient times – like when they’re spending time with their family, or at 3am in the morning!
To deal with this, at least in a small way, turn off or keep away from your tech. Start by turning off your notifications at the weekend. Then try to go tech-free for one day each week, or for an hour or two in the evenings.
Do you recognise any of these traits in yourself?