Beat the Freelancer Blahs

Beat Freelancer BlahsEver feel that freelancing sucks?

It strikes every freelancer, no matter how motivated, talented or successful. Sometimes, you hit the doldrums. You have to drag yourself out of bed. You second guess your decision to freelance. Everything seems drained of color and life. And suddenly, the prospect of applying for a “real” job is very attractive.

Don’t worry. Often, the freelancing blahs don’t last long. With a little self-diagnosis and the right remedies, you’ll be back in the game in no time.

The remedy for the blahs depends on the underlying cause. See which of the possible causes below (or a combination of them) is the culprit in your case.


Cause 1:  Negativity from Prospects and Clients

Getting one string of rejections after another to your project proposals… harsh criticism from clients… nagging from your spouse… all this can quickly add up to a demotivated, passion-less freelancer.

I’ve been there before. A client said the email I wrote had a lower open and click-through rate than she usually got. I’ve always considered myself open-minded and thick-skinned when it came to criticism, but that hit me hard.

Shortly after getting that feedback, I found myself dreading client work and feeling like I’d never find projects again. And then I found a simple explanation for the lower conversions my client had observed (she hadn’t used the usual email format her subscribers were used to). Plus, she reassured me that “I love your writing.” And all was well in my world again.

Remedy: Find the positive–Review the achievements you’ve made this past week, month, six months, year. You’ll be surprised how far you’ve gone in such a short time. Having a weekly review is very helpful, and something not a lot of people do. However, it can help you keep a balanced perspective of how you’re doing. It also helps to neutralize a lot of negativity you may be exposed to.

Another remedy is to use rejection as an opportunity to become a better freelancer. If your proposals are getting rejected left and right, try and find out why, and address those reasons. If your prospects say you’re too expensive for them, that’s a sure sign you’ve been marketing to the wrong market. Time to adjust your marketing strategies to reach prospects who CAN afford you and are willing to pay for your services (more on that below).

Finally, hang out with people who are supportive of you and your freelancing. Find a shoulder to cry on. Do you have a friend who’s like a cheerleader for your spirit? Invite him or her out to lunch. If anyone is particularly critical of your freelancing, then avoid them. They’re toxic.

Cause 2: Financial Difficulties

Sometimes, freelancing doesn’t go so well. You’re not making enough money to cover your bills. Your debts are piling high, and the clients are coming at a mere trickle. No wonder you’re feeling down.

Remedy: Find the moolah–It’s not easy, but it can be done. Cut down on your spending. Do whatever you can to make extra money. Entire books are written on this topic, but here are some ideas:

  • Hit the freelancing job boards and bid or apply like crazy for projects. Keep an eye on high-value tasks. That way, you don’t need to get a gazillion projects to hit your target income. And just keep trying. The more you try, the higher your chances of success.
  • Sell stuff you’re not using. Check out eBay, Craigslist or, if you’re in Canada, Kijiji.
  • Set up passive income streams. Lean times are the perfect opportunity for you to create your own digital products to sell online, either on their own or with private label rights (PLR). If you’re a writer, make articles and ebooks. Designers can create website templates, buttons, fonts, and email layouts. If you’re a programmer, why not create an app, plugin or other widget?
  • Get a part-time job. I know, I know, you’re a freelancer and don’t want to be an employee. But tough times call for drastic measures. If this is the quickest way for you to get extra income, then do it. To cushion the blow, find a part-time job you’ll enjoy or, at the very least, requires little mental or physical effort.

Cause 3: Burnout

Burnout is a huge deal with freelancers. It’s what happens when you don’t treat freelancer blahs promptly.

Remedy: Rest and recreation–Read this post on how to avoid freelancing burnout and follow the suggestions there.

Cause 4: Working with Clients You Don’t Like

Maybe you have one or several vampire clients who are sucking the life out of your freelancing business. Other clients are plain bad for you.

Remedy: Fire those clients –Life is too short to spend it working with people you don’t like, or who don’t respect and value you. Check out our advice on what to do when the client is wrong and some tips for dealing with difficult clients.

One more thing: If you’re attracting clients who are wrong for you, then you need to change whatever kind of marketing you’ve been doing. Clarify who your target clients are and make sure you’ve got a marketing plan that attracts them.

Cause 5: Isolation

Freelancers may be “solo entrepreneurs” but that doesn’t mean we can last long without human interaction. By the way, spending tons of time on Twitter, Facebook or Skype doesn’t count.

Remedy: Reach out–Don’t wait. Make plans to hook up with friends or family. Attend face-to-face networking events with local business owners or travel across the country (or even a different country) to make new friends. I belong to a mastermind group of women entrepreneurs and every summer those of us who live close together get together to share meals, business stories and gossip.

Cause 6:  Not Cut Out to Be a Freelancer

Let’s face it. Freelancing isn’t for everybody. It takes a certain unconventional, anti-establishment, idealistic personality to eschew employment for — gasp — self-employment. If you’re unhappy freelancing maybe it’s because you’re not cut out to be a freelancer. Maybe a regular paycheck is truly essential to your peace of mind and happiness. Nothing wrong with that.

Remedy: Don’t force the issue–Give yourself time and space to discern what you really want out of life. Be completely honest with yourself. Perhaps you were pushed into freelancing when you lost your job. Well, guess what? Times are changing and there are more opportunities out there. Why not get in the job market again? You just might find a job you can be passionate about again.

Prognosis for Freelancer Blahs

With prompt diagnosis and treatment, freelancer blahs should be temporary and mild. Left to resolve on its own, it can lead to failure in freelancing. However, with proper treatment freelancing blahs have the positive side-effect of allowing you to learn more about yourself and have an even better professional life.

Have you ever experienced the freelancer blahs? What was the underlying cause of your symptom? How did you overcome it?

Share your experiences with us. I might have missed other causes and remedies that will be helpful to other freelancers reading this.

Image by noizephotography