Do You Feel Like You Are Trapped in a Rat Race?

Many freelancers feel that they have just exchanged one rat race for another.

They’re tired and stressed all of the time. In short, they’re exhausted. It doesn’t have to be that way!

In this post, I’ll list some of the things that make freelancing seem like just another rat race and explain how you can reclaim your freelancing freedom.

Why You Feel Caught in a Rat Race

Are you tired? Unmotivated? Basically uncreative?

One of the reasons I joined the freelancing world is to gain better control over my time. I wanted to leave the corporate rat race and work at a healthier pace for me.

If you feel like your freelancing is out of control, you may have unwittingly allowed yourself to be sucked back into the rat race–this time as a freelancer.

I hear it all the time. Freelancers who are worn out complaining about how many hours they have to work and how far behind they are on all of their projects. They may even talk about how much they hate their projects (just like they used to talk about how hating their job).

If that’s the best that there is they might as well be working in a corporate job that they hate.

Well, you may not have been able to overcome the rat race as a corporate employee–but as a freelancer you have much more control.

Here are some factors that cause freelancers to feel like they are back in a rat race:

  • Overscheduling–Many freelancers don’t allow themselves enough time to complete projects. If you find that you are always rushing to meet deadlines, try asking for an extra day and be sure to put that day on your schedule. (If it turns out that you don’t need it, you can exceed expectations and turn the work in early.) A related problem is accepting too much rush work.
  • Undercharging–Too many freelancers undervalue their time and services. This can force them to work more hours than they should just to earn enough money to get by. Take an objective (and I mean objective) look at your rates. If you always get the project based mainly on price, you probably aren’t asking for enough money for your work.
  • Accepting projects you shouldn’t–You probably already know that you are better suited to some projects than others. However, many freelancers accept projects that don’t really fit their skills and aptitude because they are desperate for work. Accepting too many of the wrong type of project will cause freelancer burnout.
  • Not saving money–One recommendation that I always make for those entering freelancing is to save up some money beforehand. I also recommend that current freelancers save a portion of what they earn.
  • Taking criticism to heart–Every freelancer faces criticism eventually. The best way to handle criticism is to learn what you can from it and not take it to heart. Often it isn’t about you anyway. There are always some clients who will never be satisfied no matter how good a job you do for them.

So, now you understand some of the problems that cause freelancers to feel trapped. You’re ready for some immediate relief.

How to Get Rid of the Rat Race Feeling Today

While many of the problems that lead to feeling trapped are long range and require you to change your business practices, you can start getting the freelancing feeling back while you are revamping your business practices.

Try some of the following tips to revitalize yourself:

  • Take a day off–You may not be able to afford a full vacation if you have been saving, but you can probably afford a day (and if a day is too much, try an afternoon). During your time off don’t think about work at all. Everyone needs a break.
  • Treat yourself–Not every treat is expensive. If you’ve been undercharging you probably can’t afford the expensive treats yet, but indulge in something inexpensive that makes you feel pampered. Chocolate or a bubble bath are good options.
  • Pat yourself on the back–And surround yourself with positive friends. Keep a list or projects that you are especially proud of and review it often. Likewise, keep a list of client compliments.

Your Turn

Are you enjoying freelancing as much as you should or do you feel trapped in a rat race?

Share your tips for recharging your freelancing attitude below.

Image by jpockele


  1. says

    You know one thing I have seen that all freelancer have in comment Laura is your articles are all so amazing! the time and effort you put into your work is just amazing. I think this freedom to express ones self is the main reason I voe the internet so darn much.

  2. says

    Great article!

    I find myself guilty of all :P

    Currently, I am trying not to undercharge, and learning to say no once in a while. I have never thought about saving, (except saving for my hosting). As I work part time freelance, I don’t really think I need to save, as I save from my main job. Should I be saving?

  3. says

    timing has been excellent for this post..been feeling very tired and unmotivated for past one week…i think a day or two break will help me

  4. says

    Yes, I agree with all this! I have another point to add to your list, Laura. That is, accepting projects you know will be dull and won’t motivate you. For me, that’s like having to do school homework.

    If a freelancer feels unmotivated then he/she won’t produce their best work. The key to success is doing something we really love. Otherwise, we may just as well be back sitting at a desk in some faceless corporation.

  5. says

    Great comments! I think everyone feels like they are stuck once in a while. Fortunately, there are steps to take…

    Namanyay Goel–In my opinion, everyone (even non-freelancers) should save enough money to have an emergency fund. You never know what unexpected expenses you might encounter. That’s just my opinion, of course.

  6. says

    Great page! I especially liked the first tip on “powering your dream to success.” Being in control of your financial success and setting your own schedule is important when getting out of the rat race, but the greatest reward is that it allows you to pursue your passions and spend time with family. Awesome advice- the most successful people are those that keep the end in mind!

  7. says

    Great article Laura! When I find myself getting too overwhelmed or stressed out because I’m behind in my work or feeling unmotivated, I always try to schedule breaks into my day. Even if you feel like you’re drowning in work, it’s worth it to take a 20-30 minute break, you’ll actually be more productive.

    When I’m on my breaks I either try to do something totally unrelated to what I’m working on, like going on a run, or doing something that lends itself to inspiration, like watching a TED talk.

  8. Alex C says

    Great blog entry.

    No one should feel like they’re trapped in a rat race though. Despite the current economic climate, there are many jobs still available. Personally, I jumped on niche job sites for my academic career several years ago (It was I think for those still searching for employment) and it was the best thing I did.

    If you have the luxury to look for another job, go for it.

  9. says

    Yep! I do all that… But I’m new to freelancing and I’m trying to earn reputation! I’ve got myself an important customer, but I have an impossible deadline, all for almost no money. I’ve been working on this extremely hard project for almost a month now with no time off and I desperately need a day off… This should be a lesson to me! Thanks for this great article! I’ll make use of it in the future!

  10. says

    @Daniel it happened to me too once, in these cases, you have to learn to say no.

    I accepted work for 60$, and ended up working around 30 hours, over the span of 3 days.

    The client asked for changes everytime, and me, being new, didn’t get a contract with him. He was also pretty hostile, and didn’t want to pay a cent for the work.

    In the middle of the work, he said that “Thank you for your time and work, sorry, I can’t pay you”. This led to a voice chat which spanned around 3 hours.

    He started blaming me for all the troubles, which led me to be pretty depressed, but finally, I removed all what I had done, and told him that I won’t work for him anymore.

    Felt good man :D

  11. says

    taking breaks is the best way to exclude the monotony of the work………..
    i especially watch movies for that………………:D

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