Four Tips for Freelancing through Adversity

Your freelancing business and most things in your life may be going well now. You may even think this post isn’t for you since you aren’t going through hard times right now.

You would be wrong!

Everyone hits hard time now and then, including freelancers. When comes to adversity, it’s not a question of “if,” but a question of “when.” That’s just life.

In this post, I’ll explain how you can minimize the impact that difficult times have on your freelancing business. This is the topic that nobody wants to talk about, but every freelancer should consider.


Why You Need to Think about Hard Times

Adversity is a part of life. Eventually, most freelancers will go through a rough patch. Whether it’s your own illness or a loved one’s sickness, the results of a natural disaster, a personal or family problem, or something else…chances are that something will happen to derail your plans.

When something goes wrong, the last thing you want to be worrying about is your freelancing business. Let’s face it, when someone you love gets sick or when a natural disaster strikes you may not be able to spend much time working on your freelancing business. You need to focus on the immediate problem and, as much as possible, not be distracted by freelance business worries.

Fortunately, it is possible to take some precautions so you can manage when a temporary bout of hard times hits.

Be Ready

The time to prepare for adversity is when things are going well. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the impact on your freelancing business and on you personally:

  1. Have an emergency fund. While some freelancers don’t have savings, I always recommend putting between three and six months of expenses aside. The last thing you want to worry about during a crisis is running out of money.
  2. Work ahead. If possible, try to stay ahead on your projects. If you have a blog, write a few extra blog posts and keep them on hand for emergencies. Working ahead and having extra blog posts and hand can help when things get really tough.
  3. Establish residual income. If you haven’t already, you should be working on some projects that will bring in income that is not directly related to your efforts. Selling a product (such as an e-book) or being an affiliate for a product is a good way to keep some money coming in even if you can’t work.
  4. Find health insurance. Don’t wait until you’re sick to look for health insurance for yourself and your family. Buy insurance while you’re healthy. Even though you might not get sick often, even a day or two in the hospital can be a real financial setback without health coverage.

When Hard Times Hit

When the hard times do come, what will you do? Hopefully, you’ve taken the steps above and you have the option to not worry about your freelancing business for a while.

There are some other considerations as well:

  • To share or not to share. This is a dilemma that most freelancers face when they are going through a difficult. Should they tell others, or should they keep their problems to themselves? While I’ve seen freelancers handle this both ways, my personal approach is to keep things on a need to know basis. If a temporary problem is going affect a deadline, I definitely inform the client. However, too much sharing of problems can look like whining, so I try not to be too negative in social media. You may take a different approach.
  • Delegate as much as possible. It’s a good idea to find one or two trusted freelancers in your field who are willing to back you up in a pinch (and who can be trusted not to take your clients). Naturally, you would agree to be a back up for these same freelancers should they ever face a situation during which they are unable to work.
  • Cut back on your workload. If you’ve taken some of the steps I listed earlier, then you should be able to temporarily cut back on your workload without causing yourself too much financial stress. Truthfully, you probably won’t produce your best work during a time of crisis anyway. In the end, you’ll be glad that you were able to focus on the situation and not worry too much about work.
  • Avoid comparisons. If you’re going through tough times, then this is not the time to be comparing yourself to the freelancer “down the street.” Don’t feel bad if you don’t accomplish what the “gurus” and “experts” say that you should. Advice rarely takes into account the problems that people face. Just accomplish what you can and feel good about what you do manage to get done.

Fortunately, for most of us, adverse times represent a temporary setback. However, if your situation continues for a longer period of time or you don’t know what to do, don’t be embarrassed to get professional help for your problems. Just remember, everyone faces problems sooner or later.

My Story

I decided to write about this topic because I’ve been through it. Although several years have gone by, I still remember it well. Both of my parents passed away during my freelancing career. While my mother’s death was sudden, my father lingered. He spent nearly a month in hospice─during which time I did no freelancing work at all. Instead, I chose to spend every day, my dad’s last days, at the hospice.

Fortunately, my long─term clients understood the situation and were very supportive. They adjusted deadlines for me and rescheduled projects. One prospective client even delayed the start of a project for me (and yes, I was still chosen for the gig).

Did my freelancing business suffer some short-term setbacks as a result of the rough patch I went through? You bet! But, I’ve never regretting choosing to take that time off and, in the same situation, I’m sure that many of you would do the same thing.

Your Turn

Have you faced adversity while freelancing? If it’s not too painful, share how you got through your difficult times in the comments.

Image by El Garza