Freelancing Out of Desperation–Does It Work?

freelancing-despairHow did you get started in freelancing?

This is a questions that I frequently see asked on forums and blogs where I participate. Invariably, someone will leave a response that looks something like this:

…so, of course I had no choice but to become a freelancer…

The words preceding the statement vary. Sometimes, they explain how the freelancer lost a traditional job. Other times they explain how rough the market is for recent graduates. The circumstances don’t matter.

Every single time I read that a freelancer felt that they had no choice other than freelancing I’m sad. I’m sad because it means that the freelancer was feeling desperate–and desperation is no way to start a freelancing business.

In this post, I’ll discuss freelancing out of desperation. I’ll take a look at why it’s not such a good thing. Then I’ll explain how you can seem less desperate.

8 Reasons Why Desperation Isn’t Good

Desperation can cause many problems for a freelancer. Here are some of them.

  1. Clients can tell when you’re desperate. When you feel desperate, you tend to sound desperate. Clients can usually tell. It may be that you start discounting your rates right away, or it may be just your tone of voice–but something usually tips them off.
  2. You’ll be drawn to low-quality gigs–like those on bidding sites and content mills. If you’re desperate, you’re more likely to fall prey to a bidding site or content mill. Why? Because, while these sites often fail to pay a living wage, they are always looking for new freelancers.
  3. You’re less likely to stretch yourself. When you’re desperate, you’ll be drawn to “safe” opportunities. Pay may become your main or only concern. You’ll be less likely to take on projects that will help you to grow either professionally and personally.
  4. You have no time for personal projects. Most experience freelancers know that some of the most rewarding projects are those you do for yourself. As a desperate freelancer, it’s unlikely that you’ll have time for very many personal projects.
  5. You may end up working long hours for very little pay. Unfortunately, the easier the freelancing gig is to get, the lower the pay tends to be. When you accept a lot of low paying gigs, you’ll find yourself working more and more hours just to make ends meet.
  6. You’re more susceptible to burnout. The more hours you work without a break, the worse it is for you. You could even get sick. Or, you just might find yourself hating your work and totally burnt out as a freelancer.
  7. You could face financial problems. Taking low paying gigs has the natural result of leading to not earning as much. Let’s face it, there are some desperate freelancers who aren’t able to make ends meet–no matter how many hours they work.
  8. Desperation leads to a vicious cycle. The final reason that desperation is bad for freelancers is because it tends to become a cycle–you take a low-paying gig because you’re desperate, but now you don’t quite have enough money. So, you take another low-paying gig. And on, and on, and on…

It can be hard to break out of the cycle of freelancing desperation. But if you’re going to make it as a freelancer, you have to do it.

How to Be Less Desperate

Here are several ways that you can be a less desperate freelancer:

  • Look at freelancing as an opportunity and not a trap. No one, and I mean no one, should be freelancing only because they feel they have no other choice. Try to get excited about the opportunities in freelancing. If you can’t do that, it may be that freelancing is not for you.
  • Fix the financial pressure. A lot of desperation comes from financial woes. If you’re not making it as a freelancer financially, consider cutting back on the freelancing and taking a part-time job to get a more stable source of income to supplement your freelancing earnings.
  • Learn to say “no.” Once you’ve adjusted your attitude to view freelancing as an opportunity and you’ve gotten your financial house in order, you’re now in a position to turn down freelancing projects that aren’t really good for you or your freelancing business.

Your Turn

Have you been a desperate freelancer? How did you break the cycle of freelancing desperation?

If you liked this post, you may like 5 Attitudes You Need to Adopt to Succeed at Freelancing.