It Will Happen to You

“That will never happen to me.”

Have you ever heard another freelancer say those words? Have you said them yourself?

Over the years, I’ve heard other freelancers use those words to describe situations ranging from family emergencies, to getting too busy, to getting sick, to missing a deadline. Regrettably, I’ve also heard some of those same freelancers take back words when the very thing that they never planned for happens.

It’s no secret that I’m a big advocate of having a Plan B (and maybe even a Plan C) for dealing with common setbacks.

The odds of lightening striking you are pretty slim. From what I’ve read, fewer than 500 people are injured by lightening each year in the U.S. It does happen, though. I once hired an attorney who actually had been struck by lightening.

Other setbacks are much more likely to happen. The truth is that no one is immune from life’s troubles. The very thing that you think will never happen to you may also be the thing that puts you out of business if you’re not ready for it.

In this post, I’ll share ten common problems that most freelancers eventually face and talk about how to deal with each of them.

10 Problems Freelancers Face

Here are ten problems that many freelancers face, although few like to think about them.

  1. Family emergency. Nobody wants to think about this, but family emergencies can happen to freelancers just like they happen to everyone else. However, unlike many other jobs, freelancing does not provide you with paid personal time to handle family emergencies. Make sure that you know at least one top-notch freelancer who could pinch hit for you if you needed them to. Also, make a draft of a note you would send to a client if you had to.
  2. Illness. Getting sick is no fun. Not only do you feel bad physically, but as freelancer illness can mean loss of income and added expense of medical bills. Don’t ever take your health for granted. Make sure that you have an insurance policy. Believe me, the expense of health insurance is well worth it when you need to use it. There are also some other practical steps that you can take when you are sick.
  3. Work slowdown. No matter how busy you are, a work slowdown is always a possibility. Everyone knows that freelancing work has its peaks and valleys. There some real truth behind the famous freelancing Feast or Famine cycle. Make things easier by saving for the slow periods and keeping up with your marketing when you are busy.
  4. Unhappy client. No matter how great a freelancer you are or how much you like your clients, sooner or later you may find yourself facing an unhappy client. Fortunately, an unhappy client doesn’t always mean that it’s time to cut ties with them. Many client/freelancer disagreements can be worked out. If you find yourself dealing with an unhappy client, try these seven steps.
  5. Payment issues. One of the biggest frustrations freelancers face is getting paid in a timely fashion. Sadly, payment issues are fairly common for freelancer. One of the first steps you can take to prevent payment problems is preventative. Make sure that you have a contract in place that clearly outlines your terms. Here’s a complete list of steps you can take to encourage prompt payment. If worst comes to worst, you may have to turn to a collections agency.
  6. You’re bored with your work or become burnt out. Let’s face it, over the years you change. Something that you once loved you no longer find to be so enjoyable. It’s unfortunate, but it’s often a fact of life. If this happens to you, there’s some good news–you’re a freelancer. You’re not stuck in a dead end job. You can change your niche and rebrand yourself.
  7. You make a mistake or miss a deadline. No matter how careful you are, you may one day find that you’ve made a mistake and it’s your fault. What’s a freelancer to do in such a situation? I think the best thing to do in such a situation is to ‘fess up and try to make things right for your client. As a freelancer you’ve got to protect your reputation.
  8. You can’t get along with a client or colleague. Let’s face it, your clients may pay you, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all easy to get along with. In fact, the truth is that your clients may be quite difficult to get along with, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to fire them. Do everything you can to make them happy customers. Firing a client can be a last resort after you’ve exhausted all other options.
  9. Your equipment breaks or becomes outdated. The tools you use to work with are very important. Outdated tools can cause you to spend additional time on a project and ultimately cost you money. Set aside a small amount of money each month to upgrade your equipment. (Note: this should NOT be the same money as your emergency fund.)
  10. A client disappears. Sadly, some clients don’t refuse to pay–they just go away. The best way to deal with this problem is to take preventative measures. Your clients are careful to pick a freelancer that they can trust. You need to be careful to pick a client that you can trust.

Your Turn

Have I missed any unforeseen circumstances that are likely to happen to a freelancer? How do you handle problems like these?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by SK-y Photography