Stuck in Your Tracks? How to Get Unstuck Today

Freelancing can be a great lifestyle that offers many benefits. However, sometimes even the best freelancers get stuck.

There are many ways a freelancer can get stuck. They can get stuck in the rut of working for low pay. They can get stuck creatively where they find themselves doing the same unchallenging work over and over. Or, they can get stuck when they fall behind technology and current trends.

If this is you–if you’re a stuck freelancer right now, don’t worry. There are ways to become unstuck. In this post, I’ll provide some of those ways to help you get unstuck.


Stuck Working for Low Pay

It’s popular these days to say that when a freelancer is stuck working for low pay, that it’s his or her own fault. Sometimes this is true. Sometimes, however, it is not. Sometimes a freelancer simply doesn’t know how to go about finding better paying work. Here are a few tips to help you find better paying work.

  • Find Your Own Job. It’s a fact that the best paying job are not advertised. So, if you are relying on job boards, bidding sites, and other advertisements to find gigs you’re probably not being paid top dollar. Try this instead. Take some time (it may take a day or two of research) to learn about the businesses in your local area. Make a note of those that fit, or are close to, your ideal client profile. Send a mailer to those companies describing your services and follow through in a few days with a phone call.
  • Activate Your Personal Network. Another tactic you can use to find higher paying work is to activate your network. Let your friends, family, and former employers know that you are freelancing and that you’re freelancing and that you are available. I once knew a freelancer who was hired by his former employer at more than double the pay. Even if they are not able to use your services directly, they may know someone who can. You haven’t burnt any bridges, have you?
  • Make Sure You Have an Online Presence. Can potential clients find you online? Are you active on social media? Do you have an online portfolio and website? If you answered “no” to all of these questions, you’ve got some work to do. Nearly all professional freelancers have an online presence and potential clients will expect you to have one as well.
  • Rethink Misplaced Loyalty. A final reason that many freelancers are underpaid is because they have a misplaced loyalty to a long-term client. If this is you, try asking for more money. Really. Often, that’s all it takes. However, if the client says “no” to your rate increase, then it may be time for you to re-evaluate your professional relationship. Do you really want to continue working for someone who refuses to recognize your true value?

Stuck In a Creative Rut

So, you’ve been freelancing for a while. At first, the projects were fun and exciting, but lately you find yourself doing the same boring type of work over and over again. Is there any fix for this?

If this is you, you may be a victim of your own branding. While it’s great to have a specialty, sometimes freelancers can find themselves boxed into such a narrow niche that they begin feel stifled.

The answer to this is, believe it or not, more branding. In some ways, changing niches or adding a new freelancing specialty is a little bit like starting new as a freelancer. You’ve got to make sure that you have portfolio pieces or references that support your new specialty. (Yes, this might mean doing an unpaid project for a charity so that you have a sample or reference.) You have to make sure to include your new specialty in your online materials.

In many ways, you are reinventing your freelancing business.

However, just like when you started out as a freelancer, it gets better once you get a few jobs in your new niche under your belt. Soon, clients and prospective clients will recognize your new expertise.

Stuck with Outdated Skills

Maybe you’ve been too busy working on projects to keep up. Maybe you’ve been a little bit lazy. Or, maybe it’s a little of both.

No matter what the situation, freelancers can’t afford the luxury of falling behind. Ultimately, falling behind can cost you clients.

The fix is easy, but not painless. Here are some steps to take:

  1. Make sure you have enough money saved so that you can take up to a week off. You will also need additional money to purchase any resources that you need.
  2. Look around for the best resources on the skill that needs to be improved and purchase that resource. If it’s a class, sign up. If it’s a product, buy it.
  3. Schedule training time on your work calendar. (If you don’t schedule it, it won’t get done.) Treat it just like another paying project–don’t schedule anything else for the same time.
  4. Take the time to learn. Attend class. Read a book. Complete a tutorial.
  5. Apply the knowledge. You may also have to rebrand yourself (see the section on being stuck in a creative rut) to let your clients know you’ve learned something new.

Your Turn

Can you think of other ways that freelancers get stuck?

Share your own experiences (and solutions) in the comments.

Image by michael clarke stuff

Comments

  1. says

    I really appreciate your mention of burning bridges. If and when we manage to pull away from the client who was lowballing us or the work that was suffocating, it’s so easy to wash our hands of that client and end the relationship with a bit (or a lot!) of tension. Bad move. Such a bad move.

    If that client feels the least bit slighted and makes one little comment to the right person, our reputation will take a major hit. And in a world that is all about word of mouth, this could be a huge source of additional stuckness. Learning how to walk away with everyone feeling respected and appreciated is crucial.

  2. says

    Thanks Annika! Freelancing is really about building relationships. Yes, you are building a business, but you are also dealing with people. I try to be very sensitive to relationships and online reputation, but the sad truth is that there will always be a few people who can’t be pleased. Happily, they seem in the minority. :) Good comment, though.

  3. Dp says

    When you’re stuck creatively you may want to try to spend some time doing something besides working. Changing your environment might help as well. Also, Working with clients can be frustrating and creatively compromising, so doing something that you can control might alleviate some creative blockage. I like to play my guitar, do my abstract paintings etc.

    So it goes…

    -dp

  4. says

    Thanks for the post! I appreciate your point about finding your own job, one that really works for you. Oftentimes, creative freelancers don’t want to be confined to an office, so its up to them to find something that fits their lifestyle. I’d encourage you to find work that is compelling and meaningful to you. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

    Lauren
    @Volusion
    http://www.volusion.com

  5. says

    I have seen this happen with many copywriters, that they seem to get fixed on their old and out dated knowledge. If they learnt something 2 years age about social media (example), chances are that their information is not valid any longer and they have to read. I prefer fresh minds and people new to a subject so that they do fresh research and deliver what is new and valid.

  6. says

    The point about being stuck for low paying jobs really brings home the fact that there are only three things you can do to improve your freelance income.
    1.market
    2.market
    3.market
    It really doesn’t matter how good your writing is if no-one knows about it.

  7. says

    I think in any business, it’s important to know where you stand and price yourself accordingly to what you feel you are worth. If you’re stuck in a rut, that’s because you’re either competing on price or think you’re really worth that low pay and you have no one to blame. We all have a part to play to protect the image of the community we’re in.

    Similarly, if one does the opposite, over charges and unable to churn out anything creative, then it’s time to start be realistic and responsible.

    You can’t get stuck without not doing anything to attempt it in the first place.

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