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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Take the time to learn. Attend class. Read a book. Complete a tutorial.
- 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.
Can you think of other ways that freelancers get stuck?
Share your own experiences (and solutions) in the comments.
Image by michael clarke stuff