The Surprising Reason Why Freelancers Fail

What’s one of the biggest causes of freelancing failure?

You’d be surprised.

You might think freelancers fail because they did poor work. Or, maybe they missed a deadline. Perhaps they fail because they have no talent.

While all of the above factors can certainly play a role in some freelancing failures, there’s another, even more surprising cause of failure–not getting started as freelancer.

Often, we freelancers either don’t start at all or we quit before have a chance to really succeed. You can’t succeed at freelancing if you don’t start.

In this post, I’ll examine five of the biggest failure factors that keep would-be freelancers from starting. I’ll also share some links to posts with even more causes of freelancer failure.

Five Failure Factors

So why don’t some freelancers get started? Why do some freelancers quit too soon?

Freelancers often fail to get started or quit freelancing due to one or more of the following freelancing failure factors:

  1. Fear. Fear is a powerful demotivator. Fear can keep you from many good things. It can keep you from accepting a perfectly good freelancing project. It can even keep you from starting freelancing at all. And, let’s face it, it’s easy to imagine all of the things that could go wrong if you got started as a freelancer, or if you took on that big new project. The truth is that freelancing is risky. It’s far safer to not get started at all.
  2. Lack of confidence. Are you good enough at what you do to be a freelancer? The secret fear of a lot of would-be freelancers is that the answer to that question is “no.” What those would-be freelancers don’t realize is that many very successful freelancers asked themselves that same question before they started. While it’s true that freelancing requires a bit of confidence, the best way to find out if you are good enough to freelance is to just do it.
  3. Procrastination. When will your successful freelancing career begin? For the procrastinator, the answer is always tomorrow. But somehow, for these would-be freelancers, tomorrow never comes. Putting things off is no way to succeed as a freelancer. In general, freelancing requires people who go out there and get things done in a timely fashion. When it comes to freelancing, the chronic procrastinator is finished before they start.
  4. Poor Organization. Being poorly organized can keep you from freelancing success. It can keep you from even starting out as a freelancer. Freelancers need to find a system to keep things straight that works for them and stick to it. Losing things and forgetting things are not good business practices. Fortunately, there are many good organizational systems out there and there’s one that’s right for you.
  5. Not Prioritizing. Guess what? If freelancing is always your very last priority, then you’ll never get around to doing it. Now, I’m not saying that you should become a workaholic and center your life around work–there are things that should take a higher priority. But to have a successful freelancing career you need to assign a certain of amount time to your freelancing tasks. “Spare time” freelancers rarely get ahead and often don’t even get started.

As you can see, any one of these factors or a combination of factors can cause a freelancer to fail. The good news is that every one of these factors can be overcome if you are willing to try.

Of course, there are also many other reasons for freelancing failure.

Other Reasons for Freelancing Failure

Over the years, we’ve documented a lot of things that cause freelancing failure here at Freelance Folder:

As you can see, freelancing failure is common–even for successful freelancers. The secret to freelancing success is to pick yourself up from failure and keep going. Freelancing failure need not be permanent and it shouldn’t keep you from freelancing.

Your Turn

I hope that you were able to learn from these failure factors.

How do you keep yourself going as a freelancer? Can you think of other reasons that cause freelancers to fail?

Share your answers and tips in the comments.

Image by Birdies100


  1. says

    I think just plain old giving up happens often, based on some of the comments/mail I get at You wouldn’t believe how many people tell me that they’re going back to temping, “just” being a mommy, or etc. because they only made $300 last month. Oh, did I mention that was their first month, EVER? Come on now people!

  2. says


    Thanks for chiming in. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I’m not sure if it’s because we are so used to instant gratification or if people just aren’t patient.

    I do know that many freelancers quit before they’ve really given it a fair chance. Quitting after one month is NOT giving it a fair chance.

  3. says

    Freelancing is definitely a scary and difficult career path. Like they’ve mentioned above: It’s going to take time to get anywhere. A successful business doesn’t pop-out of nowhere, it had to start from nothing and take the time to grow.

    Try not to complain or worry, and just work towards your goals! : )

  4. says

    The #1 challenge that I face is procrastination. I am a part time freelancer since I have a full time job, so I don’t have the time to devote to my business that I would like. Throughout the day I have a lot of marketing ideas that can boost my brand, but run into the “I don’t have time for this now, but will get to it soon”. The problem with that is that soon gets pushed another day and then another day.

  5. says

    Brent Galloway–I love that you talked about goals. Goals are so important. Without them, you might just spin your wheels and go nowhere. Great comment!

    RJ McCollam, Starting out as a part-timer can be a great option, but it IS tough to find the energy for both a freelance business AND a full-time job. Try setting small goals with specific dates. Don’t try to tackle too much at once, or you may become frustrated. Best wishes to you. :)

  6. says

    Greed. I know of few designers who got too excited and expanded their overhead, rented an office, hired people but soon to go under and close business. Greed is the culprit.

  7. says

    Fear can be broken into two parts. Fear of failure, you might screw up and through the power of the internet everyone on the planet finds out.
    Fear of success, in the words of Henry Kissinger, “Success, is really a {entrance} ticket to the next crisis”. Not every freelancer sees the next crisis of their clients as an opportunity to make money.

    Freelancing is a lot like dating. It’s easier if you can avoid freaking yourself out.

  8. says

    J. Delancy–Great insights. I’m not sure those are the only breakdowns of fear, but they are certainly some of the main ones.

    Gold, I thought the lottery was a game of chance.

  9. says

    These are good reasons. Procrastination is probably my main stumbling block. At times when I’m suppose to respond timely and properly to one or two good potential clients, I tend delay it for one time or the other. But I’m learning from it. In the similar tone, Freelancing is a business venture that involves risk. And like everything it will take passion, intelligence, failures and time. Not everything one envisions will blossom overnight like Facebook or Instagram. A lot of ingredients are needed as I’m currently steady trying to build my business. Keep learning and keep at it is my motto to be a freelancer these days.

  10. says

    @DesignFacet: I wouldn’t necessarily call that greed, but rather a lack of proper planning, especially in this industry where your employees really don’t *have* to work under your physical roof.

    Was their judgment clouded by greed? Perhaps. But most likely they didn’t possess the skills to actually _manage_ a business.

  11. Steve says

    Leveraging existing gigs ito new ones is key. This takes concentrated effort, and persistence. I landed a great freelance contributor gig with a national publication that paid very well. When it ended after nearly a year, I had nothing to back it up, because I failed to leverage that opportunity to create others.

    A stupid mistake, and one I’ve paid for ever since. If you get some great gigs, the time to get more is while you have them, not after they are over.

  12. Adam says

    Hi Laura, I know I’ve mentioned this before on your blog, but if it wasn’t for being organised and having my freelancer accountants to take care of my books and help me claim all those lovely expenses, I’d really be in trouble.

    Maths was never my strong suit, so having someone there to cover my weakness has been such a relief. Plus, but having them take care of all that for me leaves me to just focus on my work and growing my list of clients. They’re pretty good at giving my financial targets too!

    PS: Loving all your advice. It may be common sense for a lot of us, but being reminded is a big help.

  13. says

    If you want something beautiful, you have to put the effort in.

    If you’re going to college for a tough major (like nursing or engineering), you need to study your course material, get tested, and pass. You’ll fail some problems and you’ll mess up, but as long as you learn along the way, you’ll get success in the end.

    There is no glory without pain, and those who fear pain will never taste glory. You must cut through all the pain to get to your destination.

  14. kookee01 says

    3D printers and home users can build quite a few things, but despite the internet media hype, you can’t print a working firearm.-FXDD

  15. says

    …and 7. Because they work from home.

    Making an office from your room is not so easy. Usually you use your room as a place of relaxation, a place where you see a movie, a place where you stay with your girlfriend. Is very hard to take these things out of your head and to use your room as an office, unless if you have an iron nature and you are a really organized person.

  16. Jackthomas says

    Hi I registered in top freelancing sites and found the bidding system is not at all helpful for any new freelancer. All these top freelancing sites they sell your skills for lower price. I came across and found it is the best site for any freelancer. Hireprogrammers help freelancers in negotiating with client to get the right quote for the project. Thanks to the hire programmers team for awarding a new project to me with hire rate as expected

  17. Robertewan says

    Freelancing is definitely a difficult career path. Nowadays so many freelancers failed to giving better project to the business. In that i have post my project in really they have done very good job. They did my project as very well. Thanks for hireprogrammers.

  18. says

    Hi Laura, I am so glad I have my Contractor Accountants to take care of my books and help me claim all those lovely expenses, I’d really be in trouble.

    Loved this article thanks again.!!


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