What to Expect When You’re Freelancing

More and more of us are becoming freelancers. But, for many of us, the reality of freelancing is different from what we expected.

You’re probably already familiar with the freelancing feast or famine cycle problem and with the struggles freelancers in finding gigs. We’ve already discussed both of those problems on Freelance Folder, so I’m not going to go over them again in this post.

What you may not be aware of, especially if you’re fairly new to freelancing, is the other challenges that freelancers face–the ones that most freelancers don’t talk about much.

In this post, I’ll list some of less discussed challenges of freelancing so that you’ll know what to expect when you start freelancing.

What Others Think

Despite the fact that the number of freelancers is growing, there are still a lot of people who don’t really understand it.

They think that freelancers are lazy or that no one can earn a living as a freelancer. We all know that they are wrong, of course. But that doesn’t change their minds.

In fact, it’s likely that one of your own friends or family members is among those who don’t get it. If you freelance, don’t be surprised when someone close to you asks “when are you going to get a real job?”

Unfortunately, some people will never understand. It’s just a fact of freelancing, and it’s not worth getting upset about. Remember, they are the ones who are wrong, not you.

Making a Major Purchase

Sooner or later, you’ll need to make a major purchase as a freelancer. It may be a house, car, or something else that requires you to fill out a credit application.

Unfortunately, freelancers sometimes have trouble getting approved for credit. Here are some steps you can take to prepare yourself for getting credit:

  • Protect your credit. Always pay your bills on time. The better your credit history, the easier it will be for you to qualify for loans.
  • Show your income for several years as a freelancer as well as your current freelancing income. Tax returns and contracts can help.
  • Keep debt to a minimum. The goal is to show the lender than you will be able to afford to make payments and this is easier to do if you don’t owe much.
  • Remember, there are no guarantees. Freelancers can expect to face more scrutiny during the credit application process.

It may require a lot of patience, but if you’ve worked steadily as a freelancer for several years and have a good credit history you will probably eventually find the right loan for you.

What to Say on Your Resume

Even though you’re a freelancer, you still need a resume (or C.V., depending on what part of the world you are from).

Updating your resume can be tricky if you’re not used to freelancing. You definitely don’t want to show a gap for the period of time when you freelanced. You may also wish to somehow point to the work you’ve done for prominent clients (if your contract allows this).

It’s perfectly acceptable to list yourself as a freelancer on your resume. If you have a freelance business name, you can also use that and list yourself as the owner.

If you do decide to list your clients on your resume, be sure to indicate that you were a freelancer and not an employee for that organization. You can do this by listing the company name and then putting the words “freelance project” or “independent contractor” in parenthesis after the listing.

Getting It Done

As a freelancer, it’s up to you to get it done. There’s no one there checking up on your progress.

To be frank, most clients don’t care if you write that article, design that logo, or translate that document during the day or in the middle of the night. As long as you respond to communications and meet your deadlines, you’re good to go.

This flexibility can be a blessing, but it can also be a hardship for some freelancers who aren’t skilled at effectively managing their time.

With no one checking on you, it’s easy to get in the habit of falling behind or putting work off. Don’t fall into this trap.

The only one who can make sure that you are getting the freelance work done is you.

Your Turn

If you’re already a freelancer, how does freelancing compare with what you expected? Have you overcome some of these challenges?

If you’re thinking of becoming a freelancer, what questions did we leave unanswered?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image by Horia Varlan

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Comments

  1. says

    I thought this was a true article and something I faced initially. What helps, in my opinion, is to give your freelance business a name and to name yourself the owner of it. That way, on your resume it shows as a business that you worked for and that way you don’t have to include all your clients. To me, this looks more stable than listing short-term contracts or simply saying “freelancer.” I can also tell you that this helped in purchasing our home because they were more willing to trust someone who is “self employed” rather than “part-time freelancer.”

  2. says

    Jamie,

    Thanks for your tips. I’ve seen freelancers do it both ways–some use their own name to market themselves and others use a business name. Many even take an extra step and register as a Chapter S corporation or an LLC, but that’s a different post. :)

  3. says

    A friend and her husband who both freelance recently tried to refinance their house. They actually have a lot of assets but not a lot of income right now in relation to the amount of their mortgage. They explained this to the bank rep up-front, and he said “no problem!” Then the underwriting dept. said, “You don’t have enough income!” This happened twice.

    In my own experience, it is also frustrating that my own relatives and friends often assume I only work part-time or I DON’T work at all. I still can’t understand this. Our collective consciousness has not caught up with the realities of freelancing – its prevalence or meaning.

  4. says

    Claire Wagner,

    Good comments! I have heard about financing problems before, but I also know of some freelancers who were able to purchase or refinance their home. So it can be done! I think this is one area where good records are vital.

  5. says

    I registered as an LLC immediately. You need to set up as some kind of corporation to protect your assets.

    After 4+ years of freelancing, I’m finding that all those business documents they talk about really are quite necessary. I just had to do a profit & loss statement so I can refinance my house. I did a business plan shortly after I started, and it helped me win a grant. So if you can work with a great accountant ona couple of those, you’ll be prepared when you need them. With that goes the admonition to keep excellent financial records.

    Final point: I hit some major milestones this year and am having a record year. So last weekend, I took four friends on a Christmas lights tour in a limousine. We had a marvelous time, and it was great to celebrate with the people who supported and encouraged me! As a freelancer, you need to celebrate your accomplishments because there’s no other employee recognition program.

  6. says

    I think the one thing one should expect in freelancing is the amount of work required, especially at the initial stages. It’s really hard to get started when you don’t have any connections. Starting from scratch can be painstaking. You can’t expect to land big projects right away. But if one is determined to work hard (and stay patient) it’s going to turn out well.

  7. Dominic says

    Hi Laura, I work as a freelancer. Sometimes, clients don’t pay us or I feel are not honest.
    Sometimes they even ask me to work for a project that’s too cheap.
    Kindly advice please.
    Regards,
    Dominic

    PS. Do you have an email or blog/website please.

  8. says

    Dominic

    Do you have a contract with your clients? Contracts can be very important.

    Also, please do not work for someone you feel is not honest or who is not willing to pay what you are worth. Remember you do not have to accept every project.

  9. says

    These are all good points, and I think the first is perhaps the most essential as so many people have NO idea what we do or how or why. I am SO tired of people chirping “So, are you still writing?” assuming it must be a hobby, even after two non-fiction books and hundreds, if not thousands, of articles published nationally. I never ask them if they are still a banker, teacher or whatever they do for a living!

    We represent 1/3 of the American economy. I hope to write more about this soon if I win a fellowship I have applied for to look at this exact issue. We should have a lot more political and economic power than we do, given our numbers at this point.

  10. says

    Caitlin Kelly,

    “We should have a lot more political and economic power than we do, given our numbers at this point.”

    This is very true. I think it’s because there aren’t enough studies to show exactly how many freelancers there are and exactly who they are. I’ve seen the 1/3 figure too, but sometimes that number also includes people who work for temp agencies.

    It’s good that you may have the opportunity to study this further. I’d love to be involved with a project like that.

  11. says

    And just to add to what Laura advised Dominic, you have to be firm with your rates. Don’t be intimidated by clients who try to get you to charge them lower than your normal rate.

  12. Luca Michele Gram says

    til I looked at the draft which had said $9955, I didn’t believe that…my… friends brother woz like they say actually earning money in their spare time at their computer.. there neighbour started doing this for only 19 months and as of now paid the mortgage on there apartment and purchased a brand new Ford Mustang. I went here, wow93.com

  13. says

    [In my own experience, it is also frustrating that my own relatives and friends often assume I only work part-time or I DON’T work at all.]

    I know, Claire, it’s fascinating that even with the worldwide proliferation of freelancing that people still look at it that way. It baffles me.

  14. says

    Hi Gamin,

    I agree completely with you. For someone who is new to freelancing getting work/projects can be quite a challenge.Few important things for a getting a good head start in freelancing in my experience,

    Try built a profile describing the nature of work, relevant past experience (if any), certifications linked to the services you offer. If you are a writer, photographer its good to have some sample of you work which can be shown/displayed

    If there is no specific past experience that you carry, do not worry, however be realistic of the prices that you quote. You may start with something very reasonable. With experience you can quote better rates.

    Get your self registered on some good freelancing websites. I believe this is the most important as projects are spread far and wide and you stand a chance to get them from any part of the world. One such good website with abundant projects that I could probably recommend is http://www.freelanceindia.com

    Be focused, sincere and diligent work surely will come in

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