On a one man team, you have no excuses — the success of your business lands squarely on your shoulders. You need more clients? Talk to your marketing department. That’s you. Have some unpaid invoices? Check accounting. Oh, that’s you too. The design isn’t up to the client’s standards? Talk to the lead designer, which again, unequivocally is you.
This can put a lot of stress on a freelancer and, although stress can take on different shapes, the victim is most often your mental state. Here are some of the top challenges of being a freelancer and how you can handle them effectively.
1. The unpredictability of your finances
The problem usually appears in the first months as a freelancer. You need to invest your money into software or hardware upgrades, and this leaves little to nothing for your household needs. Bills pile up, but if you don’t invest in better tools you’ll get nowhere. Not to mention clients are hard to come by. Thus frustration grows.
I recommend you don’t go into freelancing if you don’t have some money saved up. If you have a job and decide to quit so you can do your own thing, put some money aside before you commit. Assuming you’ve done that, focus on the following things:
Need to invest your earnings? Calculate when you’re going to get that money back
$3,000 for a new computer seems like a lot and you’d be hesitant to make such a purchase, yet if it allows you to bang out three more projects per month, then you should light-heartedly make that investment.
Unless loan sharks are coming after you, there isn’t a whole lot else happening to you right now. Most stress comes from within, from you thinking over and over about things and projecting bad outcomes. In reality, little to nothing serious is happening to you physically for not having that extra money. This is very counterproductive and you need to limit your worries.
Don’t spend money you don’t have
A client just told you he wants three projects done by this month — that’s great and you’ll make some nice money. But never behave as if you have that money until the funds actually enter your account. Things can change in an instant, so never spend money you don’t have.
The goal is to relieve fear and bad thoughts from your mind because they cripple your ability to think creatively. Once those are out-of-the-way you can focus on what actually matters, quality work. Money will surely follow afterwards.
2. Getting stuck in those creative ruts
Project after project you have to be creative, and over time you develop a set of color schemes, fonts and design elements that are a crowd pleaser — you know they look great and thus you have a tendency to use them time and time again.
Going down this path you end up losing your creativity. You lack innovation and you seem to get stuck in your old ways. If that’s the case, I recommend the following things to get you out of your creative rut:
Check out inspiration from other fields
For example, if you’re in the web design business, go see some nice packaging designs. This will refresh your palette and give you a break from the same old styles you’re familiar with.
Read our annual freelance report – Design without borders to gain a fresh perspective on how freelancers around the world think, feel and operate.
Look for inspiration from the absolute best in the business
While design websites will surely have posts like 50 Great Looking Corporate Websites, I recommend you look up the best design agencies in the world, the ones that handle the corporate giants you wear, eat and drive. Their portfolio is usually something to behold and it will jump-start your creativity.
Crank up your speed and create variations of your idea
Lots of times you’ll have a nice concept in your mind yet when you get it into the computer, it just doesn’t look right. I suggest you focus on improving your speed so you can gain the liberty of making multiple options.
This includes slight color scheme changes, layout tweaks, font variations and other things of that nature. Compare each to one another then take the best from each variation to create a better design.
3. There’s never enough hours in a day
Some people quit their day jobs because they don’t want to be confined to a Monday to Friday, 9AM to 5PM job. They’re looking for complete freedom and they want to be their own boss. Well, guess what, you are probably going to be lousy at being the boss because:
- You don’t know when to stop working.
- You don’t know how to properly quote your work.
- You don’t give yourself any vacations, days off, or heck, even weekends off!
If you’d have a boss like this, you’d hate him or her. The problem lies in this perceived race with yourself — you have to get things done faster because there isn’t enough time. My advice is this:
Wake up when your body is ready
This doesn’t mean you should sleep 15 hours a day because you’re tired. Actually, sleeping less can often make you feel refreshed. I recommend you look up some articles about sleep patterns and that will significantly change your schedule.
Be efficient with your time
Use hot keys, a faster mouse, a better keyboard, etc. Master the software you work with every day so you don’t spend time thinking about how to perform certain commands. This will give you additional freedom and will significantly improve the way you spend your time.
Enjoy the journey
Don’t race towards a finish line that doesn’t exist. Although this is more on the personal development side of things, I strongly believe it will relieve a lot of time-related stress. Life is a journey and you should be happy every step of the day. There isn’t a final stage in life that you have to overcome and then it’s all clear sailing. There will always be ups and downs, and you have to take them as they are. So stop worrying about getting this and that project done at the expense of your happiness. It’s not worth it, it’s not productive, nor is it sustainable over a long period of time.