There are plenty of things to love about freelancing: freedom, flexibility, and those splendid days when you get 2 or 3 checks in the mail. But what about those times when things don’t run so smoothly? Here are the four most common day-to-day problems that freelancers face…and some thoughts on what you can do about them.
Finding new freelance clients
Actually, let’s amend that slightly: Finding new freelance clients that are a good fit for your business. Here are a few thoughts on where to start:
- Personally, I love cold calling, though I know there are some people who would rather jump out of a plane without a parachute. Similarly, a letter of introduction or query can be an effective tool, as long as you spend the time to customize it. Lori Widmer, my co-presenter at the marketing Q&A webinar earlier this month, posted a sample letter of introduction at her blog. Pick a target audience, give it a try and you just might find that these strategies become easier and more lucrative with practice.
- I agree 100% with Jenn Mattern, who wrote a piece called “Where can I find high paying freelance writing jobs?” a while back. Her philosophy is that asking “where” is actually the wrong question, because the best freelance jobs aren’t advertised. You have to find them…and that means, whether with a cold call or other warm/cold contact, identifying what they need and pitching them directly.
- Enhance your referral system. It’s easy to believe you’re so wonderful at your job that the referrals will just come flowing in, but that’s not the case. Many clients need to be encouraged or asked—and they might not even realize you’d appreciate more business! If you’d like to hear more on this topic, sign up for my upcoming webinar on referrals.
This is an interesting one, because it definitely polarizes opinions. Many feel very strongly that social isolation is a big-time downer, whereas others like the peace and quiet that solo entrepreneurship brings. Oddly enough, I am an extrovert but count myself among the latter. To keep the occasional cabin fever from setting in:
- I meet at least one friend, client or fellow freelancer for coffee or lunch every week, without fail. Often, it’s one of my freelance creative Super Friends that I wrote about last week.
- I’ve played in various sports leagues, which is not only fun, but has brought in business.
- I volunteer for a local rowing regatta committee, which meets weekly or every other week for about 6 months a year to plan events.
- I belong to a monthly mastermind group of businesspeople from different industries and backgrounds.
- While I don’t go to many conferences, I do what I can to keep in touch with people I connect with. A good example is Communication Central, which I’ll be speaking at on Friday.
This—and its kissin’ cousin, “feast or famine”—rank high on the list of freelancer pet peeves. So, how do you address it? Turn it into a positive! Think about it this way: You are fortunate enough, my fine freelance friend, to have the power to choose what you do every day. Back in your corporate cube days, you did whatever TPS report cover sheet the boss handed to you. Now, it’s up to you—and probably requires taking steps mentioned in “finding new freelance clients” above. On a side note: If you want to improve your overall motivation or self-discipline, I highly recommend Rory Vaden’s Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success.
Slow-pay and no-pay clients
This isn’t just one of the pet peeves for many freelancers, it’s also the top reason they fire customers. So, how do you get people to find their checkbook and a pen, and put them together? A couple of steps can help:
- Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t be too timid to do so soon in the process. If you have an invoice that’s 30 days late, a reminder is appropriate. Caveat: Nobody likes a pest, and there are organizations that simply pay slower than others; trying to rush them is counterproductive. For example, one of my longest-running clients pays in 60 days, without fail, and I simply take that into account.
- Offer an installment plan, so they can pay off in 2 or 3 checks. I have found this to be a great way to de-escalate a situation that may be embarrassing for a client who’s short on cash.
- Let them know that you can’t do any further work till the payments are up to date.
If you haven’t noticed already, these four pet peeves have something important in common: They are largely under your control! You can let them fester and cause anxiety, or you can take action. The choice is yours.