What an exciting time it is to be an online freelancer.
The current climate of the workforce is rapidly shifting away from the traditional “9 to 5” model of employment, and more and more businesses and companies are looking to outsource services. With a multitude of industries and needs represented, there is literally something for everybody when it comes finding valuable services to offer as an online freelancer.
As a new freelancer, aware of and excited about the potential for building a business by offering services remotely, you’ve already accomplished some things:
- You’ve made the decision that this is the right journey for you
- You’ve decided what services to offer
- You’ve created goals for your business and a plan for achieving them
- And you’ve opened the virtual doors to your online freelancing business …
While it’s a major accomplishment to have made the commitment to yourself and your dreams by deciding to build a freelancing business, the early days of any new endeavor often come with challenges.
As you’re laying the foundation for a successful, sustainable business perseverance and the right attitude are necessary from day one. Having the right information and encouragement can make all the difference when it comes to setting the tone for how you’ll meet those challenges.
This post will cover the top five challenges commonly facing new online freelancers as well as how to overcome them.
Challenge #1: Getting started
When you’re starting your online freelancing business, it can feel like there are a lot of things to “have in place” first- a business name, a website, possibly a resume, business cards…
It’s not uncommon for many of us to feel like we need to have these things just right before really digging in to building our businesses.
The reality is, though, that you can start building your online freelancing business and marketing yourself from day one without these things being perfect or even in place. In fact, often times being overly-focused on perfecting these aspects of a new business can be a way of subconsciously procrastinating and will result in delaying your progress and success.
A business is an ever-evolving, ever-changing thing that will rarely be perfect. If you’re ready to experience the limitless possibilities and potential that online freelancing can offer, don’t wait until every. last. detail is in place in your business to get started. Jump in and go for it, the details will come together over time and you won’t regret the decision to actively move toward your dreams.
My mentor and coach Ryan Levesque says, “You don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to get it going.”
Challenge #2: Getting overwhelmed
Starting a business comes with a lot of information, especially if you’ve made the wise decision to refine and hone your skills into service offerings through education and training as have many successful online freelancers.
Learning, combined with the details of starting your business that we just discussed, as well as the possible pressure of needing to see the financial fruits of your labors sooner rather than later…
It can all be rather overwhelming. Very overwhelming in fact.
The first way to overcome this challenge is to remind yourself that building this successful, sustainable business of yours is a marathon and not a sprint.
Other strategies for dealing with overwhelm include:
- Make weekly lists of what needs to happen in your business and break this list down into bite-sized daily chunks. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day and prioritize your tasks in the order of how crucial they are.
- Regroup and revisit your goals and plan for your business. Doing so should help you focus in on what tasks need to be taken care of and in what order.
- Don’t let overwhelm stop you in your tracks. End each day by being able to clearly identify something concrete you did to build your business and promote its success.
- Focus in on how you’re organizing your days and time. This will provide you with a strong foundation to work from when it comes to the building phase of your business.
Challenge #3: Creating a schedule and routine
In the early days of an online freelancing business it can be hard to know simply how to spend and structure your time working on and in your business. Either you’re looking for those first few clients, or you’ve landed them and you’re adapting to what the “flow” of your work days will look like.
A great way to overcome the challenge of not knowing how to spend your time is to list out the tasks that need to happen in your business. From this list you can then create a weekly and daily schedule allotting blocks of time for various activities and tasks.
Remember to stay flexible and fluid with your scheduling, particularly as you’re establishing your routine and regimen. While it’s important to structure your workday, and part of the discipline that’s crucial to your success as a freelancer, it’s also important to allow flexibility for things that come up.
Some examples of activities to structure into your work week and day are:
- Marketing your business and prospecting for new clients. This could include your social media outreach efforts, connecting with your immediate network, cold pitching businesses in your chosen niche, and or in-person networking. Until your client roster is full you should be dedicating a significant amount of time to this aspect of your business, and even after it is you should continue to make this a priority.
- Providing services to clients you’re already working with. If you’ve already landed a client or two then make sure you’re providing excellent service right off the bat by structuring your tasks for these clients into your schedule and ensuring that you’re delivering quality work on time.
- Working on your business. Set aside time for working on things like your website, blog or social media profiles so that you are constantly building your business’ presence. As well, this can also involve setting aside time for working on the infrastructure of your business like invoicing, bookkeeping and creating client contracts.
- Personal development. Building your knowledge and working on your mindset should definitely be a priority in your schedule, ideally on a daily basis. Growing your mind means growing your business and should be considered as important as prospecting for new clients.
Challenge #4: Finding that first client
With all the build-up and excitement around making the leap into the online freelancing world, it can feel like things come to a halt when you’re looking for that first client. Perhaps you’ve even “opened your doors” and… crickets.
This is the time to keep in mind why you made the decision you did to begin this journey, to maintain focus and encouragement, and to remain diligent with your efforts. They will pay off, even if those early pitches for work just end up resulting in great opportunities for practice.
Some ways to overcome the challenge of finding that first client are:
- Be clear on what you do and who you do it for. This will help you know where to look for clients and how to talk with them about how you can help them.
- Have a clear plan for prospecting. For example, pick three methods for reaching out to potential clients and stay consistent with your efforts. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time for reassessing your plan, and if your efforts still aren’t working perhaps re-examine how you’re pitching for work and get an honest opinion from a friend or community you trust.
- Don’t give up and remember that you’re sowing seeds. Even if you don’t get an immediate “yes” connections you intentionally establish and nurture could very likely result in a working relationship somewhere down the road, even several months.
- Follow up with your efforts. Follow up is key when it comes to looking for new clients. People are busy and most of us receive a ton of emails in the course of a day. Don’t be afraid to keep following up with connections you’ve made until you have a clear idea of where things stand (a “yes” or “no” or “let’s stay in touch”).
Challenge #5: Getting discouraged
There will be difficult days in your business. While you are still new to the world of online freelancing you may be asking yourself questions like: Did I make the right decision? Is this really going to work? Can I really pull this off?
Overwhelm and discouragement can go hand in hand in the early days of your business, but it’s important to remember that all of your experiences are part of the journey. What may feel like failure at the time is all part of a collective experience that will eventually add up to success if you keep the right mindset and remain steadfast.
Some ways to overcome discouragement are:
- Establish and call on your support network. This may consist of people close to you who believe in you and what you’re doing; an existing supportive community you’re a part of like a church or small group; or one of the many online communities of freelancers such as Facebook groups where you can find encouragement, accountability and share ideas.
- Revisit your “why” for deciding to go into business for yourself. If it’s big enough and strong enough it should help you refocus and become grounded in your motivation again. If not, it’s time to reassess your “why” and perhaps come up with a new one.
- Check in with your goals. Does the idea of achieving them excite you? Do you feel optimistic when you think about them? This can be a simple but powerful way of regrouping and refocusing your motivation.
- Spend some time with personal development. This could involve reading, listening to audio or watching video with content focused on inspiration and education. Sometimes just spending time “feeding yourself” with motivating and valuable material can be all it takes to energize you back into a place of action with your business.
Whatever you do… keep going!
As we’ve talked about some common challenges for new online freelancers, perhaps the most important takeaway is that there will be challenges but there are also very actionable ways to overcome them. The most crucial thing to keep in mind is that you can do this… those who fail are the ones who quit.
The road to your success may not, and likely won’t, look exactly how you planned it. Be sure to acknowledge and appreciate the ups and downs as part of the journey and even try and enjoy them whenever you can. Lastly, remember that your experiences and how you handle them all contribute to a wiser, more experienced “you” and that, in and of itself, is a success.
Are you experiencing any challenges with your new online freelancing business? How are you overcoming them? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear about your journey!