Over the years, I’ve seen freelancers who I never thought would make it, succeed. I’ve watched other freelancers, who seemed extremely gifted to me, fail.
What was the difference? Why did some freelancers succeed while other, more talented freelancers failed?
Was my judgment of talent that bad? I don’t think so.
I’m convinced the real reason that some freelancers succeed while others fail is because many failed freelancers panic and give up on their freelancing business too soon. In other words, they panic.
Most web design challenges can be overcome. In the end, it’s not making a mistake (or even several mistakes) that dooms a freelance web design business. It’s failing to face your problems and learn from them that ends many freelancing careers.
In this post I identify four of the most common problems that cause web designers (and other freelancers) to quit too soon. I also provide some solutions for each problem.
Problem 1: Finding Clients
One of the biggest challenges that all freelancers face is finding work.
The up and down work cycle (also known as the feast or famine cycle) takes many freelance web designers by surprise. This is especially true for those freelance web designers who come to the business through a web design agency or other traditional employment.
If you’ve been a traditional employee, you’re probably used to receiving a regular paycheck–meaning you get the same amount of pay on a regular basis no matter how busy you are. (This can also cause financial problems for a freelancer, but more on that later.)
The ongoing challenge of finding web design work (and by doing so, getting income) causes many new freelancers to quit web design before they really need to. These freelancers simply have no idea of how to go about finding projects for themselves.
Before you hit the panic button and quit freelancing because your projects have dried up, here is a quick list of five places to check for work:
- Your former employer. It’s true, many freelancers wind up doing freelance work for their former employers. (I hope you’re still on good terms.)
- Your family and acquaintances. Chances are that you already know someone who could use your services. Make it a point to check in with friends and family regularly.
- Local businesses in your area. Small businesses often need help with their website. Introduce yourself and explain your services to local business owners.
- Help wanted ads. Ads for developers and designers usually appear online on sites like Craigslist or they may even appear in your local newspaper.
- Job boards. Many freelancers rely on websites designed to match them with clients. Here are some job board sites to check out: UpWork, Behance, Dribbble, Elance, Envato Studio, LinkedIn
So, if you find yourself without any clients, take a look at the previous list. Start contacting people. And remember, rejection is normal. You will probably have to contact many prospective clients before you find a project.
Problem 2: Facing Rejection
Do you hate getting turned down?
If we’re honest, I think we’d all have to say “yes.” Nobody likes rejection. Yet as freelancers, we face rejection all the time.
For many new freelancers, facing rejection is where they hit panic button and bail. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Rejection may not be fun, but it is a perfectly normal part of the freelancing life. How you deal with it could well determine your freelancing future.
In our post, How to Keep Rejection from Ruining Your Happiness as a Freelance Web Designer, we give you some ammunition for facing rejection. We describe three different types of rejection and explain how you can handle each type.
But what if the rejection is your fault? What if you’ve made a mistake on a client project?
Problem 3: Dealing with Your Mistakes
Let me ask you something. If you make a mistake on a client project, is your freelancing web designing business ruined?
The truth is, you can overcome most mistakes with clients if you respond appropriately. When many freelancers discover they’ve made a mistake, they overreact and quit.
But, handling a mistake in the right way can actually strengthen a client relationship.
Here’s what to do when you find you’ve goofed:
- Admit it. As quickly as possible, you need to let the client know about the mistake. If it’s your fault, don’t try to hide the face. Admit it.
- Make it right. Reassure the client that you’ll make it right for them. Fixing your mistake should become your top priority. And you should do it for free.
- Apologize. It’s also important to apologize for any inconveniences the client experienced as a result of your mistake. Saying sorry is still important.
How could a client mistake strengthen your relationship?
Simple. If you handled the mistake properly using the three steps described above, you’ll stand out as a web designer of honesty and integrity.
Sadly, many freelancers try to hide the fact when they’ve made a mistake. But they usually don’t fool anyone and the client just starts to believe that freelancers can’t be trusted.
Remember, your client is human too. They’ve made mistakes, so they understand when you make a mistake. The fact that you can admit and fix your mistakes only makes them trust you more as a responsible professional.
Problem 4: Overcoming Financial Worries
The final panic button area for freelancers involves finances. As I mentioned earlier, freelance web design can be a roller coaster ride of having work and then not having work. For many freelancers, this roller coaster ride also means financial worries.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take as a freelancer to avoid financial problems.
Here are two crucial areas of their finances that every freelancer should pay close attention to:
- Your emergency fund. It’s important to have an emergency fund even when you don’t freelance. Alexa Von Toble, writing at Inc., builds a good case for Why You Need a ‘Freedom’ Fund. For freelancers, an emergency fund is even more important. It’s lifeline for those slow periods.
- Your budget. Another key to overcoming financial worries is to have a good budget and stick with it. In our post, 10 Best Budgeting Tips for Freelance Web Designers and Other Freelancers, we share our best tips to help you get your freelancing finances under control.
Have you ever thought about quitting freelance web design? What web design challenges were you facing at the time and how did you overcome those problems?