The pandemic may have changed a lot of things for the workplace, but none was more significant than remote working. As millions of employees shifted from the office to their homes, remote roles across industries started to grow.
A few years into the pandemic, remote work has become the new normal for many employees. But as normality seems to creep up on us again, and employers urge their workers to return to the office, some of them are a bit reluctant to fully return after having a taste of what remote working has to offer.
Predictions indicate that most of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers by as early as 2027, with some earning between $10 and $80 per hour. In addition, freelancers bring in significant paychecks every year, with 31% earning as much as $75,000 per year.
From Information Technology (IT), web development, copywriting to construction — industries of every shape and size are now offering freelance gigs — and people are quickly jumping to the opportunity.
For some, it’s not just simply about making more money each year, as the benefits of a remote freelancer combine the efforts of both family and work at once. Additionally, some feel that being your “own boss” is a more suitable adjustment, having better control over their schedule, or simply quitting because of toxic work environments.
Reasons to become a remote freelancer are endless, and already 60% of those who have resigned to pursue a full-time freelancing career are making more than what they did in their original job.
Yes, the benefits are great but work, whether remote, freelance, or even temporarily, comes with a host of challenges. We’re not just talking about sitting in front of a computer every day or reading mind-numbing articles by the masses.
Here are the six top challenges for remote freelancers and how to overcome them.
Work Comes and Goes Frequently
Whether you’re a veteran freelancer or someone who recently joined the industry, the main challenge for many freelancers remains to find suitable or constant long-term work.
While some freelancers may prefer to work on various projects one at a time, in a shorter time frame, another side of the spectrum reveals that many freelancers, especially remote freelancers, would enjoy working on similar smaller projects over a more extended period.
Varying industries will require only freelancers to complete a few projects, and once the work is done, and the tap has run dry, what do you do?
Living from paycheck to paycheck isn’t ideal, but many are working to overcome the skimpy paycheck model by working as a freelancer on the side until they’ve built up enough clients.
You may see yourself struggling to find suitable jobs or gigs, with many employers looking for freelancers with more experience. However, you may also be concerned about not finding work in your specific field.
How to overcome this:
For starters, you can perhaps broaden your expertise by completing some online courses or upskilling with various new tools and platforms dedicated to sharpening up freelancer skills. Additionally, you can always move between freelancer platforms when looking for work. Finally, instead of relying on just one or three platforms, grow your network to five or even fifteen if you need to.
Network, as much as possible. Networking is one of the easiest ways to improve your chances of gaining more permanent and full-time work. You can also look for gigs or jobs that offer more long-term projects, instead of doing a small amount of work now and again.
Payments are Inconsistent
You found the perfect gig, you completed the work, sent in your invoice, and now you await your payment. A few days go by, still no payment. Then a week, a month, and before you know it, you haven’t seen a single penny for your work.
This is one of the significant risks for freelancers, employers, or companies who don’t pay for the work. Perhaps you received a payment, but it’s only half or not nearly as much as they promised you.
When you were still employed full-time, you had financial security and were sure to receive a paycheck at the end of the month. But, unfortunately, in the freelancing world, it doesn’t work like that.
If you don’t work, you’re not getting paid — as simple as that.
How to overcome this:
Before taking on any job, whether from a private client or a multinational company, always research who the person is. Make sure to read up about them and follow any freelancing forums to see if anyone has already flagged them for being unwilling to pay.
In terms of growing your profits and earning more money, you will need to deliver exceptional work, time and time again.
Under promise, over-deliver.
Earn the trust of those you’ve worked with, and build a relationship. Always keep your foot in the door, and mention that you’ll be open to working on any upcoming projects in the near future. You can also do a follow-up if you see the company posted about a new project but didn’t reach out to you; make sure to always remain visible and on top of your game – that’s how you increase your earnings.
Motivating yourself can be challenging
There are a lot of benefits to working remotely, and as a freelancer, these only become more present as you increase your visibility and profits year-over-year. Remote workers seem to have all the fun all the time.
That’s not always the case, though.
Now, as you’re sitting at home working, with no one to constantly check up on you, or having a colleague in the office next to yours to query something — finding motivation isn’t always easy quickly.
Many freelancers have found that although they have more freedom and flexibility, getting the motivation to start on a specific project or looking for new gigs online can become a hassle. Even more, when you have endless amounts of work piling up, being motivated enough to jot down where to start and with what can quickly become a grueling task.
How to overcome this:
Find structure. Treat your freelance work as real work — because it is.
If you don’t work, you’re not making money, and if you’re not making money, you’re only drifting further and further away from your initial goals.
Be clear with yourself and your family or friends that your time at home should be treated as when they’re at the office working. Be clear and concise with setting up working parameters for yourself. Your freelance work is just as important as the job you did when you were still stuck in your nine to five.
Have a clear schedule about what you want to do, and stick to it. Create a routine for yourself, and keep with it, and as you grow more comfortable with the environment and the work, you’ll have a better grip on how things work.
With more than 57 million freelancers working in the United States, the marketplace quickly becomes overcrowded. If you’re someone with minimum skills or networking abilities, you’ll soon get lost among the masses.
Freelance platforms are filled with great gigs and work opportunities, but there might already be 150 other candidates or freelancers that have already applied for the specific gig.
So how do you stand out and improve yourself?
How to overcome this:
Market yourself, even better, sell yourself in every pitch, email, or Skype call. You are your product and service, and you need to sell yourself to your best ability.
Companies look for talent with an edge over other freelancers, so you will need to find your niche, hone those skills, and network to your best ability. Be clear about your goals, who you are, and the type of service you can offer to the client.
Don’t oversell yourself, but remain confident in your abilities. Furthermore, consider taking up a few extra short courses to sharpen your skills, read a few blogs, and listen to some podcasts. Become better by learning.
Finally, you can also look on company websites for work if freelance platforms become too overcrowded. Send direct emails to the hiring and human resources department if a specific job catches your attention. Remain resilient even when work is slim, and competition is challenging, as one job can perhaps lead to another and so you can get the ball rolling.
Balancing Personal and Professional Life
Now, as you’re juggling both being at home constantly if your gigs require it, and having to be online most of the time – balancing your personal life and professional life isn’t as easy as it may look.
Although you may have a more flexible schedule than your spouse or partner, it doesn’t always mean you can be occupied with tasks that may come in the way of completing your work successfully.
Your friends might think now that you have a remote job, or seeing as you’re a freelancer, you can easily step away for a few hours to catch up or have a drink with them. But unfortunately, the latter reveals a different picture.
How to overcome this:
Just as you’re looking to implement more structure in your schedule, you should be more concise with those around you that your job is just as important as theirs. Respecting boundaries and creating remote work parameters, as already mentioned, is one of the key ways you will be able to juggle both working remotely and still spending time with those you care about.
Find a designated office or space in your house where you can set up your desk and computer. Clearly and effectively communicate with your family and friends that you may, unfortunately, be unavailable during certain hours due to work.
In most instances, it’s about having the correct planning and structure throughout your day and how you plan to complete everything on time and within the designated criteria.
Distractions Can Be Big or Small
As you’re ready to start the day, you receive a social media notification on your phone, or perhaps the doorbell rings as your package is being delivered. Maybe you see an email notification from a potential client or gig that comes up, and you quickly want to respond. Then, DING! Another social media notification while you’re listening to a peculiar bird chirping away at your window.
As you look to check the time, more than 50 minutes have passed, and you have yet completed any work. Now you need to catch up, but just as you’re about to start, you feel the room being too hot, and now you’re leaving to go downstairs and lower the thermostat.
Another distraction. Remote workers are always complaining about the endless distractions they encounter throughout their day. This can be a nuisance, take up your time, and chip away at your profits at the end of the day.
How to overcome this:
First of all, when it comes to your cell phone, keep it on silent as much as possible. Although you might receive a phone call from a potential client, check it now and again only for important work-related reasons.
If you’re not using your personal email for work, mark yourself as way or offline, and review unimportant emails at the close of the workday.
Make a list of all errands you still need to run so that you’re not distracted about any upcoming tasks you still need to complete for the day’s end.
Keep the focus on your work by making a tracker or organizing your work into a dedicated Calendar which will help you see what is of high priority, and what isn’t. This way, you will be more focused on time-sensitive projects rather than fiddling with unimportant distractions.
Finally, just remember to be present, no matter what type of work you’re researching or project you’re busy with. Remember why you chose this career and the path you’re on.
A Final Take
Working as a remote freelancer certainly does have many perks, as you can enjoy the freedom of being your own boss while also being more flexible and free with your schedule. However, over time, you will soon notice some issues or challenges creep up as you try and complete important projects, or even as you’re busy applying for potential freelancing gigs.
These challenges might distract you from the end goal, as you’re working to be more financially free and independent. The latter is that there is always a solution or way to fix these issues, no matter what you may stumble across.
Being a remote freelancer doesn’t mean you constantly have to work; you can enjoy some free time if the time allows. You should also find a perfect balance to combine your personal and professional life into one core lifestyle.
Image Credit: Vlada Karpovich from Pexels; Thank you
Carma Khatib is a passionate innovator and product manager with significant experience driving digital products from conception to launch. My mission is to find and create solutions to real-world problems that ultimately impact a company's triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit.