Don’t get me wrong. Embarking on this freelance writing journey has been richly rewarding and I’m glad I made the decision to start my own small business on that fateful day several years ago. However, as I’ve mentioned in the past, working from home isn’t for everyone and it certainly comes with its share of challenges and frustrations.
Working on my own schedule and writing for a living has a certain romantic air about it. There are visions of great authors, toiling away in front of pen and paper, typewriter or computer keyboard, invoking the inspiration of the muses to churn out their next great masterpiece. The truth of the matter is that the life of the freelance writer or independent author isn’t all that romantic at all. Not only is it a lot more mundane, it’s filled with the harsh realities of the real world with real people.
What Have You Done for Me Lately?
Running a freelance business is not unlike running a more conventional brick-and-mortar business. You may have been able to wow your customers and clients upon initial contact. You may have truly impressed them with the first project you did together and they couldn’t be happier. That’s great.
When it comes to the second, third or (if you’re lucky) fifteenth project, though, the initial glee fades away awfully quickly. It really becomes the situation of “what have you done for me lately?” Yes, it is more difficult to gain a new customer than it is to retain one, but retaining one is no peaceful stroll through the park either. You must work continuously to meet and exceed client expectations, ensuring that every interaction is a highly positive one.
When Good Enough Is Good Enough
And therein lies a profound quandary. You want to provide your clients with the absolute best, because you also hold yourself to that very high standard. The challenge is that there are only 24 hours in the day and only 7 days in the week. Time isn’t exactly on your side, especially when you have multiple deadlines looming over your head.
I’m not saying that you should ever submit substandard work. What I am saying is that while we do spend time finely sifting through the most minute of details, you will always find something that could be better, that could be improved. We may strive for perfection, but we will never achieve it. That’s why one of the hardest things that you’ll have to do is learn to let go. Sometimes, good enough just has to be good enough.
Hey Look! A Castle!
There’s a joke that goldfish only have a five-second memory, so every time they see the castle in their fish bowl, it’s like they’re seeing the castle for the first time. And because the castle is so (relatively) large, it will always attract their attention as they swim around their relatively small abode.
When you work as a freelancer, you have your projects and you have your goals. You have these objectives that you clearly know you have to accomplish, yet the endless array of distractions online and offline divert you from this path. Your gaze keeps leaning back toward that castle. Staying focused and staying motivated are some of the greatest challenges to working from home and the intensity of this struggle cannot be understated.
Nice Guys Finish Last
This is a saying that usually makes its way around dating circles, but it applies just as well to the world of running a small business. I’m not saying that it always holds up to be true, but you should be aware of it.
There is a reason why the salesperson who is just a little pushier is the one who tends to get more sales. While you certainly don’t want to be a bad person, you also don’t want to be a pushover either. When entering contract negotiations, you don’t want to be the doormat. The “nice” guy is the one who will lower his rates and do far more work for less money. The nice guy is the one who refers business out to everyone else, asking for nothing in return. And, in doing so, the nice guy is going to face a lot of challenges… but sometimes, being the nice guy is the reward in and of itself.
Just don’t expect it to translate to monumental success for your business. For that, you’ll have to face the harsh realities of freelancing and overcome a seemingly never-ending onslaught of adversity. And it’ll all be worth it, right?
Addendum: And I haven’t even touched on the inconsistency of income. Say goodbye to receiving the same paycheque every two weeks.