Top 6 Problems Freelancers Face (and What to Do About Them)

Frustrated by clients who try to tell you how to do the job they hired you for? Or worse, are slow to pay when the job’s done? Freelancing comes with new challenges you didn’t face as an employee. Here are the top 6 and tips for handling them.

Gone are the days when you had to work a 9 to 5 to earn a good living. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 15.5 million U.S. workers were self-employed in May of 2015. And while operating your own business offers numerous advantages, such as the opportunity to skip the commute and pursue your passion, the freelance lifestyle is not without its challenges.

As a freelancer, you are often at the mercy of your clients. From paying the bills late to making you mental with last-second requests, the companies that hire you can make or break your business and affect your overall satisfaction with the freelance lifestyle.

Here are the top 6 freelancer pet peeves as well as tips for overcoming them:

1. Vague Requests

Ambiguous assignments don’t just waste freelancers’ time; they also cost clients more money in the long run. Most of us have encountered clients who don’t reveal what they want from a project. In some cases, clients aren’t sure of their needs and goals and hope you can identify them. Other times, clients want to avoid offending you by being too direct in their instructions. Whether you’re writing blogs or designing logos, lacking specifics about the client’s needs and goals can be a significant hindrance.

As a freelancer, you can save time and trouble by insisting that clients clarify their expectations before work begins. When in doubt, draft a contract that explains what you will do and limits the number of revisions you will perform. Otherwise, you could wind up redoing the project completely on your own dime.

RELATED: How to Find Good Freelance Jobs

2. Micromanaging Clients

As a freelancer, you probably want your client to know what he or she is seeking before hiring you. However, that doesn’t mean you need the person who hires you looking over your shoulder until the task is complete. Clients who micromanage assignments can leave freelancers feeling stressed and frustrated and prevent them from doing their best work. In some cases, you might feel compelled to complete an assignment to the client’s exact specifications rather than exploring other solutions that might provide superior results. To minimize this issue, strive to set limits with a client from day one. If you get in the habit of answering emails or responding to texts at midnight, it will be hard to discontinue this behavior down the line.

3. Unreliable Clients

The downside of having a flexible work schedule is enduring an uncertain workload. Just because August saw you flush with cash doesn’t mean September’s revenue will be equally strong. As a freelancer, it can be incredibly frustrating to work with unreliable clients who promise you regular work yet don’t deliver. Similarly, it can be tough to plan out your schedule if customers are continuously giving you assignments later than promised.

As a freelancer, you can strive to set clear expectations with clients upfront. While you can’t compel clients to deliver the amount of work they promised—or to do so on schedule—you can and should consider charging extra for rush jobs. It’s also wise to work with a diverse array of clients, so you aren’t left penniless if one drops off the face of the Earth!

4. Poor Communication

If your client can’t or won’t communicate with you, you’re likely in for a rocky road.  This issue is especially common among companies that aren’t used to working with freelancers. Often, these businesses forget that you aren’t present in the office for important meetings and conversations and might not bother to loop you in on developments. For best results, set expectations upfront for the amount and type of feedback you require and stick to them.

RELATED: 7 Tips to Succeed as a Freelancer

5. Low Payment

Businesses often assume that they can save money by low-balling freelancers for their services. Not only does this practice serve to frustrate freelancers, but it also tends to result in companies receiving inferior products. When it comes to freelance, it really is true that you get what you pay for!

As a freelancer, you are – and should be – proud of your products and services. When companies try to pay you less than you’re worth, it’s only natural that you’d feel frustrated. Although some businesses will always look for the cheapest option, you can minimize the frustration you feel by posting your rates clearly on your website and only responding to job ads that fall within your accepted salary range.

6. Late Payment

Just as it’s frustrating to be offered less than you’re worth for products and services, it’s upsetting to encounter a client who pays late… or doesn’t pay at all. In some cases, clients pay late due to simple disorganization. However, other clients neglect to pay because they lack the financial resources to do so. Still others hope you’ll get tired of asking for your money and go away.

Fortunately, freelancers have options when it comes to collecting payment. Start by keeping detailed records, so you know who owes you money and when it’s due. If you’re working with a client who has paid late in the past, feel free to request the money upfront. As a last resort, you can deduct the cost of goods that clients ordered (but never paid for) on your tax return.

You can’t control the behavior of your freelance clients, but you can manage your expectations and responses. Follow the above tips to give your small business the best shot at success.

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