How To Stay In Love With Freelancing When Things Get Tough

Full time freelancing requires a commitment equal to marriage. One doesn’t make a leap of faith for an affair; they do it for a marriage.

I bet in the beginning, you felt all warm and fuzzy when you started freelancing. After all, you didn’t have to answer to anyone, could work your own hours and best of all – you had creative freedom! You were full of enthusiasm and zeal and your business was off to a great start. A honeymoon couldn’t have been more perfect.

A few months later, reality begins to set in. You realize that instead of your boss, you now have to answer to your clients. Working your own hours now translates into late nights and creative freedom is dependent on your client’s vision. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem as great as it was in the beginning.

You start to get disgruntled. Fights erupt with your muse and you stop talking to each other. Your work begins to suffer and before you know it, you’re thinking of divorcing your freelance business and going back to a corporate job.

To avoid signing on the dotted line, learn to keep the passion and stay in love with freelancing even when things get tough.

Don’t take freelancing for granted

It’s easy to forget why you started freelancing in the first place. You start taking the freedom freelancing gives you for granted and end up hurting your business.

You didn’t start freelancing so you could wake up late, work in your jammies, or become a hermit. You did it so you could have the freedom to pick and choose projects that interest you, earn more than you did in a corporate job and do all the things you’ve wanted to do in your life.

None of that is going to happen if you slack. Your freelancing business is just that – a business. Treat it like one.

Never go to bed angry

Whether it’s a difficult client that has put you in a bad mood or a problem with the project you can’t seem to solve – going to bed angry and frustrated only means you’ll wake up the same way.

Instead of working all night with no results and waking up groggy the next day, clock out early. Watch TV, go out, do whatever you do to relax and plan for an early start the next day.

Waking up at 4 am to work on a difficult project is better than pulling an all nighter and going to bed frustrated and angry. Once you’ve rested, your mind will be fresh, relaxed and better able to find solutions.

Taking the time to cool off, separating yourself from your work works wonders when you find yourself stuck in a frustrating situation. More importantly, don’t think about work while you’re away from it.

Be flexible and accommodating

Even if you’re meticulous with deadlines and progress updates, your client might not be. If you get impatient and worked up when you don’t receive feedback on your work immediately so you can proceed to the next stage, you’re in for a lot of tension. Your client and their work is of utmost importance to you, but the same can’t be said of your client. They have other responsibilities to take care of and getting back to you with feedback is not on the top of their list – unless it’s a high priority project.

Whether you keep sending them email reminders to send you feedback or make sure upfront that you want feedback within 24 hours of sending it – you’re setting yourself up for stress. Not to mention that you’ll be alienating your clients too!

No one likes to work with someone who doesn’t make certain allowances, isn’t flexible and accommodating.

Being flexible and accomodating isn’t just about feedback. It can be about payment terms, project deadlines, late fee etc. If you’re set in your ways then freelancing won’t be fun for long.

Learn to compromise

Your marriage to freelancing won’t last long if you don’t learn to compromise. Now, I don’t mean compromising on the quality of your work or your work ethic. It means you have to learn to accept that you can’t always have it your way.

As a freelancer, you will have your own ideas of how a project should be done and what would work better. After working on it so hard, you’re emotionally attached to the project and want to see it do well!

If you insist that your ideas or vision is correct and the client’s isn’t – your work relationship with the client and freelancing will sour very soon. It will also frustrate you, stress you out and even anger you. All of these emotions are toxic for your freelancing business.

Always keep in mind that ultimately, the client gets to make the final decision. Sure, you can make suggestions and offer advice but  the client is under no obligation to act on it. So every time you start getting all riled up because a client isn’t taking your advice on a project – remember that your duty as a freelancer is to make sure your work reflects your client’s vision – not your own.

Once you realize that all important point – your freelancing life will become easy.

Take time off

Work too hard for too long and no matter how much you love your work, you’ll burn out. Keep the flame alive by taking breaks.

About once a year (at least), take a couple of weeks off from work. You can travel, hike, camp, visit family and friends or do whatever you want. Stay home if you want to but don’t work. Let your clients know you’re taking a break. Submit work beforehand, refer someone else, delegate or ask for an extension. It’s not that hard to do.

And if you absolutely can’t take time off from work, take a working vacation. Lessen your work hours and go have fun the rest of the time. Work a couple of hours in the morning before heading out. Or work at the beach. The possibilities are endless.

And if you can’t even manage that, take a day off every two weeks.

Learn new things

If you’re a specialist, then before long you’ll start feeling stifled. Sure you’re exceptional at your chosen niche and love it but after a while it starts to feel tedious.

Avoid this feeling by learning new things. It will keep your interest in freelancing alive and give you additional skills as a freelancer.

Have fun!

If you’re not waking up looking forward to your work day, you’re not having fun and your freelancing is beginning to feel like a burden.

Working on personal projects is a great way to reduce stress and keep your interest in freelancing alive. Take some time out – even if it’s just an hour on the weekend, to work on something of your own.

Your personal project could be anything as long as it’s something you’re interested in and can’t wait to work on.

Not only will it revive your interest in freelancing but it might also give you an option of creating a passive income stream leaving you less dependent on client work. It’s a win-win situation!

What do you do to stay in love with freelancing? How do you keep the passion alive?

Samar Owais

Samar is a freelance writer, blogger and social media enthusiast. She offers rock solids tips for freelance writing success on her blog, The Writing Base along with a free 10-Step Guide To Turning Prospects Into Clients.

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Comments

  1. says

    This was a fantastic article!!! I used to think I had to work day and night – accomplish, accomplish, accomplish, and after reviewing my income tax paperwork realized it hasn’t made a dent in my financial status! So I decided recently to enjoy my life at night and work SMARTER in the day! I turn off my work at around dinner time, cook (which I love to do), and either read or watch TV shows that I’ve recorded. What a difference it’s made in my psyche! You just validated this with this article. Thank you :o).

  2. Mady says

    This is a great article! I’ve been freelancing for 3 years now, and I’ve been lucky to see my business double for each of those years. That said – yes, I’m always a sleepless night or two away from burning out, especially given the unpredictable nature of my work (I do translations and crisis management for a number of clients, as well as writing original business articles for their intranets).

    I think your tips are terrific, but have only one quibble: after many, many years in the professional world, I’ve realized that I’m a true night owl in that it takes me FOREVER to get started in the morning, while I can work steadily for hours on end at night. As such, I’ve “flipped” my work times to 11-7 pm (officially – unofficially I work much, much more) so I can sleep in in the mornings, and still feel fresh at midnight. This schedule can be less than great for family life sometimes, but that stress seems to have eased as my kids have grown older (single parent of 2 teens) and family time runs later in the evenings. So in some ways, understanding one’s own rhythms and personal preferences with respect to work styles goes a long way to assuaging possible frustration and anger at being unproductive or simply not sharp.

    I also refuse to feel guilty for taking five weeks off a year. I only need to check with the boss, and she thinks it’s fine. I think of it as fair compensation for all the long days and lost weekends, and I try to get far, far away, to places without easy internet access and Wifi. It does wonders for my mental health. :)

    Finally, I think that having interests that are completely outside of your professional realm (mine are cooking, gardening and acting in community theatre) allows you a full mental break from your work, and gives you the psychic breathing room to re-approach your work with fresh eyes. The last thing I want to do, at the end of a day of writing, is to write MORE… so I don’t work on personal writing projects during the week. Rather, I take time on the weekends (when I’m not on call) to work on these, or attend writing classes which provide social opportunities at the same time.

    Thank you for a really timely and very useful set of tips!

    • Samar Owais says

      Hey Mady, you raise some excellent points and I have to tell you – I learned from your comment! :)

      You’re so right about your own clock. I’ve always been a night owl too and if I let myself, I’ll probably work till 6 am. But I’ve had to change my ways since I had a baby. Now I work after she’s in bed, wake up a little later and work a couple of hours in the afternoon while she’s napping.

      Hehe and I’ve never felt guilty about taking time off either. I take a 6 week break every year. I’ve also tried everything: disconnecting completely, working part time, only keeping an eye on things and jumping in when necessary. This year I’ll be working during my break. Not going to mind that a bit since I’m wrapping up everything except the projects I love working on :)

      I need to work on having interests outside of my professional realm. I tend to go on picnics on good days, read or get on twitter to relax. Need to find more stuff to do that doesn’t involve a computer :)

  3. ajay patel says

    Really it bit difficult .. how to manage work and G.F…..

    i think you should fing G.F who can understand your work….
    i lost her due to my work… time complexity

  4. Stan de Wijs says

    Thanks for sharing!!

    Honestly I thought I was the only one with a problem taking breaks every now and then… I can really get carried away while working on a project, either the good way (inspiration) or the bad way at times (stress). Either way, it burns one out…

    I recognize so much in a couple of points of what is written above… But I never go to bed angry. Doesn’t matter if I had a really long and stressful day, but I never go to bed while in a bad mood.

    Maybe that is because I always read before I go to bed (even if it is just half a page with only one eye willing to actually figure out what the combinations of letters are trying to tell me).

    Thanks once more for this great article, it really woke me up :)

    • Samar Owais says

      Hey Stan. I envy you man. I had a real problem with going to bed angry. It was happening so often, I couldn’t sleep at all! That’s when I took a few days off and came back with a firm resolve to not work nights when I’m stuck on a project. Instead, now I wake up early, have a big breakfast and get to work :)

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      • Stan de Wijs says

        Hey Samar,

        Funny you also changed your rhythm to not working nights and getting up earlier… Just recently I decided to work by a weekly schedule because my days were becoming too long. Now I use the evenings to study or keeping myself updated about the software I use as well as working on my own projects (just for fun and I finally get to do something for my own website which has been under construction for the last year and a half…).

        I’ve been using this schedule for the last 2 weeks and I really feel a lot better, more focussed and doing my things with a lot more fun = better and faster results :)

        As a freelancer it is not always easy to manage your time well, especially when you are really inspired by a project. Myself I’ve been freelancing for about 6 years now and after a while people start looking for you, but the more clients you get the better you have to know how to manage your time and create a very clear communication with your clients about deadlines. That way everybody goes to bed happy :)

  5. Joey Davis says

    I appreciate this article a lot.

    Never going to bed angry is certainly a current goal, I think it begins for me with trying to think of something in a new way, and then the frustration occurs. And then you don’t sleep.

    Thanks again for writing this.

    I just realized I never comment on here, time to join the group!

    • Samar Owais says

      Hey Joey!

      So glad you left a comment on 1WD :) I can so relate to the sleepless nights! If we don’t watch out, freelancing can take it’s toll on us :)

  6. says

    I’m getting ready to go freelance in the near future and this is great advice. I work 40 hours a week designing for a web development company then work in the evenings improving my skills as much as possible. My advice is set a designated time every week that is off limits for work. Time for you or your family. I don’t work on Sundays and take the time to spend with my family and friends. I think working online constantly can cause other issues, like your ability to be social when your social interactions become minimal due to work. Plus it gets difficult to be inspired when you don’t break away from time to time. This was an excellent read and great advice for preventing and managing stress.

    • Samar Owais says

      Spot on David. Family time is very important. Even if you’re single, take time off to spend it with yourself if not friends.

      Nothing zaps inspiration and kills love like working non-stop.

  7. says

    I don’t freelance yet, but I work 40 hours with a development company and work evenings making myself a better designer/developer. I have made the rule that I don’t do any work on Sundays. This is family and fun time. I would add that designating a time off every week as your time to unwind. With all the work to do, trends to follow, and things to learn in this industry, it’s easy to wind up plugged in all the time. It will also make it difficult to be social when you’re offline. I can see how taking some time off is essential to survive as a freelancer. Great article and advice.

  8. says

    Great tips! In the Learn New Things category, I try to do at least one new thing with each project. It doesn’t have to be something major, or even something that the client can see or notice, just something new. It could be something as simple as streamlining the way I manage my to-do list, or something bigger. Just as long as it’s new. This helps to keeps the love alive.

    • Samar says

      Hey Joey!

      So glad you left a comment on 1WD :) I can so relate to the sleepless nights! If we don’t watch out, freelancing can take it’s toll on us :)

    • Samar Owais says

      That’s an excellent thing to do Rosie! Even if you don’t have the time to learn something new, try new stuff in the work you’re already doing. Brilliant! :)

  9. says

    There is some great advice there. I always struggle with the take time off part. I burn out at least once a month without fail. I think taking a day off every week would help me. :)

    • Samar Owais says

      Weekends are important Dean. Forget a vacation – you need a weekend off! Hope you stop working 7 days a week soon :)

    • Samar Owais says

      Do that Dorothy – even if it’s just a weekend where you unplug and leave work at your office. Freelancers deserve their time off!

  10. Zlatko Todorovski says

    I can only add to the “waking up angry” part, one way not to go to bed angry is to take 20 minute naps whenever you feel tired or stressed during the day, a 20 minute nap is ideal, because it won’t de-rail your biological clock and sleep schedule but it will relax you a bit and it will help ease tension.

    • Samar Owais says

      You raise a valid point Zlatko. I’m a strong supporter of naps. 20-30 minutes of shut eye (I can never take 5-10 minutes cat naps for some reason) go a long way in boosting productivity and releasing stress.

  11. says

    I guess ultimately “staying in love” comes from being satisfied – as much as I have to work late nights, rush projects, deal with demanding and unresponsive clients, I often reflect back and realize that “hey I’ve help this bunch of people with their website”.

    That gives me satisfaction.

    You have great tips as well. I think taking a regular break is useful (and remember NOT to bring your computer with you!)

    • Samar Owais says

      Hey Kian,

      I’ve always looked forward to breaks. I use them as a stress reliever. Every time I’m going crazy over a project I keep thinking – I’ll be going on a break in a few months. I’ll be able to relax.

      Not only does it relaxes me but the idea of a vacation coming up keeps me working hard!

  12. Zlatko Todorovski says

    I can only add to the “going to bed angry” part, you don’t really have to stay in front of the computer the whole day, you can take 20 minute breaks during the day when you feel a bit tired. It does wonders.