Most freelance frustration starts with misunderstanding something about business.
Anytime I hear someone say they’re frustrated with not earning enough, not getting clients, or not knowing where to focus, once we dig a little deeper, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that the root of their problem comes down to missing some fundamental truth about how businesses operate.
That’s why in this post, we’re going to go over 10 of those truths so that you can get over your freelance hurdles a little bit faster.
I want you to keep this list and read over it occasionally — chances are that internalizing at least one of them will be a big help in improving the results you see from your freelance business.
They’re problem oriented.
Yes, businesses want to make money…that’s a fact no freelancer can afford to forget.
What most people who hire and work with freelancers feel much more immediately though, are business problems. Those can range from acquiring the best talent, to improving brand reputation and yes, making more money, but ultimately, freelancers get hired to provide value by addressing those problems in some way.
Businesses aren’t very efficient when it comes to labor.
It’s nice to think that jobs (and the people who fill them) all neatly line up to address every business problem that pops up, but that’s just not true.
Problems change. Businesses grow, shrink, and merge. Products and services are introduced and retired and in those changes, needs pop up that the current employment structure doesn’t fill. Freelancers are often used to fill those holes.
They sometimes (a lot of times) let problems fester.
Pretty much any potential business client you run across will have a whole slew of problems just sitting around, asking to be solved.
This means lots of opportunity for freelancers, but also, acute pain points aside, a challenge in making a case for why that same business should work with you anytime soon. (Which is why marketing usually takes more than one — or even seven — rounds of contact.)
No business is just in “business”. There’s always some level of specialization and that specialization is something potential clients give lots of extra points to freelancers for aligning with.
This is why choosing a niche is so critical as a freelancer. Just like companies want to see engineering degrees or experience working in customer service, they like to see the same thing from the people they bring on the help solve their problems. (So seriously consider leaving those generalist days behind and pick a starter niche.)
They have their own personalities and culture.
For most freelancers (unless you spend a lot of time on-site), the “culture fit” game (and the issues that come along with it) is greatly minimized. Thing is, work style still matters.
Some companies really are fast-paced and less organized (they’re not just being annoying in job listings for fun) and others are laid back and precise, so being able to read and potentially align with that style is an important skill to develop as a freelancer.
Different individuals have different needs.
This applies to businesses as a whole, but also individuals within an organization.
Even small businesses of two or three people can be home to a range of perspectives and challenges. While this is why it’s important to establish one point of contact, your work will always be in front of more than one person.
Being able to identify differences is a big advantage for any freelancer.
They go through seasons.
A really beneficial lesson I learned from a marketing client years ago was to push hard around Q4 when prospects were doing end of year budgeting and planning for the next year since that’s the time they’re more open to bringing on new projects and expenses (you) for the next 12 months.
This is true on a quarterly basis, but also monthly and even weekly. Some times are busier than others. Some times are for planning, others are for producing. You’re an indie professional, but it still helps to be mindful of the rhythm of the people who pay you.
They need inspiration too.
Being able to see potential results helps all of us get through rough spots and difficult decisions.
That’s true for you as a freelancer and it’s true for your clients too. While you’re not necessarily trying to paint a picture of big, fully-solved business problem wrapped up in a bow (that’s where consultants come in), you do want to make sure you see yourself as part of improving a business and then do a little work to pass that vision on.
They like working with the same people.
If you’re dealing with someone who hires people, you’re dealing with a business that prefers long-term relationships.
Just because your relationship with a business might not be etched in an employment contract doesn’t mean they don’t want to keep you available for as long as possible. Freelancing is about building relationships and clients can pop in and out of your life for months and years…maybe even decades.
They have their own processes.
Flexibility is your friend.
I have a few different ways I accept payment, and that’s because part of getting paid quickly (besides working with clients who don’t have poor payment records) is giving them the fewest reasons possible to delay payment.
The same goes though, for project management, email, file exchange, calls, you name it. That might sound inconvenient at first, but the more systems and styles you learn to get comfortable with, the more versatile you’ll become as a freelancer.
Businesses definitely aren’t people, but there’s a whole lotta humanity to go around within them. That includes all the variation and diversity that can be both interesting and entertaining if you take the right perspective. Keep that in mind and you’ll be well on your way to mastering all the opportunities freelancing has to offer.