Freelancing is an awesome career.
This just needs to be said.
I mean, come on, what other “job” gives you the possibility to take some time off whenever you wish, and without even notifying anyone?
What other job lets you be your own boss and set your own rules?
What other job gives you complete control over how much you earn?
What other job lets you work at home?
All this makes for a valid argument why half of us perhaps will end up freelancing by 2020, after all.
The Freelancing Passion is Gone
Yada yada yada.
We all know the fairytale.
But the reality tends to be different.
In practice, when you’re freelancing, it’s pretty common to take hardly take any time off. Freelancers have dozens of bosses instead of one. And they often feel like they have no control over what they do or how much they make, whatsoever.
This doesn’t paint the best of pictures.
In fact, if you’re not careful, your career can be shorter than that of a child movie star (while also being less profitable).
I’ve been there.
I dealt with the dark side of freelancing at least a couple of times. Overall, the feeling of losing your passion for something is nothing nice, and especially when that something has a direct connection to your ability to put food on the table.
There are many early signs of freelancing burnout, and also list the methods to fight it and get back on track.
You’re Running for President of Procrastinationland
Oh did I. In early 2014, I should have changed my Twitter bio to, “Vote Karol K 2014 for Procrastionationland” or something.
And procrastination is a funny thing when you look at it. It’s simply the practice of tricking yourself into thinking that you’re doing important work right now when in practice, you’re just rebuilding the tag structure of your email inbox.
See what I did there? “Rebuilding the tag structure of your email inbox” does sound kind of like work. And that’s the whole trick that procrastination plays on us.
Procrastination is actually a great indicator that you’re losing your passion for something. It’s the discreet moment when you decide to do something else, instead of the thing that you actually should do, and you’re justifying it by convincing yourself that this new thing is equally as important.
And it gets absurd.
For some reason, procrastination isn’t that easy to notice when you’re at work, but it virtually doesn’t occur at all when taking care of non-work related things.
For example, have you ever procrastinated eating a pizza by making sure that your plate was at the perfect distance from your elbow?
Beating procrastination can be easier or harder depending on how deeply consumed you are by it. But in general, try going through this two-step process:
- Recognize if you’re procrastinating. Whenever you suspect you might be procrastinating right now, ask yourself these questions: “Can I charge my client for what I’m doing now?” If not, follow up with, “Can this lead to charging my client?” If that’s a no again, you’re procrastinating.
- Snap out of it. This can be done by looking at the list of tasks that you need to do as part of the client project, and taking care of the smallest task first—the no-stress task. This will get you in the right mindset and help you get started.
You Haven’t Raised Your Rates in a Year
I dare you to go back to your “my rates” Excel or Google spreadsheet (if you have one) and check the last modification date.
Listen up, I can’t emphasize this enough:
To be satisfied with your work, you need to be increasing your rates constantly.
And I do mean constantly.
Here’s why: The number one downside of freelancing is that you’re exchanging your time for money. And you do have a limited amount of time.
Therefore, to constantly be able to make more money, you either have to be: a) raising your rates, or b) working ungodly hours.
You choose your path.
I do have a simple yet extreme solution/fix for you though.
Raise your rates for every new client.
But only a little. Even raising your rates by $1 an hour will still give you a noticeable annual growth.
You Don’t Even Know How Much You Make
This is probably a way bigger problem than not raising your rates.
Some freelancers don’t know how much they actually make every month.
The reason is that many projects tend to span across a number of weeks, which makes it difficult to calculate how much money you’re making in a regular 30-day period.
What I’m getting at is that it’s very easy to start losing your passion if you haven’t seen a transfer in four weeks, even despite the fact that you’ve landed a big five-figure gig. It’s only once you fire up Excel and put those numbers next to one another that you can have a glance at your actual monthly earnings.
Do this regularly.
Sometimes all you need to boost your confidence is to see that things are actually going forward and that you’re able to improve your bottom line step-by-step each month.
You Have Difficulties Meeting Deadlines
Deadlines are fine as a concept. But only as long as you are able to meet them consistently.
Over time, and especially if you suspect you might be losing passion for your work, deadlines become significantly more difficult to keep up with.
It starts innocently. One day you think, “I don’t feel like working on this right now. There’s still time. I can start tomorrow.”
Then you do it again. And again. And you get into the habit of beginning your work later than you used to, giving yourself less time to complete your projects.
Before you know it, this builds up and makes your work more stressful entirely.
And finally it happens, you’ve missed a deadline.
How to prevent this?
Well, the best scenario is to just come back to proper planning and introduce better work discipline. But if you’re after a quicker fix, then just set your deadlines further into the future than the scope of the project would suggest.
This will give you a buffer to take care of your previous projects and give the new ones some room to breathe.
After you’ve put out those fires, you can go back to better long-term planning and discipline.
You Fail to Build Systems
Systems may seem counterintuitive to freelancing, but are perhaps the secret weapon.
To some extent, a freelancer’s work is repetitive, or at least some aspects of it.
I mean, yes, you do have to approach every client individually in order to provide them with a tailor-made solution that’s simply going to work for them. But things such as planning, proposing a deal, wireframing, invoicing, brand management, and so on, can be systematized.
The way I see it, a system is a sequence of steps that gets you from start to a given result.
You might ask, “Why is not working on systems an indication that I’m losing my passion?”
Essentially, the main reason for building systems is to make our (professional) lives easier and our work more effective…to make it better.
Just to give you an example, if you’re passionate about bodybuilding, you will do whatever you can to make your body look better. You will find ways to exercise more effectively. You will find ways to improve your diet. You will systematize, to the extent possible.
Therefore, if you’re not doing that, maybe you’re just not passionate enough.
Okay, so how to get back on track here.
I’d say help yourself to the things that other people have already put out there. Use that as a stepping-stone to building your own systems.
For example, if you’re having trouble communicating with clients or pitching your services to them, learn from the guys over at Bidsketch.
Ruben Gamez, the CEO, really knows his game in terms of client proposals and he’s sharing “the ropes” through his proposal resources.
This includes templates, methods, and … you guessed it … systems. You can use this info to first master his methods and then work on your own versions.
Maybe you’re struggling with remaining productive while freelancing.
How about trying the Getting Things Done methodology?
Warning: This is a huge system.
It’s designed to help you get your work done more efficiently and even figure out what actually needs to be done in the first place. There’s just been a new edition of the book, updated for 2015.
You Haven’t Been on Vacation
Let’s end the list with something that’s actually quite simple to notice.
Be honest and tell me, or rather say it in your head just for yourself, when was your last vacation?
Is the answer, “more than 10 months ago” or even more?
If so, you just have to be slowly burning out at this point. There’s no way that’s not the case.
The longer you work continuously, the more tired you are and the more burned out you’re beginning to feel. In excess, even the most awesome activity can start being a bit tiring after a while.
Therefore, what you can do is this:
- Create a plan on how you’re going to either complete your current projects in the next 30 days or bring them to a point where you can put them on hold.
- Work during those 30 days to do what you’ve planned above.
- Take at least 14 days off. No work. No email. No nothing.
By-the-way, setting vacation time aside, it’s also important to take frequent breaks throughout your workday. For example, people who take 17-minute breaks every 52 minutes of work have been proven to be the most productive.
We’ve covered six signs that you’re losing your passion for freelancing, but there’s surely a lot more things out there just lurking to kill your morale and stop you from enjoying what—as mentioned before—is otherwise an awesome career.
What do you think? Have you ever faced any of the problems mentioned on this list? What else would you add?
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