We all have ups and downs when we freelance. Clients sometimes don't pay on time, and it's stressful. Projects can be soul-destroying as clients micro-manage whatever we do. Or sometimes work goes so quiet, the worry stops us from being productive with existing customers.
If you've been having more low points than good times lately, then it might be time to take stock and shake things up a little. As creative freelancers, it's all too easy to go down a road that is taking us in the wrong direction and making us unhappy.
Yes, you've got to pay the bills, but you've also got to enjoy running a business, otherwise – what's the point? If you've been lacking focus and feeling resentful about things lately, then read my tips on how to gain back passion for your freelance work and be happy.
Remember why you went freelance
We all went freelance for a reason. Remember why you went solo and focus on that. More freedom? More money? More opportunities to learn and grow? No one bossing you around (apart from clients, of course)? Why did you go freelance? What benefits did you want to get out of it?
Whenever I think about giving up (and I rarely do), I remember what it was like working for someone else (lower pay, fewer holidays, being bossed around and told what to do) and I soon cheer up again. Remember why you went solo to stay positive. Read these reasons for further encouragement.
Champion your achievements
It's easy to forget the positives. Look on the bright side by remembering your successes. Have you won any awards? Stick the certificates on your wall above your desk. Had any kind emails from happy clients? Print them out and put them somewhere visible. Got a project you're especially proud? Frame it and put it on your desk. Sometimes we have to remember how far we've come to appreciate the way things are.
If work's the issue, reassess
If you love freelancing but currently hate the work you're doing, then you need to reevaluate. Ask yourself these questions: What do you enjoy about your work the most? How did you feel during your last job? What sparks your passion?
A simple tweak to your services on your website and social media profiles might also do the trick. An email to existing clients about a 'new service' you're offering could work. It might be that a specific client is draining your energy, so can you talk to them and improve things? Could you aim to move away from that nightmare client by replacing them with someone better?
Make the most of your flexibility
Being a business owner does bring more freedom and flexibility than employment. If I want to, I can take breaks whenever I like. If I'm not productive, I can go to a coffee shop and read a book.
Don't forget these benefits of freelancing. Enjoy flexibility and freedom. Oh, and you don't have to adhere to the 9-5 like everyone else. Just work when it suits you.
Sort out your workspace
Creatives need their workspace to be inspiring, comfortable, and somewhere they love to spend lots of time. Take a look at your work environment. Do you like it? Is it filled with your favourite things? Is your desk the right height? Is your chair comfortable and ergonomic? It helps to make your workspace an environment you love.
For example, a friend of mine was feeling a bit down about work recently. His desk was facing a blank wall, so I suggested he moved his desk to sit in front of his window. The difference it made to his productivity and happiness was amazing. Evaluate your workspace to make yourself happier.
Meet other freelancers regularly
Sometimes, isolation can be the reason behind a lack of passion. Working from home and alone can dent your motivation, so get out there! Attend networking events, business breakfasts, tweet-ups. Take your laptop to a co-working space or friendly coffee shop. Once you've met a few other freelancers, maintain that network and be there for each other. You don't have to be alone. There are plenty of opportunities these days to beat isolation.
Up the day rate, boost your profile and get better work
Ok, so if work is getting you down, it might be because you're taking on every single project that lands in your lap, including ones you'd rather ignore. It's a good sign that you're not charging enough for your work. So here's a new challenge for you – over the next six months, start increasing your rates with each new enquiry and see what happens.
Also, market yourself more aggressively to attract and win higher quality clients because you want your portfolio to start showcasing more impressive projects, ones that will attract bigger brands. Read these tips on 100 inspiring ways to market your business.
Ultimately, you want to get to that comfortable stage where you're able to pick and choose projects. But you can only do this when a) you've got enough work coming in, b) your day rate allows you to relax a little and not take on so much workload, and c) you've got a portfolio and some decent clients. It's also worth having a reserve of cash, in case of emergencies and 'quiet times', to give you peace of mind.
Don't believe it's possible? A friend of mine went from charging £140 per day, working seven days a week for small clients while half killing himself in the process to charging £420 per day, working two or three days per week, being in extremely high demand and travelling the world to work for some of the biggest agencies and brands. It is possible.
Take a holiday
If all else fails and you're feeling especially burnt out, there is nothing like a full-on holiday to help you reassess things and figure out your next move. When I say 'holiday', I mean… leave the laptop at home, switch off the mobile phone and step away from social media. Completely relax and allow yourself to give the brain a rest. You'll be surprised how refreshed you'll feel and how easily you'll figure things out when you return to your desk.