Take it or leave it, freelance talents and their freelance career are in a meaningful mutual relationship of financial gains and work-life balance. None flourishes at the expense of the other, nor can any stand without the other's support. Therefore, freelancers should be sensitive to when their career is heading towards a divorce. I've detailed ten signs freelancers should watch out for in that regard and what we can do to prevent that divorce from been finalized.
You are a job warrior
Though "warrior" is usually associated with heroes (think Mel Gibson's Braveheart), being a job warrior isn't the sweetest compliment to receive as a freelancer. You are a job warrior if you're always submitting proposals for jobs at the drop of a hat without first getting acquainted with the project requirements. At best, you waste your time and the prospective client's time. Sending generic proposals or proposals for jobs you are not qualified for is a huge turn-off. Most employers will neither reply nor accept your proposal, and you'll likely get exhausted or feel empty.
Before you think of quitting, have you thought about putting some effort into crafting tailored proposals specific to a project's needs and within your skill set?
You are busy
"Busyness" would have been a needed trait if freelancer's successful careers are connected to their busy schedules. Unfortunately, it's not. It is connected to their productivity level. Doubt that? OK! Take some time to review your super tight schedules. Chances are you've not realized how much time you've spent and may not know if your rewards like earnings, lessons learned, etc are worth it. Freelancers are likely not getting it right either, and that could be their career's undoing.
Choose productivity. Creatively engage with specific projects while keeping track of each hour spent on them and the results. To improve your productivity level, tools like Slack, Hourspent, Trello, etc are yours for the taking. As a rule, make it a habit to develop a guided to-do list that maps out your time-bound projects in the order you will execute them.
You're a Mr. KIA (Know-It-All)
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a know-it-all is "one who claims to know everything; one who disdains advice." If you think you're much more knowledgeable than other professionals in your area of expertise, welcome to the club!
A know-it-all is a personality disorder constantly triggered by the need to feel superior, even though one ends up being a jerk. Since no man is a compendium of knowledge, it then becomes an absolute necessity that you associate, consult, and collaborate with other freelancers, especially while working in teams.
Broaden your industry knowledge from books, podcasts, and forums organized by professionals within and outside your location. Partner with others to learn from and share with them. It's interesting how much you will profit from the knowledge shared.
You blame your clients
Someone has got to take the blame after all. It's convenient to point accusing fingers at anyone rather than ourselves. In a typical freelancer-client relationship, it's the same, each holding the other liable for everything that goes wrong. While there's no perfect client or employer, there is only one person you can change or be held responsible for, and that's you. Your client's role notwithstanding, you have to hold yourself accountable if the project outcome goes south and work on fixing your relationship with your clients. It takes collaboration with your client to fix what has been damaged.
Nonetheless, it's healthier to hold a non-blame perspective on anything involving a project. Resist the urge to bring in personal sentiments in your professional work. This will make it easy for you to commit your effort and time to keep working at it (revising, adapting, tweaking) until the result is satisfactory.
You're settling for a mediocre status quo
Flexibility is one of the perks talents choose to freelance over a traditional office job. Despite that, many freelance careers flop because freelance talents run their business the same way, year in, year out. But if the goal is comfort, is anything wrong with running a business in a familiar pattern, aka following a status quo? The problem with settling with a status quo, albeit an average one, is that it stagnates the growth of your freelance career. No matter how cozy your new achievements, take a chance at breaking the glass ceiling with never-done-before goals. Every ambitious freelancer knows that for every conquered mountain, there are ten others to subdue. Consequently, they set goals and more goals. That makes them both anti-status quo and achievers, even if they fall below their set goals.
You avoid the hard truth
Truth, they say, is bitter. It only takes the very courageous to audit their lives and stand to be hit by the hard truth in any endeavor. The truth is freelancers who ignore or overlook people advice or well-meaning opinion is putting their freelance careers at risk. No doubt, hard truths that make you stronger and better sometimes come from unexpected sources. Some freelance talents are more likely to shut the truth out if they dwell on how embarrassing it might make them feel. Take comfort in the fact that the bitter truth always produces a better freelance talent. Therefore, embrace them.
You fear failure
Many of us experienced failure from childhood and were heavily criticized for it by adults. If you can relate, there's this eerie feeling of disaster that leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth each time you want to attempt something new. That's the fear of failure knocking with some pieces of baggage like past negative experiences you've had after you screwed something up.
Once freelancers let those fears outshine their self-confidence and it'll hinder their chances of success not just as a freelancer but also in their relationships with others. It's just a matter of time for such freelancers to kiss their career goodbye. Successful freelancers like Aline Brosh McKenna had their stints with failure. Like McKenna, they persevered until their big breaks in their industries. For one, the fear of failure is just an illusion; how will you fail when you've not tried at all?
You're not disciplined
Maybe not but freelancers in general juggle responsibilities and have no one over them to control or oversee their day-to-day freelance tasks. With freelancers competing against each other, it can be difficult for them to focus their attention on a single job awarded to them. Unfortunately, quite a few can resist applying for more freelance jobs once they are hired, the impulses are irresistible.
Maintaining focus, and seeing projects they are hired to do satisfactorily completed need some persistence and willpower.
Some of the few that pushed through sacrificed a lot when the deadline is super tight, and the payment super low. They end up jeopardizing their health due to poor sleep, eating habits, etc. If you see yourself in the description above, it's unlikely your freelance career is thriving as these habits will likely heighten your risk of obesity and diabetes, etc.
Self-discipline allows freelancers to give their full attention to projects they are hired to do. Freelance talents with a good sense of integrity and perseverance are more likely to focus on a particular job until it's completed. These traits signal many things to employers or clients. First, it signals that such freelancer prioritizes their work. Second, it indicates that such freelancer is willing and able to roll up their sleeves and commit themselves to their work. Not only is self-discipline an effective tool for freelancers looking to accomplish more work each day, but it can be motivating for their clients to pay them when due.
You don't take care of your health
Health is wealth; if you're frequently falling sick while working from home, chances are you aren't taking good care of your health. One of the culprits in ill-health is work stress, which eventually affects one's mental health for the worse. As a freelancer, it's easy to take on more jobs than you can handle, given that you might be afraid of losing your loyal customers. Though a valid reason, you must learn to say no to the jobs that drain you unnecessarily and take up freelance jobs you can deliver without jeopardizing your health.
Failure to rest adequately, drink a sufficient amount of water daily, exercise, and eat healthy portions of food, jeopardize your health and well-being. Frequent unexplained low energy levels and long-term absence due to sickness can unnerve even your most loyal customer. After all, their business comes first, just as your health should be your top priority.
You're losing your sense of value
Your self-worth is synonymous with your reflection on a mirror; if what you see is blurred or dark for any reason, you can hardly tell who the person you're staring at is. But if the image you behold is clear and bright, seeing your shape and lines would be effortless. Anytime you feel that you're losing touch with your self-confidence and why you're freelancing in the first place, your freelance career is heading towards divorce.
Whether the feeling came suddenly or crept in gradually, it's necessary to take a step back to identify the cause. Ask yourself: is it the nature of the projects I've been handling or the kind of clients I've been entertaining of late? Are more contracts not forthcoming? What could be the problem? Identify what the problem could be and work on fixing them.
Always remind yourself that it's normal for your feeling of self-worth to drop low once in a while. Even celebrated freelancers experience that because they too are human like you.