The three biggest struggles freelancers face in finding work – and how to overcome them

It’s not easy building a freelance business from scratch. We explore the three biggest struggles freelancers face in finding work – and how to overcome them.

Over the summer we asked our freelancer readers to tell us what they’d learned about freelancing. We wanted to know – among other things – how they found clients, what advice they wished they’d been given when they started out, and whether they were happy with their rates.

We also asked them what their biggest struggles were. Here’s what we learned – and what advice we can share to help you if you too find these things hard.

What are the three biggest struggles freelancers face?

The biggest struggle freelancers reported (over 39% of respondents listed this) is finding clients. This was followed by promoting themselves (22%) and pricing their services (18%).

These three struggles far outweighed the remaining options (getting paid, knowing how to invoice properly, getting legal advice and managing time. Other difficulties people mentioned including isolation, knowing when to say no to new clients, and juggling work-life-family commitments.

If any of these struggles are familiar to you, we hope you find the following advice for each of the three biggest battles helpful.

1) How to find freelance clients

The answer to the biggest struggle that freelancers cited lay in another question in the same questionnaire. We asked respondents for their best strategy for finding new clients. From this, we compiled 47 ideas for finding freelance clients (you can read all 47 ideas here).

From this list, two ideas in particular stood out. These were mentioned by freelancers more than any other – and we’re not surprised as we’ve certainly found both essential for building a thriving freelance business ourselves.

What are these two strategies? They’re networking and word of mouth referrals. Meeting as many potential clients as you can (or people who might know potential clients), and making sure you always deliver the best possible work and service are two guaranteed ways you can ensure that new clients find out about you – and use you again and recommend you.

So if you too are finding it hard to secure new clients, we recommend reading our 47 ideas, then making a list of the ones you can try. And absolutely ensure that you’re networking as much as possible, and providing clients with the best work and service you can.

2) How to promote your freelance services

The second biggest struggle freelancers listed was promoting themselves. So what’s the solution to this? The straightforward answer is to ensure you’re visible where your clients are looking for or thinking about work.

And for most freelancers this is LinkedIn. Your clients may have a presence on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, but for most people, LinkedIn is where they look for people with professional skills to help them.

So, if you aren’t already, start investing time in LinkedIn. Ensure your profile is up to date, and start writing and sharing content on there that demonstrates your knowledge and experience. We also recommend connecting and engaging with your ideal clients on the platform.

As a rule we personally don’t recommend sending cold DMs to people in the hope to secure work. (It’s an instant turn-off when we receive them.) Instead, work at building a reputation and relationship organically over time. (If you need ideas, here are 10 ways you can use LinkedIn to find freelance clients.)

There’s one more piece of advice we have for promoting yourself – one we often recommend to freelancers. And that’s finding and owning a niche.

That niche can be the type of industry or client you service, or type of work (or way you work). A good niche will be something you can genuinely claim expertise or professional interest in, and will be big enough to ensure enough work, but not so large that it’s already saturated with competition.

Niching takes confidence, but if you get it right it will pay off. You’ll find it easier and quicker to build a reputation in a niche, and can usually charge a higher price (people will pay more for specialists). Over time, you’ll also find that people will start approaching you, rather than needing to continually chase new clients.

3) How to price your services

We’re not surprised that so many freelancers listed pricing as one of their biggest struggles. Most freelancers (and small business owners) we’ve spoken to and worked with have found pricing tough. And almost without exception, all have undercharged as a result.

There’s a misconception among too many people that if you charge less you’ll find it easier to find clients and secure work, your clients will love you more, and you’ll feel better about what you do.

But this is a lie. Often by charging too little you’ll price yourself out of jobs. And the clients who DO take up your bargain quotes are often the ones who don’t value the quality of your work, jus how much they can get for their money. As a result they tend to be pickier, less satisfied, and want more from you.

As a result, you’ll feel more resentful about the work you’re doing – and the time it’s taking – and more willing to cut corners to get it done. Long term, this is incredibly damaging, both to your passion for your work and your professionalism,

It also means you’re less likely to benefit from that value work of mouth promotion we mentioned earlier.

So, if you’re a freelancer, we implore you to look at your pricing properly. Never price by guesswork, and never reduce your prices in the hope of securing a contract. (We also don’t recommend working for clients who try to haggle with you once you submit a quote – it’s a warning sign of someone who doesn’t truly respect the value of what you do.)

If you need help with pricing your services, we recommend watching our Pricing Masterclass. It costs just £45 for lifetime access, and should more than repay your investment many times over, as once you’ve learned the psychology and strategies we share, you’ll change your approach to pricing for life.

Indeed, many people who have watched the class updated their prices immediately afterwards and recouped the cost of the class. One freelancer told us that she made 12x the cost of the class back within 24 hours of watching it after changing her fees on a quote.

Read more freelance advice

Over the past few years we’ve published a wealth of advice about freelancing. You can scroll through our articles and interviews with freelancers here.

You can also read helpful advice relating to the three biggest struggles here:

Photo by Brooke Cagle