The Biggest Frustration Finding Work When You’re Just Starting Out

The Biggest Frustration Finding Work When You’re Just Starting Out

Clients are not on your schedule. They’re on their own.

That can be difficult to remember when you’re sitting there doing nothing, waiting for the phone to ring from a client you know wants to hire you. I happen to be dealing with this very situation right now.

The best client I’ve had so far on UpWork, who paid me $3,000 for a couple of nice projects, made me wait over two weeks to get started. During that time my mind was racing. Are they no longer interested? They said they were interested. They must have lost interest. That sucks.

None of that was true of course. They are a terrific client. I did a great job for them and hope to do more work for them in the future. So, what was the problem? They were on their own schedule. They had no way of knowing that I was sitting around doing nothing waiting to get started on their project. Nor would they have cared had they known. As things turned out they had their own fires to fight.

When you’re first starting out on your own, you will definitely encounter clients who don’t respond to you as quickly as you’d like. Some will disappear forever, never to return, while others will pleasantly surprise you by hiring you after you’d given up on them. It’s just part of the deal.

So, how do you combat this waiting-around-for-the-client-to-call challenge? Two ways.

If you’re like most freelancers (that’s me), the first thing you’ll do is over book yourself in an effort to make sure you have no downtime. Say yes to everything and work like crazy. There’s nothing wrong with that either, although you may not be able to maintain the pace forever.

The second way to combat the waiting around problem is to switch your business model to a retainer-based business.

Once you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ll probably have established ongoing business relationships with some clients. Clients who you really enjoy working for and pay you fairly with a consistent amount of work. At some point it may make sense to switch over to retainer-based compensation. For a set monthly fee, say $2,000, you agree to do all the work they assign you—within reason—in your area of expertise.

Retainer-based business comes with the understanding that some months you’ll work too little for what you receive and other months you’ll work too much. The theory is that it will average out over the long run. And if it doesn’t, you can always raise your rates.

The moral of the story is that one of the skills you need to acquire immediately after beginning your freelancing career is patience. Not something I’m particularly good at, but I’m trying.

Until next time.


Also published on Medium.

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