We all know it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. Sometimes, freelancers are so focused on clients and jobs and deliverables that we forget to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
Yet that perspective can highlight issues with our freelancing businesses that can really undermine our long-term potential—issues that, while dangerous, could be solved easily enough if only we noticed them before they got out of hand.
Here are three signs that your freelancing career could be headed for trouble.
1. It’s difficult to prize yourself out of bed in the morning
If you have trouble getting up each day because you’re worried about, or dreading, what you have to do, you have a problem.
It might be that you need to take action to save an ailing project, decide to cut ties with a client, or change your business focus. Alternatively, the problem might be something to do with the way freelancing does—or doesn’t—fit in with other aspects of your life.
Whatever the case, if you’re not enthused about getting up most days, you might as well go back to working for the man. Freelancing’s supposed to be more enjoyable, right? If it’s not, it’s time to reassess.
2. You’re constantly short-tempered
Anger, frustration, and stress make us short-tempered. Cursing errant keystrokes or mouse-clicks, telling yourself your client’s a buffoon, and barking at anyone who interrupts your work are pretty common examples of the kinds of behavior that can belie mounting trouble.
Again, you’re supposed to be enjoying this, so if you’re feeling anger or frustration, something’s likely amiss. Instead of pressing grumpily on, have a think about the possible sources of that stress, and ways you might be able to reduce it.
3. You’re always broke—or near to it
Since freelancing puts us in control of our own financial destinies (at least to some degree), it’s not likely to stay satisfying for long if you can’t earn enough money to put food on the table.
The feeling that you’re always broke can be stressful, but even if it’s not, in the long-run it can foster growing dissatisfaction—particularly if your salaried friends enjoy nice bonuses or pay rises the likes of which you can only dream of.
If you equate freelancing with a lack of funds, you probably won’t stick with it for long—especially if you have any financial goals.
What should you do?
These three signs don’t need to signal the beginning of the end—but they might if you don’t attend to them as soon as they crop up.
While we can’t expect to bounce out of bed every morning and gleefully immerse ourselves in luxuriously remunerated work, if these kinds of tensions go on for any length of time, they can damage your enthusiasm for feelancing, and your ability to make a go of it.
I tend to use these signs as motivators to change my business—to try something new, or experiment with a different approach. Sometimes, even entertaining ideas about ways I could solve a problem gives me a sense of control with or understanding of it that removes the tension.
Freelancing is a choice, and you can change your mind. But if you like the benefits freelancing provides, these ideas should help you avoid making knee-jerk decisions about your freelance career.
What signs tell you that you need to rethink what you’re doing in your business? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
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