5 self-employment struggles and how to cope

self-employment struggles

Being self-employed is great. You get to make your own schedule. Decide what projects you want to work on. Work from the comfort of your own home. But no good thing is perfect, and neither is self-employment. Today, I wanted to discuss 5 self-employment struggles and how to cope with them.

Whether you’re already self-employed or simply thinking about starting your own business: I hope that this post will make your life just a little bit easier.

1. Unpaid invoices

Let’s face it: your clients don’t care that you have to pay rent. Or buy food, for that matter. So, some of them might not be so keen on paying you on time. Or ever.

In my case, my biggest client recently decided to stop paying me. Out of nowhere, because I’ve been working with them for over a year now. And everything went smoothly until a couple of months ago.

Since then, I’ve sent countless emails that remained unanswered. Begged my main contact to help me with all my unpaid invoices. Finally received part of the payment with a 2-month delay. Only to start the whole process again the next month.

Not getting paid truly is one of the biggest self-employment struggles. It can be extremely time-consuming, annoying, and discouraging. But there are a few ways to cope with that.

Stand your ground

Firstly, don’t ever just “wait and see” if maybe they’ll pay one day. You deserve to be paid. On time.

Once the deadline for your invoice has passed, you have to get on it right away. Otherwise, they’ll just assume that they’ll get away with not paying you!

Ask the person who knows you best

A great tip to get your money is to contact the person you usually work for. Sure, they’re probably not responsible for paying you. But they know best what valuable work you do, and will be most inclined to help you get compensation for it.

In France, hierarchy plays a big role when trying to get things done. So, I always contact the manager of the team I work for. Thankfully, she is super nice and helpful and has more than once gotten accounting to finally pay me.

Just be sure to stay extremely friendly whenever you ask for help. No matter how frustrated you are: it’s not the person’s fault. Don’t unload your anger on them. Don’t threaten to stop doing the work.

Instead, simply remind them that you deserve to be paid for the work you do. And don’t forget to say thank you! After all, it’s not their job, so they’re doing this as a favour to you.

Suspend your work

If all else fails, all that’s left to do is to suspend your services altogether until you receive the full amount due. However, I would only do this if I had no other way, as this will probably damage your relationship with the client.

As long as people reply to your payment requests, and as long as you’re not 100% sure that they are specifically trying not to pay you at all, I wouldn’t go there.

If, however, that is the case, be sure to gather information about the right legal procedure to follow. Get legal help if possible (maybe one of your friends or family members is a lawyer?). And, unless the amount due is really small, do not just “let it be”. You deserve your money, so go get it.

2. Hidden tasks and changing projects

A client sends you a new project. The instructions seem clear. You set a price, wait for the approval, and start working. 

Only then, your client suddenly realises that they have forgotten to send you part of the project. Or informs you of some major changes that will impact all of your work.

Despite having discussed everything in advance, you suddenly end up with a project you didn’t sign up for. And of course, no one offers to change its price or deadline. This is honestly part of my daily self-employment struggles!

If you hate conflict and confrontation as much as I do, you might be tempted to not say anything. But you can. Whenever a task significantly changes, you have every right to make alterations to your end of the bargain. 

Here are the rules I like to follow:

Will this really take more time to do?

Before adjusting the contract, you should always make sure that it’s really necessary. If the new version of the project still seems feasible within the original conditions, just let it go. In this case, it’s better to be accommodating and preserve a perfect relationship with the client.

How was the original contract formulated?

I’ve made the mistake before to sign a contract that was formulated so loosely, it could really mean anything. And when the original task increased and changed, it unfortunately still fit the contract. As annoyed as I was, there was nothing I could do. Except learn from my mistakes and be more careful with what I sign in the future.

Can I accommodate the client on either the price or the deadline? 

Whenever I decide to modify my end of a contract, I always strive to preserve a good relationship with the client. And that means standing my ground, while also showing that I want to provide a good service.

If a client adds additional text to a translation project, I will adjust the price. But I might try to still keep the original deadline. Since I usually like to set my deadlines quite loosely (better to deliver early than to die of stress!), this is usually possible for me. 

By using this technique, the client appreciates the effort I make and is more likely to entrust me with other projects in the future. It’s a win-win!

3. Unfriendly people and unreasonable deadlines 

Not all people are friendly when you meet them in your personal life. Even fewer people are in a work setting. Especially if they’re potential clients trying to get the best deal.

I’m pretty sure that no matter the industry, that is one of the self-employment struggles almost everyone faces. At least once in a while.

Inappropriate pay

In the past, I’ve had people insult me because my prices were “unreasonably high”. Don’t I know that tons of freelancers would be happy to do the work at a fraction of the price? I’d surely never find a client, ever.

Well, I did. Enough to make a decent living over the past two years. And the clients I did find value my work ethic, availability and willingness to help them out when needed.

The truth is, not everyone cares about getting the lowest price possible. Some clients actually just want good quality work. And they are willing to pay for it. So, feel free to just ignore those who don’t.

Unreasonable requests

Another one of the self-employment struggles I constantly face is when clients demand completely unreasonable deadlines.

What, you can’t translate those 500 pages by the end of the week? We know for a fact that other translators would have no problem with that!

I swear, I’ve had requests to translate a book in a week before. I don’t even know why someone would ask something like that.

Now, these are examples from my personal experience, but I suppose that graphic designers, web developers, and other professionals face similar ones. Some clients just do not get that good work takes time. 

And by the way, can we please agree that it already takes more than a day to even read 500 pages?

No matter what unreasonable request you get: don’t let it get to you. If you’ve researched your industry standards regarding prices and deadlines, you know that it is, well, unreasonable.

Know your worth

You don’t have to work for 3 cents an hour. Remember that your job needs to pay for rent, food and all of your favourite activities!

You also don’t need to hustle day and night. It would be neither sustainable nor healthy. So just let it go!

If clients don’t want to give you the pay and time you deserve, then they’re simply not your type of clients. You don’t expect to make friends with everyone you meet, do you? Accepting that will help you deal with these kinds of self-employment struggles.

I guarantee you that if you believe in your own worth, you will find clients who do, too. And that’s when self-employment is fun!

4. Never-ending workdays

Between clients who start the day at 8 am and those who prefer to work until late at night (and let’s not forget a potential time-difference for international clients), you might as well be working 24/7. Which, obviously, we do not want.

When you’re working at an office, you go home at some point. And when you do, your workday is over. (At least for most people, but that’s not really the point here.)

However, this changes when you start working from home. One of the bigger self-employment struggles is to have a never-ending workday.

Every time you get a new email, you feel compelled to deal with it. If someone asks you a question on the weekend, you reply. It’s not too bad, you might think. It’s just 5 minutes.

Until one day, you notice that everyone has gotten so used to your constant availability that they are now using it to their advantage. Need a bit of work done at 8 pm? Sure, we have a freelancer we can contact. Hurrying to catch a train on Friday night? No problem, I can just ask the freelancer to finish my work for me.

It has happened to me. So many times. Until I finally decided to take back my nights and weekends.

Stop being too available

It starts with a conscious decision to decide when you want to work. Let’s say, 9 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday. That means that you do not reply to calls or emails at 8 pm, Saturday, or 6 am in the morning.

This is a rule you have to set for yourself and stick to it.

After a while, your clients will have noticed that there’s no use in contacting you outside of your typical workday. And they’ll be okay with that. Because they are human, too, and understand perfectly well that you probably have a life.

And just like that, they’ll stop using you to get stuff done 24/7.

Create a healthy mindset

The first step to creating a healthy work-life balance is to set boundaries for the outside world. The second and more complicated one is to convince yourself that you deserve to manage your own time.

For me, it was a struggle to learn that emails, messages, and calls can simply wait until I have time for them. But it was a crucial step to go from being a stressed-out mess to a happy self-employed freelancer.

Don’t reply to any messages while you’re working on something (or having lunch!). They can wait until you’re done. Otherwise, you end up constantly interrupting your workflow. And this significantly decreases productivity!

Have a designated workspace

Having a designated office really helps with the separation of work and personal life. It allows you to close the door (physically and metaphorically) every night and step into your personal space. 

Also, not seeing your computer or to-do lists really helps with switching off, instead of constantly being reminded off stuff you have to do.

I also suggest creating a little ritual at the end of your workday. Go to the gym, do some yoga, take a walk, talk to your partner or pet your cats. This will help your brain understand that you’re now done with work.

5. Loneliness

Whenever I tell people about my self-employment and how I work from home, I always get the same reaction: “That’s so cool, but I could never do that!”. Why? Because they would miss the everyday interaction with colleagues.

Thankfully, I am a total introvert. The lack of social interaction at work is not something I usually miss. Plus, I’m much more excited to see people now that I’m no longer socially overstimulated by the open space office I used to work in.

But nonetheless, loneliness definitely is one of the most common self-employment struggles people face. And here’s what I suggest doing about that:

Join a club

The first step to combat loneliness when you work from home is to get yourself out of the house. To give your outings a purpose, I suggest joining a club. This can be a sports club, photography classes, language courses, or anything you desire. 

But no matter what group you join: make sure that you like the people in it. Otherwise, this won’t count as socialising!

Consider getting a roommate

I’m lucky not to live alone, and I believe that that’s a major reason why I don’t often get lonely. Whenever my boyfriend gets home, we either just hang out or do an activity. And that really, really helps.

If you find yourself getting lonely on a daily basis, consider moving in with someone else. A friend of mine who hated living alone once moved in with an older lady (who didn’t want to be alone, either). She loved having a replacement grandma around! 

Move closer to friends and family

On of the perks of being self-employed is that you can literally work from anywhere. If you aren’t bound to a specific place, why not move closer to your best friends and family members? 

If my boyfriend were self-employed, too, we would have already done that!

Since this article is already super long, I’ll stop here. (Who knew that I had so much to say about self-employment struggles?) But if you need more tips for combatting loneliness, you can check out my article about making new friends as an introvert.

Don’t forget to let me know what you think down in the comment section! And please share this post on social media if you liked it. 🙂

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