Four reasons your freelance career isn’t taking off

Your inbox is crammed full of emails from marketers sitting in exotic places around the world and talking about how they’ve made their millions freelancing. The headline is full of six and seven-digit numbers and the extra HD photos aren’t helping either.

I get it. People are out there making a fortune freelancing, while you’re still struggling to hold onto a single client. The bills are piling up, the grueling hours are wasting away, and the 9-5 job you wanted to escape from has become the straw you’re literally hanging on.

But where did it all go wrong?

You know you’ve got what it takes. So, why aren’t you the one talking about those figures, wearing those Bahama shorts, and sending those emails?

Well, as it turns out, here are at least four reasons your stint as a freelancer isn’t gathering any heat. And, what you can do about it.

You lack the right attitude

Let’s be clear about something. Yes, freelancing is the future, and yes, the perks are endless. Freedom, flexibility, and the ability to design your own life is tempting. But, it’s part gold and part glitter. Most bloggers don’t tell you about the long hours that go in acquiring a single client or the long, sleepless nights most freelancers spend pitching, facing rejections, and wondering where their next paycheck will come from.

It’s not a grow-rich-scheme. And, anyone that tells you that has either hit the lottery, which I promise isn’t going to happen in your case or is straight-up lying.

If you’re not a hundred percent in, you’re not cut out for it. Here’s why many freelancers don’t make the cut: they approach the process like an amateur. They put in half the work and think a single email a day or a single pitch is enough.

I can’t stress this enough. If you want to make it as a freelancer, you have to be all in. You need to put in the work, hustle, and hustle, and make sure you appear professional at all times. Making half-hearted attempts in passing will take you nowhere. At least nowhere you want to be.

Your strategy is all wrong

Yes, there are people making a small fortune working on sites like Fiverr and Upwork, but the pool is incredibly small and getting through is harder than you think.

Think about it. You’re competing with tens of thousands of people plus businesses that dedicate teams and experts to win pitches, and all for a fraction of the price you’d get from a decent-paying client or mid-size business.

And, if you have zero experience? Better save your time because you won’t be hearing back from that client. Not in this century.

What is a better alternative? Go local. Start by approaching people in your circle. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to find prospective clients among friends, family, and acquaintances. You can keep looking for international clients, but don’t hit drywall in the meantime. Who knows, you might become a local expert in your subject.

You’re going after the wrong clients

Freelancers often take up projects just to get to work. Now, if you’re just starting out and are new to the whole business of freelancing, it’s a good strategy to get some experience. But if you’ve been working in the field for a while, there’s a reason you’ve hit a plateau. And it’s simple. You have no idea what core value you’re providing.

Let’s look at examples. Most freelancers making a fortune are leaders and experts in their respective industries. They position themselves as the best and they cater to a highly-specific niche. Russel Brunson works with seven and eight-figure companies to build their sales funnels. Jon Morrow teaches the art of blogging and Grant Cardone charges a bank for a single consulting session.

What is the difference? These people aren’t running after everyone.

They started off with a specific clientele they wanted to serve and worked toward it until they succeeded. Think about it. Who is your dream client? What kind of needs do they have? Where can you find them? What set of skills and experience do you need to seal a deal? Once your destination is clear, the path becomes evident.

Young woman freelancing at desk
Photo:, Pexels.

You have nothing to show for

If you’re a freelancer and you don’t have a solid website and portfolio, your head is not in the game.

Here’s a four-word sentence that keeps most people from achieving their goals: ‘I don’t have experience.’

And, that’s totally okay. Neither did I when I first started. Neither do the people you so fervently follow on social media and your tv screens. We all start somewhere. The good news is that gaining experience is easier than you think.

Start by working for free. Don’t make it your permanent modus operandi. But exchanging your services for a glowing testimonial and some experience isn’t a bad deal. In fact, it’s how so many freelancers get their foot in. Plus, you gain exposure, experience, and learn from your mistakes. And, since it’s a free gig, your client is mostly lenient and even thankful.

You can also work for non-profits, small businesses, or get internships to get the needful for your portfolio.

Plus, there’s always a better option. It might take more time but it’s the best option you have: building your own channel to show off your skills.

Start a blog on Medium. Create animation cartoons for YouTube. Create a Facebook or Instagram page for your artwork or poetry or build websites or WordPress themes in your free time. Nothing works as well as your own content platform showcasing how brilliant you are.

In any case, having a solid website, glowing testimonials, and a great portfolio multiply your chances of landing a good client. Just tweak your pitch to perfection and your chances of landing that gig skyrocket.

Ending it with a little anecdote

It’s not really all that hard to make a decent living once you know what you’re doing. If you’ve hit a plateau or you’re struggling to find remote work, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board and work on your weak points. Find out where you’re going wrong. Listen to a few podcasts, read a few books and blogs on freelancing if you need it. Ask for help on social media and Facebook groups or reach out to businesses and acquaintances and perfect your pitching until you know what you’re doing.

Freelancing isn’t all that hard to crack. Learn how to leverage your skills and sell yourself, and you’ll be out of the dump in no time.

Ashar Jamil
Ashar Jamil
Ashar Jamil is the Founder & Head of Growth at Digitally Up, a SEO and Web Design Agency based in Adelaide.
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