Freelancers do not fail due to the skills & expertise they need to complete a job (mostly). These are totally different reasons that cause the failure.
According to my long years of practical experience working as a freelancer and working with other individuals & agencies, I will explain the most common reasons for failure and how they can recover.
Reasons why most freelancers fail
- 1.1 Not having own client source
- 1.2 Depending on freelancing marketplaces
- 1.3 Not searching for new clients while overloaded with work
- 1.4 Depending on only a few specific clients
- 1.5 Not having pricing packages and hourly rate
- 1.6 Lack of past work samples
- 1.7 Hard to find & contact
- 1.8 Generic testimonials and lack of social proofs
- 1.9 Wrong expectations and giving up too early
- 2 Conclusion
Reasons why most freelancers fail
The reasons could be different & vary based from person to person. However, there are some common reasons that I explained below.
Not having own client source
Getting clients is one of the most challenging parts of freelancing. If you are skilled enough in your industry but do not have sufficient clients, it will cause failure. Because without clients, no freelancers can survive for long.
In order to recover yourself from this most challenging part, you have to build your own client source. It could be your personal website, social media platforms, direct contacts with local businesses, or anything else that best suits your field.
I know it’s very easy to say but difficult to build your own client source. Whatever you do, you have to keep building it gradually.
Depending on freelancing marketplaces
From my personal observation, I saw that most freelancers depend on freelancing marketplaces or websites.
But if you think deeply, you’ll see that the freelancing platforms are also business organizations and they are designed to make profits for their businesses.
There is nothing wrong with making profits for their businesses but the problem is yours. The freelancing websites will only give you chance to work until you make good conversions. Otherwise, they will kick you back from the search results and replace your position with someone else.
Their first priority is to make their profits and not to create equal opportunity for everyone. Keep that in mind.
So depending on a freelancing platform and making it the first source of clients is the wrong decision.
Related: Why you should not depend on freelancing websites.
Not searching for new clients while overloaded with work
In freelancing, sometimes you may have lots of clients. And most of us do not search for new clients at that time. This is a big mistake.
You have to keep communicating with prospects and find new opportunities. Freelancers are not full-time employees in a specific company.
So when you’re overloaded with freelance jobs, don’t forget that you have to find new clients for tomorrow.
Depending on only a few specific clients
A few of your clients may hire you multiple times and give you jobs time after time. Those are the best clients and sources of earning revenues. But only depending on those clients may result in having no clients in the feature. Because they will not always have jobs for you.
If you have those types of good clients, then you’re lucky enough. At the same time, don’t forget to market your services and finding for new opportunities.
Not having pricing packages and hourly rate
No matter whatever niche you’re working on, every freelancer should have a clear pricing model. It does not necessarily need to check out, make the payment upfront. Its sole job is to serve a clear picture to the prospects.
Some people like fixed prices and others like hourly rates. So it’s better to have both.
Some projects may not have any fixed duration or could be ongoing. Also, if the clients are not able to provide all the project requirements upfront, the hourly rate becomes handy.
Either way, you have to have at least one pricing model that clearly represents your worth.
Lack of past work samples
Most of our prospects want to see past work samples before they hire anyone. They are actually trying to believe you.
If you help other people in the past, then you will definitely be able to help them as well. And this is what they want to see in your portfolio.
There are some clients who never ask for your portfolio or past work samples. But if you send the link to your past work samples, they will see them and start discussing the project.
But if you would not send the link to the sample, they would not even discuss their project with you. I saw this kind of person a lot in my practical experience.
So it’s always better to mention your portfolio or past work samples with your proposal or outreach. And even they have not asked for it.
Hard to find & contact
If you’re failing in your freelance business, then it’s time to think if you’re easy to access or findable and if the people have available options for contacting you.
It will be very hard to appear your name in the search results for highly competitive terms. But there are some other variations of it that could be easier.
For example, it would be difficult to show your name for the following terms:
- Content writer
- Graphic designer
- Website designer
- Web developer
These are a couple of examples but there are lots. But there are some other long-tail variations and more specific terms that could be easier. Such as:
- Technical content writer in LA
- Coffee shop logo designer at an affordable price
- Marriage and family therapy website design expert
- Ruby on rails developer in San Francisco
You got the idea!
Also, you can help other persons in your niche by writing blog posts, video instructions, etc. These also expand your identity and people started trusting you.
Whatever you do, you have to come up from different angles and see what works. So the prospects can find you.
If no one finds you then no one will contact you and then no one will hire you. So make sure you’re not hard to findable and easy to access.
I saw so many generic testimonials on freelancers’ websites. And even they are either using stock photos or forgot to replace the demo pictures.
And this is why you will see the same persons giving testimonials to many freelancers. Those mostly come preinstalled with many templates.
However, no one tells about it.
The generic testimonials are very easy to spot. The words, sentences, and pictures are totally different than loyal testimonials.
Also, there are a few freelancers who might have not inserted these generic feedbacks intentionally. They might have forgotten to remove what comes with the template.
Either way, make sure your website does not contain any of these and even you should not ask your friends or family to give you a testimonial.
If you need help, see a professional testimonial template that I created for you. You can download the template and use it on your own website.
Wrong expectations and giving up too early
Many people especially newbies start freelancing with the wrong expectations. Some of them think it’s easy and they are able to reach their goal quickly and even overnight.
But the reality is totally different. It’s not easy at least nowadays. Also, it takes at least one or more years to reach a certain level that can help you to survive.
With these wrong expectations in mind, when they saw it for more than 3/6 months, they give up & quit.
As a below-average Asian guy, it took me approx three years to stand out over the crowd. However, again I dropped out multiple times and it took me another 2 years to reach a stable position.
However, this timeframe does not apply to everyone equally. There are other things involved in it. But you should expect at least one year to get the proper output from freelancing.
So don’t give up too early.
Other are many other reasons but the most common reasons I have discussed above. I probably add more reasons & solutions in the future. If you have a different experience or idea & solution, feel free to share it with me.
Anyways, if you’re a freelancer and you struggling with your career, don’t be afraid, and don’t give up too early. I have included some suggestions based on practical experience that could be helpful.
Every successful freelancer you see around you, they have a different story, and everyone came across this struggle just like you. So if you stick with it and keep improving your skills, the (good) time will also come for you.