4 Reasons Your Freelance Business Is Already A Failure

Did you start your freelance business expecting to fail?

I’m sure you didn’t.  No one likes to think of failing, especially when starting a new venture.

Yet I’ve seen so many people start their freelance careers in a way that is doomed to failure, often without even realising.

Do you want to ensure your freelance career doesn’t end in failure?  Keep reading, I’ve got four points for you to consider.

1. Going Freelance Wasn’t Your Decision

What I mean is that you fell into freelancing due to circumstances rather than making a plan to go freelance.

It’s very common.  There are lots of reasons that you might have wanted to leave employment.  For instance:

  • You hated your job
  • You hated your boss
  • You got made redundant
  • You took time off to have children
  • You relocated and had to leave your job

In all of these situations you find yourself looking for what to do next, perhaps not wanting to return to working for someone else and then it happens.  You “buy yourself a job”.

I’ve seen it many times.  You start your micro business or freelance career because it’s better than going back into employment, not because you’ve been planning on it and it’s the right decision at the right time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I totally understand that sometimes you have an opportunity and you take it, and that’s part of being an entrepreneur.  I’m really all for entrepreneurial spirit, but you need to ensure that you have a plan when you go freelance or start any new business.

As the saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

If you don’t have a plan for going freelance, and buy yourself a job, you risk being subject to circumstances rather than truly planning for sustainable success.

It’s also really important to consider why you started your freelance business, because knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing will be very important on the days when it’s hard work and you need to know where your motivation comes from.  If you don’t know the root of your motivation and you just bought yourself a job it will be hard to spur yourself on in the early days when you’re spending more money than you have coming in and need to do the most work.

It’s a good exercise to take some time to write down why you started your micro business or freelance career, what was the dream?  When you’ve written it down put it somewhere prominent so you see it each day and it drives you to work towards your goal.

The second reason freelance businesses fail follows on from this lack of planning.

2. You’re Not Doing What You Enjoy

So you find yourself in a position where started a freelance career, but are you doing what you enjoy?

It’s easy to start out freelancing and start doing the work that you think you should do rather than the work that you really want to do, that you’ll enjoy.

It’s often an issue of money.  You’ve started working freelance for some of the reasons we discussed earlier and you need to start earning money, you’ve got a mortgage or rent to pay.  So you can’t afford to take risks, and it seems quicker to try to find freelance work doing the tasks you hated when you were employed, not the type of work that you really enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s really important to start getting some cash flowing in and being able to stay afloat.  But if you keep doing the work you don’t enjoy your freelance career will fail as you’ll become demotivated and you won’t produce your best work, the work that you really want to be doing.  The work that will wow your customers and get them telling others about you.

So to ensure your freelance business is sustainable, make it enjoyable.  Do the work that you really enjoy and that you’ve always wanted to do.

It might be that you have to combine the two to begin with.  You used to work in IT as a developer and want to work as a sport coach.  Start getting some freelance work as a developer to get the cash flowing but create a plan for how you find your first coaching clients and as soon as your coaching income picks up you can slow down on the work you don’t enjoy and focus on your dream.

I mention the all-important plan and this leads us nicely into our third point of why a freelance business often fails.

3. You Don’t Have a Sales and Marketing Strategy

It doesn’t matter what you do in your freelance business, you need to do sales and marketing.  Every freelancer is a sales person because when you work on your own if you don’t sell your services there is no one else to do it for you.

Whether you’re a plumber, a fine artist, a website designer or a sports coach, if you don’t create a plan for sales and marketing your business is going to fail.  Every freelancer has to hunt for sales, you need to always be looking for business, sniffing out and recording opportunities – if you don’t, business will dry up and your business will fail.

Your sales strategy doesn’t have to be complicated but if you want to avoid the feast and famine cycle of sales you need to focus on what will ensure you create a constant stream of new clients.

Having the right attitude about sales will help you ensure your freelance business succeeds.

This leads us onto the final point of why freelance businesses fail from the start.

4. You Think You Have Time

Time can really be an enemy of a freelance business.

You’re sitting there trying to create your sales and marketing strategy, having to do so many tasks that you didn’t have to do when you were employed.  It’s very easy to procrastinate, thinking that one more day won’t hurt and before you know it days, weeks or even months have gone past and you’ve not made progress.

I’ve found that people who were made redundant often suffer from this issue more than any other.  Having a little cash acts like a security blanket, it makes you feel like you have time to work on your business and that there is no rush to find new clients.

But before you know it the money starts to run out, before you’ve found the new clients and the procrastination quickly turns to stress.  The stress results in panic and forgetting a well thought out strategy and trying anything to get new business, cutting prices, ignoring margins, all of which is a strategy for failure.

Whether you’ve just started your freelance career, or you’ve been freelancing for a while, don’t ever think that you have time.  Start every day with a level of urgency and continually look for ways to grow and improve your business.

The Bottom Line

A lot of freelance businesses fail – but yours doesn’t have to.  Have you’ve read these points and recognised some in your own business?  If so just ensure that you don’t carry on making any of these mistakes and ensure your business is sustainable and not a failure.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Take some time today to review each point.  Do you know why you’re in business, what’s motivating you?  Are you doing work that you enjoy?  Do you have a plan to build your business and gain new sales and are you approaching your business every day with a sense of urgency?  As you review each point make a note of areas you can improve and to ensure that your business isn’t a failure but rather a success story.

Robert Peters

Robert Peters is a small business advisor, coach and consultant. Through his Fresh Eyes Consultancy he helps micro business owners grow sustainable and profitable businesses. Sign up for a free copy of his guide on how to avoid the feast and famine cycle and take the stress out of micro business sales.

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Comments

  1. Hi Robert,

    Some excellent advice here. You are spot on. As you know I work with freelance trainers and one of the biggest problems I see is having to take on work they don’t really want to do, sacrificing long term aims for short term financial gain. It is really hard to get off that treadmill once you are on it too. Having a sales and marketing strategy is so important, after all no marketing equals no clients! If you have just started out as a freelancer spend some time doing your homework, really nail down what services you are going to offer and to who BEFORE you rush off to the nearest networking event. Once you’ve identified your services and target market you whole marketing strategy will become a lot clearer.

    • That’s so true, there are so many things to think about when you start your freelance career and it’s really important to get the priorities right and build a good sales and marketing strategy. I’ve seen many freelancers put this off because they find it difficult and instead focus on more minor things like getting the right logo, setting up their accounts package, etc but as you say no marketing equals no clients.

      Thank you very much for your feedback and comment Sharon!
      Robert Peters recently posted..3 Reasons Google Doesn’t Love Your WebsiteMy Profile

  2. Quite. To echo your comment above, no marketing means no clients, no payments from clients means no cash, and no cash flow means no mortgage payment or feeding your children.

    Simple things like HOW are you going to get paid, what are your terms, what’s your system of invoicing and following up? Doing that clarifies a lot in your mind, and can make paying on time clients come your way much more quickly.
    Rosie Slosek recently posted..3 Reasons Tax Returns Belong With CakeMy Profile

    • Spot on Rosie – there is an intrinsic link between your marketing, the resulting sales and your ability to pay your mortgage and feed your family. Having that link at the front of your mind as a freelancers is no bad thing, it helps you be wise with your money and gives a sense of urgency to your time management and marketing.

      I agree about the paying point as well, your perfect customer is not only the one who fits the profile but the one who has the ability and desire to pay you on time. Filtering out anyone who doesn’t do this is an important step in making your business sustainable and profitable.
      Robert Peters recently posted..3 Reasons Google Doesn’t Love Your WebsiteMy Profile

  3. The decision was forced upon me in that I was forced to take early retirement. But I’m going to use my redundancy money to build a business. I hope it’s not going to turn out to be buy myself a job.

    Point 2 about doing what you enjoy. I wouldn’t do software design (what I enjoy) mainly because it’s highly competitive. Further, people either give up work or are laid off, tend to use the opportunity to follow their dreams. I have qualms about this. Suppose that there’s no market for doing what you love. You end up with a losing proposition and being unable to pay the mortgage nor feed your family. So, market research at the outset is very important.

    As a developer, I had to produce at least 3 possible solutions for the customer to make a choice and sometimes they don’t choose any and I had to go back to the drawing board and start over. I advice would-be freelancers to prepare at least three business plans upto the feasibility study phase where cost/benefit analysis is done to make the choice easier to make.

    The things you enjoy doing must bring in the bacon.

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    4 Reasons Your Freelance Business Is Already A Failure…

    A lot of freelance businesses fail – but yours doesn’t have to. Have you’ve read these points and recognised some in your own business? If so just ensure that you don’t carry on making any of these mistakes and ensure your business is sustainable and n…

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