Often folks strike out on their own to:
- Do more fulfilling work
- Be their own boss
- Regain control over their professional career and salary
- Avoid the aggravations of corporate politics
What self-employed people quickly find out is, running a business is like juggling many bosses. And there’s a delicate balance between serving your professional aspirations and meeting your client’s needs (who happen to keep your lights on).
Even when your relationships with freelance clients are all positive, after years of working on the same projects with the same people, you can get the all too familiar itch to shake things up.
If you’re in a position where you’re comfortable but unfulfilled, here are some underlying reasons that could be the cause.
Reason #1: Work from Freelance Clients Becomes Monotonous
Work can turn into something you dread no matter how cushy or reliable the money is.
It’s the same story with full-time 9 to 5 jobs as it is when you’re self-employed. Projects become a drag when they no longer stimulate you.
If this sounds familiar, identify specific aspects of your business that are becoming monotonous.
Don’t avoid doing this for too long either. I made this mistake, and it wasn’t pretty.
Stalling when you feel something isn’t right can cause you to resent the business you initially created for fulfillment and freedom. It’s not fun to be self-employed when you dislike running your business.
If clients you want to break up with are a big part of your income, replace them first unless you’re willing to take on a part-time job to pay the bills. I’m a huge supporter of taking on non-freelance related part-time seasonal work to recharge creative batteries.
Here are a few ways to find new freelance clients as well:
- Ask your favorite clients whether they’re in need of more help
- Ask your favorite clients if they have any friends who need your services or products
- Reach out to old clients, friends, or peers for referrals
- Go to networking events, conferences, or seminars
- Pitch new businesses
Before moving forward, get very clear on the type of projects you want to work on. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time.
Reason #2: A Raise is Long Overdue
Being underpaid for work is another factor that can lead to dissatisfaction.
If you have long-term clients who slip through the cracks every time you raise rates, decide whether it will benefit you more to cut ties and to seek higher paying clients instead.
Admittedly, there is some gray area to this point.
If a long-term client is at the low end of your rate scale but a diligent payer, you may want to keep them on. Someone who pays less money but always on-time is better than someone who should pay more money but is always late.
Putting that scenario aside, resentment can rear its ugly head when a client’s rate is so low that you feel undervalued. Again, that’s not a good place to be.
Being undervalued by longstanding clients can cause you to underestimate your worth and set low ball rates will others.
If you’ve already asked for a raise and been denied it’s probably time to throw in the towel unless you feel confident enough to give it another try.
If you have not yet asked for a raise start putting together a folder of your accomplishments. Bring to the table facts and figures to prove your worth.
In all honesty, a long-term client may not even realize how positive your impact has been on them because they’ve been working with you for so long. It’s your job to make them aware.
When entering money negotiations be prepared for them to decline your request and have a Plan B in place.
Reason #3: The Relationship Has Gotten Too Friendly
Like any relationship, after years of working with a freelance client, the honeymoon phase can come to an end. The honeymoon I’m referring to is the period where everyone’s on their best behavior.
You’re going above and beyond to leave a great impression possibly answering calls and emails in the wee hours of the morning. The client is giving you detailed instructions on all projects and paying you on time.
Then the relationship can get comfortable.
The client can start giving you minimal guidance trusting you know their expectations. You feel comfortable responding to their emails or calls within 24 hours instead of right away. The client may begin paying invoices a little less promptly especially if you’ve let it slide before without repercussion.
Once a relationship gets too comfortable, it can be challenging to get back on track unless you put your heads together to reset boundaries.
If it’s taking months for someone to pay you, they’re asking for too many favors, or they’re taking advantage of rapport in any other way, it may be time to seek new opportunities.
Reason #4: It’s Stunting Your Growth
In the traditional career world, people often jump around from position to position for growth, raises, and new experiences.
In our world, self-employed workers can technically have the same job title and do the same type of work for decades. The credentials and experiences that help us grow are taking on new clients and working on new projects.
If you’re doing limited learning, moving, or shaking because of certain relationships, it may be worth considering if you’re undercutting professional growth.
No need to go on a mass firing spree of your long-term freelance clients to do so.
Just reflect on whether becoming complacent in a certain type of work is limiting advancement or dulling your creativity.
Long-term freelance clients are something that self-employed workers usually relish.
It’s the long-term relationships that can provide recurring income and stability. This is a plus since self-employment is synonymous with instability.
But the bottom line is, you’re also the captain in command of your ship. You should be plotting the course of your illustrious career — not just trying to keep afloat.
When long-term client work is dull, not paying you enough, or not helping you grow, you have the power to move on in search of something better.