The downside to freelancing that you have to be aware of

The downside to freelancing that you have to be aware of

In the career world, things have changed, and the change is advancing at a high rate. Many people are increasingly choosing to go freelance, and it is becoming more likely for them to work in numerous roles and industries throughout the course of their professional life.

Freelancing is a great side hustle that, if pursued diligently, has the potential to take over your 9-5 job. That said though, freelancing for starters isn't only about sitting and making your own schedule. There is a downside to freelancing that you have to be aware of before embarking on a full-time freelance career.

According to Prospects, experts in graduate careers, freelancing is a  form of self-employment where freelancers lend their skills and talents to a number of clients on a flexible basis. The Cambridge Dictionary further defines a way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer.

According to a report by Mercy Corps, the Kenyan digital gig economy as of 2020 had employed nearly 36,573 freelancers. The gig economy is projected to expand even further at a 33% annual pace over the next 5 years, with the overall size of the gig economy hitting Ksh39.6 billion and hiring 93,875 gig workers by 2023 in Kenya. 

However, all that glitters is not always gold and if you are new to the freelancing world, you will almost certainly come across some of the negative aspects of freelancing at some point so here's what you need to know. 

1. Periods of No Work

It takes great effort and time to establish a consistent flow of business, and even if you do, there is no assurance that it will remain. Whether you are a freelance writer, programmer, or designer, your work will always have highs and lows; one day you're turning down recurring job offers, and the next you are contacting old clients asking them to give you work.

There might not be a way to "fix" this specific freelancing challenge.  It is just the nature of freelancing. However,  keep in mind that even the veteran and more experienced freelancers go through dry periods. Embrace the uncertainty of freelancing, and try not to be alarmed if work slows for some period. 

One of the best things you can do is to prepare financially and emotionally for such periods, by saving as much as you can during your busier seasons, to cushion you when you have low income.

2. Getting Clients

Another challenging obstacle for any prospective freelancer is finding their first client. Nothing is more difficult than trying to persuade a client who has not interacted with your work before to grant you a contract/project. 

That could be even worse if the clients you are propositioning had a terrible experience with a previous novice. They might make biased assumptions and end up not being interested in offering you work. However, you should come prepared for this kind of judgement with clear, convincing evidence that you are up to the task. 

3. Dealing With Being Underpaid

Many companies and businesses often (regrettably) believe that they can reduce their expenditure by underpaying freelancers for their work rather than hiring full-time employees.

This frustrates freelancers a lot.  When it comes to freelancing, you should truly get paid well for the services you are offering. It's reasonable to get frustrated when firms try to pay you less than you're worth. 

Although some companies will always hunt for the cheapest alternative, you can reduce your aggravation by clearly displaying your prices on your page and only responding to job listings that lie within your approved pay range.

It is even more important that you do your research to know exactly what are the fair rates for the kind of services you are offering and at your skill level. 

This puts you in a strong negotiation position rather than going in blind - probably being happy by what someone has offered you just because they ‘took a chance on you’ when in reality you could have been paid much more had you come armed with research. 

4. Dealing With Late or No Payment At All

It's already annoying to be given less than you are worth for your products or services, but what's even more frustrating is having to deal with clients who pay late, or don't want to pay at all. 

Some clients may pay late due to various circumstances such as funding delays but others may simply ghost you when it's time for your payment hoping that you will get weary of asking for your money and give up.

Sadly, it is not always possible to stop clients from ignoring your invoices. However, you can shield yourself by keeping detailed records of your previous payments, including a late fee in your contracts or scope of work, and reminding your clients about a delayed invoice on a regular basis.

It is even more important to have formal contracts signed with your clients to make sure that you are protected and their obligations to you, including the specifics of compensation, are all on paper. 

If you are taking your freelancing career seriously, it is recommended that you consult a lawyer to draft a contract for you or review the contract drawn by your client. 

5. Having To Be A Jack Of All Trades

If you are thinking that freelancers have it easy, think twice. The majority of freelancers’ time is spent doing multiple tasks all in one. While freelancing, you need to handle everything on your own, from looking for clients to interacting with them, following them up for payments, managing your money, and so on. 

You are both the owner as well as the employee. If you don't plan your time properly, you may find yourself spending far too much time focusing on one thing and failing to deliver or missing deadlines as a result.

6. Freelancing Can Get Lonely

While freelancing allows you the freedom to work by yourself and be your own boss, it may also be a solitary experience. People are social beings and life can get difficult when you aren't surrounded by like-minded individuals with whom to exchange information, or teammates with whom you can converse.

To help cope with this, take on work that you enjoy doing the most, join as co-working space, physically meet your clients or schedule online meetings with them where you can talk and exchange ideas, and also create a team with your fellow freelancers.


Starting out on your own to develop the freelance career and life you have ever wanted can be terrifying.  Congrats on having the fortitude to make that choice. You need to realize that you have a long journey ahead, so you have to make sure that the initial choices you make are proper.

Freelancing isn't a walk in the park and there are days you'll want to give up. But ensure that you remain focused. It won't hurt to take some time off every now and then to recharge and get back on your feet. Keep developing your skills and make use of the numerous tools available to help you with your work.

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