So, Your Well-Meaning Uncle Has Advice for Freelancers…

Written by Nicola Brown on October 27, 2017

Who among us can honestly say they ever have a breezy time seeking advice, especially with career or freelance issues? When you’ve hit a bump in the road or experience an unexpected turn of events and you need guidance on how to proceed, who should you turn to? Somehow, it can seem like everyone suddenly has advice for freelancers. We all have that one relative (or maybe it’s all of them) who never understands why we struck out on our own, and is waiting for us to return to a normal nine-to-five office job.

Rocky patches in a freelance career are almost inevitable, but they can be worse when you’re surrounded by people who seem to be waiting for you to finish your freelance phase and resume a more traditional line of work. Sometimes they’re right, but sometimes they’re not.

I’ve received some great advice from people I barely know, and some terrible advice from people who know me very well. One of the keys to moving forward is to know who to turn to for different types of advice.

Seek out Multiple Opinions

Don’t rely on advice from one single person, no matter how much you respect their opinion. They still only offer a single perspective. Just as with scientific studies, the larger the sample size, the more valid the results will be. But don’t collect opinions ad infinitum; you’ll need to use the information you gain to take concrete action, so give yourself a time limit.

One of the biggest problems for freelancers, especially those who are just starting out in their career, is lack of work. If you’re struggling to find new work or gain stability, turn to your fellow freelancers. Ask how they kick-started their career in the early stages. Perhaps they have a client they had to turn down because they were too busy, or maybe they’re looking for assistance with their projects. If not, they can notify you of new opportunities in the future.

Don’t Only Rely on Your Family

Sure, your family may know you best and want you to follow your dreams, but they’d probably be happier if those dreams were contained in a stable, well-paid career with ample health benefits and generous time off to spend with them. They don’t like to see you suffering, even though a bit of suffering is par for the course for freelancers.

But don’t assume that your family can never help. Freelancing can be a stressful line of work and lifestyle, and it can be very mentally taxing — especially if you don’t turn to anyone for emotional support along the way. Find someone you can share your grievances with — your spouse, a parent, close family member or a professional counselor. Having regular talks about the mental challenges of freelancing will help you handle bigger emotional upsets during your career. Mental health is something we should be talking about more frequently, especially in the freelancing community.

Ask Those With Relevant Experience

Sometimes you need to go out and find people you may not know who can offer very specific advice from their own personal experiences. Seek out an expert opinion to help you make your decision. LinkedIn is a great resource to find communities of freelancers, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs. Niche groups can help you find the people who’ve been through your situation before and can offer practical, actionable advice for freelancers on what to do next. Quora is another useful question-based site where you can pose your specific issue to a wide range of readers and get a broad spectrum of responses.

Financial hardship can be one of the most challenging problems for freelancers, since it can easily have a negative snowball effect. When you’re facing financial trouble, turn to a financial expert for advice, like an accountant or financial advisor. They can look at your situation from an objective perspective and offer tangible steps to get you back on track. It can be worth spending a little money for a consultation when it leads to a complete financial turnaround.

Even those with the most independent mindsets need to seek advice from others when the going gets tough. Ultimately, the way forward is up to you. Be proactive and resourceful, and try not to get disheartened. Weathering setbacks is a very normal part of the freelance lifestyle.

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