Freelancing Is Hard. But Accepting That Makes It So Much Easier.

If you’re finding freelancing a grind, you mightn’t be doing anything “wrong”. Photo: Faizur Rehman (Via Unsplash)

About one year ago to this day, I made a major mindset shift.

I decided to (try to) stop feeling sorry for myself for working very hard in order to make my freelance writing business succeed.

This small change has actually been one of the most powerful changes that I have made to date — at least in the realm of mindset.

Whether you’re a freelance writer or a freelance graphic designer or anything else, I think there’s enormous power in accepting the normality of this being hard.


That’s not intended to glamorize working unreasonable hours. It’s not intended to play into the culture of hustle bragging that is unfortunately becoming rampant. You can both accept the difficulty of freelancing in the present while aspiring that it will get easier in the future.

Instead, it’s a proposal that by accepting the fact that working really hard might be required to make freelancing work — at least for a period — you can:

  • Stop feeling sorry about yourself
  • Stop feeling angry towards yourself or like a failure
  • Let go of the feeling that you’re doing something ‘wrong’ by getting normal results in exchange for

And these are two enormously powerful mindset changes.

Lest you need further convincing, here are a few reasons why if you’re a freelancer who’s working really hard just to get by …. you mightn’t necessarily by doing anything wrong.

If You’re Staying In Business, You’re Doing Pretty Well

René Junge recently published a nice piece entitled Being A Full Time Writer Makes You A Unicorn.

It’s a fact that’s really easy to forget when you’re actually …out there being a full time writer.

Being a writer is challenging. In a profession with relatively low barriers to entry, many of us face enormous pressure to charge progressively lower rates for progressively more difficult services.

Of course, there’s also the fact that … there’s currently a pandemic going on in the world.

Yes, growth is wonderful and it’s good to aim high. But if all you’re doing right now is paying the rent/mortgage and keeping food on the table, through your freelancing, I think it’s fair to say there’s a good chance that you’re doing pretty darn well for yourself.

Lots Of Freelancers Work (Really) Hard To Make It Work

There are a few truisms that virtually every millennial has now heard of:

  • Tim Ferris once wrote a book entitled The Four Hour Workweek which teaches people how to move towards more abbreviated working schedules
  • Work harder, not smarter

As above, black and white thinking is a massively easy fallacy to fall into as a freelancer. But life isn’t binary. You can both:

  • Work crazy long hours now
  • Aspire to work shorter hours in the future

Over the years, I’ve amassed a network of freelancing friends — some from real life and some from the internet. What the more successful ones all have in common — besides talent — is an insanely strong work ethic.

I’m not suggesting that you won’t find the odd freelancer who manages to make an enormous income while only working two days a week.

But if you do, I’m willing to venture a bet that he/she worked hard to get to that point.

I’m also willing to bet that they are the exception rather than the rule — it’s just that those pulling the working-really-hard-to-make-this-work routine tend to be less vocal about their businesses.

Freelancing is hard. Working really hard to keep going at it is pretty normal. You don’t need to feel bad about yourself, or like a failure, if you’re doing that.

Freelancing Is Inherently Challenging

If you’re wondering why the above is so, just consider the fact that freelancing is almost built to be hard.

Not really, of course, but if you consider the pros and cons versus salaried work you start to understand why it can be a challenging way to make a living:

  • Companies often use freelancers to plug gaps in their labor force. This means that they’ll pick you up and drop you as they need which makes life a little unpredictable for you the freelancer.
  • The above means that — unless you constantly have people coming to you — marketing and sales activities are kind of necessary parts of the job of being a freelancer.
  • You’re also expected to be able to figure out how to run a micro business; how to file taxes; how to log expenses; how to do whatever it is that you’re doing; etc.
  • As a freelancer you get no benefits. Unless you’re able to figure out a way to work those into your compensation — and you should — you run the risk of never being able to step back from your business.

Freelancing is, in general, a really hard way to make a living. Therefore, making an outsized effort to make an ordinary income is relatively commonplace, at least during the early years.

I have found that accepting the reality of hard work in the present — while hoping things will get easier in the future — to be extremely helpful. And remember, if that’s your reality, you’re far from alone.




Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things.

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Daniel Rosehill

Daniel Rosehill

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things.

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