Maintaining a Positive Attitude and Avoiding Bitterness
Starting up as an online freelancer can be very exciting. In addition to the usual “rush” that comes with a new adventure, the various online freelancing marketplaces dangle lots of “pretties” to tantalize the newcomer. Just look at all those projects, all the money you could make! And for many folks, this is also coupled with a sense of newfound freedom because they have left behind traditional employment, either completely or partially, to embark on a new career. The shackles are off, the world is your oyster, it’s all there for the taking!
Of course, this doesn’t last forever. In a few weeks or months, the honeymoon will be over and you’ll start to look more critically at your new calling, as the initial exhilaration gives way to the practicalities of day-to-day freelance work. That’s as normal in this situation as it is for falling in love and then settling into a stable relationship.
Unfortunately, sometimes things progress not merely from great wonder and excitement to a more serene contentment, but beyond that to the realm of the outright negative. This often happens because of bad experiences encountered in dealing with others involved in the freelancing process: clients, other freelancers or even the staff of online freelancing sites.
While most of these negative events are relatively rare, they do occur. Here are just some of the more common occurrences:
You can’t prevent all of these negative interactions from happening, but you do have the ability to decide how you react to them. Of course, that in turn is a function of your personality, which you cannot control completely; some people tend to view the glass as half-empty and others as half-full. I am more like the former myself, and while I call myself a “realist”, the truth is that I generally have a negative outlook on life. It’s part of who I am, and I have to struggle to manage it.
I am exactly the sort of person who tends to overreact when I have a bad experience; I tend to become bitter about the entire process and this has a negative effect on my future dealings. For example, early in my freelancing career, I had a nightmare client who tried to stiff me on the payment for a data processing job because he wasn’t able to use the data in the way he wanted. This problem had nothing to do with me, but he decided to make it my problem so he wouldn’t have to pay. I had to go through a lengthy arbitration process, which I eventually won. But the overall experience turned me off so much that I didn’t even try to get any more clients for several weeks, turning instead to some personal projects in the meantime.
Believe me, I know from personal experience that it can be hard, but try not to overreact when something bad like this happens. Some clients are jerks—and frankly, a smaller number are outright thieves—but most are decent folks simply trying to run their businesses, just like you are. Write off the bad experience and look for a better client for the next time.
Most of the other freelancers you meet are also decent, honorable people. That said, I would urge you not to expect too much from the friendships you make with colleagues, unless you know the other people very well for a long period of time. Sure, we are all “brothers” and “sisters” in the grand scheme of things, since we’re all freelancers. But at the same time, we are also direct competitors. I’ve had the experience of a fellow freelancer actually referring business to me when he was too busy, and I’ve done the same when I couldn’t do a particular project. But I’ve also seen people try to underbid colleagues on projects that were intended to be private but were posted publicly by mistake. I try to be mindful that, competition being what it is, I shouldn’t expect people in the same freelance category as me to give me access to their steady clients, or teach me some of the special tricks and knowledge they’ve developed over many years. Manage your expectations in this area.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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