How to Keep Going in Your Freelance Business (when you feel like giving up)
By Jena Kroeker
Have you ever felt like giving up on your freelance business? Emotions run high, and you’re ready to walk away from your desk and never come back?
I’ve been a freelancer for over 20 years, and I confess I’ve felt like giving up more than once. One time, I did give up. I thought the grass was greener on the other side and decided it was time to seek employment outside my home. Little did I know how much I would miss freelancing.
The first week, I especially missed the freedom to design my own schedule. And as time went on, I realized I was missing many other freedoms. Thankfully, within a few months, an email arrived, offering me a fantastic freelance opportunity. I gladly accepted, and with a sigh of relief returned to my home office, ready to pursue a new niche.
Evidently, it wasn’t time to give up on freelancing. It was time to seek a new direction in the same freelance journey. So, anytime I feel like quitting, I remind myself of what I missed when I gave up my freelance business. Specifically, I think of two things I missed the most about working from home, freedoms that have a huge impact on my quality of life. What freedoms would you miss the most?
Feelings We All Face
The desire to give up is a feeling many of us face at various points in our freelance journey. It’s a normal reaction to tough circumstances or unmet expectations. The question is whether or not you should act on those feelings.
If you discover you don’t enjoy freelancing and the lifestyle it offers, it might be time to do something else. But in other cases, maybe you’re tempted to give up even though circumstances are still promising.
For instance, if you’re discouraged because you lost a client or missed an opportunity, it’s not time to give up. You can take heart, given the current state of the freelance industry. As Freelance University co-founder Craig Cannings says, “It’s not a dying industry. It’s a growing industry.”
Indeed, in an article titled “The Freelance Revolution Is Just Getting Started: Key Trends In 2022,” Jon Younger shares these encouraging facts:
“It’s tough to be pessimistic about the freelance revolution. The data show market strength, freelancer satisfaction, a growing support ecosystem, and increased business conviction. McKinsey estimates 500 million freelancers working through platforms before 2030. Covid-19 didn’t create the freelance revolution, but it’s been quite an accelerant.”
Despite this promising news, however, many still struggle with discouragement sometimes. And that’s okay. In a recent Facebook Friday session, Craig Cannings acknowledged that all of us may feel like giving up at some point. The question is whether you need to adjust how you approach your business, rather than walking away from it entirely.
Consequently, he suggests seven valuable strategies to use when you feel like throwing in the towel. Let’s take a closer look at them.
How to Keep Going in Your Freelance Business When You Feel Like Giving Up
When you stop feeling good about your business and start wondering if it’s worth it, consider the following strategies. They’re valuable tools to keep in your freelance or virtual assistant toolkit.
1. Assess the main reasons why you feel like giving up on your freelance business.
First of all, take a step back and determine your motives for giving up. What triggered this strong emotion that caused you to question yourself and the validity of your business?
Often, our feelings fall into different categories:
• Momentary knee-jerk reactions to a challenge (e.g. diminished self-esteem after making a mistake or displeasing a client)
• Momentary or lingering discouragement (e.g. imposter syndrome or comparison to others’ achievements that causes you to question whether you’re cut out to be a freelancer)
• Lingering dissatisfaction with your freelance business (e.g. the feeling that something needs to change, like your schedule, pricing, services, or boundaries with clients)
Essentially, get to the heart of what the real reason is. Upon further reflection, you may discover that it doesn’t warrant giving up. Instead, you could make adjustments to your business practices, resolve conflicts with your client, conquer self-limiting beliefs, or simply take a break and start again tomorrow.
On the other hand, you may realize that you simply don’t enjoy your current work. And that’s okay too. In this case, you aren’t giving up. You’re just giving up on a certain path and pursuing a different niche or service.
2. Embrace the idea that mistakes and challenges are part of the journey.
As freelancers and virtual assistants, we’re often too hard on ourselves. Perfectionism sneaks in, and when we make a mistake, we tell ourselves we’re not good enough. We might as well quit.
But the truth is, every freelancer and virtual assistant experiences setbacks, challenges, and failures. As Craig Cannings says, when you embrace this idea as part of the journey, it allows you to expect that it’s going to happen. Your resolve is strengthened, fostering a no-quit attitude that makes you smarter and more creative. You become a better entrepreneur than you would have been if you hadn’t experienced setbacks.
Ultimately, you’re better equipped to handle the next challenge because you’ve been knocked down before. You’ve developed greater strength, creativity, and skills that help you withstand whatever comes your way. In Craig’s words, “good things are waiting for you on the other side of the challenges.” So, don’t give up!
And as you move forward, consider this advice from an article titled “Feel Like Giving Up?” Above all, ensure you’re focusing on what’s working in your freelance business:
“Avoid dwelling on the disappointments; they’ll only hold you back. Learn and move on. Tune in to the good things: What’s making a positive impact? What feels right to you? Where are you making significant progress?
“Focusing on these will give you reasons to carry on and put a new spring in your step. Also, make sure your goals are SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Relevant Time-bound). Be realistic and don’t waste time on things that don’t work.”
3. Draw inspiration from successful people who didn’t give up.
We can learn a lot from those who came before us. Some of the most successful people we know experienced significant failures before achieving their goals. So, when you feel like giving up, read biographies of businesspeople or other professionals who refused to quit. The world is a better place because of their tenaciousness.
According to inventor Thomas A. Edison,
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
When you’re feeling discouraged, remember you might be one LinkedIn connection, one Facebook group conversation, or one networking event away from your ideal client.
And be encouraged by these surprising facts from the article above. Did you know that Pinterest had only 400 users four months after it launched, and Amazon’s first seven years were unprofitable? But look at them now! As the article says,
“Persistence is a vital characteristic of entrepreneurs, and to make a successful business expect a long and challenging journey.”
4. Enlist help wherever you can.
Here at Freelance University, our motto is “Never freelance alone.” It helps to have people around you who can support, encourage, and challenge you. When you’ve surrounded yourself with people who can relate to what you’re going through and work through it together, you’re less likely to give up. So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a desire to quit your freelance business, find someone to talk to online or in person.
For example, our FreeU Facebook community has been a lifeline for students. Whenever they’re going through a challenge, they post their questions or concerns within the group. And within moments, FreeU mentors and fellow students respond with thoughtful insights and encouragement. Similarly, our Monthly Mastermind small group sessions often result in lightbulb moments that propel students from feelings of discouragement to determination.
Remember, even if you’re a solopreneur, you don’t need to face challenges yourself. Find help wherever you can, whether through an online group, in-person Meetup event, or conversation with a supportive family member, friend, colleague, mentor, or counselor.
5. Take small steps every day.
Another way to avoid giving up on your freelance business is to accomplish little wins every day. These are baby steps that eventually lead to great results. That way, you create forward momentum that serves as a great motivator. And each step leads you closer to creating the freelance business of your dreams.
For example, in her article, “How To Stay Motivated When You Are Self-Employed and Feeling Overwhelmed,” Crystal Garrett suggests,
“It’s essential to have a goal to work towards when you’re self-employed. Perhaps you want to expand your business or earn a certain amount of money every month. Whatever your goals are, they should be written down and posted somewhere you can see them often. Set realistic goals for yourself and your business. Take on one task at a time and make sure it is completed before moving on to the next.”
You may have big goals, but small steps like these will help you reach them:
• Completing a page on your website
• Reading a blog post to learn helpful business practices
• Reaching out to a certain number of new people on LinkedIn
• Writing a blog post for your own site.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you’ll reach your destination!
6. Never stop learning.
Sometimes those lingering doubts and desire to quit occur because your business is getting left behind. As technology changes and the industry shifts, you find yourself losing pace with what feels like a runaway train. And you’re tempted to throw up your hands in despair. As a result, it’s important to commit to continuous learning.
As you acquire new skills and knowledge, you’ll be inspired to keep going. Your confidence will grow, and the idea of giving up will fade into the background. As we explain in a previous blog post, “How to Be Confident (When All You Have Is Doubt),” it’s always possible to become better at what you do, and as you master your skills, you’ll realize you aren’t an imposter. Therefore, it’s essential to learn something new on a regular basis. Ideally, set up weekly time blocks for learning, or fit it in wherever you can.
7. Practice good self-care.
Sometimes you may feel like quitting because you’re worn out. For this reason, it’s important to take care of yourself so you aren’t running on empty, both emotionally and physically. As mentioned above, one key ingredient of self-care is a support network including people who champion you and your freelance business.
In addition to that, find something you enjoy doing, like a hobby or exercise activity. That way, when you’re faced with a problem that makes you second-guess your freelance business endeavors, you have an outlet to clear your head.
This is especially important when you experience those momentary knee-jerk reactions that might cause people to make drastic decisions. Instead of saying, “I quit,” and throwing your computer out the window (an exaggerated illustration), you can take a break and realign your perspective. When you return to your desk, you’ll be calmer and more centered, ready to face challenges head on.
Often, it’s helpful to have various outlets to choose from, depending on how you’re feeling. For instance, you could make a list of activities that fit into different categories:
• Something active
• Something creative
• Something relaxing
• Something social.
A self-care plan like that will sustain you long term, so you can navigate all the twists and turns on your journey. And don’t forget to celebrate, as the article above suggests:
“Reward yourself with a small gift or treat after completing each self-employment goal so that you stay motivated to keep working hard towards your next accomplishment. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Giving yourself credit for your accomplishments will help you stay motivated and positive.”
Final Thoughts and Encouragement
The freelance industry continues to grow, and the future is promising. So, if you feel like giving up right now, take some time to work through the above strategies. You can be part of that future growth if you stay the course and continue building your freelance business. And remember that we’re here for you whenever you need a supportive community to help you face challenges along the way.
Now we’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you prevent yourself from giving up on your freelance or virtual assistant business? Please share any additional tips or strategies you’d recommend in the comments below.