I recently had a freelancer’s worst nightmare happen. After several years of working with the same people online, a great client disappeared out of the blue. This left me in a serious bind because my debt had grown with my income, and in addition to regular life expenses like rent and such, I also have monthly credit obligations.
Such things happen in the online world, and most definitely when working as a freelance writer. However, for nearly five years, I’d been spoiled with limitless work being available — a never ending backlog, in fact. Due to the demands placed on me, I had widdled my client list to the two most reliable and demanding partners. I never ran out of work after dedicating my time to these clients, and often found it difficult to actually keep up with their needs.
Standing atop a house of glass…
We’ve all been told to never put all our eggs in a single basket, lest it get dropped and leave us to starve. However, aside from scaling up the business and outsourcing the work coming in (which my OCD editing side just couldn’t do) I either had to limit my client list, or limit the amount of content I could deliver to them. My thinking was that building two strong relationships, with serious bloggers who had established properties, was the better option from a reliability and customer service standpoint.
Unfortunately, all it took was one little kink in the chain that had become my income stream, and everything came tumbling down. In truth, I was Icarus flying too close to the sun on wings of feather and wax. If you read the myth, his wings melted due to complacency and hubris (Ie., dangerous overconfidence).
A few weeks ago, I was suddenly three weeks away from missing some serious credit card payments. This would damage an awesome credit rating I’d spent the last five years building up. The wolf was at the door, and I had basically a week to figure out a way to replace the hundreds of dollars in income I’d just lost forever.
Seriously humbled: What I did to fix it
I did what any person with a brain should do. It’s well known that preventing a forest fire is much easier than putting one out. The time for prevention was past — the embers were heating up, and the blaze wasn’t far away! I could seek out more clients, but finding good ones that are willing to pay my rates — who are reliable and good at communicating their needs — is easier said than done.
Fact is, there’s a pretty unpredictable wedding period when it comes to building a relationship with new clients. Some people just aren’t meant to work together. Big sites like Forbes and such have a lot of gatekeepers and even though they claim to pay, there are a lot of bloggers who say they’ve been stiffed.
Not to mention, larger publications have such a (pain in the butt) editing process, any extra pay they might offer is off-set by the time required to polish a post as per their requirements. Finding clients on Copyblogger, Warrior, and (gasp) DP is just too much of a rat-race for me at this point in life, too.
I basically had to get my crap together and make something happen ASAP! A friend told me his work was hiring people to drive large trucks and deliver product to customers in the nearby city of Toronto (heard of it?) I have to admit that it would seem like a step back to most people, but this particular job pays very well for the work involved. Is it easy? No!
However, I get to talk with a wide array of cultures that I’d otherwise never experience working from my cushy computer all day long in small town Canada.
Does being humbled mean you have to give up?
Nope! I’m going to use this day job to learn and get even better at customer service and communication. How we communicate determines our future success. Being humbled has actually given me a clearer perspective of my future. I’m not going to be a lifelong professional blogger, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my dream of the laptop lifestyle.
For now, being humble is key to getting myself out of the log-jam I’ve fallen into. However, I’m not recommending everyone shift away from what they’re doing right now if trouble is looming. I’ve in actuality taken on more work with this move, as I’ll continue writing for this site and others. I just won’t be actively seeking new clients and instead will focus on more personal goals, while maintaining my relationship with site owner, Ivan and the endless business he can offer myself and other content writers.
My advice is to not let complacency and overconfidence put you in the same financial jam it did me. Take on more clients, add another part time job, find a better paying gig — whatever it takes. I decided I didn’t want to go back to the marketing drawing board, but that doesn’t mean you should. Be humble enough to accept that what you’re doing right now isn’t working. Then be BOLD and go do something about it!
How about you?
Are you in some sort of (life) trouble?
Do you have the humility to move forward, rather than letting fate control your future?
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