Why Some Freelancers Thrive and Others Barely Survive

The people over at Freelance Folder are working on a book and as a bit of a prologue release they have posted a report to answer this question: What makes one business work while another can’t keep up?

Only 12 pages of text, this is a quick read and definately worth checking out for any of you starting out in Freelancing or thinking about taking the plunge. I’ve pulled out just a few items from the report that I had thoughts on and would love to hear your ideas about the report as well.

Reasons Freelancers Succeed…

They Deliver Great Work

This is paramount. Often, doing good work can be your biggest marketing tool. People trust word of mouth more than any other type of advertising and the only way to get genuine referrals from people is to deliver great work to them.

They Know the Value of Their Work

Too many freelancers starting out tend to sell themselves well below their worth. When you’re getting the ball rolling, it can be tempting to take every job that blows your way, not matter the pay – but if you’re working freelance full time you will quickly learn that every minute of your day is valuable and you need to charge accordingly.

I think one point in this report that really relates to this lesson in particular is “Look at freelancing as a business, not a job.” As a freelancer, it is your business, sure you are the worker, but you’re also the boss – you have to think past the work that is being done and also look at the way your business is presented to the world and where it is headed. If you want your business to be viewed as a quality studio, charging bargain basement prices is the wrong path to get on.

They Can Handle Lots of Work

This is something I mastered in the 9to5 world. My parents instilled in me a rabid work ethic and at any job I’ve ever had, I made it my goal to be a true asset to the company. My first years out of school, as a junior designer this meant working long hours with no creative control. It was draining both physically and emotionally, but I quickly learned – if I wanted time to eat and sleep, I better get really good at working fast! As you move up the design chain, becoming more efficient in your work is a must, once you add in the project management that comes along with the added responsibility.

Learn to work efficiently, and learn to keep your head under pressure.The best ways to avoid getting into nightmare work overload situations are to plan your time wisely, schedule projects realistically and have clear communication with your clients about deliverables and due dates.

Why Some Freelancers Fail

*Low-Quality Work

One things I noticed about this report is that while #1 on the list of reasons for success pointed to quality of work – none of the reasons for failure brought up low-quality work. If you want to be successful, you have to offer a quality service. This means staying up to date on industry standards, best practices, trends, etc. By offering your client a lesser product, you are doing your business (as well as theirs) a grave injustice.

(*not listed on the FF Report – just my thoughts)


Freelance is a beautiful thing, don’t ruin it by running yourself into the ground. Build your business slowly and take the time to enjoy what you do – cause if you don’t, why go through all the trouble?

Without the standard clock-in-clock-out atmosphere, you are open to deal with stress in the way that best suits you, instead of sucking it up and just making it to 5PM. Go for walks, change up your work space, set your office hours to work most effectively with your life.

Poor Communication

There are many dreadful situations you can find yourself in that could have been avoided if it were just for better communication. Streamlining your communication techniques and staying organized with them is time well spent. Don’t under estimate it!

These are just a few of the ideas highlighted in the Freelance Folder Report and my thoughts on them, you can read the report for yourself here.


  1. Hi Liz!

    Thanks for the review, I was looking for some opinion about the report all day yesterday :-)

    I’m glad you found it valuable, and I appreciate your added commentary (it definitely adds some detail to what I said in the report).


    – Mason

  2. Awesome post. Can’t wait to go back to full out freelancing.

    I freelanced through college, now working 9 to 5. I plan on learning what I can from this fancy office world, then take off and apply it to my own personal work and work for myself, and hopefully travel. :)

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