• Lifestyle

4 Villains of the freelance life

I think all of us have a hero and a villain in us.

-Anson Mount

In a dark, secret lair, there’s a group of villains who use subterfuge and guile to try to ruin great freelance careers across the country. They’re bad, they’re crooked, they’re -- dun dun dun -- The Freelance Supervillians!

All joking aside, it is (famously) true that our worst enemies are ourselves. Here are just a few forces that prevent us from being entrepreneurial heroes in our own lives:

The Isolator

A dastardly foe common to almost every freelance hero, The Isolator locks us up in our own little world, avoids human interaction, and works on projects after sundown when we should really be seeing other people.

How to defeat The Isolator:

  • Attend a networking event once a month or more. Check out ours or ones on Meetup.
  • Set an established day (once a month, “the third friday of every month”) that you set aside to go on a date with your significant other or friends group. Set it aside. Make it sacred.
  • Don’t work for 8 hours a day without talking to someone. Call your mom. Take your dog out for a walk. Take yourself out for a walk. Watching Netflix does not count.
  • Take a lunch break. But don’t take it in your house -- it’s nice weather, so at the very least you should go to a local park (where there are other people), at a coffee shop (where you can people watch), or take a 9-5 friend out to lunch.
  • Go to a local board game or card night. Who doesn’t love board games? There are board game Meetup groups across the country, and in my experience, they’re some of the most welcoming. Bring your friend if you’re nervous.

Marketer Schmarketor

“You can wait until the end of your project to start marketing again!” “You can build a website when you get more portfolio pieces!” This is what Marketer Schmarketor says (with a scoff). This villain makes you vulnerable to dry spells.

How to defeat Marketer Schmarketor:

  • Sit down right now (turn away from this computer screen) and write down your goals for May in terms of social media marketing. Make them stupid-easy, include a deadline and the amount of time you think it’ll take.
    • “I will set up a Twitter account and tweet 2 times a week in May -- on Monday mornings and Saturday mornings. It’ll take me 25 minutes to set it up and 3 minutes for each tweet.”
    • “I will update my LinkedIn profile with my latest gigs in May. It will take me around 30 minutes.”
  • Set up alerts from online job boards to receive gigs in your inbox based on certain keywords. Pick only the job boards that seem worth your time (normally industry-specific boards). This ensures that you keep browsing and querying on a regular timetable.
  • Subscribe to Meetup networking groups to get notified of their events.
  • Send an email to clients as the project ends -- every time. Thank them. Then every 6 months or so, send them a follow-up reminder about who you are. Get creative about it -- here are some tips.


Unlike most villains, this one is not very confident or bossy. In order to achieve their gig goals, they’re willing to backslide, negotiate down prices, and bow to most client whims. Rather than setting clear boundaries and managing client expectations, this villain expects to do everything -- and ends up almost killing themselves.

How to defeat Underling:

  • Know how much you’re worth. Know what you’re willing to negotiate in terms of price and conditions before you go in to the meeting.
  • Stop undercharging for your work. If possible, attend networking events where other freelancers are or ask a freelancer friend if they’re willing to be open about what they charge.
  • Manage the client process, from first meeting to final sign-off. It’s your responsibility to be the professional and to set expectations for the kind of relationship you have with your clients. Make sure they understand that you are a professional, not a technician, and that your concepts matter. Learn more about managing client process here.
  • Get the right contract. Include all the right contract terms -- especially ones about kill fees and the appropriate number of revisions.

The Taker

The Taker believes that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and in order to own your own business, you need to keep everything close to the chest: your clients, advice about freelancing, your contacts, your best practices. This villain is happy receiving such advice from other people, but doesn’t take the time to give back.

How to defeat The Taker:

What “bad” forces prevent you from being your full heroic freelance self? Let us know in comments! (Evil cackles welcome.)