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5 min read

How To Bounce Back As A Freelancer

Freelance life is a notorious rollercoaster of highs and lows and often you’re riding it alone. This can make it really hard to keep going and to bounce back from any setbacks. With nearly 30 years of freelancing experience between them, Sarah Townsend and Sophie Cross share their advice on making a comeback from the toughest times. 

Introducing Sarah… 

Sarah Townsend profile photo at desk Sarah Townsend has been a freelance marketing copywriter for over 20 years. In her book Survival Skills for Freelancers, she shares strategies for tackling the ups and downs all freelancers face, based on her own experience, backed up by research, resources and quotes from the freelance community.

Introducing Sophie… 


Sophie Cross

Sophie Cross has been a freelancer for eight years and runs the Thoughtfully Marketing School with online courses and resources to help freelancers to market themselves and grow a business they love. 

Freelance life highs and lows

The freedom freelancing can afford you can be brilliant if only you could ever turn down work. You can flit between feeling like you’ve taken too much on, to worrying that you don’t have enough coming up, sometimes in the same afternoon! You can learn to be very resilient but you can also be very sensitive. After all, it’s often only you making all of the decisions. You get 100% of the highs and 100% of the lows and it’s not always easy to put things in perspective or know what to prioritise when you work alone a lot of the time.


7 big things you might have to bounce back from as a freelancer

  1. Losing out on a pitch
  2. Losing a big client
  3. Feeling out of your depth 
  4. Getting negative feedback 
  5. Quiet periods 
  6. A nightmare client 
  7. Burnout

Let’s take a look at each of these and the ways you can bounce back…

1. Losing out on a pitch  

Sarah says… 

You can’t go solo without putting yourself out there in the metaphorical firing line and being vulnerable, and having the ability to take criticism professionally, not personally, is a useful skill to cultivate.

But when you’re responsible for paying the mortgage or the rent each month, every client that doesn’t convert, every email that goes unanswered, and every business proposal that’s rejected can increase stress and knock your confidence. Working on your emotional resilience can help you deal with pressure and reduce the impact of stress. I share strategies on how to boost your resilience in Survival Skills for Freelancers.

Remember, there are many ways in which rejection really isn’t personal. Perhaps your timing is wrong, your prices are too high (or too low), your approach isn’t compatible, or you’re simply the wrong fit for either the job or the client – so don’t lose hope. Try to get some feedback from the client so you can improve next time. 


2. Losing a big client

Sophie says…

It’s always worth considering what percentage of your income comes from each of your clients. Spread the risk by having more clients and making sure none of them contributes more than 40% of your income. It’s pertinent to put aside money for your tax bill but also to cover any periods when you have to look for new business. 

If you need to replace a big client, first review what went well and what didn’t go so well. If you got one client, you can definitely get another. Look back at how you won other business and for the lowest hanging fruit in your connections. Reconnect with people and remind them how you can help them. Ask your other clients if they might have more projects that you can help with.

LinkedIn is the best social network for winning new business. Enrol on LinkedIn For Humans to start generating opportunities for yourself from the platform. You can also look on job sites like Jooble for freelance opportunities


3. Feeling out of your depth 

Sarah says… 

We’re all human, and we all experience self-doubt and the fear of failure from time to time. The important thing is not to let these negative feelings hold you back. Remember, you are worthy, you do deserve success, and you are good enough.

In Survival Skills for Freelancers I cover six simple steps to help you keep self-doubt and imposter syndrome in check:

  • Accept mistakes: you fail, you learn, you grow.
  • Stop comparing yourself: put an end to ‘comparison-itis’.
  • Keep talking: you’re never alone with these feelings.
  • Reward yourself for taking risks: remember, excitement and fear feel the same .
  • Celebrate your successes: take time to reflect on your wins.
  • List the things you’re good at, pin it up and read it regularly.

We’re all human, and we all experience self-doubt and the fear of failure from time to time. The important thing is not to let these negative feelings hold you back. Remember, you are worthy, you do deserve success, and you are good enough.

4. Getting negative feedback

Sophie says…

It’s hard not to let negative feedback get you down or to feel a little defensive about it but try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Ask if the feedback is fair and if it’s valuable. The best way to deal with it is to try not to take it personally and to learn from it.

Even if it wasn’t really your fault, for example, the brief the client provided wasn’t clear enough, could you put something in place in your process to try to ensure this doesn’t happen again? 

Take a bit of time out to cheer yourself up, chat to a friend about it and then get back in that saddle. This feedback won’t matter to you in a few days time. 


5. Quiet periods 

Sarah says… 

We all experience quiet spells and uncertainty from time to time – the key is to adjust your mindset from one of fear to one of opportunity. The more you focus on the lack of work, the more it will perpetuate. Instead, keep a list of things you want to do to work on your business and turn to that list during the dry spells.

That may be creating an online course, working on your business website, creating a bank of blog posts, or starting an email newsletter. Whatever it is, focus on proactive, positive action and you’ll soon find the work starts to flow back in.

Dry spells are one of the many reasons it’s vital to have savings to fall back on when you’re self-employed or a company of one.


6. A nightmare client

Sophie says… 

Unfortunately, most freelancers have been there at one point or another with the clients who micro-manage, who keep changing their minds, who don’t pay on time, who think they always know best and the pure narcissists.

Experience will let you spot these people a lot sooner as well as putting into place strategies that help you avoid working with them in the first place. The stronger your own values and the more you put them out there, the more likely you are to attract clients who align with you. 

If your gut tells you something isn’t right, it isn’t. Life is too short to be unhappy (and this is certainly not the reason you freelance) so get rid of nightmare clients pronto. You don’t have to make it personal, tell them another opportunity came up that you just can’t turn down. 

There are fabulous freelancer support networks out there like the Being Freelance and Freelance Heroes communities on Facebook that you can always go to for advice about anything.


7. Burnout 

Sarah says… 

Burnout is all too common in freelance life. The stark reality that you’re responsible for your own success – and that the buck really does stop with you – comes with a lot of pressure. But there are practical steps you can take to reduce the risk of burnout. Here are some of the tips I cover in detail in Survival Skills for Freelancers:

  • Set healthy boundaries: guard your time and energy carefully.
  • Ask for help: trying to do everything yourself is the fast train to burnout.
  • Take time out: prioritise your mental wellbeing.
  • Reach out: find your community.
  • Trust your instinct: learn to say no to the work that doesn’t feel right.
  • Take control: don’t let your clients dictate how you spend your time.


True success is about balance. It’s about feeling fulfilled and inspired by a job you love, and working with people who encourage and support you. It includes allocating time to reflect, restore and relax – and it prioritises your wellbeing and mental health. Because only by setting boundaries and taking care of your emotional resilience will you be the best freelancer – and the best you ­– you can be.

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Sophie Cross

Sophie Cross runs Thoughtfully Marketing School. Online, on-demand, and lifetime access marketing courses, support, and free resources if you’re a freelancer or ‘company of one’. 

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