Don't put all your eggs in one basket
One of the great things about being a freelancer is the ability to control where your income is generated. You aren't tied down to a single entity where all of your money comes from and can manage the flow of income as needed. You can go searching for more work if you suddenly find yourself needing more money in a specific time period. Alternatively, you can take on less work if you want to go on vacation, work on a pet project or just clear your head. It's a really nice perk to have and use.
I think one common thing that most freelancers do when they begin working on their own is that there's a tendency to solely focus on the one avenue of income, because it's where they've gotten most, or all, of their work. It makes sense to do so - the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind here. If you're getting work from one place, it feels like it makes everything a whole lot easier, since you don't have to stray too far off the established comfort zone, you build up a solid reputation, and you're making money off of it. So why bother looking for other areas of work?
Of course, when something works well, it's great. Until suddenly it's not great, and I learned that lesson the hard way recently.
I began freelancing in November 2014, and most of my work has been provided by Upwork (formerly known as oDesk). It worked out great for me. I had a steady stream of work coming my way, and I was making more than enough to meet my personal needs. Then, out of nowhere, I received a message from Upwork, saying that my account would be frozen because, according to the message, they think I have more than one Upwork account under my name. Having been on their platform for move than seven months prior, along with being a Top Rated Freelancer, I fail to understand how they believed I could be trying to game the system in some way.
Having my account frozen means I can't get more work and my pending payments are on hold until this issue is dealt with. To make matters worse, their customer support has been very lackluster:
- They cancelled my account at 1:00 AM on a Sunday morning, only for me to find out when I woke up.
- They didn't respond to my initial message for four days, and usually take 1-2 days to reply to any followups (usually while I'm sleeping, so I'm guessing this is an outsourced team).
- I called their customer support line three times throughout the week, and all three representatives had zero information about my case. All they told me that they could see that my account is frozen - as if I didn't know.
- Despite my repeated inquiries, I have not been provided evidence about how they think I have more than one account, especially when the other account in question is a new client I started working with, who is located 8,000 miles away in Thailand. You'd think a simple IP address lookup for who logs in to those accounts would clear it up. Maybe their system lacks even the basics of logging, who knows.
Thankfully, by the time the account freeze happened, I did have plenty of work outside of Upwork thanks to referrals. I wasn't dependent on finding work on their platform. But if I had all my eggs in one basket, so to speak, I would have been pretty screwed right now, desperately trying to find work elsewhere.
This lesson teaches me the importance of not only having multiple clients when you're freelancing, but to have multiple ways to get and retain those clients. Staying on one platform can help by having a solid reputation and knowing how things work and not having to spend too much time handling different systems, but when that platform crumbles for any reason, you'll be left to sift through the ruins.
Edit: One day after writing this post, Upwork has reinstated my account. They still haven't provided a clearer explanation as to why the platform thought I violated their terms of service by having more multiple accounts when I only have one. Although I doubt I'll have any clearer information, but I'm trying to follow up on this and will update the post accordingly if I hear back.