Don’t you love those days when everything goes smoothly, even better than planned, and you’re able to just do your job and be productive? Too bad they’re not the norm.
There are countless types of problems you might run into as a freelancer. You could be having trouble with your interactions with a particular client, or maybe you’re stuck on a certain project. Sometimes technical issues get in the way too.
As a freelancer, you’re a one-person company so you’re the one who’s on the hook for fixing all those problems. Your ability to find and define problem solving strategies will make all the difference in your success. Whatever your latest roadblock might be, try these top 5 problem solving strategies.
1. Define the Root Problem
You have a specific circumstance that’s frustrating you right now, but it could be part of a larger problem. You need to figure out what the root problem is first so you can solve the ongoing issue rather than the symptom.
For example, let’s say you have a client who keeps adding tasks onto a project, going beyond the original scope without paying you more. Scope creep is the latest symptom, but the real problem is that your client doesn’t respect your value or your professionalism. In this case, you need to firmly explain that anything beyond the original scope of the project will cost more, so your client sees that you’re able to put your foot down. Make sure to use a written communication channel and save your records.
This should be a cornerstone of any basic problem solving strategies you use. Always keep your eye on the root cause instead of chasing symptoms.
2. Play the Numbers Game
Most problems have many possible solutions, but some are better than others. One way to handle a roadblock is to brainstorm as many possible solutions as you can, including terrible ones.
This helps you in two ways. First, it gets you in the thought process of getting creative to find a solution, so you might have ideas you wouldn’t think of otherwise. Second, it gives you a long list of solutions for work based problems.
Start with the best apparent solution that came out of your brainstorm. If that doesn’t work, you aren’t back to square one. You still have a great list of other solutions to try.
3. Walk Away
No, I’m not saying to strap on your jogging shoes and run away from your problems. Just take a break. Trying to focus on the problem for too long could give you mental fatigue and block you from a great solution that’s right in front of you.
If possible, walk away from the problem overnight and come back to it the next day with fresh eyes and a fresh mind. If you need a solution sooner, move onto something else or go take in a change of scenery for a few hours.
It’s not the most rapid of problem solving techniques, but it works. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had writer’s block that was broken by a mere bathroom break. When your brain gets stuck in a loop, any change to your environment could break it.
4. Build a Journal of Problems and Solutions
It might seem like every hurdle you encounter is unique, but you’d be surprised by how often there are common threads. Take that scope creep example above for instance. If you’re freelancing, I promise you that you’ll need to assert your professionalism more than once.
Keep a running document with notes about problems you’ve faced and the solutions that worked, as well as different problem solving strategies. Store it in a drive you can access from anywhere. This can be especially helpful with technical issues because you can write a clear step-by-step guide. This way, the next time you have a tough problem, you can do a quick search through your document and see how you’ve fixed similar issues in the past.
5. Make It a Networking Opportunity
Networking is absolutely instrumental for freelancers. Not only is it a terrific way to get referrals for new clients but it gives you a community of support in the not-always-easy world of building your own business.
Reach out to a colleague like a fellow freelancer or someone in your field who may have dealt with a similar problem to yours. Ask if they have any advice or insight that could help you. In the process, make sure it’s clear that you’re happy to do the same for them if they ever get stuck on a problem.
This strategy can give you terrific problem solving techniques in the workplace but it also helps you cultivate relationships with your professional contacts. The closer you are with those in your network, the more likely it is to be a mutually beneficial relationship. If someone does give you great advice, though, don’t forget to jot it down in that problem-solving journal.
Honing the Useful Skill of Effective Problem Solving Strategies
Truth be told, there’s no singular strategy that works every time. Your goal should be to get a handle on several effective problem solving strategies so you can choose the best one for any circumstance. When you’ve mastered this, you can tackle anything that comes your way.