Technology advancements have made freelancing possible world-wide. More and more professionals give up their 9 to 5 jobs and dive into the fun world of freelancing. Now the name of it says free, but in essence, it’s quite different.
If you ever had a regular job, you probably finished everything while at work and then left for home and forgot all about it. You received your paycheck and had little to no responsibility regarding the success of the company.
But with freelance work, it’s different.
You can’t go home and forget about the work because you work at home and you are always available for clients. You receive money, but you have to deal with various taxes and insurance payments yourself before getting to spend it. And finally, you are the only one responsible for your success.
Besides being an expert in your niche, you also need to be familiar with – if not an expert at – various skills related to business and marketing. So, no, freelancing isn’t free in that aspect, nor is it anything like a regular job.
Freelancing requires much more responsibility and passion for work than your average office employment.
However, it’s also liberating in a different sense. You get to do what you love, choose your own tasks, rates, manage your own time and work from the comfort of your home – bed even – or anywhere you want to be on any given day.
Once you start freelancing, it can seem extremely complex – near impossible. Especially when being bombarded with all the information available today. Everyone is talking about what you should do, but you are still not seeing the results.
So, what should you absolutely avoid at all costs?
New freelancers are prone to making various mistakes because they are not really sure what to do. They want work, and good work at that, but their inexperience with freelancing is often a big obstacle.
Here are top ten mistakes you should avoid as a new freelancer:
1. Not trusting your instincts
Maybe you think that just because you are new, you don’t get to trust your guts. This often happens – freelancers think that they have to do the work available even though their radars are pinging without end at each new step.
The truth is, you don’t.
Everyone knows this feeling. You know it – the bad feeling in your stomach when you know that something is going to blow up in your face. It’s not nervousness about the new clients or tasks. It’s instinct, something primal in all of us, keeping us safe from danger.
Now, this may not be a true danger to your life, but it’s a danger to your mental health. If you feel like your relationship with a client or the work itself is going to go sour, or you are not sure what you are supposed to do, then you are probably right.
So, don’t stick with a client just because you are new and inexperienced. You are also human and you can sense things that are beyond what’s being said – or written. Trust yourself and step away from the situation that you don’t want to be in.
2. Not being picky about the clients
This is a second most common mistake that goes hand in hand with the previous one. It’s a misconception of being a new freelancer. Everyone is telling you that you’ll fail because people say those things when they are not familiar with something. Tips and advice online say that you need to get some experience before you can get serious clients. You need work and money pronto. So, what do you do as a beginner freelancer?
You probably accept the first client that comes your way. The work is strange, the client even stranger – because these people really do fish for newcomers to take advantage of. The pay is much lower than it should be and you are not even sure you are getting paid. Then the client starts getting picky and anxious. He wants you to finish far sooner than you physically can. He doesn’t like anything, and in the end he says that he may not even pay you because he dislikes your work. You know you did great work but you feel like a failure. Freelancing sucks.
Now, let’s go back to the beginning – same situation, everyone is doubting you, everyone says that you can’t be picky. But this time, do just that. Be picky. Then a great client comes your way with exciting work, reasonable pay and great attitude. How do you think this story ends?
3. Not starting a contract
No matter how great the client seems or how desperate you are, starting without a written agreement is never a good idea. You leave yourself open to fraud and requests that require much more work and money that initially requested. Handshake deals do sometimes work, but only sometimes – and only with trusted contacts, which means you need to work with them a while first.
Other than that, getting everything on paper – or at least an email – is a must.
Just create a simple Word document with some general rules, your rates and details. Edit it and proofread it with tools like OriginWritings or 1Day2Write. It doesn’t take much time or money, but in the end, you are well protected and satisfied. If a client sends you a contract, read it carefully and don’t sign it until all your questions and any gray areas are cleared up – on an updated document.
4. Charging too much
This is a common issue among overly confident, fresh-out-of-school freelancers. They create a portfolio, thinking they are better than anyone else, and set a high rate upfront. But something is wrong – they are not getting any clients. It’s just too much for someone new on the market.
Avoid this situation by examining your work closely and realistically before setting a rate. Look at what other people with similar work quality and experience are doing. Your portfolio should say $50 per hour is worth it, even before you name that rate. Don’t show a portfolio full of $10 pieces while requesting a high rate. Both good clients and bad will run from that.
5. Charging too little
So, this is another issue, but this time with freelancers who offer quality work but have no self-esteem. A mistake, again. This also happens when new freelancers want to get a lot of experience. They set a low rate to make themselves more attractive. Don’t do this. This invites all the bad clients in along with crooks and frauds. Good clients may like your work, but they won’t get to see it because they are searching in a much higher price range – looking for quality.
Examine your work, compare it with others in your niche, and set a reasonable price that makes you happy while showcasing the true value of your work.
6. Not managing your time well
As a freelancer, one of the first things you’ll learn is how important time management is. If you don’t have a good schedule, you are bound to get overwhelmed. For one, it’s best to wake up early so you can get the majority of your work done by noon. The benefit of freelancing is the fact they you could have the majority of your day free – so make sure it happens.
Next, try not to work all day. Organize your time so you are effective and productive. Working all day will seem like a nightmare after a while and it will kill your love of work.
7. Not having a system
“Winging it” may seem like a good idea at first, but it’s not. You need a system. It can be as simple as doing hard tasks first or it could be so complex that it requires a written plan. Just figure out what works for you by testing what makes you the most productive. For example, if working in 30-minute stints makes you more productive, do that. If writing a concept before doing the actual work is best, do just that. “Make sure to tweak your techniques as you move forward,” says Ariadne Green, a writer from WriteMyX.
8. Diving in too soon
Don’t give up your regular job too soon. The happiest freelancers out there are the ones who took the time to develop their freelancing business before quitting their regular jobs. This takes away the stress of needing money and work in short time and makes you pickier when looking for tasks and clients.
9. Not picking a niche
New freelancers often want to do it all. But, this leads to more mistakes. You are spreading yourself too thin and clients will not take you seriously. You may be good at writing, designing and Web development, but you can’t be a designer, writer and developer at the same time. Pick a niche and stick to it. Hone your skills until you are one of the best in your niche.
10. Having no boundaries
This is a mistake that could cost you your sanity. Clients will not respect you or your personal life unless you are explicit about it. For instance, if you answer their call outside your working hours once, expect them to call in the middle of the night, noon, morning or any other time. If you don’t explicitly tell them when you’re available, they will call you anytime they need you. If you don’t specifically say anything about when you can finish a project, expect them to call the next morning to ask if you are done.
You need boundaries or they’ll invade your life constantly. You don’t want the additional stress of having to be available at all times or them interrupting your work with calls. For your own peace of mind, set the rules and don’t work with anyone who doesn’t like them.
Be the best freelancer you can be by avoiding these mistakes.
Freelancing can be difficult – that is, if you allow it to be. These are some of the most common mistakes that could ruin your freelancing experience before you’ve really started, but you can avoid them easily. Just remember to trust your gut and know your worth. Keep improving and you’ll soon be the one giving advice to the newbies.
Tim Colley is a marketing and business writer at Academic Brits. His main goal is to help companies develop effective marketing strategies. In his free time he enjoys meeting new people and writing helpful articles for online publications.