Freelancing is great when the systems and processes are in place and have been perfected. However, most of those processes are usually products of trial and error.
Unfortunately, most new freelancers tend to repeat the same errors, which end up costing them a lot of time, money, and even clients. The good news is you can be proactive about preventing these mistakes and avoid months of unrewarding hard work.
In this article, we’ll be showing you some of the more common mistakes that new freelancers tend to make. Armed with this information, therefore, you’ll be able to make better choices and advance more rapidly in your new freelancing career.
Jumping in Headlong Without a Financial Buffer
The 2020 pandemic forced many professionals to review their lives, jobs, and state of health. For some, it was an eye-opening event that forced them to reassess what was important to them.
For many, one of the outcomes of these reflections was the need to be able to spend more quality time with their loved ones, have a good work-life balance, and still earn enough money.
So, many started looking at freelancing as a viable option. While freelancing can be lucrative –some people are able to earn six figures annually– it has to be done right. Jumping in without proper planning or an adequate financial cushion can be dangerous.
Just like every other business, building a career as a freelancer takes time, effort, and commitment. During this period, you need to make sure that you aren’t worried about money. So, make the necessary arrangements before going in full-time.
Many freelancers recommend keeping your 9-5 and working in the evenings or after hours until you’re more financially stable. While you’re still working your day job, make sure you have decent savings that will last for a minimum of six months. This way, if you quit to become a full-time freelancer, you won’t be worried about money.
Poor Project Clarification
Let’s say you’ve gotten your first gig. What do you do? Well, most new freelancers will just jump in and do what they feel would be best for the client, instead of listening to and doing what the client wants and needs. Experienced freelancers with years of practise also make this mistake occasionally.
This is why you must endeavour to clarify and completely hash out the full project details. Not only will this improve your chances of doing great work for your clients, but it’ll also save you the headache of completely redoing the work because it was not in line with the client’s requirements. Plus, your clients will be happy and satisfied.
If you’re ever in doubt about the client’s goals, ask them about it. Better to start slowly than to rush the project and have it sent back to you by a displeased client.
Going After the Wrong Clients
There are so many ways that a client can be wrong for you. For example, some clients are known to drag out the payment process. We’ve seen clients tell freelancers that they don’t pay for work until 45 days after the project has been approved.
Then there are clients that will just disappear after you deliver their work. Another group of problematic clients includes those who try to micro-manage the project, and hover, leaving little or no room for you to do an excellent job.
So, here’s what we recommend: vet your client thoroughly. If you’re working on freelance platforms like Upwork, make sure to check out the reviews of other contractors. If the reviews are largely positive, that’s a good sign.
Then check for their payment information to see if it’s verified. If it’s verified, that’s a good indication too. Lastly, see if they’re a real company or individual. If they pass these three checks, then you’re in good hands. Now, we understand that not everyone can work on platforms like Upwork or find their clients there.
If you’re seeking your clients using alternative options like manually surfing the web or searching social media profiles, make sure that they have a reputable company. Many reputable companies hire independently. You can work with them. Just make sure that they can pay well.
Settling for Work You Dislike
Some people say that when you’re just starting as a freelancer, you should take just about any type of work that’s thrown at you. We disagree.
You see, if you’re freelancing, it means that you already have an in-demand skill set that you’ve honed and perfected over the years. You just need to address and establish that online. Doing something else without having the requisite experience and knowledge will cost you your reputation.
For example, if you’re great at video production but dislike writing scripts, it’s best to stick with your video production instead of forcing yourself to write video scripts because of the money.
Stay focused on what you’re great at, and continually hone your skills until you become one of the best freelancers out there. If you do a good enough job all the time, you’ll find that clients will refer other people to you, and you’ll be able to command or charge way more than the average freelance video production person.
Taking on More Than You Can Handle
What are your capabilities? How much work can you get done in an hour, a day, a week, or a month? Figure that out and just stick with it. Many people make the mistake of taking on more work than they can handle.
Then, they end up missing deadlines and disappointing the client. Short of life events or illnesses, always make sure to take on the scope of work that you can deliver. Anything more and you’re likely to develop a reputation as an unreliable freelancer. That’s not a reputation you want to have in the gig sector.
What’s the going market rate for your type of gig? Figure that out and use that pricing. Many new freelancers have a lot of experience and knowledge. So they naturally assume that clients will likely pay them what regular companies or firms would.
You need to understand that sometimes, hourly or project offline prices will be different from what clients are willing to pay online. For example, writers who work with magazine publications typically earn $50 to $250 per hour, and may only need to write just 5-8 pieces a month.
However, when you transition online, the rates can be considerably lower than the going rate offline. So when you quote a newspaper publication writer’s prices to a client who just needs 4 blog posts per week, you will find very quickly, that they think your rates are too high.
So, determine what the average cost per project or assignment is, and bill the clients accordingly. If you must, take on low-paying gigs just to build out a portfolio that you can approach other clients with. Then, you can raise your prices and charge the clients accordingly.
Not Having a Clear Career Trajectory
What kind of freelancer do you want to be? Do you want to be known as an excellent copywriter, a video production guru, a leading tech person, or any other field? Whatever your freelancing goals are, figure them out and work hard towards making them a reality.
The same goes for your income goals. For instance, if you want to get to, say, $5,000 a month within 7 months to 1 year, you’ll need to figure out what you need to do. Take a course, hire a coach, buy a high-value info-product… just do whatever you need to achieve that goal.
Freelancing is easy, but it also has its learning curve. However, this learning curve can be mastered quickly if you apply yourself and avoid the mistakes that were listed in this article. Good luck in your new freelance venture.