Whether you’re a veteran freelancer or just starting out, we’ve all made our fair share of mistakes along the way. Sometimes that mistake is minor and it’s just a headache for you and the client. Other times, a mistake can be detrimental in which you lose a client or suffer a financial loss. Either way, having a slip up here and there isn’t always that bad. Learning from a mistake is one of the best ways to learn.
But, why take that chance?
Here are 8 mistakes that freelancers should be avoided at all costs.
1. Not Knowing What You’re Worth
This is arguably the main mistake that freelancers constantly make – especially when they first get into freelancing. There’s this misconception that they have to charge lower rates or offer discounts in order to attract to clients. That may work for a little bit. But, what happens if you start getting referrals? These new clients are going to also expect that rate and now you’re painting yourself into a corner. On the other end of the spectrum, if you charge too much potential clients may be look elsewhere.
Here’s the thing though. While clients definitely want to get the most bang for their buck, they’re willing to pay you what you’re worth – even slightly higher – if you’re excellent at what you do.
To help determine your worth and set your rates, here’s a couple of questions that you should ask:
- Did you go to school to learn your skills?
- How much experience do you have?
- How competitive is your field of expertise?
- What are others charging in your industry? (You can use Payscale to come up with some figures.)
- How much will it cost for you to complete a project?
- What’s your overhead? (Expenses like rent, electricity, operating costs)
Answering questions like that can give you a better idea on how much to charge. There’s also a handy Bill Rate Calculator to help you determine how much you should be charging.
Remember. You want your rates to be competitive, but you have to make a living – which is why you never undercharge for your services. Also, if you’re a Jedi Master a client isn’t going to be concerned with paying you more than freelancers who aren’t as capable. Know your worth and set the proper rate that works best for you.
2. Taking on Too Much Work
Here’s another mistake that freelancers run into. It’s tempting to take on each and every job when you’re starting out. Heck. You continue to take on work because you’re concerned that there may be a time when your workload gets light.
The problem with this is you can only do so much work each day before you start delivering subpar work. More importantly, you run into the risk of getting burnout if you’re just working on projects 24/7.
Know your limits on how much work you can handle. As a writer, I know that I can’t do more than 3 or 4 lengthy articles per day. If a client requests an article order I may have to politely decline the order if I already have articles in the pipeline. Or, I may ask the client if they can wait a week or two. It’s not always fun turning down a job, but your client should respect your honesty. They would rather have you give them your full attention. Sometimes that means that have to find someone else. But, there have been times when the client will wait until I have the time to work on a project for them.
3. Lack of Communication
If you’ve been involved in any sort of relationship than you already know just how important communication is. The same is true between a freelancer and a client. Frequent communication can prevent misunderstandings and delays in either the progress of a project or getting paid when completed.
Before taking on a project, know the scope of the work, how much the project will cost, and how to get in touch with the client. Make sure that the client has clarified exactly what they are looking for and when it’s expected to be finished. Even after you’ve started the project, give the client frequent updates. If there’s any concerns or delays, don’t hesitate to let the client know. They may get a tad frustrated, but it’s better than turning over a project that’s past the deadline without the client knowing.
In short, always keep the lines of communication open between you and the client. It’s just a small step in building a strong rapport with you and your client.
4. Accepting the Wrong Gig
Again, there’s always an itch to take on as many jobs as possible. But, you may not be a good fit for certain jobs. Maybe the work just doesn’t interest you. And, that’s completely fine. If you prefer writing articles on healthy living, you may dread taking on projects that focus on finance.
There’s also situations where you’re not experienced enough for a project. You may have learned the basics of designing a website, but you’re not an expert yet. But, you could use the money. So, you accept a job that you’re not qualified to do. That’s not fair to you or the client.
We got into freelance because we want to break out of the 9-to-5 grind. It’s acceptable to reject a job that we don’t like because we either find it boring or don’t have the skill level.
5. Not Taking Advantage of the Flexibility
One of the best things about freelance work is that we can make our own schedules. Sometimes that’s a challenge. I mean I would rather binge watch Daredevil on Netflix, but I have to make a living. To find that balance, I have set my own schedule for my most productive hours. However, I also take advantage of the fact that I don’t have to be in an office at a certain hour.
For example, my friends just moved to the beach. They have jobs where they work on weekends, so the only time I could spend time with them would be on a Monday or Tuesday. I would take off on those days. To prevent falling behind on work, I would write on the weekend before I left or the following weekend.
Remember, you left the daily grind behind so that you could be your own boss. Take advantage of the fact that you can make your own schedule so that you can work when you want to or take a day off to recharge the batteries.
6. Scrambling to Meet a Deadline
Just because you have flexibility doesn’t mean that you can ignore deadlines. If you want to take a week off and go on vacation, you can. Just don’t freak when you there’s a deadline waiting for you when you get home. If you want to take on more projects than you can handle, then go for it. Just don’t get frazzled when your clients keep asking you why the deadline hasn’t been met.
For whatever reason, it’s not uncommon for a freelancer to rush through a project in order to have it completed on time. This overpromising and underperforming isn’t going to go over with your clients – and it’s going to harm your reputation. They expect quality work from you by the deadline that you agreed on.
Again, if you can’t handle the workload, you don’t have to accept a job. Additionally, if you can’t finish an assignment by a deadline, because of an unforeseen circumstance, be honest with the client.
The best way to avoid any problems though, is to plan to have the deadline met a day or two in advance. This gives you a little more flexibility in case there’s an emergency or if you’re backed up on work.
7. Not Treating Your Freelance Career As a Business
Don’t kid yourself. As soon as you became a freelancer, you became a self-employed small business owner. As a business owner, you need to build a business plan, establish a legal entity, pay your taxes, purchase the right insurance, keep your books organized, and send out professional quotes and invoices.
Even though freelancers and clients agree on a project through an email correspondence, you may also want to consider signing a contract. This will prevent both parties from bailing out on each other. Smashing Magazine has a list of Do’s and Don’ts with freelance contracts.
8. Never Asking For Help
Just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean that absolutely alone. If you’re overwhelmed or need advice you should reach out to colleagues or other freelancers. You could be able to outsource a job to a fellow creative. You could ask a question regarding a project, paying taxes, or how to manage your time as a freelancer. Between social media channels, sites like Quora, and forums like the Freelance Forum, you can readily reach out and find a helping hand.