6 Most Common Freelance Mistakes You Should Avoid

05/11/2016 13 comments

One does not simply quit his full-time job and becomes his own boss overnight. At least not before committing a couple of freelance mistakes along the way. With that in mind, here are six most common freelance mistakes new freelancers make and how you can best avoid them:

Freelance Mistakes 1: Taking Work From Everyone

Saying yes all the time is a common freelance mistake

Oh look, a new client! Great! And there’s another one. And another. Having many clients and projects may seem good on paper (more clients equals more cash, right?), but in reality, accepting everyone and anyone is not good for either your career or your mental health.

You need to learn how to say NO! to some projects. Getting overworked is one of the biggest freelance mistakes you can make.

It is well within your rights as a freelancer and as a human being to refuse a client for any number of reasons. You don’t like the price and the client is not willing to increase it? Thank you, goodbye! The client demands a short delivery time? Tell him you don’t have time to work with him at all. You think the project is not fit for your skills? Better not start it at all than doing it all wrong.

There is nothing wrong in saying no from time to time. Sooner than realize, a better opportunity will present itself.

Freelance Mistakes 2: Not Scheduling Your Work

Freelance mistake: Not scheduling your work

Not scheduling your work can mean two things. Either you are procrastinating or you have taken too much work.

Both are common freelance mistakes and both should be avoided.

If you’re procrastinating, you’ll soon start being late with your assignments. Clients typically don’t like that. Most will understand a good reason for a delay, like having to take care of sick children, but if they see that you are constantly late to deliver your work, they’ll soon stop working with you. You don’t want that.

You don’t want your freelance mistakes to get you fired.

Overworking, on the other hand is okay with clients. After all, as long as you get the work done on time and it’s good, they don’t mind anything else. Work 24/7 for all they care.

But this is not good for you. I remember a time with my first client when I worked literally 8 hours a day from Monday to Friday. With only Sundays for rest. And, I also had a thesis paper to write. I was mentally beat, practically a zombie during that time.

Procrastinating and overworking yourself are two sides of the same coin. You need to find a way to balance that coin so you are able to complete your work on time and still have time for you and you, your loved ones and friends.

How to do that? Start scheduling your work. Make a habit of creating a routine and sticking with it. Assign a time and day for each particular project when you are going to work on it. But also, take breaks. Go for a walk to get some fresh air and clear your head. And don’t forget to take a vacation from time to time. You have every right for it.

Here’s an app that can help you schedule your online jobs better: When I Work

Freelance Mistakes 3: Allowing the Client to Set all the Terms

Just as clients will have their terms and conditions for anyone who wants to work with them, so should you have your own T&Cs. My personal terms and conditions when working with new clients on Upwork is to never accept a rush work, only work with verified clients and never work through Skype (I got nothing personal against it, I know it makes life easier for many freelancers and clients, but I just never had a good client this way).

Of course, you can think of any other terms and conditions you will set before a potential client besides these, as long as they are reasonable, that is.

Another thing you should absolutely not allow a client to set, apart from absolutely every term and condition is your own rates. With most clients, you can haggle your price until you reach a number that works well for you, but if you allow the client to do this, don’t be surprised if you end up underpaid. Have a rate you won’t go below and communicate that with all your new clients. Some may not like it and will not work with you, but many will.

Freelance Mistakes 4: Treating Income as Profit

Freelance mistake: treating income as profit

Here’s a simple formula that every freelancer should remember income ≠profit. Memorize this, because a lot depends on it.

As a full-time employee, you knew that, whatever you have in your checking account, is yours to do with as you please. As a freelancer, you need to make a distinction between what you get in your invoice and what you can actually keep.

Why? Because you also have expenses you have to pay as a freelancer. For instance, you might have to pay taxes, or a new computer. You also have other expenses, like any software you use, business registrations, payment processing fees and other operational costs.

Yes, there’s a lot of it and it all falls to you to take care of, so be ready for it.

If that’s not enough, there is one other thing you need to be prepared for and that’s late payments. From time to time, a client will be late to pay you after you send them an invoice. This may ruin some plans you had for that money, but c’est la vi. You need to be ready for this.

Finally, you’ll sometimes have lean months as well. Those are months when you won’t have any client. No client means no payments. But, if you were smart and put some money on the side, you won’t have to live off stale bread or anything like that.

Freelance Mistakes 5: Not Self-Marketing

Jumping from project to project? That will get you nowhere. Self-promotion is an important tool every freelancer must use to his or her advantage.

You are now a business, so you should promote yourself as one. Build up a network and put an effort to share your work with your former, current and future clients. Update them with new work you’ve done every week or so via a nice portfolio website, or you can post listings on Craigslist and similar sites.

Or, if you know a lot about freelancing, try doing what I’m doing and start a blog about the profession. Give advice to people who are starting out and soon others will see you as an expert in the field and offer you more work. And, you might also help them avoid any freelance mistakes.

If you want to know more about self-marketing as a freelance writer, I suggest reading this article from Write Life. It will teach you what freelance mistakes you should avoid when promoting yourself.

Freelance Mistakes 6: Still Treating Yourself as an Employee

Let’s get one thing clear. You are no longer an employee. You are a business now. When a new client approaches you, make sure they know that they are not approaching an individual, but a business.

What does this mean?

It means your work should give you what I like to call the “3 Fs”. Financial independence, flexibility and freedom you might not have as an employee working 9 to 5.

How to do that?

Simple. If you feel you’re becoming overworked, start charging more. You’ll have fewer clients, but the same amount of money. This means you’ll have more time for yourself and your loved ones and can live under the same standards of living.

Or, make sure the client knows what are your boundaries. His regular employees maybe have to accept his calls in the middle of the night and work overtime, but you certainly don’t. Your time should be your own.

If you’re interested in knowing the difference between a regular employee and a freelancer, Jennifer Post, over at Business News Daily explained the distinction between the two

Okay, let’s hear it from you now in the comments below. What freelance mistakes have you made and how would you advise other freelancers to avoid them? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to like and share this blog if you find it useful.