8 Common Mistakes New Freelancers Make and how to Avoid Them
As a new freelancer, you are bound to fall into a couple of traps here and there. There’s no need to be harsh on yourself; no one gets it right the first time around. What if you could spare a few freelance mistakes, though? Just for the sake of keeping your spirits up!
In this post, we’ll point out 8 common freelance mistakes that you can easily avoid to save yourself from regret.
1. Missing deadlines
What a great way to lose clients and throw your efforts down the drain! Seriously, no matter how great the quality of your work is, punctuality matters. The client sets the deadline for a reason, and they expect you to respect it. Because when you respect the deadline, you respect them.
Missing a deadline is a freelance mistake you can easily avoid. For starters, don’t undertake new projects when you’re already swamped, even if the money is appealing. Or ask to set a different deadline – it’s simple, really.
Once you start working on the project, set your own deadline. Which will be your safety net, so it must be tighter than the client’s deadline. If it’s a long project that will take a while to complete, divide it into shorter milestones so that you don’t lose track. Implementing a time management strategy can also be a great help.
And, of course, don’t get too comfy and slack off if a project seems easy. The timely completion of a project depends on external factors too, and these are often unpredictable. It’s a pity to fall behind because you caught a bad cold, for instance.
2. Accepting low paying jobs
Inevitably, you’ll start with relatively low rates that will increase in time as your expertise grows. Here, we’re referring to ridiculously low, close to zero rates.
Low paying jobs might be a quick fix when you are financially desperate. Even so, they are such a strong hit to your morale and potentially your career that they’re just not worth it. Here’s why.
What you may not realize is that by accepting low paying jobs you enter a vicious circle. That’s because they are usually pretty basic and beneath your skills. Low paying jobs won’t do anything for your portfolio, and they won’t help you hone your skills either. As a result, you might be stuck with them for a while and eventually give up trying, especially if you don’t have prior experience to showcase.
There’s no quick fix for this one. It takes patience and consistent hard work to build a reputation and land higher paying jobs. In the meantime, don’t settle for anything less than a decent pay.
3. Blindly applying to jobs
Have you ever got stuck with a hard-to-please client only because you didn’t bother to read the reviews before applying to their job opening? Have you turned down a good project because you had already taken on five “quick” ones? If so, then you know what we’re talking about.
There’s no need to go into a frenzy when applying to jobs. Reviews are there to save you from clients that will only waste your time. Therefore, before even considering applying, read what other freelancers are saying about a client and what the client says back. You’ll be surprised by how many clients disappear mid-project or find excuses to avoid payment.
Think about the scope of the project too, and don’t apply if it’s not worth your while. A “quick” job, for example, might be tempting, but is it something you can proudly display on your portfolio?
4. Not drafting a freelance contract
When you work on a project without signing a contract, you leave room for serious misunderstandings. Everything that you and the client agree on, like the project milestones, number of revisions, and payment details, should turn into a nice and neat freelance contract.
Luckily, there are plenty of free contract templates online you can use to draft a legitimate freelance contract with your terms and conditions.
5. Losing work-life balance
Now, that’s a freelance mistake made…with totally good intentions. When you’re new to freelancing, you are eager to satisfy your clients, land new ones, make a name of yourself, be successful! And that’s perfectly fine.
Here’s the catch, though: When there’s no standard work schedule, the boundaries between personal and work life can get blurry. You take on “just one more project”, and you work “just another couple of hours”. In other words, you’re putting all your energy and time into work, and you’re slowly wearing yourself out. Which will eventually backfire and take its toll on the quality of your work.
As much as you enjoy (or need) working, maintaining a work-life balance is essential. To that end, set a limit to the hours you work per day and leave room for daily activities, be it going out for dinner or practicing a hobby. If you don’t trust yourself with the task, a time tracking tool will help you keep it together!
6. Not communicating with the client
When working remotely, communication is already a tricky matter. Especially so when there’s time difference involved. Plus, your client probably has a lot on their plate and manages multiple projects simultaneously. Knowing that they can rely on you for a timely answer and regular project updates, takes a significant amount of stress off their hands. And makes you their go-to freelancer!
We don’t suggest that you sleep with your mobile phone under your pillow, but do check it regularly. Even if you can’t resolve the issue immediately, let your client know you’re aware of it and that you’ll get back to them soon.
7. Not setting money aside
It might be a while before you start making decent money as a freelancer. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when you do, you’ll want to grant yourself a few wishes. However, unlike someone working in a salary-based job, you can’t get too comfortable with your income too soon. That’s because there will be months when you will make less money and expenses you weren’t expecting will come knocking on your door. Not to mention taxes and your retirement plan.
There’s no need to panic, though. The first step to gaining control of your finances is to track your expenses; it’s the best way to get a clear picture of where your money is spent on. Once you have figured that out, you’ll be able to cut on unnecessary expenses and start saving money for the near and the far future.
8. You get cocky
As time goes by, your skills will improve and your clientele will grow. Understandably, you’ll want to raise your hourly rate, maybe undertake more demanding projects, and be pickier about your clients. But this is as far as you should go.
Getting cocky just because you’ve gotten better at your job sounds childish, yet it happens, and the repercussions go a long way: you say no to trial jobs, raise your fees overnight, develop an attitude; you might even start doing a sloppy job and miss deadlines. Before you know it, you’ll start losing clients.
But maybe the worst thing you can do is stop learning new skills. In these competitive and ever-evolving times, even the best ones can be left behind if they don’t keep up with the trends.
Hence, no matter how great things are going, stay humble, respect your clients, and always work towards improving your offerings.
As you’ve probably been told since a young age, but always seem to forget, mistakes are a valuable teacher. They will only make you wiser and better at your job. So even if you can’t avoid these 8 freelance mistakes altogether, maintain a positive attitude, focus on what you’ve learned from them, and move on!