You may already be an expert in your field, but when you move from the traditional workforce to the world of freelance it is easy to make a few newbie mistakes. Luckily, Sagegroupy is the freelancer’s friend and we want to help you avoid those mistakes and see you start off your freelance career in the right direction. We’ve rounded-up 10 common mistakes that new freelancers make so that you can avoid making them yourself.
1 - Establishing Poor Work-Life Balance
The world of freelancing offers freedom and flexibility, you can work anytime and anywhere. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of working all the time, everywhere. Try to establish work routines and build some downtime and self-care into your day so you do not end-up spreading yourself too thin and burning out. It may be tempting to accept every project that comes your way at first, worrying that the work will dry up, but this is not a feasible mind-set to maintain long-term and can result in rushed work that is of poor quality. Your reputation is everything in getting work; you do not want to churn out a bunch of work that is not up to your highest standards because you said ‘yes’ to too many projects. Establishing a solid work-life balance will pay off by allowing you to produce quality work and earn a good reputation with clients.
2 - Not Being Realistic about Finances
If you do not have a solid grasp of how much you need to make in order to pay your bills, you might end-up accepting a rate that is too low and having to work on more projects than expected, which will lead to burnout. You need to go into freelancing knowing how much your living expenses are, how much you need to pay in taxes, how much you need to save for retirement etc. Knowing what your income needs to be in order to maintain your current/expected lifestyle is the first step toward setting your rate and knowing how much you need to work to get by.
3 - Setting an Unrealistic Rate
You should be aware of industry standards and what rate matches your skill-level in your area of expertise. Sometimes a freelancer starting-out will advertise their skills at the very low-end of the payscale to land some clients, then a few months go by and they are still making that same very low amount and unable to pay their bills. If your price yourself way too low, maintaining the same rate for a long time is not sustainable. Telling your clients that your are doubling your rate is not something you want to have to do. Before you start looking for work, be sure to have a realistic idea of what your expertise is worth - either per-hour or on a per-project basis.
4 - Being Lax about Contracts
For every project you work on you need a contract. Contracts cement the project’s parameters, the client’s expectations, the pay, ownership and deliverables. Even if the job seems quite small and simple, make a contract. Do not rely on goodwill or what was said over a skype call, get it in writing and get it signed. There are many freelance contract templates online, it is simple to make one and it will help keep you and your clients on the same page. For more on how to make a contract check out our post on Freelance Contracts 101.
5 - Not Knowing How to Collect Money
Before you take on your first job, decide how you are going to charge your clients, whether via PayPal, e-transfer or otherwise, having a preferred payment method (or two) will keep things organized and running smoothly. Don’t forget about taxes, the government will also want to know how you are collecting money; having a system that does both invoicing and payment collection like Freshbooks or Paypal, will make this a lot easier on you.
6 - Having Poor Focus and Poor Productivity
Time management can be a struggle for those used to a traditional work-setting. When you work from home there are no set work hours and it can be easy to fritter the day away on distractions and household chores. On the other hand, it might be tempting to maintain a 9 to 5 mindset and keep work strictly within those hours even when projects demand a little more time. The most successful freelancers are not only experts at time management, they also maintain a spirit of entrepreneurship - meaning they do not waste time and are willing to put in extra hours when necessary to advance their business. You need to figure out how you are going to stay on track when you’re not in a traditional work environment, whether that means using a time management app, a timer, or alarms. For some helpful tips, check out our blog on Staying Productive When Working From Home. Make sure to budget enough time to produce quality work for your clients and have time to spend on business growth (all while maintaining work-life balance and not burning out)!
7 - Not Putting Enough Effort into Communication
Before you even get to the contract stage of a project, you should already know what the client wants and when they want it. Many new freelancers do not take the time to ask clients the right questions before jumping into a project. Never assume that one client will want the same thing as previous clients. Even though you’re the expert in your niche, each client will have their own thoughts and ideas about what they want to see as the end result. Good communication with clients is crucial to ensuring a smooth working-relationship and an outcome that everyone is satisfied with.
8 - Hesitating to Hustle
To be a successful solopreneur you are going to need to hustle your brand. We all have self-doubt sometimes, but it is important to trust that you are an expert in your niche and go forth and promote yourself. Freelancing is very competitive and with your competition spread out all over the world you need to establish your reputation and get yourself out there so clients can find you. For a little help, check out How To Advertise Yourself As A Freelancer.
9 - Missing out on Opportunities
While many new freelancers may be hesitant to hustle, they may also be hesitant to seize an opportunity. Opportunity might come in the form of seeing an area of a local business that could use your services, or knowing what a good follow-up project would be to the one you’ve just completed. Do not let these types of opportunities pass you by. Afterall, you are the expert so do not be afraid to pitch your services wherever you see they could be used.
10 - Giving up too Early
Freelancing offers freedom and flexibility but it is not easy. Building a successful freelance business takes time so be prepared to play the long game. You will have a higher chance of being successful if you enter freelancing with realistic expectations and avoid making the mistakes you have seen here. If you do not have a financial cushion to rely on to take you through the initial phase of freelancing, in which you establish yourself as an expert in your area and build a good reputation, you might want to think about easing into freelancing. Do not be afraid to start freelancing as a side-hustle to a traditional job in order to lay the foundation for a long-term freelance career.
Set yourself up for success by avoiding the mistakes on this list, doing your research, and following along here on the Sagegroupy blog to get helpful hints and tips on your freelance journey.