7 mistakes to avoid when starting your freelance career
Becoming a freelancer is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, you've got the excitement of endless possibilities, freedom, and personal satisfaction. On the other, the pressure that comes with going it alone.
Add those nagging doubts you might currently be having; you know the ones! am I ready for the journey, do I have what it takes, can I afford to fail? And it can quickly turn from a dream into a nightmare.
Then there are the mistakes you're yet to make, ones that could put an end to your dream before it's begun. But here's the thing, you don't have to make them; they can be avoided!
To ensure you do, we're going to tell you the 7 mistakes to avoid when starting your freelance career.
Read them, digest them, then avoid them, do that, and your dream could become a reality.
1. Not building a brand (from the start)
It's all too easy to get comfortable when you land your first clients; they're providing ongoing work and paying you as agreed.
Do that, though, and the chances are you'll get a cold, sharp shock in the not to distant future. Because clients come and go as regularly as the turn of the tide, and if you're not continuously networking, you could be left high and dry.
Start by distinguishing yourself from the herd of freelancers looking for work by creating a unique brand and investing in marketing.
It's an opportunity overlooked by many new freelancers because they don't yet see themselves as brands. Let's clear this up right now; you're a brand, a one-person brand, which means acting like one.
Your first step is to create a profile that highlights your skill sets, experience (not essential) clients want results, and availability. Next, create an email signature, so every correspondence you send has a professional look about it.
An excellent way of making yours stand out is by adding a logo. Some of you might think logos are expensive but can create one cheaply using a logo generator - many solo-businesses use them.
Another tool, in your branding toolbox is a website. Every business today needs one. There are many options when it comes to building a website, and you don’t need to be a developer or programmer to build a site these days.
Remember, branding is all about recognition, perfect yours, and then use it on all your marketing platforms.
2. Time miss-management
Tick tock the clocks ticking, and you're not getting paid!
If you're lazy, unfocused, lack drive, and unwilling to put the hours in, then you're going to fail as a freelancer because no one's paying you to sit on your ****.
However, if creating a regimented routine feels like an alien concept, there are plenty of tips and resources for teaching yourself how to do it.
If you're a lark, get your paid work in early and leave the evening for research and marketing; if you're an owl, ok, you get it. Make yourself an office and put a DO NOT DISTURB sign on it. It's incredible how loved ones think just because you're home; you're not working.
It takes time to find a routine that works for you. Your main goal is to earn money, and when you're not being paid to work, spend your time on activities that will get you the work. Trust me; there's always something you could be doing that will advance your freelancing career.
Another most is to use a time tracking tool such tools will help you understand the tasks and areas you are spending your time. This will help you optimize your workflow and your hours.
3. Working Without a Contract
Do this, and you'll get burnt.
Maybe not at first, but eventually, it will happen, and when it does, you'll have no one to blame but yourself because it's avoidable.
Don't trust anyone, a little harsh, but as a freelancer, you can't afford too. Good clients provide contracts as it's a paper trail for their end of year accounts. The minimum requirement you need is a service of the agreement before you start a gig, so if there's a problem, you can prove your entitlement to any sums of money owed. You can easily download a free service agreement template and then add your logo and contact details.
4. Under-pricing to land a gig
Pricing is a bone of contention; everyone will tell you to set your price from the start and stick to it, but what if you've no experience, no examples, or recommendations from previous clients? How do you get what you think you're worth?
The truth is everyone's right because every situation's different.
How you'll be paid is dependent upon your market. Some pay by the project, others by the hour, and if you're a writer (ahem) by the word. The general rule is to get paid by the project because you'll earn more, but to get to that stage, you may need to start by the hour and to get your first gig, you might need to charge less than your hourly rate.
Work out what you need to earn to pay the bills, break it down to an hourly rate, then if you land a project paying gig, you'll know by working out how long it'll take if it's above or below your income requirement.
But be flexible at first. Every freelancer who started from scratch worked for less than there required hourly rate (even if they don't admit it), and it's worthwhile as one gig leads to another, and everything you do adds to your profile and portfolio.
5. It pays to say no!
Saying yes to everything and doing work you don't like is a common mistake you must avoid. Saying no can seem a little counterintuitive, but get used to it if you want to succeed.
You'll always get work if you're willing to take whatever's offered, but this will soon take away any positives out of being a freelancer because you'll burn out and grow to hate it.
At first, try your hand at several different areas within your market, so you gain experience and find out where your talent truly lies. Then quickly focus on what it is you love about your niche and put all of your time and attention into landing gigs relating to it. By doing so, you'll not only enjoy your job; you'll quickly build a reputation of the go-to freelancer for that particular skill within your market. And when that happens, hourly rates and low paying gigs will be a thing of the past.
6. Saying yes to work you can't do
Don't be tempted to make this mistake just because you need the work, because it's counterproductive in several ways.
Sure, push and challenge yourself daily; that's the DNA of a freelancer. But be careful not to promise what you know you can't deliver as it will only serve to let down your client, and more importantly, your confidence, mental well-being, and any social profiles you have if that client decides to leave a bad review.
Be brave, but thread carefully.
7. In for a dime in for a dollar!
Having no backup plan might not be an option; if that's the case, then this following saying applies to you, "necessity's the mother of all invention."
However, if it's at all possible, spread your bets a little. It relates to mistake #1, having more than one revenue stream.
Lock in a couple of guaranteed pay-check clients, even if the rate isn't quite what you need. Then network like crazy and find the clients that will pad out your bank account, so if work gets lean, you know you've got the resources to keep the lights burning.