Mistakes are a part of the learning curve and being a new freelancer, you don’t have to worry if you make one or two more. You won’t become a seasoned freelancer in a day and land a handful of clients just like that. It is impossible to make a living as a freelancer in the first few months from your earnings. A lot of things would go wrong, such as being clueless as what to charge, what to expect, how to deliver a project and what not.
Freedom, flexibility and several career paths are top reasons for people to choose freelancing; however converting those reasons to actual benefits requires self-direction, dedication, creativity and tons of hard work for a newbie.
If you are a new entrant or planning to shift your career soon, then here are common mistakes new freelancers make that you can avoid. We promise it won’t be difficult if you steer clear.
1. Not Saving Enough for Unforeseen Income Shortages
If you are working in a full-time career, you are probably an employee who gets a fixed monthly salary. Your salary is guaranteed, whether you work or sleep off in your cubicle. This means you know your budget and can probably spend as much as you earn.
However, freelancers are basically the owners, which means – no fixed monthly income. Also, you have to take care of the overhead expenses as well, like processing fees, taxes, accounting, operational cost etc.
All these expenses may leave you broke if you don’t save up for your unforeseen income shortages. You can overcome these by:
- Putting aside 30% of your income for taxes, operational cost, and contingencies
- Putting aside 10% of your income as savings
- Adding up payment processing fees in your project prices
- Trying to live off on your last month’s income rather than counting on the current month
2. Asking the Client to Name the Price for Your Service
When you go to a dentist, a hairstylist or even a plumber, do they decide the price for their service or you do? They right? Then how can you allow your clients to quote a price for the efforts you put into your service? Deciding what to charge initially could be a tough challenge but nothing comes easy in any profession. As a freelancer, you cannot let clients ‘out-wit’ you with their limited budget, or any kind of future promises, even if you are just a new entrant.
Your best bet would be to research your skill and know the average payment it receives in the current market. You can also check out other freelancers and see what they are charging. Then outline a value that justifies your work; furthermore, add uniqueness to your service. For example, the client doesn’t just get an informative content, but a great digital marketing tool with perfect SEO done, which can increase their web traffic.
3. Not Able to Find Your Specific Niche
We all have heard the saying –‘jack of all trades, master in none’. Yes, the same saying applies to your freelance career as well. Just because you have got all the time and freedom, doesn’t mean you will spread out yourself too thin. Sometimes when we desperately need a job, we try our hand at several things at the same time. This varying job profile can end you up with a dissatisfying and unimpressive portfolio, which can make most clients assume you can do everything moderately well, and cannot excel in one thing.
The way out from this situation is to find out your niche or key skill and then own it like a specialist. Don’t try to be a generalist. In fact, you will find plenty like you on the market. When you become an expert in one particular niche, you can easily justify your rates and attract high-profile clients much easier.
4. Not Able to Say ‘No’ to Your Clients
You cannot say ‘yes’ to everything, even if you are just a fresher. Not every offer that lands in your mail account are worth accepting. If you want to grow your business faster, you have to stick to only a few projects at a time, saying ‘yes’ to everything will severely hamper your productivity and decrease your work efficiency. It will sabotage your schedule and leave you tending to too many unwanted tasks at a lower price.
If you want to stay on the track and have a steady workflow, you should access and weigh each offer heading your way, in terms of money, profitability, the job offered and association with the client. Some parameters to consider before settling on a work offer include:
- Check the commitment of the job (long-term or one-off project)
- What is the time duration of the task?
- Does the project fit your key skills?
- Will the project add credibility to your portfolio?
- Is the pricing correct?
- How is the client (or company)?
If the project doesn’t match your skills or set parameters, then say ‘no’ without any hesitation. The more you say no to inapt projects, the better will you be creative and the more time would you be able to invest in great and exciting projects.
Once you establish a check-list for ‘yes’ jobs and ‘no’ jobs, you will be in a comfortable position in your freelance career.
5. You Don’t Treat Freelancing as a Business
Freelancing career is accompanied by many hectic and distressing works like accounting, bookkeeping, taxes, bills, invoices, payments etc. Unless you are in love with these mundane works, you should not waste your valuable working hours on them. Even if you are a month old freelancer, think of yourself as a CEO of your business. And the basic work of CEO is delegating work to others to keep their routine focused on primary functions.
So, what you should do is delegate or automate time-consuming and unproductive works, including managing social media account, invoicing, taxing, proofreading etc. You can use tools and adopt right systems to schedule these kinds of work. Manage time effectively and stick to a consistent routine or schedule.
Ever made any of the above mistakes? Or any other? Let us know which one was it and how you helped yourself in comments below.