Most of us would agree that a freelance career is an exciting yet tough choice. You are your own boss, your own manager and most importantly, you have flexible working hours. A dream coming true, won’t you agree? A fair warning though, the freelance industry is quite big, and competition is enormous. But with some careful planning and avoiding common freelance mistakes, you have a hefty chance of growing your freelance business.
To ease your wonder and prevent you from making typical freelance mistakes, we bring you solutions for each and every one of them.
If you are wondering should you start freelancing, then we recommend you read this first: How to Start Your Freelance Career
#1 Being known as a jack of all trades (but master of none)
Getting specialized in one field can have many benefits. If you devote both time and effort and work on perfecting your skills, overtime you will get recognized as an expert. Thus, your rate will naturally increase. Being a jack of all trades can seem fun or perhaps necessary at times. But If you are an all-rounder and can’t really choose a path, then you need to get an answer to these three important questions.
What is your goal?
To stay on the top of your game, you need to know what you are working for. When thinking about your goal, it is important to take into account your target audience, your current skill level and the field you plan to work in.
Let’s say that your primary goal is to get more money, then plan your freelance career accordingly. Choose a field from a big and growing industry like tech, health or even manufacturing. After you find a satisfactory field, start building your skills in that direction. If, on the other hand, you want to turn your hobby into a business, put more efforts into doing projects that can help you grow.
What interests you?
It takes commitment, devotion and hours of hard work to become a freelance professional. To make this process fun, choose a field you are passionate about and become an expert in it. After you master one job, it’ll get easier to widen up your knowledge and change your career path if needed.
What can you really offer?
Instead of learning skills, you are not familiar with, try developing and perfecting those you already have. Take a look at your formal education, as well as all courses and seminars you’ve attended. All your life and work experience can show you in which direction you can build your career.
#2 Failing to showcase your work online
When starting your freelance career, your primary focus is to get as many deals as you can. And that is completely normal. However, this could easily turn into jumping from a project to project forgetting to take time and showcase your work. Nurturing your brand and showcasing your work is a must! After all, how else will your audience i.e. potential clients and employers know what you are up to?
To avoid neglecting your portfolio and brand, thus making a very common freelance mistake, pay attention to the following must-haves:
Build your personal website
The best way to showcase your work is by placing it on your website. Having an online space that belongs to you will show just how adaptable and professional you are. Not only will you stand out from the crowd, but clients will see you as a credible expert you are. This is the place where you can show off your character, previous work and skillset through many features. And if you don’t know how to make a website from scratch, no problem! There are plenty of website builders that can help you create your website in a matter of minutes.
Read more: All Things You Should Consider When Building Your Personal Website
Nurture your brand
How you present yourself in the online world will determine your further success. If you make a name for yourself, you won’t have to search for clients anymore. They will come even when you don’t expect them to, and that is the power of personal branding. To make sure you stand out, try choosing a simple and memorable domain name. This will ensure you are easy to find and easy to reach.
Keep up with a consistent marketing plan
In order to have a fruitful strategy, you’ll need to know your audience first and choose platforms correspondingly. If being present on social media feels overwhelming to you, try planning in advance, and schedule your content ahead of time. This allows you to have your ads running even if you are busy working on projects. Don’t forget to keep your online profile fresh and ready for hire by making content at least a month in advance.
#3 Charging too little or way too much
At first, every freelancer has a hard time setting the price. When it comes to charging and evaluating their own work, they often charge too little or way too much. It either makes them struggle to make ends meet, or even fail the expectations they have set.
When you are new to the freelancing industry, setting your own price can be difficult. The good news is – there is no right price! Having this in mind, the following steps can help you set your own rate.
Have a chat with more experienced freelancers
If you don’t know how to set a rate, talk to someone who knows. Simple as that. Not only they will tell you how to set a fair price, but also how to plan your income as well. A conversation with an experienced freelancer can help you avoid common freelance mistakes. If you can’t get in touch with your preferable expert, try reading their interviews instead. It can give you an insight into their true experience and even bring some answers you are looking for.
Charge like a business
Even if you are doing your work from home, it doesn’t mean you are less of a professional. The typical mistake is to charge like an individual, rather than a business. To set some income stability, try setting 3 different prices. Create three different service packages that you can offer to your clients. Of course, prices can still be customizable. But there’s no wasted time in negotiating since potential clients will already know how much they should put aside.
Use Freelance Rate Tools
If you are still having troubles estimating how much you should charge, try using some tools to help you out, such as CalculadoraFreela or Bonsai. You can easily calculate your rate by estimating your monthly costs. Using these tools you can also see how many hours you can invest in working, as well as what is a common rate in your working field. You’ll notice a difference in pay depending for whom and from where you are working.
#4 Dealing with clients in a wrong way
During your freelance career, you will work with many different clients. To stay sane in this whole process, you need to know how to properly deal with clients.
When you are a newbie, it is not rare to stumble upon clients who want more than arranged, without paying extra. The same goes for the ones who are asking you to go below your rate. You, being new to the industry, might be inclined to agree to their terms so you don’t lose them as clients. The only way to grow your business and get a recognition you deserve is to stand up for yourself. Here’s how to avoid freelance mistakes regarding clients.
Avoid accepting every offer that comes your way
When you are just starting out, accepting every offer that comes your way might seem to be a great idea. And quite a necessary one in fact. However, you should actually work towards making space for yourself to choose projects that you can benefit from. Choose the ones from which you can learn and grow. Allow yourself to work with people that will keep you engaged and stress-free. Don’t forget to formulate your criteria of ideal clients who respect you and see you as an equal.
Know how to bargain
As we said it before – clients will almost always try to negotiate a better price. Keep in mind that agreeing to do extra work for free can do a lot of damage to your budget. Or even under a certain price. To avoid this scenario, try sticking to your initial offer. But, if you are not good at bargaining, add a small wiggle room in your rate. This way additional discounts can’t harm your income and you will be seen as a nice person.
Ask for testimonials
After you’re done with the project, there is one more thing left. Before saying goodbye to your clients, ask them to send you a testimonial. It’s a great way to show your potential clients that you did a great job on all projects you’ve been a part of. To save yourself some time, try making a template of a final email. Thank them for their collaboration, and ask for testimonials and referrals. Don’t shy away from a follow-up email if you haven’t heard back from them.
#5 Not having an income plan
The most common freelance mistakes revolve around managing money. Since the cash flow isn’t steady, and income can vary from month to month, it is quite easy to get lost and spend more than you have. Having an income plan is a must!
Here are some tips on how to get started!
Have an accounting system
Before even thinking about going freelance, you need to check your balance first. Make sure to have enough savings for the next six months. Or at least a part-time job on the side to keep your cash flow steady. Since you’re responsible for every aspect of your business, you need to keep track of your money. Each year make an income plan, which you can modify every month. To save some time and trouble, try using accounting tools that are completely free. Such as Zoho, Due, PayPal, PocketSuite, Wave.
Save for rainy days
When money starts dripping more than usual, it’s easy to treat yourself with unnecessary shopping sprees. But saving your money is as important as working on your projects. You don’t want to end up in a situation when you are jobless and without a penny left in your pocket. There are many things you can’t predict, and such an example is for sure COVID-19. To make sure you have enough money for rainy days, try fixing your monthly salary. Calculate your optimal monthly income and everything extra leave on the side.
Invest in your business
Aside from savings, and using money on your personal needs, sort out a decent amount for an investment. Purchase software that can save you time, or spend some money on running ads that can bring more leads. You can even hire people to offload some of your work. Don’t forget to invest in your website and personal branding as well. Since those are the essential parts of your business.
#6 Poor time management
Working from home can make the line between the work and a private life pretty invisible. Not to mention the struggle that freelancers are facing when dealing with too many deadlines at the time. Having too much on your plate can lead to burnout and make you lose all your focus and motivation.
Remember, you are the one who controls working hours, and if you stop taking care of yourself, your career will suffer too.
Make a schedule
It is as easy to fall in a procrastination trap, as it is to get overwhelmed with your own work. To avoid making freelance mistakes regarding time management, create a schedule and stick to it. Plan your days. Set your working hours. This will help you get in the zone when you start working, and the rest of your day will be stress-free. If you need some help in prioritizing and focusing, these apps can come in handy: MindNode, MyLifeOrganize and Todoist.
Taking a time off
This seems simple, but freelancers often do trips over this one. In order to stay productive, you need time to rest and recharge. Having no ME time can reduce your creativity, increase your stress, and even lead to burnout. Try to find a few hours in a day to just disconnect and catch up with your friends. Choose even a few non-working days which can serve as your energizer. Remember, you are your own boss, and you set your own rules!
Time management tools
If time management is still your weakness, try using some tools that can help you out. Toggl, Trello and Basecamp can help you manage your projects and bring your organisation skills on the next level. If, on the other hand, you have troubles with saying focused, Rescue Time, Focus Keeper and Focus@Will are your apps to go.
Read more: Essential Freelance Tools
#7 Neglecting networking
The essential part of finding a decent job opportunity is for sure a good networking. Having many connections that can give you good referrals or collaboration. It can even help you out if you ever decide to start your own project. Neglecting the power of networking is one of the most common freelance mistakes.
Building a quality network takes some time, and of course, some effort. And if you don’t know how and where to start, just pay attention to the following.
Target your network
Even when we are talking about networking, you should still have in mind your goals and your strategy. Since you have the opportunity to get in touch with people from all over the industry, you should think smart, not hard. Create valuable contacts according to your target group. Get in touch with people from your working field. Don’t forget the ones that can be your potential client and referrals as well. Use networking to approach an expert that can be your mentor, or to find people to collaborate with.
Know where to look
To find a proper connection, you should know where to look. The best places for networking are live meeting events in your line of business. Attend conferences, seminars, meet-ups, after-work events, etc. That can all be a valuable source of new contacts. Don’t shy away from approaching them. Ask them about their business, and don’t forget to pitch yourself and talk about your own work as well.
Use existing networks
There are many networking methods you can use. Since all freelancers have the same struggle, there are many services that can connect you with others. Include yourself in discussion using some of LinkedIn groups. Start a conversation or give your expert opinion and lead people to your website. You can join in on many online events on platforms made just for networking like Xing and MeetUp. All you have to do is to be your unique self and charm your way in.
Before you go
Paying attention to all these freelance mistakes can save you a lot of troubles, and allow you to grow faster. The best way to go through your freelance career is by observing what others do. Apply good things and avoid mistakes. Use your personal website to show your expertise, and grow your brand along the way. A website can do wonders to your career. Every client that stumbles on your work online, will for sure Google you as well. If they already like what they see, be sure you will be contacted shortly, without you moving a finger.
Keep in mind that projects may vary from time to time, and the best way to stay on top of your game is to adapt. Besides investing in your business, devote some time to acquiring some new skills. This way you will only grow as a professional, but your rate will follow as well.
Since you are still here, check out the tips from our .MErs on how to improve your freelance career.
At last, what freelance mistakes have you made so far? And what have you learnt from them? Reach out to us on social channels and tell us all about your freelance mistakes!