Did you know that, following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, freelancers contributed $1.3 trillion to the US economy? This (already outstanding) figure was up $100 million from 2020.
Whether you are a digital marketer, graphic designer, writer, or creator who is looking to go freelance this year, then you can’t miss our guide.
Keep reading to find out what the seven most common freelance mistakes are, how to avoid them, and ensure that your freelance business thrives.
1. Launching Your Business without Enough Savings
One of the biggest – and most costly – freelance mistakes you could ever make is not considering the expenses that your new business venture might face. Going freelance might not generate an immediate, steady, and substantial income.
This is why experts recommend putting aside at least six months’ worth of emergency funds to cover your basic living expenses, in case something goes wrong, or your freelance business takes a while to take off. To begin with, you might want to consider how to cut your initial costs.
For example, if you are only just starting and have no or very few clients, you probably don’t need to employ anyone and can handle most or all the workload by yourself. Similarly, you might be able to carve out a space in your house to use as your office.
Try and maximize what you already have and, if suitable, use it in the best and most efficient way.
2. Not Defining Goals – or a Business Plan
As a freelancer, you might not think about yourself as a business. However, this is another huge rookie freelance mistake. Whatever your freelance profession is, it is still a business and, as such, it needs to have a solid business plan in place.
Before jumping into the freelance world, make sure that you have drawn up a plan for your freelance venture.
This should include some basic elements, such as:
- Your business name and other business information
- Your business structure
- Goals and challenges
- The market
- Your competitors
Also, make sure to keep reviewing your business plan against your progress, which will help you assess its validity and make any tweaks or changes if needed.
3. Not Having a Contract in Place
Once you have started working as a freelancer, you might find that some of the clients you deal with are very laid-back and informal.
With them, it’s easy to be tempted to close deals with a classic handshake – whether virtual or in person! – but remember: having everything written down is so much better, for so many reasons.
For example, if your client fails to pay you, or if the project you had agreed on changes completely and without notice, a written agreement can protect you from a legal perspective.
Similarly, having a signed contract offers protection and security to your clients, too, and makes you look a lot more serious, reliable, and professional.
4. Choosing to Work with Anyone and Everyone
When you are in the early stages of launching your freelance venture, you might find yourself struggling to reach the desired salary every month. This is a common freelance hoe, and one that time and experience often help fix.
In this initial period, which to some might even feel like a bit of a limbo, you can fall into another harmful temptation: that of agreeing to do pretty much any type of work that is even remotely relevant to your business.
Now, of course, there are situations in which you might choose to take on a project or a client that you are not particularly in love with.
However, try not to make this a habit. Most importantly, actively say “no” to working on projects or with clients that you have absolutely no interest in, or that might even go against your personal or professional values.
5. Not Charging the Right Amount
You might have only just started working as a freelancer, but who says that you shouldn’t be charging a medium or high fee for your services?
Think about the adage: “Pay peanuts, get monkeys”. Yes, clients generally are on the lookout for affordable, good-value products and services, but this doesn’t mean that you should undervalue what you can provide.
Particularly, very low fees might make a potential client feel suspicious of you. They might wonder whether you do, in fact, have the right experience or expertise, and whether you will be able to return a timely and professional project.
Having said all this, it’s undeniable that working out a fair, convenient fee can be very complicated. Aim too high, and you might lose your client. Go too low, and you might, as we said, look unprofessional or even incompetent.
You could solve this dilemma by taking a look at websites like Glassdoor, which provide salary information for lots of different jobs – including freelance ones.
Similarly, you might want to speak with other freelancers in a similar position to you and enquire about their rates.
When calculating your fees, remember to include all the parts of a freelance job that are normally included in a non-freelance salary, such as healthcare benefits, sick pay, maternity or paternity leave, and vacation allowance.
6. Managing Your Time Incorrectly
One of the worst mistakes you could ever make as a first-time freelancer is not valuing your time properly. In the freelance world, time is 100% money.
Think about it: when you were working for a company, you probably had days when your workload was very low, which meant you might have done nothing, or very little, for a whole day.
Still, at the end of the month, you would get your salary and all your benefits, and that would likely remain unchanged. However, things are different as a freelancer. Generally speaking, if a freelancer doesn’t work, they don’t earn.
But there’s more. Poor time management can also cause you to lose focus, motivation, and accuracy, which in turn might end up harming your productivity levels and damaging your earnings.
So, make sure you don’t waste your very precious time by doing any of the following freelance mistakes:
- Arranging and conducting long calls with potential clients that you haven’t vetted before
- Always agreeing to project deadlines that are too strict or unrealistic for you
- Not setting your working hours or other boundaries with your clients
- Taking on too much work for the number of hours that you have available
- Refusing to take any breaks because you feel like your workload or deadlines won’t allow you to stop
- Accepting to work on a project that will take you a long time to complete and that doesn’t pay you adequate money
7. Not Taking Care of Your Personal Marketing
This is another huge freelance mistake that many freelancers make, especially if they have just started out and are focused on getting as many clients and work as possible.
Yes, marketing might not be exactly at the top of your priority list, but it is still a very important aspect that can help make your freelance business a success.
You can take care of some basic marketing yourself, without the need to hire an agency or consultant. For example, start by creating a website, a blog, and social media pages.
Every day, devote some time to curating your brand’s marketing, whether it be by posting on social media, writing a blog post, or sending out an email newsletter.
Not only will this put you in front of the right audience, but it will also equip you with the skills and resources you need to feel more confident at marketing – and get better and better at it.
You must start taking care of your marketing right away, instead of waiting months or pushing this task to the bottom of your to-do list. With time and consistency, more and more people will start seeing your content and approach you with requests for collaboration.
Never Make Any of These Freelance Mistakes Again
Stepping into the world of freelance work can be exciting and daunting in equal measures. This combination of feelings, though, often leads first-time freelancers to make some pretty major freelance mistakes, as we have seen in our guide.
However, there are ways to repair them – or, even better, to prevent them from happening in the first place. Make sure that you follow our tips and tricks on freelance fees, business plans, time management, contracts, savings, and more, and you will surely be off to a great start.
Fancy reading about an innovative – and highly successful – way to retain your freelance clients? Take a look at Rock Content’s blog on the Games as a Service model!