12 Pitfalls Successful Freelancers Must Avoid

–Learn from other’s mistakes. Here’s some wisdom to help you excel in your business.

These days more people are doing side jobs or working for themselves full-time than ever before. What many don’t realize is that you are essentially going into business for yourself – and you don’t know what you don’t know about running your own business.

Whether you’re new to freelancing or have been doing it a while, you can benefit from avoiding these common pitfalls:

  1. Working with anyone who asks. Just because someone expresses an interest in hiring you doesn’t mean you should work with them. Pay attention to red flags. Your hesitancy is probably well-founded.
  2. Working without a contract.  A contract can be a simple list of deliverables you’ve agreed to provide, or a complex, formal document drawn up by an attorney. The point is to spell out expectations, compensation, and deliverables so that there is no room for misunderstanding.
  3. Not having clear deliverables.
    There’s nothing worse than missed or unmet expectations. Be sure to spell out deliverables and get clients to sign off on them. This saves you from doing free consulting when they change their mind mid-stream.
  4. Missing deadlines and appointments. This is a trust killer and will get you “fired”. It only takes once to destroy your credibility.
  5. Starting work without getting paid first. Set the terms of payment and stick to them. Always get some percent of payment upfront.
  6. Charging too little. Don’t allow insecurities to keep you from charging the “going rate”. If you want to appease your own conscience, create a “value add” (item or service) but make sure to state what it usually costs, or they won’t appreciate it.
  7. Taking on too much work. This is a natural consequence of charging too little. Charge what you’re worth and take on work that you love. Be realistic about your time and be honest with prospects about it. They will want to hire you even more and many will wait! (Good problem to have.)
  8. Neglecting marketing when busy fulfilling projects. Marketing is a must-do at all times. Create a marketing plan that you can scale and sustain even when you are busy delivering on current work.
  9. Submitting completed work without getting paid first. Once you’ve turned over the finished product, you have no leverage if someone doesn’t pay.
  10. Not following up on proposals. Most buying decisions are made after 5-7 follow-ups. Most salespeople don’t follow up at all, or only follow up once.
  11. Not upselling clients. Find ways to keep in touch with past clients so you can get other work from them. This keeps you top-of-mind when they have another need.
  12. Neglecting your finances. In freelancing the buck stops with you, literally. Have budget disciplines in place to safeguard your business. Ask for help from an accountant or coach.

Which one of these is causing you stress? Commit to yourself to make the necessary changes starting today. Everything begins with sales. If you’re serious about freelancing, take a look at my online video training course.

P.S. If you know someone thinking about or already doing freelancing, please forward this to them.


Deb Brown Maher
Deb Brown Maher
Deb is the owner of Deb Brown Sales ( where she lives her passion to help small business owners succeed through improved sales performance. She has over thirty years of experience in all levels of sales leadership, training, and coaching. Her clients boast that she successfully moves them from “stuck” to “productive” by empowering them to change the way they approach sales. She’s leveraged her sales experience to help companies of every size, from start-ups to multinationals. Deb is committed to helping people sell from a position of integrity. Her methods are detailed in her book, Sell Like Jesus: 7 Characteristics of Christ for Ethical Sales which was honored as a finalist in two categories at the “American Book Fest 2020 Book Awards.” A cum laude graduate of Allegheny College, Meadville PA, Deb is a voracious reader who values life-long learning. She especially enjoys learning about sales psychology, sociology, how the brain works, quantum physics, and effective communication strategies. She diligently incorporates what she learns into her ever-evolving training and coaching approach to help people communicate more effectively in any circumstance. Beyond the books she reads, Deb is quick to say that she learns the most from the people she meets, engaging strangers and friends alike in conversations that always leave her enriched. Deb is a devout Christ-follower who enjoys worshiping the Lord with a paint-brush and canvas, painting what the Holy Spirit reveals to her during Christian gatherings ( She is also volunteers doing inner healing prayer and deliverance ministry where she helps people learn to hear the voice of God and develop a deeper relationship with Him.

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