Becoming a successful freelancer doesn’t happen on day one. There’s a steep learning curve which can take months to master. Many people getting into freelance work for the first time imagine that all they need to do is put in a fifty hour week, earn their $10,000 and then kick back for the other three weeks and enjoy mojitos in the sun.
Although some successful freelancers are able to enjoy this kind of lifestyle, it can be a long road to get there. Freelancers have a sort of “feast-famine” lifestyle where one moment they’re inundated with work and rolling in money and the next they’re only just scraping by. Don’t learn your freelance lessons the hard way. Take a look at some of the mistakes that other people have made and avoid them like the plague.
Saying “Yes” To Everything
As a freelancer, it’s good to get offers. After all, marketing yourself and trying to find work can be difficult, especially if you don’t go through agencies. But some freelancers fall into the habit of saying “yes” to everything, feeling that they have to in order to continue to be offered more work. The problem with saying yes all the time is that it can cripple your schedule and leave you feeling utterly burned out.
The best thing to do is to juggle every offer that comes your way. Some offers will be real money spinners: the work will be easy, the clients will be laid back and the hours to get the job done will be short. Other offers of work will be much harder and will come from more demanding clients. It might be worth taking this work on in some cases – like in situations where it could boost your personal brand – but it’s not always worth it. Do yourself a favor, stick to the profitable jobs and keep your weekends intact.
You Spread Yourself Too Thin
Another pitfall freelancers fall into is spreading themselves too thin. At the start, they’re desperate for money, and so they start doing a whole range of weird and wonderful jobs, like translation, WordPress formatting, and infographics. The problem with this is that it rarely impresses clients. Rather than thinking that you’re the go-to person for their particular problem, they see you as being a person who can do most things “moderately well.” As a result, they quickly pass over your portfolio and choose somebody who really excels at the particular job they want to be done.
The best freelancers always find a niche and get really good at it. Generalists, no matter how hard they try, will always lose out to specialists in the world of freelance.
You Don’t Delegate The Routine
Unless you absolutely love finance and numbers, things like payroll, taxes, professional indemnity insurance, billable hours and bookkeeping can drive you nuts. As a result, it’s a good idea to automate as much of that stuff as possible, otherwise, you’ll spend your whole time doing it. Treat freelancing just as you would treat any other business, delegating all that stuff to other people or software. Then keep a schedule and make sure that you’re fulfilling all your obligations, legal and otherwise.
You Let Clients Decide The Price
Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to charge for a particular project, especially if you haven’t done it before. But it’s important not to let the client name a price for you. Builders, plumbers, and other contractors don’t ask customers what they’d like to pay – they just name their price and wait and see whether it is accepted. Freelancers need to have the confidence to do the same. If you keep getting blown off, just lower your prices a little bit and try again. You’ll soon find out how much people are willing to pay for a particular service.
You can also do your research and find out what a regular hourly rate is for people in your particular industry. Have a look at other freelancers in your niche and see what they are charging. Usually, you’ll find that it’s a lot higher than what you expect, especially if what you do is highly skilled. It’s not unusual for freelancers to ask for more than $50 an hour.
You Treat Your Income As If It Is Profit
Your income as a freelancer is different to your income as a regular employee. You have to set aside income for things like operational costs and taxes. As a rule of thumb, put around 30 percent of your total income away each month to make sure that you can pay your expenses and avoid going bankrupt.