Making the decision to become a freelancer is an incredibly exciting time in your life. Freelancing enables you to have more control over the work you do, often allowing for greater creativity and flexibility.
It almost sounds too good to be true, which is why you may be thinking that the title of this article is a little bit strange. What kind of freelancing mistakes could there be that might sabotage my freelancing career?
The honest truth is that taking the leap into the freelancing world can come with a lot of pressure. With no employer at your back, you’re suddenly on your own to scout for business, negotiate work and keep your clients happy. With several hats to wear, being a freelancer can sometimes feel pretty overwhelming. Mistakes can start to slip in, especially if you don’t have previous experience in running a business.
But before you throw your hands up and shelve those freelancing dreams, don’t be put off. If you’ve got the ideas and the determination, then you’re already over halfway there.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest Freelancing mistakes new freelancers can make and how to avoid them:
1. Trying to be everything to everyone
In the early stages of your business, the temptation is there to say yes to every opportunity. It can be a good idea to get involved with as much as you can at the start. Every new piece of work you take on helps you to learn and grow.
However, the downside of spreading yourself too thinly is that you may end up diluting your brand and message. If you’re a wedding photographer who is also offering translation services, how will you know how to market yourself? You may also end up taking on work for clients that you don’t enjoy just to bring in money. This can feel incredibly demotivating.
There is a balance to strike around finding your niche in the market. In certain cases, a narrow niche may just be your ticket to success if you can find your ideal audience. Ideally, you want to hone in on your skills and what you can offer potential clients, then rinse and repeat this until you feel confident.
Perhaps further down the line, you can offer flower arranging services in addition to web design, but for now, learn how to say no and be more selective about the work you take on.
2. Lack of focus
Lack of focus follows on from the point above in many ways. If you’re scattered in your approach to what it is you’re offering your clients, it’s likely that your days will be unfocused and unproductive.
Spreading yourself too thinly in terms of client work can also affect how you schedule your time. If you’re not clear on your goals for the quarter, month, week and day, how are you going to measure your progress?
Start by mind mapping your overarching goals and then write down the top five. Reduce these by two and concentrate on the top three – any more than this is setting yourself up for a huge failure. Break down each of your goals into actionable steps, which then form the basis of your weekly and daily plans.
When you work for yourself it can be incredibly hard to focus. With no boss or manager breathing over your shoulder, it’s up to you to set your business goals. Learning how to manage your time effectively as a freelancer can be the make or break of your business.
3. Failing to communicate properly with your clients
Developing healthy working relationships with your clients is crucial for any freelancer, no matter what industry they are in. Remember to regularly communicate with your client, as they will appreciate the contact from you and it keeps both sides on track with expectations and deadlines.
Not listening to your client makes your life much more difficult. Ensure you understand their brief and the scope of the work, otherwise, you will waste their time – and yours – on work that is not completed satisfactorily.
Building stellar client relationships is a way you can retain business and ensure a positive referral or testimonial from them.
4. Not networking effectively
Building a name for yourself does not happen overnight. Networking plays a huge role in the sustainable growth of your business. Even if your business model is completely online, networking is still necessary to grow your brand.
How you present yourself – via emails, on social media, over the phone is invaluable to your reputation, winning clients and gaining repeat business.
Try reaching out to people via email or spend time contributing to a Facebook group in your niche – anything to set yourself up as a knowledgeable, friendly person in your field. Seek to connect with like-minded businesses and view them as a support system rather than competition.
The advantages of the internet are as such that networking doesn’t always have to be done in person. However, face-to-face contact helps you build your community, which can offer you support and also generate leads.
Make sure that you carve out time in your weekly schedule to interact with others. This could be going for coffee with someone in your specialism or simply catching up with friends. Being a solopreneur can often feel lonely and so taking time out to meet with others can be positive for your business as well as your health.
5. Not taking care of your finances
I know, I know. Immediate eye roll. Finances have the unfortunate rep for not being sexy. However, what’s even unsexier is being stung by an unexpectedly huge tax bill because your financial reporting is not up to scratch. Getting paid is also a priority and there’s nothing worse than chasing up outstanding invoices.
Do yourself a huge favour and carve out the time to stay on top of your income and business expenses. You can use an online service like Toggl to track your time for clients, create invoices and log payments – or you create a simple spreadsheet and do most of this yourself.
Whatever method suits your time and budget, make sure you are responsible for managing your money. Ensuring that you are meeting any required payments such as tax, health care or pension, depending on your country of residence, is also crucial.
Find time-tracking and accounting tools in our Toolbox here. Over 100 tools for Digital Nomad Girls! Download it free!
6. Undercharging for your services or working for free
Although it’s tempting to work for free as you’re building your portfolio, you have to make sure you don’t trap yourself in a cycle of low-paying work or freebies indefinitely.
You wouldn’t expect to walk into the hairdressers and not pay for your restyle, so remember that your time is worth money. It’s difficult and scary to negotiate how much you expect to be paid from your clients, but remember that your goal is to be profitable with your activities. If you’re spending too long on work or undervaluing yourself then it’s going to be more difficult to make headway towards higher quality clients.
We have a post about Freelance Pricing Strategies that you can read here.
Self-doubt is a killer in the early stages for many freelancers and a huge obstacle to overcome. Doubt also underpins all of the other mistakes you are probably making. Without confidence in your abilities, you’ll most likely be: unfocused, undercharging, unsure of how to find and keep clients happy, struggling to run your business and more.
You may have heard of the ‘imposter syndrome’, or the whole ‘fake it until you make it’ mentality. Neither one of these is particularly positive as they just promote a lack of confidence or feelings of being out of control and out of your depth.
Believing in yourself, the skills and abilities that you have that make you uniquely special is crucial to your success. Although it may seem like the biggest challenge of them all, valuing your time, knowledge and your work will help you take your business from strength to strength.
So leave that fakery at the door and tell yourself that there is no imposter in your business. Just a hard-working, talented and deserving person who has got the ability to make it. And remember, as a freelancer you’ll always be learning new skills and adding to your portfolio.
How can you avoid making freelancing mistakes?
The concept of this article is actually a teeny bit misleading. Although it’s great to be aware of a few pitfalls as you begin freelancing, successfully avoiding them altogether is highly unlikely.
The cold hard truth is that no matter how hard you try, you’re probably going to make more than a few mistakes in the early days of your business.
But you know what? That’s ok.
Everybody goes through a similar experience and it’s how you manage the fallout from those mistakes that determines whether you continue to learn and grow.
Expect to make a few mistakes on your entrepreneurial journey. Getting things wrong is an integral part of business and the key thing is to move forward with your eyes open, learn as much as you can and seek guidance.
Do you recall any mistakes that you made in the early days of your business? It would be great to hear of the challenges you faced, but more importantly the lessons you learned in overcoming them.
Share your story with us so that we realise that we are not alone!
About our Guest Writer:
Megan is a freelance writer offering content writing services to kickass entrepreneurs and small businesses. She loves to travel, cups of tea, sloth memes and crushing people’s to-do lists one tick at a time. Catch her over at: www.smashyourtodolist.com or follow her on Pinterest or Instagram.