Freelance Tips

The 5 Worst Mistakes Made by Freelancers, and How to Avoid Them

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It was Albert Einstein who once said that “a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” Of course, we can’t learn new things without taking a risk and sometimes we make mistakes in the process. But, if you make the same mistake twice, it will cost you.

Most freelancers make many mistakes when dealing with clients and often wonder why they aren’t getting enough jobs or why they have to chase after clients just to get their bills paid. Some even give up too easily after facing one failure after another.

If you’ve encountered such a problem in your freelancing career, you’re not alone. We all make mistakes and that’s how we learn to be better. However, if you’ve come across those issues more than once, it’s time for you to stop and ask yourself: “What am I doing wrong?”

Yes, I’ve also made many mistakes in my career as well. But, I also learned to avoid the most by learning from the mistakes made by other freelancers. And you can do the same.

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Here are some of the mistakes that you should avoid at all times, in order to become an excellent freelancer.

Accepting More Than You Can Handle

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Last year, I took a big project to deliver 20 1500-word articles in 20 days. I was already working on two other projects at the time, but I was too greedy to say no to this opportunity. I take two days to process an article and this time I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do more. And I was so terribly wrong.

I managed to deliver the project in time and the client was happy with the results. But, I had to work all day to manage all the projects and by the end of the month I was exhausted to carry on my work. Worst of all, I wasn’t able to deliver my usual high-quality work that time. He never came back to order more. I lost a valuable client.

From that day on, I decided not to accept more than I could handle no matter how good a job sounds. The point is that it’s important you pace yourself when accepting new jobs. I know you have to pay your rent, but try not to be too greedy and think about your career in long-term.

Working For Free

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I know the exciting feeling you get when a client replies to your proposal saying that they’ve decided to give you the project. It’s a great feeling isn’t it? This month’s rent is covered. But, don’t get too excited because those clients might rip you off.

Not all clients are honest and trustworthy, some are looking to manipulate you into getting what they want and never pay you for it. Asking for free sample work is a common method some clients use to get their projects done by a series of freelancers without paying them for their work.

Another method is scrapping the project at the last minute after you send your work for a final review. Most clients will simply ignore you after delivering the work. What are you going to do, sue them?

You must prepare yourself to face these situations. First of all, never do free samples and never work for free. If a client wants to see a part of their project done by you, calculate the price you’d charge for that part and ask them to pay for your work up front.

Always ask your clients to deposit a certain percentage of your full payment before starting work. If you’re using a freelancing platform, have the client break down the project into small goals so that you get paid each time you deliver a piece of the project.

Not Knowing How to Price Your Services

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Figuring out the perfect price for your service can be difficult when you accept projects in different sizes. But, if you don’t figure out a suitable method to charge for projects early on in your career, it will hurt your credibility in the long run and you won’t be able to raise your prices.

According to a study done by Contently, 38.6% of freelancers have only made $10,000 a year which is even less than $900 a month. Only 19% have been able to make above $50,000 last year.

Charging low rates is a mistake that almost all freelancers make on sites like Upwork and Freelance.com. These sites are made to lower your standards and force you to work cheaper. But, if you’re confident about your capabilities and experience, you should fight for your place and charge your clients reasonably.

Assuming You Know Everything

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The technology is evolving faster than a blink of an eye. And you need to evolve with it to be more competitive and a more relevant freelancer in your industry.

You may be an expert copywriter or an expert SEO analyst, but if you think you know everything and avoid learning new skills or stay up-to-date with the latest news in the field, you’ll come to a dead end very shortly when Google come up with their next Penguin update for the search engine.

There’s nothing wrong with learning a couple of new skills to improve your work and skills. Subscribe to all the top blogs in your industry and stay updated with the latest trends. Also, try out a site like Udemy or Udacity to learn a few new skills in your spare time. It’s like they say, you’re never too old to learn a new trick.

No ‘Rainy Day’ Fund

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When you start making more money than you’ve expected, it’s easy for you to get a little carried away and spend over the usual budget. What’s the point of making money if you can’t spend on the things you love, right?

Sure, you’re free to do whatever you want. Just remember to put away a small amount of your earnings in your bank every month, just in case. Think of it as your retirement plan.

Freelancing has ups and downs. One month you’ll earn $5,000 and $100 in the next. You can never be sure of what to expect in this field. So, make sure you have a rainy day fund to cover your costs during those harsh times.

This is the one mistake that force freelancers to quit their career and go back to day jobs because they don’t plan ahead. Don’t make the same mistake.

I always refrain from calling myself an expert because even though I have gathered plenty of experience over the years, I know that I still have a lot to learn. Socrates was right, “the only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Roshan Perera
I’m Roshan Jerad Perera, a freelance writer/blogger and the founder at FreelancingHacks.com. My goal is to help other people get started in freelancing and guide them toward a successful career and financial freedom.
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