The freelancing life has many perks – from the freedom to dictate your own work hours to yoga pants all day every day. That being said, freelancing is by no means easy. Freelance work requires a ton of self-direction, creativity, and motivation. Additionally, there are many pitfalls that can potentially derail your career. Here are 5 of the most common mistakes made by and biggest challenges for freelancers and some tips on how to avoid them. No, freelancing is no picnic, but as long as you steer clear of these pitfalls, it won’t be too difficult either.
Mistake #1: You Think Like an Employee
Being a freelancer means you don’t have a manager looking over your shoulder and telling you what to do – fantastic! But it also means you alone are responsible for marketing your services, ensuring your skills are updated, negotiating your payments, and meeting project deadlines. A common mistake made by freelancers is failing to take ownership of your work and simply waiting for opportunities to come. Instead, step out of the mindset of an employee and think like an entrepreneur. Be creative and go above and beyond to deliver quality work.
Mistake #2: You Take on More than You Can Handle
This may seem like a very unrealistic problem if you are just starting out. Why on earth would you turn down a client or a potential opportunity? However, spreading yourself too thin is actually one of the biggest challenges for freelancers. If you accept more projects than you can actually take on, you ultimately risk delivering low quality work or missing deadlines. Don’t feel pressured to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity on the table. Instead, make sure you have a clear picture of how long certain projects are going to take. Sometimes, it may be helpful to set later deadlines than you you need. Other times, it may be better to just say ‘no’, especially if the project or client doesn’t appear to be a good fit. Remember to set boundaries and stick to them.
Mistake #3: You Charge Below What You’re Worth
When you’re first starting out, it may be tempting to settle for a low pay in order to secure clients and build up your portfolio. However, the downside to working at a low rate for extensive periods of time is that it gives you and your clients a distorted perception of your worth. Instead, establish your value and contributions from the start. No doubt it takes a lot of patience to build a reputation and to land higher paying projects. That being said, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than a decent pay in the meantime either.
Mistake #4: You Don’t Communicate Enough
Communicating while working remotely is already difficult in itself. With other factors, such as time difference, it’s no surprise that ineffective or lack of communication is one of the biggest challenges for freelancers. In the world of freelancing, there is no such thing as over-communication. In fact, it is best to put everything into writing, whether it is a proposal, a deliverable, or a contract. Don’t simply assume your objectives are clear to your client or that you fully understand their goals. To avoid any miscommunication mistakes, always repeat and reconfirm with your client. Establish communication lines early on and be accessible.
Mistake #5: You Neglect Other Aspects of Your Life
Working from home blurs the boundaries between work and personal life. While it is sometimes necessary to work late into the night or over weekends on big projects, doing so constantly and allowing clients to dictate your schedule will only lead to burnout. Among the many mistakes made by freelancers, this has the largest impact on your health, relationships, and other areas of your life. Set and stick to a reasonable work schedule so that you actually enjoy the flexibility of working from home!