This article contains a list of common mistakes that freelancers make. If you enjoy this article you may also want to read “10 Steps to becoming a successful freelancer” and “22 logo design mistakes you might be guilty of“. Here we go:
1. Charging too much. Unfortunately, we have to face the fact: most people hire a freelancer above an agency because they think they can get a better price.
Finding a balance between charging too much and not charging enough is one of the hardest aspects of freelancing.
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2. Charging too little. On the other hand, many freelancers do not charge enough for the services they provide. Although freelancing is not the same as running an entire business with employees etc., as a freelancer you have overhead too. Charge enough that you can make money and advance your freelance career.
3. Billing per the hour. It’s a logical fallacy. You tell a client they will be charged X amount per hour and when you finish the job, you send the bill.
But think about it for just a minute. Why would you punish yourself for getting a job done quickly? Charging by the hour means if you take 12 hours to do a 15 hour project, you are losing money. Find an effective way to charge on a per-project basis.
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4. Waiting to bill until a project is completely finished. There is nothing wrong with asking for payment on work you have completed.
When I work on client projects, I tell them what stages we will go through during the process and at what point(s) I will bill them. This ensures I don’t go weeks or months without getting paid.
5. Saying yes to everything. It’s okay to say no. Sometimes you don’t want to take on a project because it doesn’t pay enough, or because your morals go against it.
Often times, you may have too much on your plate to take on a huge project. If you feel like you cannot fulfill your end of the bargain, don’t agree to do it. It will just hurt your brand in the end.
Most clients will respect you for being organized enough to know what you can and cannot do.
6. Ignoring small clients/jobs. Surprisingly, all of the high-paying “big” jobs I’ve ever received were from clients who started out “small”.
Many times a company may ask you to do something simply and quickly. Take advantage of that situation and upsell them on additional work that will increase profitability of the project. Blowing off “small” clients is a big mistake in the freelancing business.
7. Getting lazy. A lot of teenage freelancers think freelancing means they get to sit on the couch all day, with their laptops on the cushion next to them, drinking coffee and watching TV while they work.
While one of the perks of freelancing may be that you work from home, try to maintain a professional atmosphere. Set up a spectactular home office, get up early, make your mornings productive and try to avoid distractions. Your professionalism will be reflected in your work.
8. Wasting time. It’s easy to find more entertaining things to do than some of your design jobs. Social media and blogging opportunities may sound more appealing than designing this week’s ad for the newspaper, but be sure to set priorities. Then, after the work is done, be sure to do what you really enjoy. It is more fulfilling if you do the work first and play later.
9. Being unorganized. A lot of new freelancers lack business skills. Take a class or read a book on how to manage a small business and incorporate elements of what you learn into your freelance business. There is nothing more unprofessional to a client than a freelancer who can’t keep track of his billing, payments received, project status, etc. Organize yourself.
10. Not treating your freelance career as a business. It’s not a hobby. It’s a business. Freelancing, while entertaining and enjoyable, is also a way to make money. Treat it that way. Maintain a professional image (both online and otherwise) and act as if you were a top-notch creative agency. Take billing and organization seriously and show your clients you’re serious about your work.
11. Lacking courage. As a freelancer, you will have to constantly be selling your services. Be confident that you can do a good job for your client and show of your work whenever you can. Be sure to stay updated on the latest trends and techniques so you have a natural sense of confidence.
12. Lacking education/ability. The truth of the matter is there are a lot of “freelancers” who simply freelance because they lack the necessary skills to work for an agency.
While I hope this is not your motivation and it is certainly not mine, I admit there are a number of freelancers that seriously lack the needed skills to be successful. Take time to learn as much as you can by going to school, reading books, following freelancing blogs, talking on twitter, and more.
13. Settling for mediocrity. Just because you don’t have a huge firm backing your design doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of putting out great work for your clients. Never say or think things like “Well here is your logo. Sorry it’s not better, but you got a great deal.” Always make your work top-notch.
14. Never selling. As a freelancer, you are always a salesman. You have to sell your work to get more work. Look for opportunities to solicit work wherever you go.
What other mistakes have you seen freelancers make? Take a second and share in the comments.
PS: I originally posted this article in 2009. I’ve updated it and republished it here. Thanks for reading.
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