5 Business mistakes ruining your hard-earned reputation as a freelancer

Every freelancer makes mistakes. As creative business owners, it’s the nature of the beast.

Thankfully, most business mistakes are private, their damage is known only to us which makes them easier to fix.

Then there are mistakes that clients immediately see and judge us on. Unfortunately, those are the kind that can ruin our reputation and adversely affect client relationships.

Avoid these 5 business mistakes and save your freelancing reputation from suffering.

1. You let the client lower your original rate

How many times has it happened to you? You send a quote to a client, and they reply with, “That’s out of our budget. We can only pay [an amount that’s significantly smaller than your original quote].”

Most freelancers agree. And as soon as they do, their reputation suffers. Not publicly thankfully, but with this client.

Want more? Have a listen.

Because now the client knows that they can get you to agree to a much lower rate without a fuss.

What to do instead:


I get it. Negotiating is scary. What if you lose the client?

But money isn’t the only thing you can negotiate on.

Instead of money, negotiate the project. From the amount of work involved, the deadline, to the payment plan – it’s all open for discussion.

So, the next time a client says your quote if out of their budget, say “Okay, here’s what I can do.”

Then take away the bells and whistles. Reduce the word count or the number of revisions. Push the deadline back. Ask for 100% upfront payment instead of being paid later.

2. You don’t get your clients to sign a contract

Do you get clients to sign contracts? Do you even have a contract?

My answer was no to both for the longest time. Then when I finally put a contract together, I faced a new problem.

I didn’t feel comfortable asking clients to sign it.

The clients on the other hand – especially the ghostwriting ones – would get me to sign iron clad contracts.

The end result? My clients were protected, but I wasn’t. What was worse? They knew it.

What to do instead:

Create a contract.

And Co has an excellent tool for putting together contracts.

Another great resource is Docracy. Even a simple Google search leads to plenty of articles on creating a freelance contract.

Once you have a contract, it’s time to start asking clients to sign it.

Not sure what to say?

“I’ll get started as soon as the contract is signed.”

3. You miss a deadline without informing the client

You’ll be surprised to learn how many clients have trouble finding freelancers who consistently meet deadlines.

It gives a bad rep to all of us.

Everyone misses a deadline at some point. You could fall sick, have a family emergency, or simply make the mistake of taking on too much work.

The simple solution is to let the client know about the delay. Ghosting them not only ruins your reputation, but it also gets your point of contact in trouble.

What to do instead:

Inform the client.

All it takes is an email.

When my father-in-law suddenly passed away this summer, I was in the middle of a client launch. I emailed the client within hours telling him what had happened.

A couple of days later, I handed over everything I’d been working on and told the client I’d be available to answer any questions his new freelancer may have.

4. You overpromise and underdeliver

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re trying to convince a client to hire you. You promise them clicks, conversions, and even sales. Results that you have no control over.

But when it’s time to deliver? The results are… underwhelming to say the least.

Even freelancers with proven track records shy away from promising certainties. Instead, they promise multiple versions, revisions, and A/B testing.

What to do instead

Promise what you can deliver

Instead of promising results, you can’t deliver, promise things you can.

Like interviewing the client’s target market, writing copy that is optimized for SEO and web readability and web content that’s actionable content with laser-focused call-to-action.

Nobody’s saying you ignore or downplay the results you work can get for your clients. Past results that you’ve gotten for your clients are an excellent selling point.

Just don’t promise clients those same results.

5. You publicly gripe about a client

Publicly ranting about a client might make you feel better momentarily. But after that? You’ll be dealing with the aftermath of your rant for a long time.

Not only did you break your client’s trust, but you also made yourself vulnerable. Because even if the client in question never finds out, future ones will.

Just as we research our clients, they Google us too. And if one of the things that come up after they run a search on you is a rant about a client… well, no guesses for who’s not going to be hired.

Publicly griping about one client ruins your relationship with future ones too. No one works with freelancers who rant about clients or name and shame them.

What to do instead

Ask for advice.

Yes, clients from hell are real, but that doesn’t mean you become a freelancer from hell by taking your problems public.

Instead of ranting, rephrase the whole situation as a call for advice.

You’ll be telling your side of the story and inviting the right kind of attention. More than likely, you’ll get good advice on how to deal with a situation and might even be able to solve the problems with your client.

Protecting your freelance reputation at all costs

As a freelancer, your reputation is your most valuable asset. Lose it and finding work becomes harder every day. Let me know of other common mistakes to avoid in the comments section.

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About Samar Owais

Samar Owais is a small business writer and blogger for hire. She loves writing (kinda goes without saying), road trips, and getting writers to treat their freelancing as a business instead of a hobby. Sign up for her “Zero to Hero” freelance challenge and learn how to tell folks you’re a freelance writer with confidence and flair.


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