7 Terrible mistakes you must avoid as a new freelancer

Freelancing, as any other job, has its ups and downs.

Do you know why so many people are attracted by the idea to do freelance work? Because it sounds so flexible.

Do you know why so many of them give up? Because they realize it takes more effort than they anticipated.

That’s their first mistake: underestimating the seriousness of the job.

In addition to the wrong mindset, new freelancers make many other mistakes. Instead of making these mistakes and getting disappointed, you should try a different approach: learn about them. Then, simply avoid them. We’ll give you tips for that, too.

1. Starting off when you’re jobless and broke

Okay, if you’re jobless and broke, and you want to try freelancing, there’s no harm.

Want more? Have a listen.

If, however, you don’t have any savings and you decide to leave your current job to try freelancing, you’re making a terrible mistake. Finding a client who’s willing to work with beginners is not easy. Things will start off fine if you’re persistent enough, until you get to that point, however, when you can expect to struggle.

Don’t quit your job just yet, especially if you don’t have any savings. Try freelancing in your free time. When you realize it’s starting to go well, you can make a full commitment to it.

2. Being too arrogant

Some freelancers think they have better skills than all of their competitors. When messaging clients, they show off with this arrogance.

They demand much higher quotes than the ones the client suggested. They don’t agree to do a test job. They don’t invest time building their own blog, because they expect to be paid for every single word they write.

You’ll have to tone down your arrogance. The competition is huge. Chances are, you’re not the best one out there.

3. Starting without a plan

Many people start freelancing just because they saw someone else doing it and they wanted to try, too. Without a plan, they quickly give up.

There are several things to consider before you start freelancing.

How many hours per day will you devote to work?

What will be your hourly rate?

Will that hourly rate, combined with the volume of work you plan to do, cover your bills and leave you with something to set aside?

Explore the industry to find out how much you can get paid for your work. Then, set realistic goals and a plan for achieving them. Go back to them in intervals, so you’ll figure out how well you’re doing and what plans you need to revise.

4. Not thinking about taxes

When you’re an employee, you’re used to having a checking account. That money is yours to spend. Having that habit from their previous experience, many freelancers treat their revenue as profit.

That’s a big mistake.

When you become a freelancer, you’ll have to realize that not everything you make is your own money. Some of it belongs to the government.

Find out exactly how much you’ll have to pay for social security, healthcare, personal income tax, and other self-employment taxes. Talk to an accountant to clarify these things before you start freelancing.

5. Working for free

When they realize it’s hard to get the first gig, many freelancers do the occasional pro bono work, thinking that will help them build a portfolio. There’s nothing wrong in writing an occasional guest post that’s promoting your blog, however, you have to gain something in return, even if it’s just traffic to your own website.

You can’t afford to spend time on work that doesn’t bring you money. Fight for your place in this industry!

6. Not using a contract

If you’re unfamiliar to the way freelancing works, you might think exchanging a few emails with a client is enough to get you started. Many new freelancers make that mistake, and end up paying for it later on.

If there’s no written contract, there’s no obligation for the client to pay you.

Always, always have a written contract that defines the rate, payment terms, deadlines, and scope of work.

7. Not being professional

Freelancing seems like a flexible and relaxed job. That’s why many newbies are so unprofessional about it. They miss deadlines, thinking that delivering the product one day later is not a big deal.

It is a big deal!

Act like a true professional. Only apply to jobs you know you can perform well.

Freelancing has tons of benefits. You can work on your own time, and you can apply to jobs you really like. However, there are obstacles you’ll have to face, especially during the beginning of this journey.

Now that you’re aware of the most common mistakes and you know how to avoid them, it’s time to take the first steps. Comment below with your thoughts!

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About Chris Richardson

Chris Richardson is an editor and a blogger from London. He is also a part of the Essay Geeks team. Chris finds his inspiration in writing. Meet him on Twitter and Google+.


  1. I made a few of these mistakes. I was guilty of arrogance in a big way. However I had no idea I was doing it. Then one day my daughter heard me on the phone. I got the client, she said “you actually got that?”. I dug deeper. She pointed out I spent the first 5 minutes of the call on “me, me, me, me,me” – and it got worse from there. The next call I had with this client, I apologized, pointed this out. They laughed and replied “I thought that’s how all of your are, everyone I spoke to did the same thing”. I ended that call by saying, “Chicago is filled with outstanding website designers, thank you for choosing me”.

    That changed me. I am thankful. Now, instead of tearing my competitors down, I build them up. I point out that there are tons of great designers – you just need to find the one that works well with you. Since then, by business has tripled. I also have found some great designers I send business too when I am overwhelmed.

    I feel fortunate I work in a talented community. If you think about it, we all learn from each other. I have learned so much from the great people at Millo as well –

    I have made many more of these mistakes Chris, but that one was my biggest. You hit the nail on the head… Nice work!



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