When I first started freelancing, I made plenty of mistakes. Blunders and missteps are to be expected in the first year or so, especially since you have to be your own boss. But remember: Working independently absolutely does not mean you shouldn’t seek out knowledge and advice from more experienced people in your field. Presumably, that’s why you’re here. Here are five mistakes I made as a freelancer that you can avoid:
1) Trying to compete on price
Chasing low-paying jobs is a race to the bottom. You’ll end up with low quality clients, and you’ll set your worth low. Knowing what to charge can be a bit of a guessing game when you have little experience, but don’t hesitate to trust your instincts; if you feel like you’re underpaid, you probably are. Know what your skills are worth and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
2) Being afraid to fire a client
It is the nature of freelance work that your source of income is always changing, and you may go through periods where you’re not sure how you’ll pay rent next month. For that reason, you might be hesitant to fire a client, even if they’re giving you a headache.
But remember this: A bad client is almost never worth the trouble, no matter the price. Don’t put up with clients who don’t pay on time, bully you, or constantly change their minds about what they want. Those clients put stress on your financial security anyway, because they delay paying you and make you do extra work. In the long run, you’re better off leaving that client. Use the time you would have spent writing for them to search for a better gig.
3) Underestimating the importance of business skills
Being a good writer is only 20 percent of what it takes for freelance success. The other 80 percent is actually knowing the ins and outs of running a business—generating leads, maintaining client relationships, being organized, keeping books in order, and building your brand.
This is not to say you need a business degree to become a freelance writer. But you do need to do a lot of research on how best to handle the business aspects of your career. Good business skills are essential for developing a solid reputation, consistently finding work, and growing an audience for your writing.
4) Not knowing how to handle criticism
Freelancers are, by their nature, independent workers who want to do things their way. So when a client sends back an article requesting a slough of changes, it’s easy to take it personally.
I’ve already said you shouldn’t work with clients who constantly change their mind about what they want. But good clients will always have some requests for changes to make your writing style fit their niche, especially when you first start working for them. As a freelancer, you need to accept feedback graciously and use it to improve your articles. Delivering exactly what the client wants is vital for maintaining a working relationship.
5) Not setting aside enough time for personal projects
Focusing on your paid work might bring you success in the short term, but not in the long term. I realized that I had to also devote time to other projects like building up my website, learning new types of writing, and starting my own blogs to generate passive income. These projects allowed me to learn new skills and build my brand, so I could ultimately find more work with better clients and earn more money.
Completing your freelance assignments is essential for paying the bills, but working on personal projects is vital for having a successful freelance career and maintaining a steady flow of creative energy.
Learn from your mistakes
Most importantly, remember to learn from your mistakes and not be discouraged by them. Even if you avoid the ones I’ve mentioned, you’ll probably make many others. But if you want to succeed, you can’t be afraid of failure. You have to take it as an opportunity to grow.
Pic: ©Negative Space