Freelance writer, editor and blogger, Laura Spencer shares her experience of going into freelancing and some of the mistakes and failures she’s seen along the way.

Freelance FAIL: 8 common mistakes

As someone who has worked as a freelance writer for nearly six years now, I’ve observed (and sadly made) many freelance failures. Mistakes can cost you clients, and possibly even cause your business to fail.

The good news is you don’t have to make those same mistakes, and hopefully you can benefit from my observations and experiences.

Read on for eight common freelancing mistakes and some of Laura’s suggestions on how to avoid them…

8 common freelancing faux pas

1. The wrong equipment

Many freelancers start out with the equipment that they have on hand. Often a home computer just doesn’t have enough memory or the right software to get the job done. As soon as you can afford it, you should upgrade to a professional quality machine and software (and don’t forget, you’ll need a printer, phone, and fax machine as well).

2. Not taking the work seriously

What a relief! Now that you’re freelancing the boss is no longer looking over your shoulder to see what you’re doing. But, just because you’re self-employed, that doesn’t mean that you can slack off. Your work is still work and your clients deserve top-notch treatment. Be sure to work regular hours and don’t let projects go until the last minute.

3. Missing real life networking

When your friends and family ask you what you do for a living, what do you tell them? It surprises me how many freelancers don’t network in their day-to-day life. Print out some business cards and make sure that all of your friends and relations have a copy. You never know, they might know someone who could use your services.

4. Lack of web presence

Looking back, it amazes me now that I operated my writing business without a web presence for the first few years. A freelancer without a web presence is like a brick and mortar store without a sign. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay an exorbitant amount to develop an effective blog or website. If your business lacks a web presence, take steps now to bring it online.

5. Not keeping detailed records

There are many reasons why it is important for a freelancer to keep detailed and accurate records. Filing income taxes is just one of those reasons. As a new freelancer coming from a corporate environment, you may not be accustomed to keeping business records. However, it’s vital to your success that you do so. If you need it, get help in this area.

6. Falling behind in technology or training

Once you’ve been freelancing for a while you may be tempted to skip the latest training in your field or to let your technology skills grow cold. After all, training is expensive and you’re not sure if you can afford it right now. Don’t give in to this temptation! To remain competitive it’s vital that you keep current.

7. Over-extending yourself

Many freelancers commit themselves to far too many projects. Over scheduling can be a result of not charging what you are worth (see below) or simply underestimating the amount of time that it takes to get a particular project done. However, packing your schedule too full of projects can lead to missed deadlines (and lost clients). It can also contribute to freelancer burnout. See Mark Kirby’s Timeboxing advice for a great way to schedule your time and stay in control.

8. Not charging what you’re worth

Do you really know what your services are worth? What is the going rate for the type of work that you do? Can you charge enough to cover the costs of doing business? (Many freelancers forget to include their overhead into their cost of doing business.) If you charge too little, you may find yourself overextended (as above) and still not getting ahead. The ‘Find your perfect pricing point’ podcast should give you some idea of what you should be charging.

Do you recognize yourself in one of these eight mistakes? If you do, there’s no need to panic. Mistakes give us a chance to learn and improve. If you are making one or more of these mistakes, now you can take steps to correct the situation.

Happy Freelancing!

What are your biggest freelance failures? What fatal errors did you make in the early days? Share your experiences in the comments section below…

By Laura Spencer, freelance writer, editor, and blogger


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