Freelancing FUBARs: 8 common mistakes


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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

Related:

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image by hans.gerwitz

  • http://www.carbongraffiti.com/ Jon Aizlewood

    Great article.

    Such valid points, and a freelancer’s not being honest if they say they’ve never fallen victim to most of them at one time or another. I know I have.

    One more faux pas I’d add as is ‘workspace zen’. Not sure about your other readers, but I’m terrible for needing a clean deskspace (on top of organization and coffee), before I get to work on a client.

    The problem arises when the space is not clean – I tend to over-procrastinate (badly) by making it the cleanest it’s ever been, by which time I’ve taken a large bite out of the already limited time I can devote to that client.

    I’d suggest always making sure your workspace is comfy, clean, devoid of distractions, and conducive to work. One final note: it always helps (though not always possible) to have that workspace somewhat removed from your normal life, i.e. another room or office, where you can switch on and off between your family life and your work life.

  • http://www.carbongraffiti.com Jon Aizlewood

    Great article.

    Such valid points, and a freelancer’s not being honest if they say they’ve never fallen victim to most of them at one time or another. I know I have.

    One more faux pas I’d add as is ‘workspace zen’. Not sure about your other readers, but I’m terrible for needing a clean deskspace (on top of organization and coffee), before I get to work on a client.

    The problem arises when the space is *not* clean – I tend to over-procrastinate (badly) by making it the cleanest it’s ever been, by which time I’ve taken a large bite out of the already limited time I can devote to that client.

    I’d suggest always making sure your workspace is comfy, clean, devoid of distractions, and conducive to work. One final note: it always helps (though not always possible) to have that workspace somewhat removed from your normal life, i.e. another room or office, where you can switch on and off between your family life and your work life.

  • http://www.freelanceadvisor.co.uk/contributors/michael-rose/ Michael Rose

    Thanks Jon… Come back Thursday for “top tips for working from home” :)

  • http://www.freelanceadvisor.co.uk/contributors/michael-rose/ Michael Rose

    Thanks Jon… Come back Thursday for “top tips for working from home” :)

  • http://www.joannatidball.com/ Joanna Tidball

    Some really good points here. On the equipment point, in my first year or so I must have gone through three cheap desktop printers. They kept breaking so I ended up spending a bit more on a quality laser printer – it takes up a bit more room in my office and the ink cartridges are pricey, but the printing is of a much better quality and the machine can stand up to the high use it gets.

  • http://www.joannatidball.com Joanna Tidball

    Some really good points here. On the equipment point, in my first year or so I must have gone through three cheap desktop printers. They kept breaking so I ended up spending a bit more on a quality laser printer – it takes up a bit more room in my office and the ink cartridges are pricey, but the printing is of a much better quality and the machine can stand up to the high use it gets.

  • http://www.dontforgettowrite.org/ Susan

    I always struggle with not charging what I’m worth. Especially in a day in age when anyone can self publish and sign-up to earn a few bucks per article on collective blogging sites like Associated Content.

    Ultimately any new writer wants to take whatever opportunity they can find. But it took me years to realize I have to balance new opportunities with earning what I’m worth.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • http://www.dontforgettowrite.org Susan

    I always struggle with not charging what I’m worth. Especially in a day in age when anyone can self publish and sign-up to earn a few bucks per article on collective blogging sites like Associated Content.

    Ultimately any new writer wants to take whatever opportunity they can find. But it took me years to realize I have to balance new opportunities with earning what I’m worth.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • http://www.freelanceadvisor.co.uk/contributors/michael-rose/ Michael Rose

    @Joanna – it’s a great point. I’m starting to realise that cheap is not a great idea for a small home office or anyone who is using technology to earn a living. For a single user, like my Mum, cheap is fine, she prints maybe 40 photos a year, but if you and clients are relying upon your output then spending some decent money is well worth it in the long run.

    Jim will be reviewing home office printers soon.

  • http://www.freelanceadvisor.co.uk/contributors/michael-rose/ Michael Rose

    @Joanna – it’s a great point. I’m starting to realise that cheap is not a great idea for a small home office or anyone who is using technology to earn a living. For a single user, like my Mum, cheap is fine, she prints maybe 40 photos a year, but if you and clients are relying upon your output then spending some decent money is well worth it in the long run.

    Jim will be reviewing home office printers soon.

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