Published August 24, 2020
Becoming a freelancer is exciting! Being your own boss is a freeing feeling, and one that few get to realize. But the road to becoming a successful freelancer can be long, and it gets bumpy along the way. Luckily, many of these bumps are common, fixable mistakes. We’ve put together 7 of the most common mistakes that new (and veteran) freelancers tend to make, and how to avoid them.
1. Time Management
Positive of being a freelancer: no one tells you what to do!
Negative of being a freelancer: no one tells you what to do…
When you work for yourself, it’s up to you to do the work. That may sound simple, but it can be a blessing and a curse. Learning how to manage your time is one of the hardest and most important parts of being a freelancer.
So, how should you organize your day? There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to time management. You have to find what works for you, and stay committed to it. If you’re a morning person, get started early and finish early. If you’re more productive in the evenings, set aside the later hours to get work done. Don’t forget to reward yourself with a few scheduled breaks throughout the day to stay motivated and productive. Work-life balance is important, so set and stick to a schedule of working (and non-working) hours.
Setting a price for your services is intimidating. If it’s too high you’ll lose the client, and if it’s too low you won’t be able to pay the bills. How are you supposed to know what to charge?
As a general rule, try to set your price by project, not by an hourly rate. If you’re charging by the hour, you’re making less than your service is worth. Just because a project only takes you a few hours, that doesn’t mean a client is getting less value from it. Customers are paying you for the work, not the time.
But not all projects are equal, so don’t treat them like it! Different clients have different needs and expectations, so the price you charge should reflect that. Give them a range of prices you typically charge, and ask for their budget and the scope of the project they have in mind. If they’re willing to pay more, then ask for more! Collaboration with the client is key when it comes to pricing your service, so make sure you’re getting paid what you deserve.
3. Saying “Yes” to Everything
When you’re a freelancer, saying “no” can feel counterintuitive. You might wonder, “How will I make money if you don’t take on every job possible?” But spreading yourself too thin often lowers the quality of your work, leaves clients frustrated, and hurts your mental health.
If you have a full workload, don’t take on extra jobs that you won’t be able to handle. If you’re afraid of losing a potential customer by turning them down, phrase it in a different way than just “no” to keep future business in play. Instead of “No”, try something like “I’m not taking on any new clients this month, are you interested in starting 3 weeks from now? I’d love to work together if possible!” It will allow you to focus on the projects at hand, and line up more business to keep your income steady.
4. Working Without a Contract (or With a Bad Contract)
It’s happened time and time again. A freelancer connects with a client. The client seems trustworthy. The freelancer and the client come to a verbal agreement on services and price. The freelancer does the work. The client pays less than what was agreed upon. And there’s nothing the freelancer can (realistically) do.
Being too trusting can be the downfall of a good freelancer. It’s human nature, but it’s not good for business. Have your clients sign a services agreement or contract before you get started on the work, so you have a paper trail to point back to, and legal rights to the money you’re owed. It can be daunting, but don’t worry, there are enough templates out there that you won’t have to write your own from scratch.
5. Letting Bad Clients Stick Around
A bad client could be consistently late with payments, over-demanding, or any number of other negative behaviors. Remember, as the person providing the services, they need you just as much as you need them.
Having too many rotten clients can be bad for your business. If a customer is frequently making your life more difficult, don’t be afraid to change the terms, or even end the relationship completely. If they’re late with payments, then don’t take on the next project until they’ve paid your invoices. If they’re over-demanding, simply remind them of the project you’ve agreed to, and politely tell them that more work equals more money.
If you’re consistently receiving late invoice payments, check out our tips for preventing late payments from customers here.
6. Having No Backup Plan
Throwing yourself into full-time freelancing right away is courageous, but ill-advised. When you put all of your eggs into that basket, it’s better to know that you have enough clients to keep the lights on.
It’s great to go all-in, but do it the right way! Give yourself a safety net in case you don’t hit the ground running. Start small by taking on a few clients while holding down a stable job, whether that’s full-time or part-time. Additionally, make sure you have a bit of cash saved up once you do decide to go into full-time freelancing. This will ensure that you’re still able to pay the bills and stay afloat if business takes a while to pick up.
7. Making Payment Difficult
When you send a client an invoice, you want to make their payment as easy as possible. Easy payment process equals faster payment for you, right?
That’s why Invoice Home has set up payment links that you can easily send out with your invoices! We’ve partnered with Stripe, PayPal, and Authorize.net to help our customers get paid with the click of a button. When you set up a payment link with your payment information, your customers will be able to send you money instantly.
To learn how to set up your payment links, click here.
Avoid these common mistakes, and you’ll be a better freelancer. And when it’s time to get paid, send your clients an invoice that stands out. Use one of our more than 100 templates to create an invoice, and set up payment links to make receiving payments even easier!