Technology has changed and continues to change the way we live today. From the way we communicate to the way we travel, it has transformed not only our lives but the way various industries work as well. It has certainly made a lot of things easier such as finding information and jobs, paving the way for the conception of a new concept in employment–freelancing.
About fifty-three million Americans are freelance workers, and many predict that half of the labor force will be self-employed by 2020. Unsurprisingly, a large part of this demographic is currently composed of young people. A study conducted by independent research firm Edelman Berland found that 38% of millennials are part of the freelance economy. With the flexibility and freedom that comes with freelancing, it’s no surprise that more and more of the millennial generation are ditching the traditional nine to five and leaning towards this lifestyle.
Especially for the creative, tech-savvy, and multi-skilled millennials who would choose freedom and flexibility over stability and monotony, the freelance lifestyle won’t be losing its appeal anytime soon. Freelancing comes with many advantages, but it also has many pitfalls. If you’re planning to take on a freelancing career, here are a few common freelancing mistakes you should watch out for.
Wasting time on tasks you don’t specialize in
As a freelancer, you are allowed to work with freedom and flexibility because you’re your own boss. But because you’re your own boss, you’re also responsible for the business side of things. Freelancing is a business–and like any other businesses, it involves things like taxes, bookkeeping, licensing, and accounting. If you’re not a fan of numbers and you decide on taking on this task yourself, it can be very time-consuming and headache-inducing for you.
Though you don’t have co-workers or employees onboard to pass the responsibility to, you can always ask for outside help. Hire somebody to do those tasks for you. This way, you can spend your time enhancing your skills and focusing on your craft instead of wasting it on something you don’t even want to do.
Taking more projects than you can handle
One of the most common mistakes freelancers commit is taking on more projects than they can handle. More work might mean more money, but that’s not always the case. Think about your career in the long-term and don’t be greedy. Instead of taking every project that comes your way, pick only those that you really want to work on and focus on them. Otherwise, the quality of your work will suffer and you might end up damaging your reputation.
You might be taking too many projects because you’re afraid to refuse an offer. Don’t be afraid to turn down a client. Clients are people too and they won’t ruin your reputation just because you turned them down. The important thing is that you’re honest with them. If you can’t take their offer because you’re fully booked, tell them that. They’d appreciate it better if you tell them the problem upfront than if you accepted their offer but your work ends up being rushed and low quality.
It might be tempting to offer free service and discounts when you’re just starting out, but no matter how desperate you are to attract clients, don’t lower your value. If you begin your freelancing career charging at a low rate, you will have a hard time raising your prices in the end. And if you offer services for free or charge at a low rate, you are showing the client that that’s what you’re worth.
Pricing can be difficult at the initial stage, but there are many articles out there (such as this one and this one) that explain the factors to be considered in pricing. They will also help you decide how much you have to charge, in detail. Do your research. Get to know the average hourly rates in your industry, and check how much other freelancers in your niche are charging. Consider this: With the rate you’re charging, will your monthly income be enough to put food on the table and cover your rent and daily expenses?
Refusing to learn more and improve
Learning shouldn’t stop the moment we get out of school or when we’ve successfully learned a particular skill. Just because you’re already good at what you do doesn’t mean there’s nothing more you need to know and learn about it. Subscribe to all the top blogs in your industry and stay up to date with the latest news, trends, and tools in your field.
Don’t be too comfortable with what you’re doing. Remember that there are plenty of other people who are capable of doing what you do, and if you don’t keep improving or keep up with the latest trends, you will eventually reach a dead end. As Hlovate said, “You’ll never reach perfection because there’s always room for improvement.”
Being unprepared for unexpected setbacks
Freelancing is an unpredictable career. One month, you’re earning $5000, and another, you’re earning $500. You can never tell for sure how much you’ll get in a month, that’s why it’s important that you set aside a back-up fund in case you experience a setback. It’s also easy to get carried away and spend over your usual budget when you make money more than what you expected, that’s why it’s important that you put away a portion of your earnings in your bank every month.
Another thing you should be careful about is relying too much on your current clients. It doesn’t necessarily mean you should keep looking for new ones, but make sure you have other clients left in case one terminates their contract with you. Plan how you would replace them if it ever happens.
Giving too much information to a potential client
When conversing with a potential client, be brief, direct, and straight to the point. Simply answer their questions and be careful not to give away too much information. Unless they’re paying you for that information, or they offer to pay you an additional amount for that information, only tell them the important details they need to know. Otherwise, you’d be teaching them to do your job and they might end up implementing the plan themselves or finding someone cheaper to implement your plan.
Not having work-life balance
One of the main advantages of having a freelance career is that you get to work at flexible hours. But what if the projects you took are demanding too much of your time? This situation is especially common to those who have just started their freelancing career. Freelancing takes some time to get used to, but if you get organized and make a schedule, you’ll find that it’s not as hard as you initially thought.
Create some consistency by creating a schedule for your work hours. This way, you can get things done more efficiently and clients won’t be confused when communicating with you. This will also give you time to attend to your personal needs. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed and burned out.
Getting easily discouraged when business is slow
As mentioned above, freelancing is an unpredictable career. You won’t have the stable income of nine to five jobs–sometimes you would make more, but there will be days or months where business will be slow. During the latter times, you might be tempted to take on a day job to compensate for the slow flow of income from your freelance projects.
A day job will take up a huge amount of time which is supposed to be spent on your freelance projects and you won’t be able to immediately respond to your clients. Your work will end up rushed and low in quality and your reputation might suffer, forcing you to spend more time at your day job to compensate. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s important that you don’t get easily discouraged at times when business is slow. Remember that it’s just a phase and you don’t have to resort to day jobs to compensate everytime. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself having to keep the day job because you lost time for your freelancing career.
A career in freelancing can be challenging at first, but no one ever became good at something on the first try. The key is to plan for the future, know your worth, maintain work-life balance, and watch out for the pitfalls mentioned above. Freelancing, when done right, won’t only allow you to make money for a living. It allows you to take control of your own personal and professional life. Plus, you’ll get do your passion whenever you want, wherever you want.