Starting a freelance business can be life-changing.
We’re living in a golden age where it’s possible to leave your 9-5 in the dust, set your own hours, charge as much as you want for a project, and have the freedom and flexibility that you’ve always dreamed of.
All of this sounds amazing, and it can be, but without proper planning (and avoiding common freelancing mistakes), your solopreneur aspirations can be crushed before they begin, leaving you scurrying back to your cubicle with your tail between your legs before you can say ‘billable hours.’
We don’t want that to happen. And with a little research and some dutiful preparation, it’s easy to avoid these missteps that can derail your laptop-lifestyle dreams. Keep reading to learn about some major pitfalls to avoid so can you start creating a freelancer brand that can bring you the health, wealth, and happiness you deserve.
1. The King of Common Freelancing Mistakes: Not Niching Down
There are countless benefits of freelancing and one of them is the opportunity to separate yourself from the pack and specialize in something that you’re passionate about. A lot of new freelancers make the common mistake of being too broad with the services that they offer.
It’s natural to want to open yourself up to as much work as possible, but it’s also the easiest way to get lost in the crowd. You need to think from a client’s point of view. Say you’re a client that has a pet supply store and you’re looking for a writer to look after your website and blog.
Would you want to hire a freelancer whose website says, “I will write about any topic”, or would you be more likely to hire a writer that eats, sleeps, and breathes pets, and their website and services reflect that? Niching down can seem counterintuitive, but it’s almost always a better idea to specialize in one area and try to corner that part of the market.
2. Neglecting Proposals and Contracts
If you want to separate yourself from the millions of other freelancers out there, it’s wise to take the time to create a professional proposal that will wow your clients and have you coming out looking like you really know what you’re doing. Use this resource or others like it to see how you can create proposals that dazzle.
Another thing to remember is to never start a project without a signed contract. Keep in mind that this is your livelihood, and you need to protect yourself. It’s common for disputes to occur, even if you have a great relationship with the client.
Having something in writing ensures that you’ll get paid what you’re owed for the work you produce.
3. Not Charging Enough
Another mistake rookie freelancers make is not charging what they are worth. The work you do is hard, and you should be charging fair freelancing prices for it. Accepting projects from low-balling clients might seem tempting in the beginning as you’re trying to get established, but it’s a slippery slope and you don’t want to be branded as someone that will work on the cheap.
It takes confidence to know your worth, but when you produce high-quality projects, your work will speak for itself. Charging too little for a project can also send the wrong message to clients, leading them to believe that you don’t value yourself.
Always set a price you’re comfortable with and be firm with it. It will pay off in spades in the end.
4. Accepting Projects That You’re Not Passionate About
The quickest way to burn out is to keep tackling projects that bore you to tears and have no passion for. The whole point of freelancing is to start doing more of what you love of less of what you don’t, right? If you’re passionate about your job you’ll never work a day in your life, as the saying goes.
Take on work that gets you excited to jump out of bed in the morning and makes you want to stay up late to complete it. Always remember your “why?”. Why did you get into freelancing in the first place?
It was probably to work on things that get your motor revving. If you’ve already gone through the process of figuring out your niche, this will fall into place naturally.
5. Failing to Set Goals
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Sure, it’s a cliché but a cliché is a cliché for a reason. It’s important to have a plan and know what you want to achieve with your new business.
It’s never a bad idea to create a business plan, even if you’re solo and haven’t built your empire yet. A business plan is like a roadmap that will guide you to your destination, even when the weather gets rough.
It’s nice to have something tangible to look at to point you in the right direction on days when you’re feeling a little lost. It can also help you set financial goals, outline marketing and advertising initiatives, and assess the competition in your niche.
6. Not Managing Your Time Properly
Working for yourself isn’t for everyone and a lot of freelancers find out the hard way when they are first starting out. With all this newfound freedom at your fingertips, it takes discipline to stay on task and make sure you’re scheduling freelancing hours and managing your time effectively.
It’s a smart idea to prepare a schedule in advance, dedicate time where it’s needed, and then stick to it. Don’t forget that you are now a business and there are best practices to follow even if you no longer have to get dressed up and commute to an office.
7. Neglecting Your Health (Physical and Mental)
It’s easy to fall into the trap of pushing your health to the backburner when you start to get busy as a freelancer. Although it can seem tough to take care of yourself when your schedule gets hectic, it’s paramount to prioritize your physical and mental health. No matter how busy you are, there is always time to fit in a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day.
Not only is exercise good for you physically, but it also energizes your body and refreshes your brain so you can do better work. Your mental health is just as important as your physical, so be sure to set aside some time to meditate, read a book, practice gratitude, or do whatever you need to do to stay in a good headspace.
Kick Doubt to the Curb and Get Started Today
The most important thing to do is to just get started. There is never going to be the “perfect time” to start your business, so the best thing you can do is act now and act with intention.
It’s common to believe that you don’t yet have enough knowledge and need more time to prepare. But the truth is that we often learn more from doing than we do from planning.
If you enjoyed this post on common freelancing mistakes to avoid, be sure to check out our massive inventory of articles on everything related to the business world.