5 Common mistakes of a freelancer – and how to avoid them

August 15th, 2016

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There are many benefits to freelancing: Being your boss, having control over your work life balance, and managing your own finances. But that comes with challenges too.

In the ever competitive creative market, it can be easy to make mistakes. As you’re the boss, there is no one else to rely on, and slip-ups on a project can damage your reputation.

But it’s important to not let mistakes put you off. Instead learn from them.

They are usually made during those early years of freelancing. You’ll learn from bad experiences and become a much better independent professional as a result.

To help those of you who are just starting out, IPSE have pulled together five of the biggest mistakes freelancers make so you can avoid them yourself…

Mistake 1: You choose the wrong clients

It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking on new clients that aren’t good for you. There are many reasons why they aren’t right, including whether they pay on time, whether they’re difficult or whether they stop you from progressing forward. If you choose the wrong clients, you’re could become unhappy, make less money and work longer hours.

To avoid such relationships, get smart at spotting potential nightmare clients. Figure out whether they’re worth your time. Remember, it’s a two-way process when you meet a prospect for the first time. It’s not just about them deciding whether you’re the right person for the job, it also works the other way around.

Mistake 2: You don’t charge enough

One of the most difficult decisions when working as a freelancer is having to decide how much you want to be paid for your work and time.

For those who first start freelancing, chances are you are not charging enough for your time. Really think about how much your work is worth before you set your rate. It’s also important to get a good grip on the range of rates your industry pays, and to calculate how much you need to cover your business costs (i.e. office space, accounting, marketing). Organisations such as K&B Accountancy and Contractor Calculator provide services to help you work out how much you should charge.

Should you up the prices? Try it and test out your new rates on new clients. And when you have told someone how much you want to be paid for a job, do not lower it without good reason. If the client wants to negotiate, they will.

Mistake 3: You let work take over your life

When you freelance, especially if you work at home, it can be incredibly difficult to switch off, as the lines between work and home become blurred. But this is the worst thing you can do.

Don’t let your freelancing take over your life, and remember you still need to relax and detach yourself from work. If you think it has overtaken everything and it’s affecting your family life, perhaps it’s time to take a break, mix up your work environment, or go on a nice holiday, so you can change your work ethic and start fresh.

Mistake 4: Working for free

It’s not easy breaking into a new scene. Competition is high – and contracts can be difficult to find. Clients know this. In an effort to keep wage bills down, some of them will try to exploit your freelance talent by asking you to work without pay.
Unpaid work counts as any scenario where a business uses an individual’s efforts for commercial gain and doesn’t pay for labour or services provided by the individual. The long-term effects of taking on unpaid work can be catastrophic; it can make normal life impossible for all but the very privileged, especially in more expensive cities like London. It is completely unacceptable – and IPSE advice you never accept it.

That’s why IPSE are currently working with the Freelancer Club on the #NOFREEWORK campaign to help address the exploitative culture of unpaid work.

Mistake 5: You have too few clients

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a creative freelancer is relying on one or two short term clients to help cover your costs. Remember, a client could pay late or pull the plug altogether on your business at any time.

It’s always better to have multiple clients on the go and avoid placing all your eggs in one basket. Get networking, create your brand and win more work. You have to be the one to lessen the risk.

Share your story below

What kind of mistakes have you made in the world of freelancing? Share them in the comments below to help other freelancers avoid the same situations!

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The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) is a sponsor of PFMeet and the national representative for freelancers.

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