Being a new freelancer can be hard. Like, really hard. It’s no wonder we all google ‘tips for freelancers.’ I’ve been there; I know the feeling. Having no one to guide me, I learned everything I know about the fascinating world of freelancing through trial and error. As you can guess, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes.
And who hasn’t? We all encounter difficulties and challenges in our freelancing careers. It’s natural to make mistakes. The thing is, while some mistakes are small and insignificant, others can take a toll on your work. Here are six tips for freelancers learned from six mistakes most new (and sometimes seasoned) freelancers make.
1. They Start Freelancing Without Any Financial Backup
This first point is one of most important tips for freelancers. Having some savings is essential, and not just when you’re just beginning. That’s because the freelance world is pretty unpredictable, with a lot of ups and downs. It might take you a lot of time before you start earning, and even more time to ensure a steady income.
It took me months to earn my first dollars as a freelance writer. During these months, I had no income whatsoever — I was lucky enough to be financially supported by my parents. Who knows what I would have done without them.
On the other hand, you might be an experienced, established freelancer and still be faced with a month with fewer projects and, consequently, lower income. Oh, the sweet, unpredictable freelance world.
The takeaway is, make sure you have enough money for at least six months before you set off as a full-time freelancer. Or freelance part-time for a while. The latter will give you the chance to learn everything freelance-related, from pitching and pricing to different niches, while also having a steady income from your day job.
2. They Charge the Wrong Rates
The most asked question when it comes to freelancing is, “How much should I charge?” When I first started my journey as a freelance writer, I had no idea where to start.
What should I write about? Where can I find clients? And most importantly, what should I charge? Charge too much, and you’ll fail to land many clients. Charge too little, and you won’t be able to make ends meet. I mean, what a struggle!
The solution — and what helped me, personally — is to look at the more experienced freelancers in your field. How much do they charge? You can even reach out to some of them through Linkedin, Twitter, or any other social platform they may have and ask for some info.
I also read dozens of articles by established freelancers, where they offered their advice on how to start your freelancing career.
Of course, let’s be real here. You won’t charge what they charge. You’ll have to start with a relatively low rate — but you will raise it once you’re more experienced/build a client network/work on many projects.
3. They Leave No Room for Improvement
No matter what people have told you, freelancing isn’t an easy job. From continually trying to land new projects to endlessly work on old ones, it’s understandable that most new freelancers leave no room for improvement.
However, you need to make some time to improve your old skills and learn new ones. Or else, how will you grow? The world keeps evolving, and we need to evolve with it if we want to be more competitive.
Unlike what many people think, money isn’t essential for one’s improvement. You can join an online course. Read a book. Watch a video. Even dedicating 15 minutes every other day in learning something new, is a great step.
4. They Make Promises They Can’t Keep
In this kind of work, time management is crucial if you want people to take you seriously. You’re basically running your own business. And yes, we all want to have as many clients and projects to work on as possible. But there’s simply not enough time for all that.
Many new freelancers say yes to everything that comes their way just to close one more deal, only to realize later that they’ve taken too much work to handle. The result? They don’t deliver their projects on time, or they do a scrappy work and lose their clients.
If you don’t want to fall behind, be in constant stress, and experience severe burn-out, make sure you focus on quality over quantity. That will have both you and your clients happy.
5. They Don’t Know How to Manage Their Clients
As you might already know, the relationship you have with your clients is very important. After all, they’re the ones that pay you. During my first few months as a freelancer, I was super anxious whenever I had to communicate with a client.
It took me some time to realize that my clients needed me as much as I needed them. There was no reason for me feeling awkward. It would be best if I could actually lead my relationships with them. I shouldn’t make my clients feel I was another employee that needed management.
When you learn to define your professional space, use a friendly yet firm language, and come up with a communication schedule, everything becomes simple. Not only your clients feel they can rely on you, but you also improve your chances for follow-up projects.
6. They Can’t Accept Criticism/Rejection
I still remember the first time my work got rejected. It felt like a sharp knife had pierced my heart. No, really, that’s exactly how I felt. And then I started thinking that I wasn’t made for this job.
Accepting criticism has been one of the most difficult things I had to deal with as a freelance writer. Yet in this work, that’s something you regularly have to deal with. Having your work rejected doesn’t always mean it’s bad. Sometimes, it’s just not what the client looks for.
Of course, some other times, your work may indeed need some improvement. So what? You shouldn’t let that get to you; neither should you let your ego cloud your judgment. Constructive criticism can help you improve both your work and yourself.
This is one of the most important tips for freelancers – learn to manage your emotions, brush the negative comments aside, and always strive for improvement. And then, watch success happen.