Are You A Freelancer? Thinking About Freelancing? Don’t Make These 7 Mistakes
At one time or another, all designers have tried a freelance project or two. Some of us have even rolled the dice and attempted to go all the way and quit our full-time jobs for the full-time freelance route. And needless to say, we all make mistakes. Many of us, the same exact mistakes. Here are the top 7 mistakes that we’ve made or watched others make when starting on the freelance route. If you have some mistakes to share, we’d love to hear your comments below. Misery loves company!
1. Not trusting your gut
You know it when you feel it: that moment after a client meeting in which you ask yourself …”do I really feel good about this client/project?”. Whether it’s the feeling that you are going to do a lot of work for little money (or recognition), the fear of whether or not you are going to get paid, or maybe the anxiety that you simply bit off more than you can chew — we’ve all had it. Even if it’s after the fact … it’s not too late to quit before you start. It’s often best for all involved. If you are feeling warning signs and seeing red flags, stop the show right there, do not go past go, absolutely do NOT collect your $200 (or more). Just graciously let the client know as soon as possible that you can’t accept the project, and if you know of folks you can refer them to, do so in order to help them find a way out. But trust your gut. You are probably exactly right.
2. Bottom basement pricing
Everyone wants the work, of course. But when you are willing to offer something at bottom basement prices (and really undersell your competition), you are not doing anyone any favors, especially yourself. There is a value to your knowledge, your experience, and your education. It’s worth something. Make sure you are competitively priced and allow your clients to choose you because of your work and talent, not because you are the cheapest in town.
If you get every job you go after based on your price, there is your red flag. It may be time to give yourself some credit and work smarter rather than harder.
3. Not getting it in writing
It’s a rookie mistake. You must protect yourself (and your client) by getting everything in writing, including additional commitments or any possible increase to the scope of work. You should strongly consider having an attorney write up an agreement you can use between you and your clientele. It should outline your project and any assumptions you are expected to complete during the duration of the agreement, as well as the price agreed to (and payment plans). Even if you have to do a “trade” with an attorney, it’s a good idea to have this in place and use it with all projects you take on. Get it in writing.
4. Forgetting your skill set
You know your boundaries, make sure you live within them. There is nothing more frustrating than someone who says “yeah! I can do that!” and they really can’t, or they have to hire it out (without the knowledge of their client). Know your boundaries and don’t pretend to be able to do something that isn’t within your skill set. Know when to say no, and offer referrals so you’ll be more of an asset to your client base. Everyone appreciates someone who knows their limits and doesn’t attempt to work outside of them at the their expense. As a bonus, often people you refer work to will return the favor at a later time. Something to consider.
5. Not managing your workload
In addition to staying within your skill set, stay within the number of projects you can tackle at one time. You know your boundaries, and how many projects you can tackle at one time. One of the best pieces of advice we ever received: take care of your current clients first, and everyone else second. We’ve lived by this advice for our 14 years in business.
If we can’t handle our workload, then we need to either hire more help, or notify clients right away that there is going to be a delay with their project. Know your schedule, anticipate vacation time and/or sickness, and plan accordingly. Be the hero, not the zero to your clients and your business.
6. Don’t sell for tomorrow
Often when designers get busy, they forget the most important rule: You have to keep selling for future business. You have to keep reaching out to new clients, and you must keep cultivating relationships and try to bring in new work. It can be a tricky balancing act, but everyone in business must do it. Take care of your current clients, but don’t forget you need to make new ones. Find the time, and remember — your future depends on it.
7. Forgetting why you went into business/freelancing
We have a friend who does very well with his freelancing, and manages to take several vacations a year, including month-long absences. We are always amazed how he pulls it off. His excuse? That’s why he went freelance to begin with! Whenever you find yourself lost in your own work, remember why you chose this path to begin with. Was the commute too much of a hassle? Did you want to spend more time at home with the kids? Were you needing to cut back on hours and work less for minimal stress in your life? Was it to pay off a loan or recent debt? Don’t forget your inner compass, and remembering why you made the decision in the first place. Nothing is worse than getting lost in the objective.
We hope these tips help all you freelancers out there. Please let us know your tips in the comments below! We love to hear from the design community and any other thoughts we might have forgotten. Are we missing any mistakes? What lesson have you learned in the Freelance world?
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