Freelancing Mistakes

It is often said we learn more from mistakes than successes. Sometimes it's nice to learn from another persons mistakes rather than your own! Every freelancer will have their own stories to tell, here are five of mine. I hope you find them useful and maybe you will share your own.

1. Under Pricing

Most of us will have done this at some point, many of us still do. Money is a difficult subject for a lot of people. While I'm better at talking about money now than I was, I still find it an uncomfortable topic. Problem is, while you might not find it easy it is absolutely critical. You have a right to earn a fair price for your work, and doubly so when you are good at your job and have excellent experience. How do you know if you are underpricing? If you do good work but you never lose a bid then your prices are too low.

Also be careful about charging by the hour when you don’t have to. When you charge by the hour you are actually penalizing yourself for getting faster at your work! Also some jobs require considerable experience and expertise while taking little time to execute.

2. Do Not Over Commit

No one client has the right to monopolize your time, even if they do think they are paying well. When one client takes all your time that is a boss and you have a job, not a client and freelancer relationship. Remember as well as the job at hand you need time to market and network to bring in future work. Allowing one customer to dictate my hours was the worst mistake I ever made, when that contract was over I had nothing to fall back on. You ideally want to have four or five overlapping contracts plus some breathing room so the loss of one doesn’t set you back too far.

3. Failing to Sell Yourself

After money, I'm guessing the next worst part of freelancing for most people is the thought of selling yourself and your services. Fact is though many times a client will know they want your help but will not know exactly what they want. Selling need not be about snake oil and ripping people off. If you can truly help someone out, then offer your services in a way they will respond to. Make it all about them, their needs, what they will get out of it. Most importantly, listen more than you talk.

4. Don't Be Afraid To Say NO!

Fear can cause us to do many stupid things. It took a lot before I started turning down requests. Some were easier than others. Requests to work for free still come but I am better at saying NO now, turning work down is still tough but I can do it. You have to remember that a bad deal or bad client can damage you far more than the loss of the work. Be prepared to not agree to everything that comes your way and know that you can be nice and friendly without agreeing all the time!

5. Following Up With Past Clients

Past, happy clients can be your biggest source of new work, both with repeat business and referrals. Always get at least a testimonial when they say how happy they are. Even better, if you can get them to recommend you. It doesn’t hurt to ask! Also it can be nice to send birthday cards, etc. You never know. I am still learning, but having a great deal of fun doing it, mistakes and all. What lessons have you learned the hard way?

Photo credits: Matthew Collingwood.

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March 26, 2009

Piscari

Yes! And who are easy?))) Patience, patience, and patience friends!)))

March 16, 2009

Reeddaigle

Thanks. I'll do that.

March 13, 2009

Littlemacproductions

Thanks for the reminders! Once you get the confidence in your style and work... some of the above become easy but some remain difficult until you do it a couple of times.. like saying NO! Thanks for taking the time to share.

March 13, 2009

Rolmat

Very well :)

March 12, 2009

Noonie

Thanks Richard, good thoughts! I tend to undercut the people in metro areas that do the same work as I do but then I also compete with "my grandfather, aunt, uncle, etc. used to do that". Like I'm supposed to do it for free because if aunt Myrtle could do it, it must be easy! lol (p.s. it is after you learn it) Stand your ground and make it firm!

March 12, 2009

Starblue

Great blog - and very useful! I also like your web :-) very well made and it is interesting as well! Have a great day!

March 11, 2009

Reeddaigle

I've been especially guilty of 1, 3, and 4. Currently, I'm teaching English in Japan, but I was doing movie work and freelance photo in between. I'll return to that in about 6 months when I return to the US (Louisiana in fact!). So, thanks for your advice. I'll look up that book when I return to the US. I'm trying to do a bit of set up, mentally, work-flow wise, and organizationally before I return. And now that I'm married with a daughter, I certainly can't do free work!

March 11, 2009

Denisebeverly

i never know what to charge and i am sure i low ball every time.

March 11, 2009

Creativei

Dear Richard, a very good thoughts and advice. You know since 7 years I'm doing freelance and committed all the above mistakes many times. Now I'm very strict, I follow your point 5, and started using point 4. Do you believe, just before reading this blog, I refused a project to design a website, as I didn't wanted to undercut.

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