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.