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From the outside, the life of a freelancer seems like the ultimate workplace win – you gain full control over your schedule, remuneration rates, and work location. However, new freelancers quickly realize that there’s a long and treacherous path stretching between them and the cocktails, sun loungers, and exotic locations they imagine. To help you navigate, we’ve outlined the four most common rookie errors and what you can do to avoid them:
Mistake 1. Not controlling cash flow
Slow paying clients are the bane of every freelancer’s existence and can place enormous pressure on your finances. Along with lining up invoice finance to cover you in case of late payments, it’s worth putting measures in place to make it as easy as possible for clients to pay you on time, every time.
Here are some techniques you may want to consider:
- Offering multiple payment options;
- Providing discounts for upfront payments;
- Requesting split payments (e.g. 50% before you start the project, 25% after your first draft, 25% on competition);
- Talking each client through your payment terms as part of the onboarding process and having a contract you both sign.
Mistake 2. Taking any client you can get
Though it is essential that you work on building your portfolio, that doesn’t mean you should blindly accept any work that comes your way. Do your due diligence with any prospective clients. Assess their online presence, any reviews their company may have, their communications with you, and the offer they’re making. Don’t be afraid to pass on the opportunity if anything feels off.
If you feel like your portfolio is lacking, try contacting non-profit organizations you admire. Alternatively, you can use sites like VolunteerMatch to connect with non-profits that could use your skills. This is a safe way to hone your skills and develop an impressive portfolio.
Mistake 3. Playing fast and loose with your fees
While many new freelancers make the mistake of undercharging for their work, there are plenty who go the opposite way and charge far too much. As with all things in life, the key lies in finding the right balance.
To do this, you need to dig into some industry research to find out what others are charging and what they’re providing for their fees. You need to find a rate that reflects your skill level, years of experience, and the package you’re offering. Contently’s Freelance Rates Database is a great place to start.
Mistake 4. Poor time management
When you set your schedule and there are no managers or team members to whom you need to be accountable, it can be easy to let your days slip into a pit of procrastination. There’s always time later to do everything you need to do… until suddenly there isn’t. Most clients will be understanding if you miss a deadline here or there due to unavoidable circumstances. However, if you make a habit of it, there are plenty of other talented freelancers out there who will happily snap up your work.
The best way to combat this is to create a daily schedule, and then stick to it. Figure out when your brain is at its best, and dedicate those hours of the day to your freelance work. It’s also worth trying out time management strategies like working in timed blocks with physically active breaks in between.
Steer clear of these mistakes and you’ll be a few steps closer to the bountiful life you imagined when you first heard the word “freelance.”
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