If you’re keen on freelancing, you’ve probably googled ‘tips for new freelancers’ more than you can count. However, when you’re looking at all the things you need to do to excel, you may be overlooking mistakes that could make or break your career. 

But, no need to fear, dear reader — we’ve got your back! Here media update’s Taylor Goodman unpacks four mistakes to avoid as a freelancer.

Ready, set, go: 

Freelance mistake #1: Take on every client

When starting out as a freelancer, you may be eager to take on every single client that comes your way — but stop right there, take a breather and consider this. The more you have on your plate, the less time you’ll have to dedicate to each client. 

Spreading yourself out too thinly may lead to you missing deadlines and returning low-quality work that isn't up to your clients’ standards (and this is not a good way to start out!). Not only could this damage your reputation as a budding freelancer, but it could also lead to you feeling burnt out. 

To avoid this, outline what your ideal client looks like. Decide what type of work you want to produce and align this with the patrons that you choose to work with. Additionally, ensure you freelance for people who respect your skills and your time. 

By doing this, you will have more time to dedicate to each task, resulting in producing high-quality work that really lets your talents shine through. 

As time goes on, you will build a stronger portfolio and a solid repertoire of clientele. And the more you write, the more confidence you will build. Your figurative pen will pick up some speed and more opportunities will come around. So do not rush into it! It’s all about gaining that experience!

Freelance mistake #2: Settle for low pay

Easily one of the biggest challenges for freelancers is knowing how much to charge for their work, and finding clientele that respect your trade enough to not undervalue it. So, if you are met with hagglers who try to get your price down as low as possible, you do not need them as clients. 

In situations like this, it is crucial that you stand your ground and know your worth! As rates do differ according to industry, region and person, it is important to consider the following questions
  • How much do you want to earn annually? When answering this, you should think about what your ideal salary is, factoring in your experience or salaries given for similar positions.
  • What are your expenses? Factor in aspects like Internet cost, medical aid, tax and electricity. 
  • How many days do you plan to work in a year? Here, it is crucial to factor in leave days, sick days and public holidays. Once you have an idea of how many days you plan to work, you can determine how many hours to work in a day. 
Once you have an understanding of the above, you will be able to work out your billable hours. 

For example, if you are a freelance journalist and you choose to work eight hours a day, you cannot spend these hours just writing. Make sure you make time for admin, research, giving pitches and attending meetings. Moreover, if you choose to work a regular nine to five, ensure you account for lunch breaks. 
Want more guidance on setting freelancer rates? Then be sure to read The South African freelancer conundrum: How much do I charge?

Freelance mistake #3: Be okay with overworking 

When you want to succeed at your craft, oftentimes you could push yourself too hard. This is especially common when you are self-employed — 46% of freelancers believe that this line of work has a negative effect on their mental health. 

Being your own boss blurs the lines between work and play, making it crucial that you learn how to strike a balance. You can do this by taking regular breaks and avoiding working overtime when possible. 

Sure, there may be instances where you need to work around the clock to meet a deadline, but try not to make a habit of this. Rather, stick to a realistic but still productive work schedule. 

You can implement a work-life balance by:
  • being flexible with your schedule: The best part of being your own boss is being in charge of yourself! Feeling overwhelmed or stressed out? Allow yourself to take a break. You do not have to spend your entire day chained to your keyboard in order to be productive. 
  • making time for the things you enjoy: Want to take a vacation? Do it! Have you been grinding really hard and neglecting your loved ones? Pick a day and clear out your schedule for them. Always remember that there is more to life than work.
  • planning your week in advance: Planning out your week will help you avoid overcommitting yourself to your work. Set deadlines and meet them, but always pencil in some me-time. 

Freelance mistake #4: Not marketing yourself

We’ve said it time and time again that, as a freelancer, you are your own boss. This means that you are also your own business, and you should market yourself accordingly. 

The first step in marketing yourself should be showcasing your work and compiling a portfolio. Everyone needs to see how talented you are, of course! This serves as proof of your skills that clients can check out when deciding if they would like to work with you. 

You can easily create an online portfolio on platforms like Behance, Dribble or Adobe Portfolioall of which are free

Next, ensure that you are active on social media that are commonly used. Whether you choose LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or all four, having a digital presence is crucial to success. 

Why? Well, this will help you to meet and engage with like-minded individuals and — hopefully — meet some clients along the way. Additionally, you can use these platforms to uncover trends and to gather insights. 

Lastly, you can market yourself as a freelancer by leveraging client reviews. When you complete a job for a client, ask them to leave a short review of your services. This could be later displayed on social media or in your portfolio. 

Doing this will prove to future clients that they can trust you and assure them that you are capable of producing high-quality work. 

Do you have any tips for making it as a freelancer? Let us know in the comments below.

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Do you want to know more about freelancing? Then be sure to check out these Five tips for being a successful freelance writer.
*Image courtesy of Unsplash