The 5 Biggest Mistakes New Freelancers Make

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A lot of people think of freelancing as the low-risk alternative to getting a day job. Who doesn’t want to set their own hours, be their own boss, and blog in bed with a cup of coffee on the side? With no day job to tie us down, we can travel the world; and make money from our blog, while we sleep. Right?

But for most freelance workers around the world, that’s not the life we lead – okay, maybe some of it. But there’s a lot of hard work involved; and clients are often very much like employers, but without the health benefits and paid vacation time.

Thus, many workers realise too late that being an entrepreneur in any form, is not the walk in the park they thought it would be. Here are the five biggest mistakes that usually land them in trouble.

1. Failing to Ask for a Fair Price

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes most new freelancers make is not asking for the right price. This robs not just the new freelancer of income, but more seasoned freelancers as well.

When new freelancers allow clients to low-ball them, they get conned out of making better money. Meanwhile, this lowers the average market value of their services, making it more difficult for seasoned freelancers to command a fair price.

For advice on how to decide on a fair price, check out my post on 10 Factors Affecting How Much you can Charge your Clients.

2. Allowing Bullying from Clients

Being flexible is important as a freelancer, and is one of the main reasons clients prefer freelancers to employees. Freelancers work on more open schedules and are usually reachable even at odd hours. However, new freelancers often fall into the trap of becoming too flexible, refusing to say no even when they know they’re completely out of their depth.

Of course, most clients are reasonable business people, but you can count on some to take advantage of this kindness. For instance, I had one client who paid only on a per-project basis, but wanted me to keep my entire days free – just in case he needed me.

If you don’t set boundaries, clients will set them for you to benefit themselves. Sometimes you just have to say no, even when it means losing their business.

3. No Work Day and No Work Schedule

A lot of freelancers – new and seasoned – make the mistake of thinking:

Well… I work for myself now, so I’ll get up whenever.

This may not seem like a big deal, at first. But if you track your work hours, you’ll realise you’re getting less and less done. It doesn’t matter what time you set as your usual work hours, but have one in place. For instance, if you’re not a morning person, consider setting your work hours from 11AM to 11PM with breaks in-between.

This doesn’t just help define what your productive hours are. It also creates a more reliable schedule clients can count on. Allocating a full 12-hours also helps to ensure they can reach you, no matter what time zone they’re on around the world.

4. Not Saving Money

As I mentioned in, Why I Choose to be Underemployed, one of the main drawbacks of freelancing is not having a steady paycheck. Some months can be really lucrative, and new freelancers often give in to the temptation to spend.

What many don’t know is that lucrative months are often followed by dry spells – so the money evens out. Because of this, saving is important.

In fact, even before you dive headfirst into becoming a full-time freelancer, it would be wise to have some savings at hand. This helps to provide a cushion while you secure clients that pay high and fair prices. This won’t happen overnight.

Full-time freelancers also need to save to pay their taxes, and if you don’t set aside tax money as you go along, you’ll have a tough time paying the IRS or other tax agencies when the money is due.

5. Not Reinvesting

Reinvesting in your business – yes, even your freelance practice – is an important part of ensuring you remain in business. Yet, many new freelancers fail to reinvest profits; and instead, spend their entire disposable income on purchases that don’t benefit the business at all.

This is all great fun until the equipment fails, or you lose your clients to other workers. It’s important to spend at least a small portion of the profits on marketing and promotions, and upgrading your equipment over time. If there are funds left over, consider saving it for a rainy day, in case of equipment failure, or theft.

If you’re interested in more hands-on professional help as a freelancer, check out Alexis Chateau PR to see how we can help.

30 thoughts on “The 5 Biggest Mistakes New Freelancers Make

  1. Thanks for sharing your advice. I would be interested in reading more about how you got started as a freelancer, especially if you already have and intend to keep your 9-to-5 job. How do you land the first writing gig?

    1. Hey there – glad you found the advice useful. I got started as a freelancer in college, at 16 years old. My professors loved my writing and bragged about it as the college caliber, while simultaneously using it to shame everyone else who was still writing at high school level. Some people hated me, some people paid me to edit their poorly written papers to read more like erudite English. That’s essentially how I got started as a freelancer. My reputation preceded me.

      As for how I manage to keep this going with a 9-5 job, I don’t. I don’t have a 9-5. I have a weekend job, so I’m free 4 days a week to work on my company. I also have a special arrangement with my supervisors, so during downtime, I’m allowed to use my laptop to work on my business.

      Technically, I am no longer a freelancer. I launched my PR firm 11.24.2016 >

      All the best!

      ~ Alex

  2. After I read many of your blogs I am all pumped. I can do this! Totally! (I mean… I couldn’t even fit my three fat cats into a single suitcase, or even my favorite books that I haven’t read in ten years and likely won’t ever read again but I *might* so I keep ’em) so you are essentially a magical creature (to me) for your minimalist abilities and zest to focus on experiences rather than mere “things.” I become inspired after reading your blogs and I completely have the rocky-style music playing in my head. I can do it!!! I don’t exactly what it is I can do quite yet beyond piddling around with my jewelry but thank you, thank you, thank you for the incredibly helpful advice and encouragement you provide.

    1. Thank you so much – you’ve made my day. This is exactly what I want to do. I want to inspire people to take chances and live the life they always dreamed of. I got my inspiration from reading way too many blogs where people DID do it, and finally I asked myself, “Can’t I do it too?”

      Go for it! I’m rooting for you. Thanks again!

      ~ Alex

  3. I’ve imagined working for myself and writing full time as I enjoy it so much. I enjoy it because its not my job, of course, and it would take much more than me just “wanting” it. It was a decision I needed to make 20 years ago that never got made.

  4. Hey I follow your blog and I really enjoy reading your posts. I’m a struggling freelancer from Africa. I love to write. Hell I live for it! I wanted to know if there is a platform on which it would be easier to find jobs for writers in Africa I am having a hard time securing any at the moment…So far I have tried upwork but still no luck. Any suggestions?

    1. Hello – thanks for reading the blog and for commenting. It’s great that you’ve found something your passionate about.

      Unfortunately, we don’t have clients in Africa and don’t know much about how freelancing works there. However, there are plenty of places to look around online – and your blog or website should also serve as a tool to attract clients, regardless of where you live.

      Upwork and usually don’t pay very well. And most clients prefer to give English pieces to native-English speakers from America, Britain etc.

      ~ Alex

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