26 Common Freelancing Mistakes to Avoid

There are some freelancing mistakes and pitfalls that you can easily avoid, if you are aware of them. And no, I’m not talking about grammar or spelling mistakes here, either.

Before I get too far into this post, I need to confess that I learned about a few of these freelancing mistakes the hard way–that is to say, I made the mistakes myself. Other mistakes I learned about secondhand from freelancing comments on forums and blogs. But, just because I made some mistakes when I started out doesn’t mean you have to make them too. In fact, that’s part of what Freelance Folder is all about, freelancers helping freelancers to succeed.

In this post, I’ll list 26 common mistakes that freelancers make when they are starting out–mistakes that you can avoid because you’re reading this post. I’ll start with the mistakes that I’ve noticed and wrap the post up with mistakes that other Freelance Folder writers have blogged about. :-)

10 Freelancing Mistakes I’ve Seen Over the Years

In no particular order, here are some common freelancing mistakes that many freelancers make:

  1. Falling for a big dollar number. Fortunately, I’m pretty good at math so the first thing I do when determining whether a project is worth my time is divide the dollar amount offered by the amount of effort (in hours) that I think the job requires. Not every freelancer does this. I was recently discussing this topic with a freelancer colleague who took on a huge project (both in dollars and hours). Sadly, the project almost bankrupt him because the big dollar amount (in the thousands of dollars) was really not enough to justify the months of work that the project involved.
  2. Failing to get an agreement in writing. Of course, getting a contract is ideal–but failing that I at least try to always get some sort of agreement in writing. Sometimes email works for this, but sometimes you may need something more formal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read comments from a freelancer who is having trouble getting a client to live up to their end of the bargain, only to find out that there was no formal agreement.
  3. Not meeting deadlines. Fortunately, I don’t struggle with this one (much)–but I know that some freelancers do. When you take on a project it’s important to pencil in enough time on your calendar to get the project done. If you find that your calendar is too full for you to meet all of your commitments, you’ll have to do one of three things: outsource (if you can), turn work done, or negotiate new deadlines.
  4. Not knowing what to charge. I confess that I didn’t really know much about freelancing when I started eight years ago, and I had no idea how much to charge for my services. As a result, I often took on work for less than I was worth. Yes, I was underpaid–but, it was largely my own fault for not doing enough research to find out what an experienced freelance writer should earn.
  5. Not saving money for taxes. Luckily, I was warned about this mistake before I ever started freelancing. I had the good fortune to work with a freelance programmer who was being paid an extremely high rate for his services. Everything went well for him until his taxes came due at the end of his first year of freelancing. I’ll never forget how his lack of preparation forced him to close his freelancing business and accept a “permanent” job or how his tax liability took him very near to personal bankruptcy.
  6. Not branding yourself properly or consistently. Personally, when I started out as a freelancer I gave very little thought to my online image. I had my resume, my references, and my samples. For many clients that was enough. I don’t think I would be so lucky if I were to restart my freelancing business in today’s competitive environment. Branding is crucial to freelancing success.
  7. Picking the wrong partner. I’ve always been a solo freelancer, but I’ve heard some freelancing horror stories about traumatic partnership break-ups. There are many advantages to being in a partnership, but it’s also important to pick your freelancing partner very, very carefully. A bad partnership breakup can be devastating to both parties.
  8. Not taking advantage of free resources. There’s a lot useful free resources and information online for freelancers. In fact, the depth of what’s out there still amazes me. In future posts, we’ll be sharing some of those free resources with our readers. Sadly, when I started out as a freelancer I had no idea what was available. I could have avoided a lot of trouble and extra work by taking advantage of some of those resources.
  9. Not getting help when you need it. Eventually, every freelancer needs help. It may be that you need to outsource some of your project load so that you can put your best efforts into your work. Or, it could be that you need to hire a specialist such as an accountant or an attorney to handle some of the legal and financial aspects of your business. Not getting help when you need it is a big freelancing mistake.
  10. Making the same mistake over and over. Every freelancer makes a mistake eventually. There’s no shame in that. The most important thing to do when you make a mistake is to stop and try and analyze what went wrong so that you can avoid that mistake in the future. If you fail to do this–if you fail to learn from your mistakes–you may be doomed to making the same mistake over and over again, which is something that no freelancer wants.

I’ve shared some of the most common freelancing mistakes that I’ve observed over the years. Now it’s time to take a look at some of the freelancing mistakes that other Freelance Folder authors have identified.

16 More Freelancing Mistakes

We’ve looked at freelancing mistakes on Freelance Folder in the past. Here I’ll identify 16 more common freelancing mistakes that other Freelance Folder authors have written about and link you to their posts.

From Chris Garrett, My Top 5 Biggest Freelancing Mistakes. Chris’s mistakes are as follows:

  1. Under-pricing
  2. Over-committing
  3. Failing to Sell
  4. Always saying ‘yes’
  5. Not following up

From Glen Allsopp, Four Freelancing Mistakes You Don’t Need To Make. Glen’s mistakes are as follows:

  1. Giving Away Too Much Information
  2. Leaving Jobs Until the Last Minute
  3. Wasting Time on Unproductive Work
  4. Acting Like Someone I Wasn’t

From Tim Wasson, Why I Failed at Freelancing. Tim’s mistakes are as follows:

  1. Too inexperienced
  2. No focus.
  3. Slippery slope of slow business
  4. No savings
  5. A part-time job
  6. Debt
  7. Client relationships

What About You?

Is your freelancing mistake on this list? Which one was it?

Did you make mistakes that we haven’t written about yet? Share your mistakes in the comments (and tell how you overcame them).

Image by hans.gerwitz