3 Freelancing “Bad Habits” That Cost You Money

burning moneyWhen you’re freelancing for a living, you’re trading time for money – so you want to make sure that every hour is time well spent. 

But those “little” bad habits you may have as a freelancer may be eating away at your time, making projects that should have only taken a few hours take much, much longer.  When that happens, your hourly rate goes down – way down – and each project becomes less profitable. 

Don’t let this happen to you.  Check out these 3 habits to break and start bringing your rates back where they deserve to be.

Break This Habit:  Not Setting Boundaries With Your Clients

When you’re trying to make ends meet, it’s easy to tell clients “Call me anytime if you have a question or want something changed.”  Naturally, you want to give them full access to you so they don’t go elsewhere.  But open-ended access means you have no way of controlling how much time you spend with the client – and if you end up with a “needy” client you could find yourself on-demand at all hours and working for minimum wage when all is said and done.

How to break this habit: Before you begin the project, let clients know up front that you have “business hours” and that those hours are the best time to contact you.  If they need you after hours, invite them to send you detailed info about what they need via email so that you can hit the ground running when you open for business tomorrow.

Break This Habit:  Letting A Client Bully You Into Free Work

Invariably, you’ll have clients who decide that bullying you into providing extra work for free is an option.  They do it subtly, with statements like “Add this and it could mean extra business for you later,” or “Oh, I didn’t realize that the job wouldn’t include this item.”  It may sound innocent, but in reality the client is trying to put the pressure on you to do work for free – and those unpaid hours take your hourly rate down for the count.  By giving into those requests, you open the door for even more unpaid work down the road.

How to break this habit: When you’re scoping out projects for clients, do everything you can to lay out exactly what’s included (and what’s not included) in the deal.  Before you begin work, get agreement with them that there’s nothing else that needs to be added to the scope of work – and that if they need to change the scope later, that will (rightfully) come with an extra cost.

Break This Habit:  Letting Time Get Away From You

When your freelancing involves being on the computer, it’s far too easy to let the time get away from you.  An email here, a twitter there, and a quick stop at your favorite news site … suddenly the day draws to a close and you realize you didn’t accomplish as much as you needed to.  Letting yourself get distracted from your work can trap you into working overtime to compensate for the billable time you wasted, and spending more time than you need to on something isn’t why you got into freelancing in the first place.

How to break this habit: When you’ve got to focus on work, set deadlines and boundaries for yourself.  Force yourself to stay away from email and the web for a chunk of time so you can finish what’s in front of you, and then reward yourself with some downtime afterward.  This way you won’t be tempted to distraction, because you’ll know some self-approved distraction time is waiting for you soon.

Name Your Poison:  What’s Your Worst Freelancing Habit?

Something getting in the way of you getting your projects done quickly?  Let us know in the comments and we might be able to give you a tip or two to turn that bad habit around.