10 Ways To Make Your Freelance Business Fail

Freelance Business FailureAs I wade through the many blog posts and articles written about freelancing, I notice a very definite trend. While there are ample materials written for the freelancer who wants to succeed, there seems to be virtually nothing written for the freelancer who wants his or her freelance business to fail.

It seems a bit unfair, really. I can picture some poor freelancer miserably trapped in his or her success and desperately wanting to get out. Where can they turn to for advice?

Before today, resources for freelancers wanting to fail were scarce. Today, however, we’re going to fix that problem right here at FreelanceFolder.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself this business would be perfect if it weren’t for all of my clients, then this post is for you. We’ll give you a list of tactics that will drive those pesky clients away and quickly lead to your ultimate goal: freelancing failure.

Ten Easy Ways To Fail at Freelancing

Failing at freelancing is not nearly as difficult as many people think. In fact, you can probably find ways to avoid working without ever leaving your home or investing any money.

Here are ten easy ways to fail at freelancing with hardly any effort:

  1. Take deadlines as a loose suggestion. If you can meet a deadline, great. If not, well don’t sweat it. You’ve heard of the saying “fashionably late?” Well, when it comes to freelance failure that saying applies to projects too.
  2. Take your time when replying to clients. Why reply today when you could reply tomorrow? Keeping them waiting is one of the best ways to fail. The longer the wait, the better your chances of scaring them away.
  3. Don’t answer your phone either. There could be a client or potential client on the other end of that line. You have better things to do with your time than talk to a client. Let it ring! Best of all, don’t invest in an answering machine or any kind of voicemail system, that way you’ll never even have to get back to them.
  4. Don’t deliver what the client wants. You’re probably smarter than your client and your taste is probably better than theirs too. When your desires conflict with the client’s wants, choose to do what you want to do. You’ll be happier, and they’ll get a better project.
  5. Let your emotions out, all of them. If you’re mad at a client, let them know about it. There’s no sense in letting all that anger build up inside you where it could possibly spoil your day. Why not let it spoil your client’s day instead?
  6. Run errands. If you work at home, you’re probably surrounded by household tasks that need doing. Why not take a break from work and do them? After all, your priorities are at least as important as the priorities of your clients, right?
  7. Fast track your failure with video games. Video games are awesome if you’re trying to fail at freelancing. You can spend hours, even days, playing video games instead of working on your projects.
  8. Get wrapped up in daytime television. You’ve probably heard people say that “there’s nothing on during the day.” Well, they’re wrong. Turn your television set on and you’ll quickly discover that there are programs that air during the day.
  9. Take up a hobby. Be sure to choose one that has nothing at all to do with your freelancing business. Devote as much time as possible to your hobby – even time that you would normally reserve for client work.
  10. You have a bed, use it. Don’t bother to get up in the morning. In fact, if you don’t feel like it, don’t get up at all. When you’re trying to fail your rest is much more important than your freelancing business.

Share Your Tips for Freelancing Failure

All right, I have to admit it. Nobody here at Freelance Folder really wants your freelance business to fail.

However, we freelancers sometimes behave as though we want our business to fail without realizing it. Recognizing and eliminating these failure-causing behaviors can actually help you find freelancing success.

Did you recognize yourself in any of these failure tips, even a little bit? Are there other freelance failure tips that you would add to the list?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

top image by coal miki


  1. says

    Great way to start the week, Laura, by not taking ourselves too serious :-)

    But I did get worried when I saw little bits of myself in the list. I would never miss a deadline on purpose, but I do feel tempted to stay in bed or watch TV all day, more than I ever care to admit.

    Oh, and I just remembered, another way to lose clients is to not listen to them. I think it’s related to item number 4, “Don’t deliver what the client wants,” because if we don’t really listen to them then we won’t know what they really want.

    I almost lost a client that way, but some crisis communication saved the day and she even hired me for a six-month marketing plan!

  2. Rich Bailey says

    Great Post Laura!!! Might I also add that for both you and others who read this post that I heavily recommend a daily video podcast about managing business and what will help you survive as a business. Its a show started by Robin and John Dickerson and its called The Business Of Design which can be found here: http://www.motionworks.com.au/category/bod/

    Hope this resource is helpful to many :)

  3. says

    Okay I hear ya. I’m learning. I’m still in the transition of getting the habit of certain things everyday. I can relate to a few of these. It’s not always easy I don’t think.

    Now if I have a project I’m all over it. I really don’t want to disappoint clients. So I’m good there. It’s mainly things I need to do for myself and my business lol.

    I think a lot of people will be able to relate to some of these, as we all do it from time to time. Good list, made me aware of a few things.

  4. says

    A-ha! Let’s take a closer look at two of your points:

    2. Take your time when replying to clients.
    3. Don’t answer your phone either.

    Actually, these are two very good pieces of advice. You shouldn’t delay for days or weeks, of course, but frantically rushing to return every e-mail or phone call within minutes could portray you as someone desperate for work – any work. Not a good strategy if you’re trying to present yourself as a pro and get paid accordingly.

    This, by the way, was also a tip from Pete Savage, in his e-newsletter of Oct 16, 2008.

  5. says

    Kimmo Linkama


    Actually, you’re right, of course.

    However, in this tongue-in-cheek context I probably should have written “take an unreasonable amount of time when replying to clients.”

    Why didn’t I think of wording it that way? ;)

  6. says

    Great post that made your point much better than the traditional “positive” sort would. I’m still shuddering at all the pitfalls, even as I’m chuckling at your delivery.

    The only bad habit I can be seriously tempted by is the video games – I got around that escapist tendency years ago by using a timer for 2 ten minute breaks a day – about the time it takes to play one game of mahjongg. It’s now a firm habit – and those breaks do freshen my mind at the right points, during long, long days of copywriting info products.

    I quickly learned to limit the breaks to 2, though. And now they’re a big reward.

  7. Jim Coulter says

    Another great way to fail: don’t market your business. Don’t introduce yourself to potential clients. Don’t look for opportunities to sell yourself. Wait for clients to find you.

    That’s my biggest challenge at the moment.

  8. says

    ..or to sum it all up: Failing to commit to your idea or vision. In the end that’s what it really comes downs to. While I haven’t seen it too much myself thank goodness, I have heard stories of people who just never were able to fully invest themselves in their work as it required. I really enjoyed the way this post was written. Nice twist!

  9. says

    Heh heh, nice post.

    How about this:

    Pretend that you know more than you actually do. Never worked with PHP before? Don’t tell the client! Assure them that you can deliver whatever they want, however far beyond your skillset it is.

    And, if you can’t manage it, you can always resort to tip #1.


  10. says

    Hi Kimmo Linkama!

    No worries – you made me think and I LIKE that.

    Even though I try to word my posts carefully and thoughtfully (and read through them several times before posting), when I read my posts again I occasionally see things that I wish I’d added or would like to change. It’s a hazard of blogging, I suppose.

    Jim and Steve – Great insights! Marketing is key (even though many creative freelancers shy away from it). Also commitment is an important part of a good work ethic for freelancers and non-freelancers alike.

    Keep the ideas coming!

  11. says

    Thanks Laura!

    Scary how yes, some of these behaviors are in all of us! I like my bed…we have a good relationship…. lol

    One thing I might add is “Be sure not to take time to follow up with former clients. You’ve got their money, so who cares now?” I like to think of all our clients as a part of Ryvon, they are what has made us. They have the creative needs, we have the ability to creatively fill them. I try to make an effort to just have casual conversation long after, and it can be rewarding in repeat business, or more often a few referrals.

    A second idea, although I won’t expand on it too much (I’ll leave that for the next person) is “Be sure NEVER to let anyone know about you or your business. Marketing is a time waster and for losers”.

    Keep the ideas coming ^_^


  12. Nelya Plakhota says

    Thank you, Laura,

    Your ideas made me think of what I do wrong, and though I could not relate your 10 well-described ways to myself, I have found a few that might facilitate my possible failure. May be someone will recognize himself here:
    – Never agree to test tasks – who are they to test you? You are perfect already. After all, you might end up having another client.
    – When asked to sign a confidentiality agreement or something of the kind and send it back “at your earliest convenience” – take your time and read it for weeks. You should be very careful, and it is you who chooses proper timing.
    – If your client has any suggestions concerning your work, or would like to have any amendments done – never consider that. Never spoil the work you have done – it is great as it is.

    Thanks again,

  13. Stephan says

    Hi there, first comment ever for me :)

    I have to admit that i am freelancing on the side, and this whole list except 5 & 7 is applicable to my situation. Thanks for making me see it!!

  14. says

    Thanks for this light-hearted look at the business side of freelancing :)

    Here’s another one (which encapsulates some things already touched on):
    Over-promise and under-deliver.

  15. says

    Nice tips, Laura. I like the shifted perspective.

    I would caution how some take #9 though. A hobby is necessary for a freelancers sanity. Particularly one which gets you outdoors and active.

    Of course, it shouldn’t take up work time. But, freelancers are much more likely to let their work take up their free time.

  16. says

    Great post. The “daytime tv” tip is one I don’t see often but I know for a fact that it can be a direct road to failure. It can become quite addictive and cause you to base your whole schedule around all your favorite tv shows. That’s why my tv remains off all day unless I am trying to catch up on breaking news.

  17. says

    I want to E-mail u ,, but I can’t find any way to mail u here or in your website ! :(
    please mail me to discuses some thing about your articles ..
    Really thanks for your effort :) ..

  18. says

    Laura, you knows it all. Now I know why I wasn’t succeeding. Because I was using my bed, video games and sometimes day tv too. Gotta get rid of those habits too. And yet again bunch of good advices in comments.

  19. says

    Thanks for writing it, i’m live in Indonesia, almost people in this country want to be Government Officer with regular salary each months. Being freelancer is a challenge for us. What is your advice for us ?

  20. Alexey says

    This is very good article! Thank you very much for it.
    I definitely agree with you about household tasks. I have worked at home for a half of year and my wife was working at office. Every day she gave me a lot of household tasks because “I am seating at home so can easily do this”. She couldn’t understand that I am working like she or may be more. So do your work first and only after it other your tasks.

  21. says

    Lol! Funny, yet oh too true post! I do see the lure of some of the first few items on your list there. It seems to me that it’s about balance more than anything else. I’m guilty of doing an errand, but doing it as a way to take a break if you really need it seems okay once in awhile. I think assuming what your client needs is another one I’d add to the list.

  22. says

    I precisely wanted to say thanks once more. I am not sure the things that I would’ve gone through without the entire points discussed by you on this industry. Completely was a real scary problem for me personally, however , noticing the expert style you processed that made me to leap over delight. I’m happy for your support and thus believe you recognize what a great job you’re carrying out teaching people by way of your website. Most likely you haven’t got to know any of us.

  23. says

    What i don’t realize is if truth be told how you are not really much more well-liked than you may be right now. You are very intelligent. You know therefore considerably on the subject of this matter, made me for my part believe it from a lot of varied angles. Its like men and women are not fascinated except it’s one thing to do with Woman gaga! Your personal stuffs nice. Always maintain it up!


  1. […] we’re not going to overlook these so-called common sense principles. We don’t want anyone to fail at their freelance business. That’s why we’ve created this common sense post on building your freelance business for new […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>