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8 Common Freelancing Mistakes You Can Avoid

8 Common Freelancing Mistakes You Can Avoid

Several adjectives describe freelance work; easy is not one of them.  So why do people go into freelancing? Freedom, flexibility, and independent career paths are the top reasons, according to both the Freelance Industry Report by the International Freelancers Academy and the Genesis Research Associates Survey for oDesk. Converting those reasons into actual benefits requires self-direction, creativity, and tons of work.  No, it’s not easy, but If you steer clear of these common freelancing mistakes, it won’t be too difficult either.

1. Thinking like an employee; limiting your work hours.

It’s great when you have no boss to tell you what to do.  But that also means you alone are responsible for marketing your services, updating skills, negotiating and monitoring payments, and prioritizing projects to meet deadlines.  Working only from 9 to 5 while waiting for opportunities to come your way is among the worst freelancing mistakes.  Think like an entrepreneur who does whatever is needed to deliver quality work.  The Genesis Research Associates Survey showed 90% of freelancers believe the word entrepreneur reflects a certain mindset that describes them rather than strictly as having started a company.

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2.  Performing minimally; merely following directions.

Brick-and-mortar companies come with protocols and job descriptions that define authority and establish boundaries.  In freelancing, clients provide the rationale, background, and parameters for projects.  You bring in knowledge, expertise, and a new perspective.  It’s a relationship between equals who collaborate on a project, but YOU take the initiative.  If your working style is just doing what the client says, he will begin to wonder why he got you in the first place. Pour in fresh ideas and be ready to justify your creative decisions—even when it contradicts his viewpoint—to show how it will benefit his objective. Your opinions and inputs are part of the value you contribute.

3. Looking randomly for clients; accepting every project.

Online job boards offer an uncomplicated way of finding clients, but the Freelance Industry Report states only 6.3% of freelancers think this is an effective way. Referrals (27.4%), word of mouth (23.8%) and personal/professional network (16.9%) offer the best possibilities. Employing effective methods for finding clients is important, but experienced freelancer and coach Celine Roque also emphasizes that the foundation of successful freelancing is in being very specific about who your ideal clients are and working only with people who fit that description.  Applying for every available gig is among the most common freelancing mistakes that can get you stuck doing work you don’t like for people who treat you like a commodity. Formulate your criteria of ideal clients who respect you as an equal and whose businesses are aligned with your values.  You will conserve time and energy and can then focus on specific types of clients and businesses.

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4. Settling for low pay; ignoring the income aspect.

Thanks to the above criteria, I had no problems eliminating projects that did not fit in with what truly moved me. I enjoyed working with appreciative clients whose values and goals resonated with mine. The downside, I realized, was that I used the pleasant working relations to justify accepting less pay.   Offering to work at a low rate or with no pay comes naturally when you want to support online communities or individuals whose advocacy you also share.  But when you do it too often, it can give you a distorted perception of your worth. Firmly establish the value of your contribution and get paid per global industry standards to sustain your freelancing

5. Not communicating enough; leaving things unsaid.

The Cambridge dictionary defines the expression, “It goes without saying” to mean something that is obvious. In freelancing where clients come from diverse cultures and live across continents, nothing is obvious! Everything is worth saying and best put into writing—proposals, deliverables, contracts, submissions, milestones, and everything in between. A Best Practices Study published by Outsourcing Center concluded that a shared understanding of each others’ goals is key to successful outsourcing relationships. Don’t assume your goals are clear to your clients or that you understand their objectives. Repeat, paraphrase, and reconfirm to make sure you understand each other.  Establish communication lines early on by clarifying who the project point person is. Be accessible. Provide your contact details and the best times to reach you. Respond promptly to messages while observing time zone differences and cultural holidays .

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6. Not suggesting another possible project; losing connection.

Your best future client is your past or current client.  Why?  Because he already knows your work ethics and work quality and you already know his business challenges and goals. Don’t be in such a hurry to work for a new client without suggesting another possible project to your current client. This forms part of YOUR initiative.  A well-thought out new project suggestion demonstrates you understand his goals and are in a position to help him achieve them.  If you do not envision another project or if he declines your suggestion, send a thank you email with your full contact details to keep the communication lines open.  Still unconvinced about the value of keeping in touch with past clients?  Then it’s worth repeating the findings of the Freelance Industry Report mentioned earlier:  Referrals (27.4%), word of mouth (23.8%) and personal/professional network (16.9%) are the most effective ways to find clients.

7. Giving up—the saddest of freelancing mistakes.

Successful freelancing takes time, not necessarily from a set number of hours but from regular immersion and practice. With practice comes improvement.  Don’t entertain doubts and distractions that cause you to lose focus. Take note of your successes. Look back to when you first started and appreciate the progress you made. VP-International and Enterprise of oDesk, Matt Cooper, put it clearly to copywriter/blogger Stephanie Gonzaga when she interviewed him.  “It’s a global meritocracy. You’re competing with everybody else in the world so you gotta take the time, but when people put in the time and they work at it, they are successful.”  And here’s one more reason not to give up.  Fortune magazine reports a jump in freelancer pay as managers learn that paying more pays off.  Nikki Parker of Freelancer.com adds, “Employers are willing to pay more for quality” and assess freelancers based on “their past feedback, skills, reputation, and portfolio of work.”

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8. Losing site of the big picture; neglecting other areas of your life.

Working freelance from home blurs the boundaries between work and time spent with the family, relaxing, or doing other things. It’s tempting to accept more work and labor late into the night or over the weekends. Some projects will necessarily require you to work such hours, but if you do this habitually and allow clients to control your schedule, you could be headed for exhaustion and creative drought that will affect work output. Among the freelancing mistakes, this has the highest impact on your health, relationships, and other life areas. Stick to a reasonable work schedule that leaves you time and energy for a balanced life. 

Enjoying the benefits of freedom and flexibility in freelancing comes down to personal choice.

  • Do you want to go full time or make a gradual transition while keeping your job?
  • Are you revved up working on simultaneous and successive projects?
  • Does working long-term with a single client complement your mobile lifestyle?
  • Are you happy collaborating with a few clients on intermittent projects that allow for other pursuits?

Decide on your approach and avoid these freelancing mistakes, and you’ll soon arrive at a free-and-easy operation.

Featured photo credit: JP Stanley via flickr.com

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5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

1. Take breaks

First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

3. Put your work first

This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

5. Try to be happy and optimistic

If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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