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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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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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