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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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Published on October 8, 2019

How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

How to Advance Your Career (and the Big Mistakes You May be Making)

The late writer William S. Burroughs once said that “When you stop growing, you start dying.” It might have a morbid undertone, but it’s one hundred percent true in terms of one’s career.

The days of finding a job with one company that you can stick with for 30 years, and simply relax as you move up its company escalator are few and far between in today’s world. This isn’t necessarily bad news. On the contrary, it means that you’re the one in charge of shaping your career advancement.

By putting these principles and behaviors into practice, you’ll begin to see how to advance your career quickly. Ready? Let’s get started…

1. Define What Success Is for You

There’s no right or wrong definition of what success in your career looks like. The important thing is to figure out what success looks like for YOU. It might, and probably will, change along the way, but if you don’t have some sort of milestone on the horizon, then you won’t know which direction to go in.

Think about success in your career in terms of one year, five years, and 10 years. Once you have that, it’s time to lace up your boots and get to work.

2. Learn How to Develop and Follow a Plan

Nobody just stumbles upon success accidentally. Sure, they may stumble upon breakthroughs or new methods accidentally, but all success stories have one thing in common — a plan.

Establish a timeline for the things that you want to achieve in your career in the next year, five years, 10 years, and so on. Consider the skills that you’ll need to learn to make these things happen and work on acquiring them.

3. Surround Yourself With Those Better Than You

It’s a rule of thumb among musicians that if you want to get better, then you need to get out of the bedroom and play with people who are better than you.

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By surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and where you want to be, you’ll not only see how these people climbed to where they are in their respective fields, but you’ll learn from them and naturally want to push yourself to be better in your own job as well.

4. Seek Out a Mentor(s)

A mentor will not only be able to help you refine and reach your career goals, but will be invaluable in landing promotions and finding unadvertised job openings.

One unique approach is to work on fostering a relationship with a mentor both within and outside of your company. This will help in giving you different perspectives as you rise up through the ranks in your company and career overall.

5. Stop Wasting Your Mornings

You may not think you’re a morning person, but if you can learn to be one, you’ll thank yourself 10 years down the road.

Prepare a to-do list of tasks that you want to accomplish the day before and work on knocking them out for at least one hour before you respond to morning emails. The problem with responding to emails first, is you’re giving your attention to somebody else’s agenda, instead of plotting your own course for the day.

6. Arrange or Attend a Networking Party

If you’re attending networking events simply because you might get a few free drinks, you’re doing them wrong. These events are great for meeting new people and forming relationships. Your goal shouldn’t be to get hired by the end of the night, but to simply make a good impression by being friendly and authentic. So what’s next?

Reach out a few days later via email or on social media to follow up and connect!

7. Pick Up Some New Skills

Nobody wants to be the old dog that can’t learn any new tricks. To move up in your career, you’re going to likely need to pick up new skills along the way. Maybe your company offers on-the-job training or you have the option of taking online classes at night.

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By learning new skills, you’ll not only be able to expand upon what you can already do, but you’ll make yourself more valuable to your employer and future employers.

8. Exploit the Benefits Already at Your Disposal

Remember what we just said about the possibility of your company providing on-the-job training? Take advantage of these sorts of benefits!

If you’re working for a company that allows you to job shadow other employees or has company mixers, you should attend these. They not only allow you to develop your skills within the company, but show seasoned executives within your field that you’re interested in more than just clocking in for a paycheck.

9. Make Yourself Indispensable

Good help is hard to find and employers want to retain outstanding employees. If you can learn to make yourself indispensable to your company, you’ll not only communicate that you’re successful, but will have a lot more job security. What’s this entail though?

It’s actually not all that difficult. By being reliable, adapting to new challenges, and holding your own work and performance to a high standard, you’ll stand out among your peers and others will take notice. Easy enough, right?

10. Get Off the Fence

People who advance in their careers are those who don’t shy away from voicing their opinion and stand up with authority when the opportunity arises.

If a problem arises in your company and you think you might have a solution or are willing to work to find one, then let others know. Employers value and promote problem solvers. Start off with something small and work your way up towards tackling more difficult tasks and projects.

11. Don’t Wait for More Responsibility, Ask for It

If you want more responsibility in your job, then be open about it with your manager. Your manager may be so busy with their own work that they weren’t aware you were looking for more challenges.

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Just make sure you can handle it and that you already show strong performance in your current duties. And if your manager doesn’t seem supportive about offering you more responsibility, well, then it could be time to look for new employment.

12. Stop Wasting Time on What You Don’t Want

If your career goals start with “I should do this…” there could be a problem. This kind of language in referring to goals can doom them to failure because the want isn’t there.

Consider using the RUMBA method (Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Behavioral and Agreed) when setting your goals. That “agreed” part should really be “want.” By going after career goals that you actually want to accomplish, you’re much more likely to achieve them.

13. Seek Out Feedback and Apply It

Simply doing your job might not always push you up in your career advancement. Too often, employees just assume that their bosses will notice their performance strides and reach out when the time is right to advance.

Don’t be afraid to regularly seek out feedback and ask for constructive criticism. It not only shows that you value your manager’s opinion but demonstrates that you care about your job and want to become better in your chosen field.

14. Pick Your Bosses Wisely

Advancing in your career can move a lot quicker if you’re working for the right people. If your boss isn’t any good at their job or doesn’t value you, then moving up could become difficult.

A great boss though, will be able to help you capitalize on your strengths and be an advocate for your success. If there aren’t any strong developers of talent in your management chain already, then look around for some and seek them out as mentors.

15. Learn to Develop Your Sense of Timing

The odds of asking for a promotion or raise are in your favor with over 70 percent of respondents to a survey from PayScale reporting some success. One thing to keep in mind that can make all the difference is when you ask.

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Some corporate cultures may prefer that employees reach out about advancement during their annual review, but maybe you work for a more free-spirited startup. The best approach may be to take note of when others advance and ask about how the organization handles employee development.

16. Work Hard and Promote Yourself

Working hard and delivering a solid job performance are the keys to advancing in your career no matter what field you’re in. This doesn’t mean you need to be completely humble about your accomplishments either.

Keep a record of your positive impact within the organization and let others both within your company and your field know that you’re enthusiastic about your role and work.

17. Don’t Just Build Your Network… Cultivate It

It’s way too easy to add new people to your LinkedIn network and then forget about them for all eternity. Rather than just collecting business cards or social media contacts, you should be cultivating relationships with the ones you already have.

Follow up with people that you haven’t spoken to in a while, offer to connect them with somebody you know in their field, or ask about a new job title they may have taken on. Doing so could be the spark that leads to a potential job referral.

18. Join a Professional Organization

The National Association of (insert your industry here) and other professional organizations can still offer a great wealth of advantages from networking to industry insights, and skill development.

Even outside of professional organizations dedicated to particular job fields, civic organizations can also be fantastic for making new contacts. After all, so much about career advancement is who you know, and you never know who you’ll meet who knows somebody else who is looking for someone with your skills and experience.

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Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

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