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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 December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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