Freelancers can live amazing lives: cut loose from the tether of the corporate mothership, jet-setting around the world, issuing huge invoices to world-renowned clients.…
Or, they can be stuck in their basement, surrounded by candy bar wrappers, sequestering in their own filth, not knowing when the next job’s going to come along.
What’s the difference between the two? The second one made some major mistakes. Do yourself a favor and avoid these common freelance fails.
1. Don’t put up with late payments
A lot of freelancers put 28- day payment terms on their invoices, just because they think that’s how it’s done. You actually have no legal obligation to give this much leeway. What you’re doing is basically giving your client a month of interest-free credit.
Your clients have a duty to pay you as soon as they receive your invoice. If you really need the money fast, never be afraid to put shorter payment terms, and don’t think twice to chase clients if they’re late.
2. Don’t be a hermit
As a freelancer, you miss out on all kinds of opportunities if you never leave the house. For example, networking events can be a great way to find partners for big projects, or for meeting new clients. Sometimes it’s just nice to meet other freelancers and share horror stories, too.
What’s more, if you spend all your time in your house, your home and work life can dangerously fuse, leading to all kinds of problems. A great way to overcome this is to join a coworking space, if only for a couple of days a week.
3. Don’t oversell yourself
It’s tempting, therefore, to offer more generalist services. You may find your clients asking “can you do this for me too?” This isn’t surprising – you’ve demonstrated your worth to them, they trust you, and you’re a quick and easy fix.
It’s tempting to commit to the work, knowing roughly how to do it, brushing up on the job. This is never a good idea. If you fail to produce work to the expected standard, you may miss out on future work that you’re actually good at.
4. Never stop improving
One way around the problem in point #3 is to actually become good at other things. Diversifying your skills is an excellent way to give added value to your clients. But not everyone can be good at everything, so pick your battles.
You may be better off becoming the best at what you already do, rather than trying to be a jack of all trades. It depends on what you specialise in, and how much supply/demand there is for your particular skillset.
For example, Java developers are in very high demand at the moment, and the supply of good ones is relatively low, so it’s worth putting in the effort to improve. However, there are loads of copywriters, and not many decent copywriting jobs, so in this situation it may be better to diversify.
5. Don’t pretend to be a company
It sounds pretty crazy, but some freelancers seem to think that they’ll appear more trustworthy, or get more work, if they pretend that they’re a company when they’re not.
Nothing will confuse clients faster if they thought they were hiring a single freelance professional, and you start referring to yourself as “we”, pretending you have a support team, or using a virtual assistant to make it seem like you have a receptionist.
Yes, I have first hand knowledge that all of those things have happened. Just don’t do it.
While you shouldn’t pretend to be more than one person, you should project a professional business-like image. Set up a self-hosted email address and spend some money to have a professional photo taken for your profile. Otherwise, clients will have a hard time taking you seriously.
6. Don’t shirk on your admin
Working as a freelancer is basically the same as running a small business and, just like a business, things can quickly go wrong if no one’s taking care of all the work behind the scenes.
Finding insurance, maintaining accounts, providing customer service, controlling credit, marketing your services, and every other aspect of running a business are your responsibility – and you have to do all of these tasks well.
Even if you’re (hopefully) swamped with client work, make sure you set at least an hour or so aside each week to focus on all these tasks.
About The Author:
Nick Chowdrey is a freelance and staff writer specializing in business and tech. He is currently technical writer at Crunch Accounting and regularly contributes to other freelance blogs. You can follow him on Twitter @nickchef88.