Being a freelancer part time is the best way to go. It gives you a safety net of not tying all of your earnings to just one endeavor. If you are just starting out then you should work part time in order to set up this safety net. It will allow to you make a few of the common beginners mistakes without putting you out of business when you make them. Here are a few of the common mistakes that new starters and intermediate freelancers make.
Be aware that as a freelancer, you are going to make mistakes. How well and how quickly you learn from these mistakes is what is going to make or break your freelance career.
1. The mistake – Giving or doing free samples
People ask for them all the time, because they are often taking a risk when they set you any work. However, some people are going to take advantage of this. All they need to do is get a few free samples from willing participants and they have themselves all the pieces of a finished project.
The solution – Never make an exclusive sample
Never give a free sample unless you give it a creative commons license. This means that the sample is free to all people. It is good if you have a website in order to display this sample so that others may see and use it. If your sample is one that you must give away, then make it clear that you are only lending the sample and that you want it back.
2. The mistake – Assuming that people will respect your copyrights
This goes for any kind of media. People are in the habit of thinking that once you submit something that it is theirs. It is not (in both legal and moral terms), but some will take advantage anyway.
The solution – Protect yourself with copyrighting if it is possible
Any sort of media may be copyrighted, any ideas or inventions may be patented, and any designs or objects may be design righted (not a real word but design right is a legally accepted right). These are yours anyway, but it is best to lodge them with a suitable company who will help you prove your case if anyone tries to infringe your rights.
3. The mistake – Working without any form of payment assurance
Some freelancers will start a job without any real guarantee of payment except the client’s word. This is not good enough as more often than not you will be ripped off.
The solution – Get a contract or a partial payment or money in some form of escrow
Any form of payment assurance is better than none. A partial payment works well, or payment in stages is equally good. Getting your money in some form of reliable and defendable escrow is sometimes possible. Failing that you should try to get a legally binding contract through which you may sue for your full payment.
4. The mistake – Giving your clients or customer more than one allowance
If the client is late to pay, has a poor attitude, uncooperative, rude or bad at getting back in touch, then giving them the benefit of the doubt is going to be a mistake.
The solution – Be forgiving once
One genuine mistake is acceptable; more than one means they are taking advantage of you. There is an old saying, “Give them an inch and they will take a mile.” In many cases this is true, but you should also allow for the unexpected. In this game you may give an inch–once! But, if they start giving excuses for late or improper payment, or if they fall behind on their part of the deal, then you need to take action. If you do not then you will be chasing them for the rest of your life. These are the sort of people who know that if they can string you along a little that eventually you will stop trying.
5. The mistake – Not getting clear instructions and a clear agreement
The client will give you instructions that are unclear, either on purpose or unknowingly. The freelancer does the work and it is not what the client wanted.
The solution – Get clear instructions and make a clear agreement
Make sure that everything you do is measurable and that you have clear and defined instructions so that they cannot come back and say that you did not complete the job. Time and experience will teach you what sort of things to clearly define, but make a point of learning what is needed as early as possible.
6. The mistake – Setting too many terms and conditions
This is what is known as small print by the general public. It may be useful for bigger financial institutions but it often scares off a freelancer’s clients as it may appear as if the freelancer is being overly complex in order to con them or rip them off.
The solution – Keep your terms and conditions user friendly
This is the other side of the spectrum of point number five. This is when a freelancer sets too many rules, definitions and conditions to the point where it puts people off. For example, have you ever seen the eBay listings where a user has written a page of terms and conditions? This is because they have been swindled in the past and are trying to stop it happening again. However, they are simply scaring off customers.
You have to accept the fact that some people are going to try and scam you. You should take action and precautions to stop this and to mitigate your losses. But, at the end of the day you have to accept that some people are going to get the better of you now and again, and that setting lots of terms, conditions, rules and definitions is only going to scare off the genuine clients more than it will protect you from the scammers.
7. The mistake – Not having a diary or organizer
Future projects are forgotten or are simply not booked. Appointments are missed, deadlines are underestimated and clients are invariably disappointed. Such failures are also bad for a freelancer’s reputation.
The solution – Use some sort of project organizing book or software
This is a very simple solution. The freelancer must make sure to use the organizer daily and to check it frequently. It is part of a freelancer’s life as there is nobody else to take the blame when the freelancer messes up. Do not forget that a poor reputation will follow a freelancer like the flies around cows behind.
8. The mistake – Poor accounting that leads to missed payments
The freelancer sets up jobs and does them. The freelancer does not keep accurate track of who has paid. He or she invoices people who have already paid, which will anger them. The freelancer will also forget about people who have not paid, and will have no solid records for when non-paying clients claim they have paid.
The solution – Know that it is your job to track payments from your clients
It is your responsibility to track what has and has not been paid. If you ever have to ask your clients what has been paid then they are not going to respect you very much, and are very likely to lie to you. It will make you appear unreliable and some people are going to try to take advantage of you.
9. The mistake – Taking on a job without considering the hourly commitment
The final/total price of a job is often very enticing, and many freelancers will take the job on the back of that price. However, when the time comes to do the work they discover that there is more work than they imagined.
The solution – Work out how much you will earn per hour
If you do this then you will get a more accurate picture of what is required and how much money you are actually getting paid. You will finally be able to see how little you are actually being paid, thereby being more able to accurately judge the cost-time benefit of taking the job on.
10. The mistake – Working from job to job
One job ends and the freelancer need to start searching for new jobs, which he or she finds and then the process repeats. This often results in periods of not having any work to do.
The solution – You need to set up jobs for your immediate future
This includes jobs that start straight after you have finished your current job, and jobs that are due to start in a few weeks (or even months). If you have trouble setting up jobs to start in the future, then offer your clients a discount for booking in advance. Many will enjoy the benefit of the discount for the inconvenience of not having the work done right away.