Freelance Beginner Tips: The Pitfalls to Avoid

If you’re still unsure whether or not to pursue freelancing, chances are you’ve contemplated what life is like as a full-time freelancer. You’ve probably heard of the many splendid perks of freelancing, but you’re still dying to know if it’s really all sunny and greener “on the other side”.

Like most professions, freelancing has its own downsides. How you manage these problems on your first year can dictate how successful you’ll be in the long run.

In this post you’ll find out the common pitfalls that trip freelancers up during their first few years on the job and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Getting stuck with low rates

Setting your first rates for your freelance business can make you feel uneasy. Charge too high and you risk losing potential clients – charge too low and you’ll have a hard time paying your own bills. So how do you make sure you’re being paid for what you’re worth?

IMAGE: Freepik
What to Consider:
  1. Experience – The best way to determine the value of your services is to look into your experience. Did you go to university or took up an online course to obtain the skills you have? How many years have you been freelancing? What is the quality of work you can deliver?
  2. Competition – Freelancing is a lot like starting your own business. You need to be updated with the highs and lows of your industry. To set fair rates, you have to look into your competitions. How are other freelancers acquiring clients? How much are they charging?
  3. How Much You Need To Earn – Calculate the annual salary you’d like to earn on your freelance business. How many hours would you like to work a week? Make sure that your rate will help you earn enough to pay the bills and fund your lifestyle.

2. Freelance Burnout

Many freelancers work more than they should. Because of lack of time management, they find themselves working all day and all night. And because they don’t want to run out of projects, they’ll probably say YES to any gig that comes their way.

If you overwork yourself, there’s going to be a time soon where you’ll reach your breaking point. And even without a boss to fire you, you’ll still have clients who you’ll disappoint.

IMAGE: Freepik
What to do:
  1. Take copious amounts of break – After long hours of working, move away from the computer and refresh your mind. Even machines bog down if they are pushed beyond their limits. Designate times for break, and stick with them.
  2. Don’t stay on the same project for too long – It can be exhausting to work on the same project for weeks. As a freelancer, you have all the freedom to pick your projects. If this isn’t possible because of your commitments to the client, you can try to vary the repetitive work with something interesting once in a while.
  3. Schedule work wisely – When you’re an established freelancer and get many work requests, the next challenge would be finding time for everything. It’s going to be hard if you don’t schedule everything in a doable time frame. This also means you should know when to say no to a client who wants you to slave away for work with little pay.

3. Isolation

Depending on your personality, experiencing isolation due to your freelance career can affect your mental and emotional health. If you’re not an introvert who pretty much enjoys alone time – chances are you’ll find yourself starved for human interaction. And unless you rented a coworking space, most of the time, you’ll be working alone.

IMAGE: Freepik

Even when you’re working at home, sometimes because of your hectic schedule you’ll hardly have time to talk and spend time with family.

What to do:
  1. Set days off – Don’t let your social skills take a hit just because you’re working from home. Lack of human connection can cause depression which can affect your work performance. So stop working once in a while, and make time for your personal pursuits.
  2. Co-work with other freelancers – Today this is possible with the help of various sites which allow freelance meetups that host events and designate working environments for different kinds of freelancers. Co-working spaces made just for independent contractors can minimize the effects of isolation a freelance career can bring.

4. No Union or Laws to Fall Back On

Unlike full-time employees who can remind their managers its payday or are entitled to file a wage-theft complaint, freelancers don’t have enough legal recourse. Part of this is because work is done remotely and most contracts don’t have binding jurisdictions accompanied with them.

IMAGE: Freepik

In fact, according to a 2014 survey commissioned by the Freelancers Union, about 70% of freelancers reported that they have experienced being stiffed by a client at least once in their freelance career. So how do we make sure that no projects go unpaid?

What to Do:
  1. Research the client or company – Before saying yes to a job, do a little background check on the client. Hopefully, you’ll see good reviews and not stories of freelancers who were left unpaid by said company.
  2. State payment terms and contracts early on – Do not ever commit to a gig without a written contract. Your contract should include a detailed outline of the project, your rates, and delivery dates. You should also highlight payment schedule, along with interest charges for late payments.

5. Distractions

When you’re working from home, every day may seem like a holiday. If you don’t have self-discipline, it’s easy to fall into procrastination and waste valuable hours of work. Soon you’ll find yourself chasing deadlines and feeling so tired you’ll feel like giving up.

The success of your freelancing career will ultimately depend on how good you can keep away from these distractions in order to stay focused.

What to Do:
  1. Find quiet space for work – Distractions usually come in places where there’s lots of background noise such as TV, conversations, and music. When setting up your home office, pick a room or corner at home where you can achieve full concentration.
  2. Gamify your productivity – Applying game mechanics to your productivity strategy can make work a lot more fun. You can create your own game where you set your rules and prizes OR you can use the help of applications like Habitica or SuperBetter that turn each completed tasks to points and rewards.

A Bright Future Ahead

“Freelancing isn’t for everyone – but it will be soon“. The global marketplace is emerging with institutions and policies which make it more viable for people to pursue a freelance career.

“The old system, which ties people to a job for 40 years so they could afford retirement, is slowly fading.”

Now, there are more and more ways to earn money with the use of your skills and experience. By avoiding the pitfalls mentioned above, and maintaining good work ethics there’s always a good chance you can succeed in your freelance career.

Editor’s note: This post is written for Hongkiat.com by Armela Escalona. Armela is a blogger and writer. She writes about technology, work, and productivity. She enjoys playing chess, scrabble and watching history documentaries. Follow her on Twitter.

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