Let’s face it, freelancers, whether new or seasoned, all make mistakes. There is definitely a big learning curve when working solo and it also depends on the skill set. Challenges come up that cost freelancers money, time, and their peace of mind. Sometimes it’s hard to learn how to make a steady online income as well, which is why we like to help by offering tips on how to make money online on our free webinar training. Below we address some of the most common problems to avoid when first starting as a freelancer. To stay on course and make a steady income it’s best to know what pitfalls to avoid in the first place!
Not Charging Enough Money or Accepting Every Client
If you’re a freelancer who is skilled at your trade and have been getting paid the same amount for some time now, Freelancer recommends thinking about bumping up your rates. It’s the perfect opportunity to charge more if you’re in high demand and get jobs quickly.
Workers with traditional positions expect pay raises at regular intervals, to keep up with the cost of living, yet many freelancers go for years without increasing their rates. Essentially, this means they can be earning less per hour after two years of work than they were on day one. If you are working 15 hour days to make ends meet, you aren’t charging enough (or aren’t working efficiently enough, which is a whole other discussion!).
Freelancers who are just starting out may feel nervous about charging too much because they are afraid of pricing themselves out of the market. However, no matter how low your prices are, there will always be someone who can undercut you. Yes, you need to be reasonable, but burning yourself out by doing lots of work for low pay is probably one of the reasons you left your traditional job to begin with.
There are several ways to figure out what you should be charging to make a comfortable living wage. You can research forums or networking sites, or perform a search for the average salaries in your specific field. Sites like Indeed, Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter post average hourly or yearly wages for different freelance specialties. The average annual salary for a freelance translator, for example, is estimated at $59,149 on ZipRecruiter, whereas Indeed shows freelancers charge an average of $24.05 per hour for professional translation services. Freelance graphic designers are in the same range as translators, while copywriters are earning around $69,000 per year.
Keep in mind these are averages. Your rates will often depend on your self-worth. Are you average? Or are you reaching for something better than average in your life? Start believing in yourself and the high quality services you provide, and give yourself a pay raise.
Similarly, don’t accept every project that comes along. Lifehack offers some thoughts as to why taking every job that comes along is just going to burn you out.
Spreading Yourself Too Thin
We mentioned this earlier, but again, spreading yourself too thin isn’t going to help any of your clients. You won’t be giving them your best work, and you’ll likely get stressed out all of the time. Do yourself a favor as Forbes says and don’t spread yourself too thin.
Picture this: You desperately need a job and some cash, so you start applying to a vast array of jobs at the same time, e.g. logo design, WordPress design, leaflet design, ecommerce website design. As a result, you end up with a scattered, unimpressive portfolio, which makes clients assume you can do anything moderately well, rather than just one thing terrifically. The way out is to find your niche and own it because generalists will never earn as much income as specialists. When you become an expert in just one niche, justifying your premium rates and attracting high-profile clients gets much easier.
Not Communicating Enough
Businesses don’t work without effectively communicating, plain and simple. Without communication, it will be difficult to get the work done and finish the tasks your client wants you to complete promptly. Lifehack stresses why communication is so vital below:
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.
Not Letting Clients Know When You Are Available
USA Today reminds freelancers why letting their clients know when they’re available is so important. Without communicating when you’ll be online to talk about a current project or helping with a task, it’ll be hard for a client to trust in your work.
Moonlighting enabled me to use skills I didn’t fully utilize at my full-time job (while making some extra cash on the side for something I loved to do). However, since I was also working for a business that operated during normal business hours, I would often get last-minute questions or requests that were time-sensitive. Loyal to my company and completely focused on my work at hand, I didn’t actively check my email or answer my cell during the day.
What should you do when you’re on the company clock and a client needs your help? Addressing the issue directly with my client helped set clear expectations for communication and available work hours. After that, my client knew to email me in advance with any requests or call after work hours, which, since we didn’t have to play phone tag, worked out better for both of us.
Working All the Time
Getting burned out isn’t fun, and you need time off to relax and maybe even think about existing projects. Medium emphasizes taking time off because it eliminates stress and helps you learn how to manage your time better.
Don’t get stressed by poor time management.
When first starting out it can be hard to try to estimate how long a job will take. It’s a skill that gets better over time but frankly, you’ll only really learn from experience.
Try taking on smaller jobs at first so you can get a sense of how long things will take.
Schedule your days so that you don’t get stressed about too many deliverables in one day.
Don’t forget to set aside at least one, preferably two days a week to do no work.
And always, always, overestimate.
Don’t slave away at a task with a large scope and little pay.
Think about how to price your time effectively. It’s tough, but you’ll get there!
Not Having a Niche
Finding a niche can be challenging, but Millio argues that without a definitive niche you’re likely to not feel like your line of work is fulfilling. Not only that, but you don’t have as much time to perfect your craft if you’re doing tons of work in a variety of niches for different clients.
Being everything to everyone is the fastest route to failure. Most freelancers worry that if they just focus on a specific market, they will miss out on loads of work, but the opposite is actually true.
Taking on any project from anyone who will pay you creates a vicious cycle which leads to being overworked, underpaid, and unfulfilled.
Not only that, but it also makes you comparable to thousands of other freelancers out there. If I am looking for freelancers to help me with a project, I automatically ignore the ones who list everything from web design to photography and project management.
I am looking for someone who has relevant experience and skills that will add significant value to my business. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a broad skill set, as long as those skills are essential in solving a significant problem.
You Don’t Know What Type of Client You Want
Everyone wants a client who is easy to work with and complete work for, but sometimes it’s more than that. You also need to find a client who pays promptly, communicates well, and pays you properly for your skill set. Millio elaborates more on the importance of having a good idea of what you’re looking for in a client:
People often tell me they want to work on fun, creative projects, but when I ask who their ideal client is, they find it difficult to articulate. The only way to find the type of clients you want to work with consistently is to be really clear about who they are.
When I run my workshops, one of the most important exercises I do with people is creating their customer persona or avatar. As soon as we know who they are, we can think about different ways to engage with them and start a conversation. Without knowing who they are, it becomes almost impossible to find them.
Leaping into the freelance world is an exciting time, and making a living by doing what you love is even more exciting! We want to help you learn how to make money online and unlock your full potential. Check out our free webinar training to learn how to make a substantial income online and succeed in all that you do!