Becoming a freelancer is an exciting but challenging time in anyone’s career and when you first start out it is easy to get caught up in the perceived glamour of working for yourself, and end up not taking the business side seriously enough, or making other common mistakes.
The good news is many people have already been through the journey to come out the other side as successful freelancers so we have compiled the most common mistakes which they made, so you can avoid them on your own freelance journey.
We caught up with Jake from crunch.co.uk. They offer accountancy services and software to companies of varying sizes, including freelancers, so they deal with freelancers a lot. Check out these tips Jake was kind enough to help us out with…
Remember that your income is unreliable
If you have moved from an employee position into a freelance one, it can take some time to get used to the fact that you no longer get paid the same amount of money every month into your bank account.
You need to remember that just because you’ve had a great month one month, doesn’t mean you can go on a spending spree as you might have to use that money to live on over the next three months when no work comes in.
You also need to remember that you have to save up to pay a tax bill at the end of the year and any other business expenses you might have, so just because you win a big project, don’t be tempted to go on a spending spree.
Pricing yourself too low
When starting out as a freelancer, deciding what to charge clients is one of the hardest decisions you will need to make and most people charge too low. Have a look online to see what other freelancers in your area are charging and don’t undersell yourself. If your prices are too low clients might assume your work is poor quality.
You also need to remember you are charging for your time, so don’t just charge for the actual piece of work – think about time spent talking it through with the client, time spent making changes requested etc.. and charge for all of that
Trying to do everything
While you might do everything yourself initially to save money, in the long run outsourcing anything you are not being paid to do, frees up your hours to do more client work. So outsource tasks like admin and accounting whenever possible.
You should also outsource jobs like marketing of your own company, updating social media pages etc… to someone else so that all of your time is spent doing client work which you get paid for
Stick with what you know best
If you have pitched yourself as a freelance designer for example, then focus on the types of design you do best and don’t be tempted to say yes to every single design job which comes your way, even if it doesn’t fit in with your skill set ideally.
It can be difficult to turn jobs down when you are first starting out but you want to build up a reputation and an impressive client portfolio. If you are scattered in your approach to work and it’s not clear what you do, then people won’t want to use you.
If you are focussed you can start to charge higher rates as a specialist and it becomes much easier in the future to then charge higher prices going forward
Don’t be afraid to say no to work
If clients approach you but they aren’t willing to pay your rates, or they want work completed in an unreasonable timescale which you can’t meet due to other commitments, don’t be afraid to say no to the job.
Likewise, if clients are working with you and start trying to contact you at 11pm, or every Sunday, don’t feel that you have to accept this just because you are a freelancer. You need to set boundaries from the start and make sure you make time for yourself. It can be tempting to agree to everything that comes your way when you start out but this will only lead to frustration and burnout.
Becoming a freelancer can be very rewarding, allowing you to work on your own terms and in your own time, so it could be the best decision you ever made. However, without the 9 to 5 structure of an office it can be easy to panic and take on way too much work and end up working all hours, with no life balance.
You need to start out as you mean to go on, with a clear definition of the type of work you will and won’t accept and clear boundaries about when you carry out work and when you are happy to have contact from clients. Don’t price yourself too cheaply and don’t let clients dictate your working day and you will have a great basis to work from.