7 Mistakes every freelancer makes and how to avoid them

Feb 9, 2024

Quick Topics

  • Lack of Specialization
  • Neglecting Self-Marketing
  • Not Knowing How To Price Your Services
  • Poor Time Management
  • Working Without Contracts
  • Ignoring Networking Opportunities
  • Failing to Upskill
  • Wrapping Up

Everybody wants to be their own boss, right? I mean who doesn’t? Freelancing gives you that chance to be your own boss. But everything comes at a price. Post-COVID, freelancing has become this irresistible bait that almost everyone falls for and it has its perks and downsides as well. 

Freelancing sounds great, but it’s not always easy. Many people start freelancing without knowing the problems they might face. Things like not having a steady income and managing your time well can be tough. Knowing the common mistakes freelancers make and how to avoid them is really important for anyone who wants to do well.

In this blog, we’ll look at seven common mistakes every freelancer makes and give simple tips on how to avoid them. Whether you’re new to freelancing or have been doing it for a while, this guide will help you understand the challenges and find ways to succeed.

Lack of Specialization

Picture this: you're at an all-you-can-eat buffet, piling your plate with a little bit of everything. It might seem like a good idea, but soon you realize you can't enjoy any of it properly. This is exactly what happens when freelancers try to offer too many services. Spreading yourself too thin is not what you want here.

You need to understand that it’s not important for you to know it all. In the beginning, many freelancers generalize their services, hoping to get more opportunities. But, in this competitive market, trying to be a jack-of-all-trades will get you nowhere.

How to Avoid It:

To stand out, you need to specialize. Focus on what you’re best at and become an expert in that area. Clients prefer hiring specialists who can provide high-quality work in a specific field rather than someone who is just okay with many things. If I may state the obvious but research market demands, assess your strengths, and choose a niche where you can offer unique value. In the long run, being a specialist will help you build a more stable and successful freelancing career.

Neglecting Self-Marketing

Once you land your first few projects don’t make the mistake of solely depending on word-of-mouth and referrals that will sustain your freelancing career. It’s inevitable that there will be rainy days. You need consistent visibility in the market, and that's where marketing comes in.

Marketing isn’t just about promoting yourself—it's about staying relevant and attracting new clients consistently. It can be your superpower tool that you can leverage to be in the game consistently. 

How to Avoid It:

Have a clear plan for marketing yourself effectively. Establish a strong online presence through a personal website or portfolio showcasing your work. Utilize social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with your target audience, share insights in your field, and engage with industry trends. Networking both online and offline can also be crucial—attend industry events, participate in forums, and join professional groups to expand your reach and build meaningful connections.

Not Knowing How To Price Your Services

Not charging enough and charging too much is another common freelancing slip-up. You don’t want to scare off clients with high rates, but you also need to make sure you’re not selling yourself short. It’s a tricky balance that a lot of freelancers struggle with.

How to Avoid It:

The easiest and simplest way to determine what to charge is to simply Google other freelancers who perform similar services to you. Look at their websites, see what they offer and how much they charge—don't just look at one, look at a dozen or more—make sure they are closely related to what you do, and use them to get a range of what a client would expect to pay for those services. There is plenty of real-world data available to help you determine what you should charge. Upwork and Fiverr are also good places to look.

Poor Time Management

One of the most common scenarios is overpromising at first and then failing to that value on time. Every freelancer at some point has often struggled with time management, leading to missed deadlines and sometimes even losing clients. Without a structured schedule, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by tasks and lose productivity. 

How to Avoid It:

Implement effective time management strategies. Use tools like calendars, to-do lists, and project management software to organize your tasks and set clear deadlines. When giving an estimation to clients it’s easier to break projects into smaller, manageable tasks and prioritize them.

You can also allocate specific time slots for client work, administrative tasks, and personal breaks on a daily basis. This will help you keep a balanced workout and will prevent burnout. The truth is, there is no perfect answer to this just start by being organized.

Working Without Contracts

Often time freelancers find themselves in a tough spot: say you connect with a client, agree on the job and price verbally, and deliver the work, but then receive less pay than promised. Sadly, there's often little you can do. Especially if you are a beginner or a student with no experience this is bound to happen very often. Trusting clients is natural, but it can hurt your business.

How to Avoid It:

Having a signed contract isn't just a formality; it's a safety net for you and for the client as well by ensuring clarity on expectations and responsibilities. A contract could potentially save you while dealing with bad clients too. The contract should outline the scope of work, deadlines, payment terms, and any other relevant details. 

Ignoring Networking Opportunities

Contrary to common belief, networking with other freelancers isn't about rivalry; it's about collaboration. While it might seem like others in your niche are competitors, the reality often proves otherwise.

Looking at the long run networking is what’ll get you ahead of the crowd. Yet many freelancers seem to neglect this aspect. Investing time in networking, not only enriches your professional circle but also lead to collaboration, client referrals, and valuable industry insights.

How to Avoid It:

Every day you miss prospecting is when a potential client will choose other freelancers. Actively participate in industry events, webinars, and online forums to connect with other freelancers and professionals. Join relevant social media groups and engage in discussions. Attend networking events and workshops to meet potential clients and collaborators. Keep in mind that both online and offline networking is important.

Failing to Upskill

Think about it this way: the skills that got you where you are today might not be enough to keep you there tomorrow. Not staying informed about industry trends and not Upskilling will derail your career faster than you imagined. Staying relevant and competitive requires continuous learning and skill development.

How to Avoid It:

Make a commitment to lifelong learning and regularly update your skills. Identify areas where you can improve or learn new techniques relevant to your field. Enroll in online courses, attend workshops, and seek out certifications that can enhance your expertise. 

Lastly, set aside dedicated time each week for learning and development. Treat this time as an investment in your future success. In the end it's about ensuring that you can attract new ones and take on more complex, higher-paying projects.

Wrapping Up

Freelancing is an incredible journey, full of freedom and the chance to be your own boss. But like any journey, it has its bumps along the way. No matter how hard you try you will make mistakes on your way but the very best you can do is to be aware of these mistakes and learn from the mistakes of other freelancers.