Many newbie freelancers make certain mistakes that stifle their business growth, preventing them from quickly realizing the dream that got them into freelancing in the first place – absolute financial freedom with a fat account that only keeps growing.
But that doesn’t have to be your case because you’re reading this. Of course, you can avoid a trap if only you know where it lies.
Below are 6 common pitfalls newbie freelancers must know and avoid.
1. Taking on projects without a signed contract
Imagine spending days and nights on a project only to be ghosted after delivery.
I had that experience, and it was an eye-opener.
As a freelancer, chances are you’ll get to work with clients continents away, with no means of contacting them except via email. There’s also a pretty good chance you’ll work for clients who aren’t willing to pay.
Freelancing is a business. Without a signed contract, upholding a client to their end of the business deal is impossible, especially when you cannot reach them.
Even when they’re willing to pay, without written documentation, there’s no way of knowing when to expect payment for your services.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a challenge when you win gigs from freelance marketplaces like Fiverr.
Speaking of which…
2. Relying solely on freelance marketplaces
I was meeting new clients on Fiverr daily, making cool cash.
It went on for months, and all was good.
And one fateful day, my account was disabled — for a reason that remains a mystery.
All my existing returning buyers and hundreds of outstanding reviews went down the drain.
Don’t get me wrong.
Fiverr and Upwork are incredible marketplaces to win gigs as a freelancer. You can get paid $50-100 for a job that only takes 4 hours.
The problem is, it can come crashing at any time, and it’s all back to square one.
That’s because a marketplace isn’t your personal brand.
Sadly, when you’re raking in a plethora of orders daily, you get too occupied — complacent even — to consider spreading your tentacles and building your brand outside of that marketplace.
To overcome this pitfall, you must realize that you must pursue other more sustainable channels to grow as a freelancer.
Never put all your eggs in one basket.
Own a basic website (if you can afford it), send cold emails in your spare time, set up a professional LinkedIn profile (which I didn’t realize on time), create content, and build connections.
“One of the worst mistakes a freelancer can make that can stunt their growth is not valuing and investing in their network,” says Sofie Couwenbergh, Content Strategist and Writer.
3. Undervaluing your skill
“One big mistake freelancers make is that they’ll underprice their work, thinking that being cheap will get them more clients,” Sofie says. “And they get used to charging so little that raising their prices or simply charging the next client more becomes this big scary thing.”
As a rookie in the world of freelancing, this is one pitfall you’ll most likely face.
Why not? You’re inexperienced, so you don’t feel worthy of those jaw-dropping wages the big guns in your niche attract.
So you charge peanuts.
The problem is, even when you scale up the ladder of experience, scaling your pricing becomes a dreaded task.
Remember, the more you charge, the more time and effort you will likely put into that project.
Don’t be afraid to lose clients who aren’t ready to pay you your work’s worth.
4. Getting complacent
“When I started out as a freelancer,” says Patrick Garde, founder of DiGiSquared, “the mistake I made when I was a newbie that hindered my growth was being complacent when I had clients. I wish I still continued running ads or finding leads as you will never know when your existing client will suddenly cancel or go in a different direction.”
Just as your Fiverr account may get disabled, your existing clients may suddenly decide to part ways, regardless of how good you are.
There’s no harm in winning more gigs. If there’s too much work on your plate, outsource the rest.
5. Accepting every gig
Let’s face it; you can’t do it all. Some clients are just there to frustrate you.
The project may be out of your scope or skillset, but you understandably accept it because you need the cash as a rookie.
But chances are it will be followed by countless revisions. Or, worst still, the client ghosts you because the delivery was subpar. You don’t get paid for all your troubles.
Avoid forcing your head into every hat. Not all will fit.
Granted, taking on challenges is advised if you want to grow. But there are clients whose requirements are either too strict for your liking or those who aren’t willing to pay your price. You don’t always have to compromise. Because at the end of the day, you’ll grumble throughout the work.
6. Frequent burnout for lack of breaks
Freelancing promises flexibility. You wake up whenever you want and work when you feel like it. That’s the dream. But it might not be the reality you expect.
That’s because gigs might come in at any time. As a newbie, you probably try to stay up and reply to every DM from prospects ASAP, even when they text at 2 am in your time zone.
If you stay up at night, prioritize sleeping by day.
And take breaks while you work. Working for hours on end without sufficient sleep or break saps your creative juice and leaves you feeling overwhelmed. Then you suffer burnout.
Breaks can help you prevent burnout and even fuel your creativity.
One way to go is to use the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodomo technique involves working for concentrated intervals, say 30 minutes, with 5-minute breaks in between. After a couple of hours, go for a longer break, say 30 minutes.
You can tweak this to however suits you best.
“During these breaks, I detach myself from my workspace and engage in something entirely different – perhaps a quick walk, light exercise, or some creative brainstorming for future designs, says Kevin Wang, Co-owner of Inyouths LED Mirrors. “This change in sensory input helps refill my creative well and prevents burnout, ensuring I’m refreshed and ready when it’s time to get back to work.”
Like every other kind of business, there are tactics you need to deploy in freelancing to help you succeed. Practice effective time management, market yourself on various platforms, and never stop improving.
Victory Harry Izevbekhai is an SEO copywriter with over six years of experience writing content for B2B brands in SaaS, digital marketing, business management, finance, and more. Harry isn’t all about business content though; he has a penchant for writing truly intriguing short stories.