The funny thing about freelancing is that you’re often battling against your own head.
Your brain is likely to do everything it can to stop you from charging your worth, finding the right work, and valuing yourself enough to make freelancing sustainable.
So it’s even more important to be on the lookout for these common freelancing mistakes that we see so many freelancers making.
1. Undercharging to get work
Getting that first client for many freelancers is a huge milestone.
But once they reach it, instead of celebrating the win and feeling motivated by it, many freelancers turn it into a constant worry of how they are going to land the next client… and so on.
The danger is that you then start to lower your prices to get work – and engrain this as a habit.
Once you start doing this, you enter a vicious circle that will, if you don’t break it, only result in burnout, frustration and stagnation.
When you undercharge for your services, your clients won’t value them as much as they should either, and they will understandably start to think of you as the ‘cheap’ option.
This is probably the most common mistake that freelancers make – and this is definitely not just new freelancers who do this – it’s very easy to enter this spiral if you don’t feel confident enough in your own services and skills.
How do you break the circle?
Firstly, it’s well worth blocking off a few hours one day and putting some work into your freelancer pricing.
Being prepared will give you an overview of how much you want to earn, and how much you need to earn to make a viable, long-term living.
Having done this work, you’ll have a reference point for when you’re talking to new clients, and you need to quote quickly. You’ll also be well aware of the true costs and value of your time.
Secondly, I really recommend starting to work on your mindset and building your confidence.
I talk a lot about mindset and the importance of it in freelancing because it’s so crucial and it really affects freelancers when it comes to pricing themselves. (I even dedicated a full week to it in our comprehensive freelancing course – Freelance Bootcamp).
Working on your mindset, and making efforts to grow your confidence, is often what separates thriving from surviving freelancers.
The right mindset will help you set your prices at the level they should be, and growing your confidence is essential for avoiding undercharging in order to secure work.
2. Saying ‘YES’ to everything
This is closely related to the previous mistake, but it’s another important lesson to learn. When we are not confident, we feel we can never turn down an opportunity because we worry we won’t get more opportunities.
So we immediately say ‘yes’ to every project and client work that comes our way.
The tricky part here, however, is that you probably won’t see this as a mistake if you are just starting out – after all, those bills won’t pay themselves.
Of course, we are all in different financial positions, so there are situations where you might need to accept any kind of work.
That’s fine as long as you recognise when you are out of that – and understand that you will need to get out of the cycle at some point.
Remember – whenever you are saying yes to anything, you are also saying no to other things. You are saying no to future opportunities by default.
The key thing is when you are saying yes to everything, you won’t be working on your freelance business strategically. You won’t have time to plan your marketing, look for work, and develop your skills. Which makes it very easy to get stuck.
3. Not having systems in place
This is one of those mistakes that if you don’t fix sooner rather than later, it’s going to cost you a lot of time, energy, and ultimately money in the long run.
The earlier you can get efficient systems in place as a freelancer, the better.
By systems, I mean having basic structures for the most important aspects of your business – like finances and admin, client onboarding, marketing, etc.
When you don’t do this early on, again you won’t really notice. But if you don’t systemise things in the long term you will tie yourself in knots, and it will take you much more time to fix things later on.
For example, if you don’t have a system in place to manage your time and commitments, you will probably be fine with one or two clients. But as you grow, things will quickly spiral out of control, and the quality of your service will suffer.
I learned the importance of setting up systems early on the hard way, and I share it in this video:
4. Hesitating promoting yourself
If you’re a bit introverted – and a lot of us creative freelancers are – or you find it uncomfortable talking about yourself, you’re not alone.
Many creative people are like this and can be very reluctant to put themselves out there – we still quietly cringe when we are in self-promotion mode.
This can be a real problem if you let it stop yourself from putting your freelance business out into the market, either due to a lack of self-confidence, or a misguided aim for perfectionism.
Nobody can hide from the freelancing reality – if you don’t put your business into the world, nobody will do it for you. And if you don’t do it, how can then anyone know about you and hire you?
So if you’ve been postponing promoting your services and popping your head up, it’s time to stop, create an action plan and go for it.
What to do about it?
The key is to get used to a bit of discomfort.
To achieve that, you need to repeat tasks over and over again until they become a habit. So, for example, if you are uncomfortable talking about your business to others – instead of avoiding it, you need to push yourself to do it over and over until you become used to it.
I recommend starting with baby steps here and gently moving the bar higher up as you go. You should always challenge yourself, but it’s best to challenge yourself in a way that just makes you feel a little uncomfortable – not too much.
This way, you can gradually expand your comfort zone over time.
These 15 free ways to promote your freelance business, can be a great start to your self-promotion journey.
5. Not setting SMART(A) goals
“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time”.Zig Ziglar
A lot of freelancers feel like they are on the treadmill – they are working hard, but their business is not moving forward. If you feel the same – then you are most likely not setting SMART business goals.
You are probably familiar with the concept of setting SMART goals. These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based.
Even though it’s a widely popular concept, it’s hard to stick to goals in the day-to-day battle of freelance life.
So I would actually add an extra letter to this – SMARTA.
The A is for accountability. You have to make yourself accountable in some way. Whether that’s telling other people about your goals, giving yourself a reward if you hit them, or even a small forfeit, if you miss them, adding accountability, has been proven to make a big difference to hitting goals.
For example, when I was creating my first course Freelance Bootcamp, I spent six months slowly gathering information – writing and rewriting scripts. I kept moving the launch date further and further back.
It was only when we opened the course up for pre-sales – and people paid to sign up that I actually had no choice but to make the course a reality and I created all of the content.
Because I had set a launch date and didn’t want to let people down – there was huge public accountability and the course launched successfully.
Setting smart goals, rather than broad, vague ones, make all the difference – take a look at this example:
Get more clients vs. Pitch my services to five potential clients by Friday afternoon
→ Sign up for Freelance Bootcamp and build a thriving, sustainable freelance business doing the work you love!
This is a 4-week, intense course where we take a deep dive into setting up a successful, long-term freelance business.
→ Get more information about Bootcamp here, and feel free to contact us with any questions you might have about it!
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