Whoever has ever said freelancing is “easy” should be strung up by their toes and dangled over a balcony somewhere, mouth stuffed with oversized gooey marsh mallows to muffle the screams. (I know, I have weird notions of torture.)
Those individuals clearly don’t know Jack. (Or even Jill for that matter.)
Seriously though, freelancing isn’t as easy as it may sound. It’s not “Oh lemme just hang out my shingle and soon I’ll be rolling in dough and living like a traveling bohemian.”
Brake check. Not even close.
It’s more like “Oh, lemme hang out my shingle. Wait, how do I even make a shingle? Do people still use shingles? Oh shite, I need to hire someone to make me a shingle and there goes all my dough! Guess I won’t be traveling like a bohemian this year. Drat.”
Or some sort of inner dialogue to that effect.
Regardless, freelancing (especially freelance writing) can be hard. Damn hard. And you’ll have ups and downs and everything in between, and yes that’s part of what makes it exciting… but it’s also part of what makes it terrifying too, especially when you have a family and people counting on you.
Which is why sometimes it’s OK not to be a trailblazer all the time. Sometimes it just makes good sense to follow the path of other trailblazers instead.
Learn from the mistakes of others, and avoid the kind of dumb pitfalls that all too commonly, noob freelancers often fall face first into.
Assuming Contracts are No Big Deal
Yes, there will be some clients you will never, ever, ever have to worry about, contract or not. (Do your best to keep those around for life, by the way.)
They will be amazingly awesome, easy to work with, pay you on time, sometimes even upfront and in full, and you will never have to use your stern voice with them in order to get paid for work you have completed to their satisfaction.
But even the awesome clients need clear cut terms and deliverables, so that they know when, how, and what to pay you when the work is done. Nifty things like contracts provide that.
And then there are the clients who are not so awesome, but maybe their lack of awesomeness isn’t apparent at first. Seeing red flags in a potential client often will only come with experience, so it’s easy to miss them when first starting out.
But there will be clients that suck, and those are the clients you will be getting on your knees and thanking God you had that contract with.
Thanking God, because at least now when they refuse to keep their end of the bargain, you have some legal wiggle room to hold them accountable to their commitments. (Muahahaha.)
And really, it’s protection for them as well, because in the very same way, you can be held accountable too if you fail to deliver on your promises. (Success 101… don’t fail in delivering on your promises.)
Now… let’s not forget pesky things like contracts the next time around. Fair enough?
Failing to Market Yourself Properly
Or better put, marketing yourself like a rockstar when you first start, so you wind up super busy, and then forgetting to keep marketing yourself.
Marketing yourself as a freelancer is really a process that never ends. It’s like brushing your teeth, or bathing. It should become a daily or at the very least, a weekly habit. (But ew, please bathe and brush your teeth more than once a week, thankyouverymuch.) There is never a time you should not consider marketing one of your top success building activities to engage in.
Because what happens when you stop marketing yourself? Your biz shrivels up like little baby raisin fingers. Or like man bits that shall remain nameless, when met with icy cold water.
Granted it may not happen overnight, but really… it will happen. You’ll be flying through each day, busy as a bee, work and money rolling in… until suddenly all the projects on your plate are complete.
You look up, you blink yourself out of your work induced stupor, and you realize to your horror, there’s nothing more on the horizon.
You have no further work. Ergo, you have no further income. Ergo, your rent might not get paid this month. Nasty stuff, you really don’t want to find yourself here. I’ve been guilty of such neglect on more than one occasion (yes, I have trouble taking my own advice), and simply put, it’s not a fun place to be.
So… never stop marketing yourself. Capisce? Capoosh.
Never Learning to Say No
Whether this is saying no to a crappy client (which really falls under learning to focus on your ideal client; saying no to a project that just doesn’t fit your skills, budget, time constraints, or passions; or saying no to friends and family that assume because you work from home you’re always available.
If you never learn to say this very important little word, you will wind up a very miserable freelancer indeed. And maybe sometimes, you will even need to say no to yourself.
No to staying up too late because you know you have an early deadline in the morning, and/or you don’t put forth your best work when you’re over-tired.
No to taking a lunch with a friend because you know it will turn into an all day event that will interfere with your ability to deliver on your commitments.
No to watching that TV program you feel you deserve to watch (after all, you work so hard), that inevitably sidetracks you into not reaching a writing goal or other business goal for the day.
No to citing your never ending litany of household chores as an excuse to procrastinate yet another day away. Somebody’s gotta do ‘em, right? Well, perhaps, and that’s what kiddos are for. 😉 And if you don’t have kiddos, then your chore list really shouldn’t be that long… if it is, you might consider seeking professional intervention, as clearly you’re a sloth.
Or even the really innocuous; no to answering your telephone and checking Facebook and email umpteen times, because lets face it… each of these things are just a distraction, and will keep you off your game.
All of the above are insidious distractions that are keeping you from truly productive and fulfilling activities that could be building your business, growing your wealth, and ultimately freeing up more time for you in your future.
Time you could then use to focus on the really important stuff in life, like family, giving, serving others, and maybe even taking up that personal hobby you’ve been dreaming about for years. (C’mon, you know you’ve got one.)
So. Learn to say no. No mo’, no mo’. M’kay?
Not Grasping the Concept of Value
When you Google the word value for it’s definitions, the two that stand out to me most are:
The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
A person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.
Value is a very unappreciated concept in two ways as a freelancer, and both of those definitions highlight exactly why. The first one is what freelancers fail to grasp when serving their clients.
A transaction between a freelancer and a client should be an equal exchange of value. They pay you valuable resources (cash) in exchange for your valuable time, skills, and service, both walk away happy.
But many freelancers will try to take short cuts, or take on so much work they become overloaded, or charge less than what their services are worth and thus burnout, and suddenly the value exchange between a client and a freelancer is skewed.
The work suffers, and ultimately the client never comes back. It’s important to understand that the more valuable and useful you make yourself to your clients, the more your business will grow, very naturally.
The other way value is unappreciated pertains to the second definition. Your standard of behavior in your business, and what is important to you. What you value.
You need to set your business up in a way that honors the things that are important to you, because when you value yourself, your time, your passions, and what you have to offer to the world… others will value you and those things that are important to you as well.
It circles back to that old adage, you show others how to treat you, by how you treat yourself. Set your own values, and communicate them clearly, so others respect them.
Sounds simple enough, right? You’d be amazed however at how often all of the above is overlooked, especially by freelancers still getting their feet wet.
Over to You
Have you made any blunders during your freelance career that you look back on now and kick yourself over? Or were you fabulous right out of the gate and never put a foot wrong?
If you’re of the latter sort, do tell your secrets in the comments. Inquiring minds wanna know.
If you’re the former… hey don’t feel bad. You’re in good company. And I’d love to hear your stories too. hehe They make me feel better about myself. (Kidding. Not really.)