6 BIG mistakes that every freelancer should avoid

freelancer mistakes to avoid

6 common freelancer mistakes to avoid


Being your own boss and working from home in your Bermudas at your own time might sound to be great in a freelancer’s life but for a new freelancer who has just jumped into the bandwagon, life always does not turn out to be that simple. There is hardly any freelancer who has not got cheated or worked hard not to get paid at the end. Every one of us have had that experience. I asked around and found out that every freelancer friend of mine has done some project or the other at some point of time for which they never got paid. When I found out that not getting paid is so common among beginners in this industry, I started to figure out why this happens and what can a newbie freelancer do in order to avoid this! Let me tell you that however cautious you are there will always be instances when you will not get paid. Then you might ask what purpose does this article serve? Well this article will definitely help you to minimize the chances of not getting paid. Though it is always not possible to follow these instructions but if a freelancer follows them most of the time then I am sure he will minimize the chances of not getting paid to a great extent!

Hold your horses

When a freelancer begins his or her career it is most likely that they will try to grab any new lead that comes across. This is the first mistake they make. Whenever they get contacted by a prospect whether by phone, mail or in person they have the words “please hire me” written all over them. They make their work look so easy, they promise to deliver everything the client asks for and they promise to deliver in no time working odd hours and they also make the client feel that the client is all they have got…. These are all great mistakes. Someone might be your first client, there is always one, you might be dying to get an assignment but it is not wise to make the client feel that. Act professionally! Remember if you do not pay value to your own time and if you do not give value to your own time, rest assured others won’t.


Definitely ask certain questions

This might seem trivial but let me tell you that as a freelancer you should not take any assignment without clarifying certain points and without asking certain questions. Let me elaborate one by one :- The scope of work : What is the scope of the work at hand? What to be delivered and how? It is very important to define the scope of work as clearly as possible because this is where most misunderstandings start when the job finishes or approaches the end line. It is always a good idea to have a written copy of the scope of work and get it signed by the client so that they cannot back off in the last moment when they are supposed to pay.

Date of delivery : It is also very vital to have a date of delivery fixed. In this way you can also fix your date of payment.

Hourly rate for extra hours : If you are working on a fixed cost project, then you must fix an hourly rate in case the scope of work increases. Almost 70 to 80 percent of time the scope of work increases or the client goes back on what he or she decided. In such a scenario extra hours need to be put in by the freelancer and needless to say that more time means more money. So it is best to have a pre-decided hourly rate.

Secondary point of contact : It often so happens that the decision maker or the owner of the company (for small and medium sized companies) negotiates with the freelancer regarding the job. The job starts and he gets too busy to respond to the freelancer’s emails or review his work. The situation becomes a complete deadlock. The freelancer can’t proceed without approval or further instructions. Hence it is always beneficial to have a secondary point of contact to get in touch with.

Revisions : If you are graphic design expert doing a logo or some creative work then there is another important thing to consider : ‘revisions’. It is wise to decide from the very beginning how many revisions will you offer for the job. This might sound trivial but a lot of problems arise due to this grey area.


Should a freelancer do free samples ?

Well, doing free sample is a very tricky area. Whether freelancers should do free samples or not depends on a case to case basis. There is no thumb rule to it. A lot depends on the client in question. Mostly you will find clients who ask for free samples and never get back to you. The idea is to collect the concepts and then getting another designer at low cost to convert the best concept into a vector design. So a freelance graphic designer has to be very careful on whether to do a free sample or not. Even if a situation arises where you have to do a free sample then I suggest you do it for a local client whom you can physically visit. I would also advise you to watermark the work before delivery and never to give away the vector or raw files. I would also advice you not to do a very complex work as a sample. Do a very small part of the work that will not take much of your time. If that client is genuine then that will be enough to convince him or her that you are capable for the job.

Quoting ridiculously low

This is another tricky area and I would advise you not to charge low or rock bottom price even if you are a fresher. This is because once you start charging ridiculously low it would set your standard to that level. Later when you increase your pricing you will find resistance form client. If you are working in online freelancing websites like freelancer.com or elance.com then chances are that you are working for very low price and are afraid to charge the ongoing market rates to your client. This way you would burn out very soon and will not be able to sustain your business for long. The work you do at a low price would be hasty and will not have the required quality. If you are a graphic designer your designs will lack detail and perfection and if you are a content writer you will produce articles with low amount of research or factual details. This is detrimental to your freelance career and you will not be able to make a name in the market. You will soon be labeled as a low end designer and will not be able to approach the niche freelance market. So you will not do much good to your freelancing career by working at a ridiculously low price. To find out what the going market rate is you can ask for a sample quote for a project to a reputed freelancer in your area or you could visit niche freelancer forums where freelancers discuss about all the aspects of freelancing. Do some research and you will find out for yourself the going rates in your category of work. There are several freelance books which guide you in the right direction. It is better to spend some time learning and reading about your trade before jumping into the bandwagon.

For freelance photographers here is a great resource : Click Here!

For freelance writers you can look at : Click Here!

For freelance web designers : Click Here!

There are many resources available in the web as well. Just google intelligently!


Not having a formal contract and not taking an advance

Freelancers often work without a formal written and signed contract from the client. This is a big mistake. This is where freelancers often get ripped off. Before the job begins you should have a written contract signed from the client. There are many places on the web where you will get templates for a graphic design contract. If you do not have a signed physical contract then you cannot do anything if the client refuses to pay up at the end of the project but if they have signed a contract then they can be brought to book for it. In most cases if there is a signed contract the client pays up almost always rather than risking a litigation. Even if you have a signed contract it is best to charge at least 50% advance before you begin working on the project. If a client is too reluctant to pay the advance then chances are they will not pay up at the end of the project as well. So if a client pays an advance you will know that the client is serious about the project and you will not end up losing money in the end.

Keep your relationships professional

As you go for a meeting with a client there is a tendency amongst some clients to get very familiar with you and get very friendly and then it so happens that they request you to just start the work at hand with a promise to make the payment shortly. I would strongly advice you not to start work in such a scenario unless you get the initial 50% deposit. In most cases like this a freelancer ends up not getting paid at all. The best thing for a freelancer is to keep the relationship with the client very professional. Also if you are going for a meeting with a prospect then remember to get to the point very quickly and keep the meeting very short. Remember that as a freelancer you are losing billable hours when you are talking to client and you are most likely not going to get paid for meetings. So keep it simple, keep it short, summarize quickly and bag the deal!



So in a nutshell, as a freelancer, it should be your goal to cover your base as much as possible and to ensure that you get paid. I tried to put forward a few tips to help you out. I have learnt these things the hard way burning my fingers. Though these are not hard and fast rules that you need to follow : you can make your own exception but be wise and judicious in your decision.

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Priyankar Mukherjee is a freelancer turned entrepreneur who is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and bloggers. He is running his own web design and development company and also a crowdsourcing platform www.shopfordesigns.com

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