5 Mistakes to End Your Freelance Career
Please learn from my mistakes.
First, who is this guy?
I’m Allan and I started as freelance designer six years ago. After a few months I started hired developers because I started taking increasingly larger web projects. Within two years of starting freelancing I took on a business partner and we started to build web applications. These projects have done well and we’ve started hosting conferences for entrepreneurs. I’ve been lucky and blessed. I’ve made my share of mistakes but here’s the mistakes I’ve made and what I’ve learned in the past six years.
1. Avoid Meeting New People
Successful freelancers never say that they know too many people. On the flip side, failed freelancers say, “I didn’t have a strong enough network.” Which means “I sat at home and didn’t meet people”.
Looking back at the small successes I’ve had, they’ve all started with the people I’ve met. These real-life relationships, handshakes, dinners and conversations that have turned into friendships. Growing your network, making friends and then nurture those relationships, but to do this it takes time and effort.
How do I meet people?
- Attend conferences and introduce myself. To start a conversation ask them questions; people generally like to talk about themselves.
- Talk to people on Twitter. I actually reply back to tweets.
- Contribute to open source projects. Blog, comment on blogs, guest blog.
2. Ignore Your Ideal Client.
Realize your potential client will visit several competitor’s websites before they make contact. They’ll call the person they feel can deliver the product/design/photos that they expect and desire. Example: if you’re a photographer with web galleries of black & white wedding pictures but this potential client wants color pictures of their children your portfolio won’t appeal to them. They won’t be able to visualize you taking their children’s pictures.
The good news is you can use this filter to your advantage to target the kinds of clients you want. The client’s critical eye spans further than just your portfolio. They’ll evaluate how the copy on your site is written, how your site looks and even how you talk to them when they call. Everything you do will be judged and if done properly can use to filter your clients into the ones you want.
3. Be a Mediocre Jack of All Trades.
Most people do one thing very, very well. If you’re a designer, don’t be programmer. You’re a photographer don’t try to be a designer. Even if you’re picking up new skills, stop and find someone that is better than you. Hire them for your next project. Sure you’ll spend more money now but your final product will be better. Your portfolio will get better and your next clients will pay more. It’s a beautiful cycle of awesome.
You can connect great people on these sites:
4. Charge Too Little.
This is the culmination of points 1, 2 and 3. If you meet people and build a network of friends in your industry then make your skill set strong by focusing on one thing and then target the ideal client you’ll be able to charge more for your time. Charge 15% more for your time than you think it’s worth. Most freelancers don’t have the confidence to set their rate at a place where they’re not scrapping the bottom of the barrel for clients. You are good enough to get the rate you deserve.
5. Lose Track of Your Money.
This is the most important point.
Let’s be honest saving money isn’t as fun as spending it. I love buying new things. It’s human nature to want to spend your cash. But every business will have a cash flow hiccup, a dry spell, a downtime.
Now if you’re thinking “I run a good business and do good, things like that won’t happen to me.” you’re wrong! A hiccup in cash flow can happen to anyone even if you’re running a great business. Just look at the businesses along the Gulf Coast and how the BP oil spill effected their businesses. These businesses were faced with an worse economy due to outside forces. The businesses that are surviving have cash saved. Don’t fool yourself, you will hit a dry spell and that cash reserve will save your butt. Keep 2-4 months of overhead in savings. You’ll thank me later.
Other mistakes that just suck
- No backup of files, I lost 2 years of data from an external hard drive crash.
- Not saving for tax time.
- Working from home full-time. Find a coffee shop or coworking desk at least 2 days per week.
- Fixed bid pricing and client contracts.
What mistakes have you learned from?
By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.
- Robert Frost