The freelancer boom has created a major shift in varying sectors, beginning with finance, content design, writing, real estate, and more.
In fact, a 2014 study by the Freelancers Union indicates that 53 million people in the US are doing part-time work, making up around 34% of its national workforce.
According to the Freelance Talent Report, 90% of independent professionals cite the ability to take control of their own schedules as the best part of freelancing, and 87% feel that following their passion is most important.
While this field has great opportunities, freelancing also has its drawbacks.
For one thing, it needs a lot more leg work. You are solely responsible for contacting clients, researching, quality control, and managing social media networks to market, brand, and publicizing your business.
On top of these duties, distinguishing between work and personal time is another challenge. Since projects are done at home, one may feel more at ease, increasing the risk of slacking off during working hours.
Despite the trade-offs, some still see freelancing as a great opportunity for personal and financial growth.
If you’re an aspiring freelancer, avoid these four red flags that could cause problems for you and your client.
1. Accepting Every Project
Accepting every project offer might be good for growing your client base and making money, but pushing yourself to your limits could affect the quality of your work.
Time is money, but working on too many freelance gigs also limits your time, not just for work, but for your personal life as well.
For instance, if you have two projects in progress and four are pending, you might end up working all day and night just to make ends meet.
What to Do Instead:
Say no to clients when you can.
However, turning a project down shouldn’t affect your relationship with prospects.
If you think their requirements won’t fit your schedule, it’s best to turn “no” into a “yes, but not this time.” Try saying:
“I would very much enjoy working with you, but I’m on a deadline with two other projects at this time. If we could schedule it in three weeks, I would be able to focus my full attention on yours.”
If the client gig isn’t your specialty, refer them to another freelancer so as not to leave them empty-handed. Acknowledge your line of expertise and recommend another colleague:
“Your project seems like a great challenge to me since technical writing isn’t my genre, but I know someone who is an expert on those types of projects.”
2. Giving away Too Much Information
It’s normal to sell yourself to attract potential clients. Just like other professionals, creating a positive impression could help you close a deal more quickly.
There are some clients who value this approach, but being too pushy could give you a slight dilemma. If you try to propose a service that is beyond their request or interest, then you’re crossing the line.
Giving too much information – such as sample outputs and detailed process descriptions – could make clients take advantage of your secrets.
In a worst-case scenario, clients might see a lot of potential in your proposal, but won’t be able to afford you. Once you’ve shown them how you do your work, they could copy your output or process and hire someone cheaper to get the job done.
What to Do Instead:
Maintain a helpful and non-pushy approach when communicating with prospects. Offer a little suspense and don’t go overboard with the things they need to know.
Give them an outline or a small overview on the services they’ve requested. For example:
You could offer free consultation before supplying your services or provide a short trial of your work. Alternatively, show limited samples of your portfolio to give clients an idea of how you can help them.
Keep your complete offerings – a website design, a full article, a marketing plan, or anything else you’re creating – to yourself until an official contract is signed.
3. Leaving Things Unsaid
Failing to clarify every detail during your business conversations can save you time. However, if you assume that every aspect of your project is already clear to your clients, it can not only cause you to deliver the wrong output, but also won’t advance your communication skills – a crucial thing to learn if you’re doing business on your own.
In fact, a 2009 study cited by Microsourcing.com revealed that clearly understanding both parties’ goals allows outsourcing relationships to run seamlessly and successfully.
If you don’t want to end up dealing with complaints, then don’t overlook even the smallest details.
What to Do Instead:
Make sure you and your client are on the same page. Speak your mind and listen to the other person’s concerns.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and request any clarifications. Reconfirming information on deliverables, contracts, and submission dates won’t hurt your reputation.
Here are some guide questions that can help you establish clear communication lines with the client:
- What kind of business is your company in?
- What is the company’s reputation and branding?
- What is the purpose of this project?
- What is your deadline for this project?
- Can you send me an example of what you have in mind?
- What is the specific quantity/quality of output that you need?
4. Settling for Low Rates
With the competitive freelance market, it’s increasingly difficult to charge what you feel you’re worth.
However, settling for low pay will undervalue your time, work, and worth.
It’s alright to accept lower paying assignments if you’re just starting out, but sticking to cheap gigs and projects in the long run won’t be beneficial for you.
Some beginners charge a minimum hourly rate, but decent freelance rates vary from S40-S70/hr. depending on the nature of work and the expertise required.
What to Do Instead:
Raise your professional value!
Determine the lowest equivalent hourly rate or minimum acceptable rate (MAR) that you’re willing to work for. The formula should look something like this:
( (personal overhead + business overhead) / hours worked ) + tax
For example, imaging that your personal overhead (i.e. the total cost of living) is $50,000 per year and your business overhead is a projected $10,000 per year. If you’re planning to do client work eight hours per day for forty-two weeks (1680 hours total):
( (50,000 + 10,000) / 1,680) = $35.67
Add, say, 20% for tax, and your MAR or bottom line (net of tax) is $42.81.
We don’t recommend going below this rate unless compelling circumstances dictate otherwise.
Firmly evaluate your work experiences and the value they provide, and compare industry rates so you can settle on the pay you deserve.
Avoid These Flags and Get to Your Goal!
Freelancing can be just as rewarding and fulfilling, if not more than, your current desk job, but it’s far from perfect.
It takes a lot of discipline, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll be sure to enjoy all the rewards and gains that will come your way.
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Spencer, Laura. “42 Questions Every Freelancer Should Ask Their Clients.” Freelance Folder. April 8, 2009. Accessed November 9, 2015. http://freelancefolder.com/42-questions-every-freelancer-should-ask-their-clients/.
Weiss, Shari. “Say No Like a Pro — When You Must Turn Down New Business.” Compukol Communications LLC. November 23, 2010. Accessed November 9, 2015. http://www.compukol.com/blog/say-no-like-a-pro-when-you-must-turn-down-new-business/.
About the Author
Rick Enrico is the CEO and Founder of SlideGenius, Inc., a presentation design agency with clients all over the world. He currently oversees an experienced team of designers, software developers, and marketing professionals who specialize in creating custom corporate presentations and cloud publishing applications. He regularly publishes expert presentation tips on the SlideGenius blog.