The idea that you could work online from home and have a thriving freelance business was unheard of 20 years ago – but not anymore. It is estimated that by the year 2020, 50% of the United States population will be freelancing. Still, many newbies who venture into this industry risk wasting time, losing money, or having their online accounts suspended for one reason or the other, and even worse, losing their morale in this exciting field.
That’s why I want to pinpoint some mistakes that you want to avoid if you have decided to launch your freelance career. I have crafted the solutions from first-hand experience. Let’s get exploring, shall we?
Here are 5 grave mistakes starting freelancers make and how you can best avoid them.
1. Lack of Clear Goals
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. “ This is an awesome quote by one Lewis Caroll.
Now that you are a freelancer, you need to know that success or failure is entirely up to you. You need to set achievable targets and devise deliberately how you will attain them. This is not optional if you want to survive online. You are the only one who can decide whether to earn $100 or $500 weekly. If you never set goals such as ‘make $1,000 a week’, ‘get two new clients each month’, or ‘transcribe 1 audio hour daily’, be sure that you are headed for stagnation, if not failure!
One more thing, write it down. It’s simple, but powerful. If you write down your goals and place them somewhere where you can see them, it will give you the impetus to keep going even on those days when you are tempted to give up. Freelancing isn’t for the faint hearted.
2. Shiny Object Syndrome
”Hello there, easily distracted one.”
I have seen a lot of starting freelancers suffer from this particular malady. This is where you are likely to throw away your silver to start collecting gold-coated stones, only to end up with nothing.
You start off with, say copy writing and then, a few weeks later, you decide to bid on translation jobs. After all, your French language skills aren’t too bad. A couple of days later, you read in a certain forum that social media marketing jobs are all the rage in Upwork and keenly start bidding on those too.
Dear newbie, if you never specialize in one field, then you will not have the required “grip” or experience to gain maximally from it. You might even end up quitting freelancing because nothing will work unless you specialize.
Research widely before choosing your specialization, keeping in mind your key skills and strengths. Remember we are all different and we cannot all flourish in the same place. I love Arriana Huffington’s quote from her book Thrive: “I do not try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.”
3. Thinking It’s All About the Money
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me 6 hours to cut a tree and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe.”
What did he mean? He’d rather spend half the time getting his tools ready. What would happen if he began chopping the tree down without sharpening the axe? He’d probably spend a week at it, break the handle, or bruise his hands, then eventually quit.
Being a transcription trainer, so many starting freelancers send me emails with one major question: “How much money can I earn and how soon?”
Well, money is important. It’s how we get to buy food and other essentials. A good attitude to have though, is ‘let me learn before I earn’.
Just like in every other job, freelance jobs need some training, so whether you purchase a course on Udemy or Lynda, or decide to go the self-taught way, you still need to learn stuff. That way, you will save time and also have someone to guide you.
For instance, say you’d like to be an academic writer. That requires knowledge of many formatting styles and paper types. Without proper training, by the time you have mastered all the requirements, you’d have lost numerous accounts or clients.
My point: learning will save you unnecessary stress and pains.
4. Not Using Escrow
For many experienced freelancers, being scammed is like a badge of honor, but that doesn’t have to be your testimony. If you’re a starting freelancer, you’ve probably not heard about an Escrow account. This is a virtual financial account held by a third party for the security or benefit of two other parties.
How does it work? When working on sites such as Upwork, the client deposits a down payment in the Escrow account which is held by the parent site. This payment is made to ensure that you will be paid for the services that you deliver.
Upwork introduced Escrow earlier this year. Before that, you had the option of either asking the client for an upfront payment, or taking the risk to undertake the client’s project, hoping that he will pay you in the end.
It’s interesting how many scammy clients are out there who are ready to pounce on newcomers. They will sweet talk you into doing their work before they have funded any milestone. Do not listen to them. They are not worth your time. Any client worth their salt will be careful to follow the policies of reputable freelancing companies.
Be safe, and go the Escrow way.
5. Failure to Diversify
Don’t settle, just don’t.
It’s quite exciting when you get one or two clients who send you loads of work. It’s tempting to stop bidding since that one client is taking care of your financial needs. Why go through all the hustle of looking for new clients when you have totally mesmerized your two current ones?
Because it’s unwise.
Always be prospecting. The big brands are doing it, yes? They are always marketing and spending billions of dollars advertising. Come on, Cocoa Cola, we already know you are the king when it comes to soft drinks. Ever wondered why they didn’t just stop wasting their time and money? The thing is, they are always thinking of securing new customers, and so should you. Your set of skills should be utilized to the full, not just with one client.
Here’s a scary thought: what would happen if that one client’s project abruptly came to an end? You would most definitely end up with no work, a dry spell, which is equal to no income.
Remember these three letters: ABP. ”Always Be Prospecting.” In the long run, it is all about the growth of your freelancer business. If you stick with only one or two clients, you will never grow … and neither will your purse strings.
The surest way of avoiding a mistake is by knowing it.
I just highlighted five grave mistakes that starting freelancers make. The ball now lies with you; do what you must and evade these pitfalls. Trust me; by avoiding them, you will experience freelance success much faster!