6 Ignorant Mistakes That Could Destroy Your Freelancing Career
And my battle-tested tips to avoid it.
As a new freelancer, you make mistakes. You’re bound to.
I’ve slipped multiple times — in choosing clients, pricing, and taking up too many clients than I could handle. Or not having enough clients. And oftentimes, I ended up blowing the interview.
But you learn from your mistakes eventually.
You’ll also need to tweak your mindset and everyday routine to build a freelancing career.
To help you,
- avoid falling into the freelancing furnace and feeling burned out,
- identifying and avoiding bad clients like plague, and losing your way in the freelancing jungle or
- risk going back to the even more dreadful grind of a day job,
read on as I tell you, what’s safe and what’s great and what’s a no-no.
Working For Cheap Mills
Writing for cheap is worse than writing for free! Cheap stuff?!
You know it’s not good. You know you can let it go waste if you don’t use it. You know it’s practically worthless. You know you bought it because it was dead cheap.
Look; If you work for cheap, your time, your work, and you as a person will be valued faaaaaar less.
What can you expect?
I’ve been there — worked at $5 for 1000 words and even wrote articles and got ghosted and all that!
What could you do?
- Write for your friends or family or a non-profit for free. Get a testimonial or two or five. Build your portfolio.
- Start pitching clients with money. One-two well-paying clients are good enough. Over-deliver and they would love to work more with you.
- Guest posting can also help be seen and land gigs.
It can take 2–3 months to gather steam as a freelancer or sometimes a full year or more. Because your interests will change more often than you expected. You go through a huge learning curve. You pick gold nuggets and tough lessons on either side.
Having No Portfolio
Just like how you wouldn’t trust a doctor without any credentials to treat you, how would a business owner trust you to help build their business with copy or content.
You got to show ’em what you’ve got!
And listen up, for you to be successful in freelancing, you have to create content on topics you’re interested in and knowledgable in.
Like any business, it takes time and patience, but you just got to hang in. Not easy, ha?
You don’t get a job without your credentials. It’s better to build one. Use free blogging platforms to create content. Even free websites to demonstrate your design skills.
You should love your freelance job and write on topics yu’re interested in or knowledgable in. It shows. This way, you can create an article or a spec Ad on free platforms and share your link in the portfolio.
That’s how I created my portfolio in a few hours once I had published content online.
Having no Pricing Strategy
This is hardly talked about. Most of the talk is about — How to get clients? But not having a rate card ready for prospects is also why you’re not landing the right client.
Does a new restaurant in your area serve cheap food? Then why, as a brand new content creator, are you expected to charge less or, worse, work for free?
I do agree knowledge and experience are a thing. But cheap or free is deemed worthless.
It’s time you confidently state your price when your prospect asks. There will be some negotiations after all, but it’s up to you to decide what your time is worth it and charge your clients accordingly.
So use Canva, PowerPoint, or even Google docs and create a rate card. Here’s one easy way I used.
- Write a list of things you do(or can do)for your clients.
- Write down approximately how long each task would take.
Say, writing a blog post could take you 5–6 hours initially if there is research and SEO involved. Then as a beginner, if you set your prices to $20/hour, then your price would be $100-$120 per 1000 words. This is just an example.
- Table it and print it as a pdf or jpeg. That’s it.
Then you don’t have to fumble around when they ask you for your quote.
Here’s mine if you’re curious. :-)
Job boards are overcrowded. Businesses have no patience to sieve through hundreds of portfolios. They would rather find someone in their network. If you want to stand a chance, though you’re not part of their network and not their job applicant is by cold-pitching.
Personalize your pitch. Always!
Cold pitching is a highly underrated, low-competition strategy. It takes time to follow the brand or company and see what they could do better and suggest a growth or content or marketing strategy, whatever you’re good at for them.
You stand out and surprise them out of nowhere.
You overwhelm them with what you know about them and what you can do for them. better still, you can even send a blog post or 3 FB ads for their products.
This is my #1 method to get a good client, and yes, it works!
Not Thinking of Yourself as a Business
You’re a business. I learned it the hard way when I burned out trying to meet client deadlines.
One client needed an article in 4 hours and another in 2. I ignored my children’s needs and my own health.
I worked 36 hours once. That too, for peanuts. I believed I was a writer, and I just wrote and wrote and wrote. After 36 hours, I cried like I probably was mistaken about my writing skills. Maybe I’m not gifted.
But the itch to write didn’t leave me. I didn’t know anything else better.
I soon realized and understood from peers that — research sometimes could take 4 to 6 hours, even before we write a single word.
I then stopped working for such clients after a couple of months. Later it took me months to tweak my client acquisition strategies. I began to streamline my client-picking or client qualification process.
It’s actually pretty simple. We have an informal chat, and we get an idea if we are a right fit for each other.
It’s not the pay alone that decides whether I work with them. For instance, one new client needed five pages of website content in 1 day. I said I’d need at least a week. And that’s that!
I recently turned down a client looking for content around the law. I wanted to stay within my circle of expertise, and law is a new language for me. The client was happy that I informed them beforehand.
If I think it’s necessary, I also send a contract defining the scope of work and payment details before starting a project so we are on the same page.
Mental sanity is more important than work or money, right?
When you consider yourself as a business or a partner to your client rather than an employee. It takes off the pressure from your head. At least for me, it did.
Giving Up Too Early
I am guilty of this. At times, I lose steam when I don’t see expected results. I’ve tried to take shortcuts and realized there are none. Whichever way you take, you won’t avoid the grind.
Sure, you can learn a few from others’ mistakes, but there are 1000 other mistakes you are bound to create as a creator. And those mistakes are important. Because obstacle is the way.
So be prepared to do the work and wait or forget about getting any results.
Experiences and failures while pursuing a new career are what can build a strong foundation for our business.
When I studied other creators I adored, I realized,
- It takes 3–4 hours to shoot for a 15-sec YouTube short or Instagram reel.
- It takes 6–7 hours to write a well-researched 1000-word article.
- It takes months or years to write a book you can enjoy reading in a few hours.
- It takes decades of unceasing effort and self-belief to create a profitable organization.
Getting rich and famous overnight is a myth. The sooner you realize this, the faster you can move forward toward your goals without self-doubt or self-bashing.
One research says it takes 17 months to earn enough for yourself as an independent content creator. We know it’s not a fixed number. Our lives are different, and the paths we take will be wildly different. Running a business is a long-term game. You’ve not lost as long as you’re still fighting or hustling!
It can feel overwhelming with the number of options and opportunities in front of us. But I’ve realized that I can become anything I want, but not “everything.”
Focus on one or two things you do well and launch a career from there.
Life is long enough to go where your heart takes you. but too short to waste grinding hours in a place that doesn’t make your heart doesn't sing.
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