Freelance work is an increasingly common way to make a living in the United States. According to the Freelancers’ Union, independent contractors make up about 35% of the American workforce.
If you’ve just joined their ranks, congratulations! Freelancing is a flexible way to follow your passions and find the jobs that fit best with your lifestyle. But it’s not without its pitfalls. Some of them — unpredictability, lack of benefits — are outside of your control. But there are also mistakes that every freelancer makes after casting off the mantle of a 9-5.
Here are the 5 most common, according to ABODO.
1. Being Afraid to Turn Things Down
When you start out, you’re understandably nervous about having enough work. But don’t fall into the trap of accepting EVERY assignment thrown your way. Set limits. You know how many projects you can conceivably complete in a week. Don’t take on work if you don’t think you’ll have time to finish it. Having too MUCH to do can affect your bottom line, if your work suffers.
2. Not Creating a Workspace
Whether you work from home or on-site for clients, you need a dedicated office space. If you freelance on-site, you still need an area to manage your calendar, keep your finances in order, and so forth. Whether it’s a spare bedroom, a clean kitchen table, or a booth at your favorite cafe, have area dedicated to work-related tasks. Routine can help productivity — and a dedicated space will help you compartmentalize your work, so that it doesn’t spill over into every waking second of your life.
3. Not Setting Hours For Yourself
Speaking of: You need to set some boundaries. Freelance work is supposed to help you achieve better work-life balance, so take advantage of that opportunity by planning out your schedule, choosing the hours you’re available for work, and setting time aside for your hobbies, family time, or other personal business such as appointments. Having a clearly defined schedule will make it easier for you to maintain a distinction between work and home life, and it also makes it easier to turn down shifts and other opportunities that aren’t a fit for your schedule.
4. Not Understanding Client Requirements
As a freelancer, you should always make sure that you understand client requirements and expectations at the start of a shift or contract. Then, it’s up to you to work to meet – or better yet, exceed – those expectations. Future work opportunities are more likely to come your way when you go the extra mile to exceed expectations and make a lasting impression. For instance, if you have a deadline that’s one week away, you’re not necessarily doing yourself any favors by submitting work the same day. In fact, it may even look like you didn’t spend enough time on the project, or even give your client the impression that you’re not busy with other clients – which can lead to the perception that you’re not as skilled or in-demand as your client previously thought.
5. Showing Up Late (or Not At All)
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that freelance work is a casual arrangement. Yes, you’re in charge of your own schedule, but you’re still responsible for meeting your end of the bargain – your reputation depends on it.
This is another compelling reason to maintain a dedicated and organized workspace. Without an efficient and accurate way to manage your commitments and your schedule, you could end up overbooking yourself or forgetting about an obligation. It’s as simple as this: If you agree to do something, follow through, and do it well. If something comes up, communicate early and often.