Since you’re reading this article, you’re probably trying to avoid learning the hard way. Here, we outline the top 7 mistakes new freelancers make and what you can do to prevent them.
Mistake #1: Not Having a Freelance Consulting Pricing Strategy
Deciding what to charge for your freelance consulting services can be intimidating. Many factors dictate pricing, including:
- Skill level
- Market conditions
- How you charge (per project, retainer, hourly)
When you’re first starting, you may worry about charging too much and scaring off potential clients; you may also worry about not making enough money to get by because your price is too low.
First, decide on a pricing structure. We recommend monthly retainers, as you get paid repeatedly for the results you deliver. Then, consider the scope of the project and set your number from there.
We wrote an entire article on charging for freelance consulting services if you want to learn about it in detail.
Mistake #2: Being Afraid to Pitch and Sell
For many of us, it’s uncomfortable and unenjoyable to cold pitch and sell our services. That said, any successful freelance consultant has to be comfortable communicating their value and marketing their business.
Don’t take rejection personally. If you feel daunted by the pitching and selling processes, take some time for internal reflection. Figure out why this process is unenjoyable; from there, you can start to undo those beliefs and embrace this part of the business. In most cases, the discomfort around pitching stems from the fear of rejection. To get over this, it helps to play out the worst case scenario in your mind - What would a ‘no’ feel like? How would you react? Prepare and make peace with the possibility of this outcome and it will help you in putting yourself out there.
Consider taking some courses or reading books on the art of selling. For some of us, studying a skill provides comfort and inspires confidence.
Mistake #3: Saying Yes to All Business
When you’re first starting as a freelance consultant, it may be tempting to say yes to any business that comes your way. However, this can lead you into some unfortunate situations where you’re overstressed and undervalued.
There are two huge problems with accepting any potential client:
- Meager pay (usually for demanding work)
- Poor client-contractor relationship
When you take on business that pays you less than you’re worth, you’re sacrificing time for potential clients willing to pay your rates. Further, settling for any type of client means you may work with people who push your boundaries, stress you out, and generally don’t have a working style compatible with yours.
Make a note of every interaction with a client and make sure they’re the kind of person you want to work with. And, if someone isn’t willing to pay your rates, don’t settle! Keep looking.
Mistake #4: Marketing yourself as a “Jack of all trades”
Many new freelance consultants believe that “specializing” in everything is the secret to attaining more business. After all, that means any person or company is a potential client, right?
Unfortunately, there are issues with branding yourself as a generalist. Most people are looking for subject-matter expertise when hiring a freelancer. Those are also the freelance consultants they’re willing to pay higher rates.
Think of your top 1-3 niche areas and specialize from there. Create work samples for those industries. Being a specialist helps attract the best clients for you.
Some tips for picking winning industries include:
- Looking for industries with lots of demand but little supply (if you’re a subject-matter expert, that’s even better)
- Maximizing expected value (i.e. which niches do I love that pay the best and offer long-term potential?)
- Picking industries on the rise (i.e. cryptocurrency, online education, green technology)
While you should love the niches you choose, that can’t be the only factor if you want to be profitable.
Mistake #5: Struggling With Time Management
Now that you’re a freelance consultant, you don’t have a boss. You can set your hours and work as little or as often as you want. Sweet!
Unfortunately, that can come with some drawbacks. Many new freelancers struggle with time management and may miss deadlines.
When it comes to time management, you can try:
- Time blocking your day
- Using project management software like Airtable or Asana
- Setting scheduled breaks
- Using an app-blocker on sites such as Youtube, Netflix, or Facebook
Most importantly: keep track of when projects are due so you can get them submitted on time.
Mistake #6: Overworking
While it’s true that freelance consultants set their working hours, that can often lead new (and experienced) ones to work themselves too hard.
Each new project you take on means more experience, work samples, positive testimonials, and money in your pocket. That said, if it leads you to burnout, it’s doing more harm than good.
Burnout is a state in which you reach physical and mental exhaustion due to prolonged stress. One ramification is that you’re unable to continue working and can fall behind or resent your work.
Get ahead of burnout by scheduling days off, vacations, and a maximum number of working hours per day or week.
Mistake #7: Using a Bad Contract (or None at All!)
No matter how much you know or like a client, always have an ironclad contract in place. Never start work without a signed agreement. List out as many aspects of the engagement as you can in the contract, including:
- Scope of work
- Payment details (quantity and schedule)
- Competitive engagements (can you as the freelancer engage in other projects? The contract should say yes!)
Although most clients are unlikely to give you problems, you never want to leave yourself unprotected. Additionally, should any disputes arise between client and contractor, you can refer to the agreement to settle them.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Now that you know the most common mistakes new freelancers make, you can do your best to avoid them. Goodluck!
Related: Seven Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Freelance Consulting Gig
Every Mylance team member has done consulting. We're experts, and we've seen what consulting enables: more time with our families, traveling the world, more time on passion projects, or to start that business we've been dreaming about.