3 Freelancing Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur

Do you have times when you don’t find freelancing easy?

If so, you’re not alone.  It can be hard going, especially when you’re first starting out because there are so many things to think about:

  • Marketing your products and services
  • Meeting your customer’s expectations
  • Managing your cash-flow and finances
  • Keeping a work life balance

But there are some things that I’ve frequently seen freelancers do that make it even harder.  Some common mistakes that are easy to make and will really trip you up and make you look like an amateur.

Want to know what they are?  Keeping reading, I’ve got three common mistakes for you to watch out for.

1. Taking Too Much Work On

It might sound like a strange thing to say, how can too much work be a problem, it’s all money isn’t it?

The problem is when you have more work than you can realistically cope with and how you deal with it.

For a moment, imagine a machine, producing a product all day long – it can be whatever you like, I’m going to say chocolate bars (yum!)

The machine can produce a set number of chocolate bars in a day.  The amount will be governed by the speed of the machine, the total available time to run the machine, and the complexity of the product.

Now I could stand next to the machine and huff and puff, I can even do a dance around it, but the machine won’t produce a bar more than it’s maximum capacity.  What’s more, if the machine is pushed to it’s limits too many times, it will start to suffer maintenance problems, need servicing and become unreliable.

So it is with you as a freelancer or Micro Business owner.  You can only work so many hours in the week, and you can only deal with so many clients.  Take on too much work and you’ll burn yourself out and your body will force you to take time out.

Workout the maximum amount of time you can put to client work or the maximum amount of clients that you can work with.  Know your limits, and when you get to them stop and find other ways to help the additional clients.  This could be taking some of your knowledge and turning it into a course so that people can follow it without it taking as much of your time.  In some instances you could also refer business to another friendly freelancer you know or create a waiting list.

But don’t work beyond your capacity, you’ll burn yourself out and risk lowering the overall quality of your work and falling short of your clients expectations.

2. The Cobblers Children’s Shoes Problem

Have you heard the phrase “cobblers children’s shoes” before?

It refers to the idea that the cobbler tends to everyone else’s shoes but never has time to sort out his own children’s.

When you’re running a Micro Business or working as a freelancer your shoes are the things that you really should be working on a little each week but struggle to fit into your schedule.  For instance your marketing, because you are so busy with client work.  It’s easy to think that it won’t matter this week because you have so much work on that you can do without more marketing for a few days, but this is a real mistake.  Likewise it could be putting off your invoicing because your busy doing the work.

It’s such a mistake because in both cases it will come back to be a real problem.  No marketing will mean you don’t have as much business in the future when you might not be as busy and you get into the feast and famine cycle.  Putting off your invoicing will mean that your cash will dry up and that’s never fun is it?

Ensure that you fit time in every week for the important aspects of your business that you need to get done, make them a habit and don’t put them off – if you’re not careful putting things off will become the habit rather than getting them done.

3. Not Expecting Success

The third mistake is not believing in yourself and expecting success.

Take a moment and think about this – is your business going to be a success, are you going to be able to fulfill your dreams?

Your answer to that question needs to be yes, for two reasons.

Firstly if you don’t believe it how are you going to spur yourself on?  How can you motivate yourself to move forward, through the easy times and the hard times and make a success of what you do.

I’ve met some freelancers and Micro Business owners with fantastic products and services but they still have a feeling that they won’t make it.  You need to focus your mind on the fact that you will make it, that you will achieve your goals, as Tony Robbins has said:

“Passion is the Genesis of Genius” – Tony Robbins

Second it’s so important that you outwardly express that you expect success when you meet others.  I don’t mean be arrogant but when you meet a new client present yourself and your products and services in a way that expresses that you know what you’re doing and that you are the right person to help them.

If you come across as expecting to be rejected, that’s what will happen.  If you show that you believe in what you do and that it has a real benefit for the people you work with, others will believe it.

What would you add?

Those were three mistakes I’ve seen freelancers and Micro Business owners make.  What would you add?  Please add any others you can think of in the comments and join me for a discussion.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Take a few moments to review these mistakes.  Are you taking too much on?  Do you have time scheduled for the important tasks that will drive your business forward?  Do you believe in your own success and are you expressing this confidently when you meet clients?  Write down the areas that you could improve and schedule time to take action.

Robert Peters

Robert Peters is a small business advisor, coach and consultant. Through his Fresh Eyes Consultancy he helps micro business owners grow sustainable and profitable businesses. Sign up for a free copy of his guide on how to avoid the feast and famine cycle and take the stress out of micro business sales.

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  1. I outsource my own tax return as I want to concentrate on my clients, and I know since their work comes first, mine wouldn’t get done! It’s about breaking down what you need to do, and then putting in place actions to get it done.

    To expand on your how much work point, often you can’t control when work comes in. By that, I mean that life happens, and maybe your client wasn’t able to deliver what you need to get their work done when it was agreed. This happened to me this week. I’d laid aside a week to do some emergency work for a client, and she then had an emergency (there was a baby born. Nature is always boss). It did throw me a bit as I’d primed myself to have a ‘one client, one task, one focus’ week!
    Rosie Slosek recently posted..3 Reasons Tax Returns Belong With CakeMy Profile

    • Outsourcing is a great point Rosie. A lot of new freelancers try to hold onto everything and not outsource until well past when it was due. Mainly because they don’t want to pay for the outsourcing as their keen to keep the profit and also to keep control but it’s a false economy. Outsourcing as soon as you feel yourself getting busy means that you can free up capacity for more profitable work.

      Sometimes that happens with planning doesn’t it – nature or circumstances outside of your control get in the way. There isn’t too much you can do about it apart from manage the situation and your other client’s expectations if it means that you’ll be delayed on other tasks. Hope your week turned out well 🙂

      Thanks for the comment Rosie!
      Robert Peters recently posted..3 Reasons Google Doesn’t Love Your WebsiteMy Profile

  2. In point 1 you talked about taking on too much work. In point 2 you ironically used marketing as an example ie you need to make time to do the marketing rather than use the excuse that you have too much work for now (point 1). These 2 points are in conflict mainly because if you make time for marketing, you have less time for order fulfillment thus creating a backlog or adding to it. Furthermore, marketing will bring in more work that will be added to the backlog. Further still, it could mess up your delivering on your promises which may cause your customers to walk away as they’ll perceive you as unreliable.

    I believe that workload is inversely proportional to marketing meaning that the more work you have, the less marketing you do and vice versa. In fact, when there is less work to do, it means there’s more time to do the marketing. I understand that there’s a time lag between marketing and the work coming in; but this should’ve been catered for during planning and should be addressed as a matter of urgency if the practice doesn’t fit the theory.

    But the comments on invoicing is spot on because there’s a definite lag between orders being delivered and payments received. Not to mention late payers and bad debtors.

    • Thanks for the comment and feedback Kasim.

      I understand your point about 1 & 2 being in conflict, but that’s the point. When freelancers and Micro Business owners get busy the first thing that often stops is their marketing because if you’re up to your ears in sales and order fulfilment why try to obtain more business?

      But that’s the mistake. Because very few businesses have an immediate sales cycle – I have clients whose sales cycles last months and months. So you could be very busy this week and put off some marketing but what about in three months time when you only have half of the work, if you then start marketing and it takes one month to get an enquiry and then six months to go through the sales cycle you could have completely dried up with sales by the time that the enquiry eventually becomes a sale. This feast and famine cycle can really be the killer for a Micro Business or freelancer who might not have the cash reserves of a larger business to keep going through the famine. It’s really important to keep your marketing going to keep a steady stream of clients. You can adjust expectations on order lead times and be careful to “under promise, over deliver” but don’t stop marketing altogether because you’ll struggle to find time to start again until you already need more sales.

      Yes, good point on debtors, the quicker you get your invoices raised the quicker you can manage any credit control issues and ensure that your cash keep flowing.
      Robert Peters recently posted..3 Reasons Google Doesn’t Love Your WebsiteMy Profile

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