7 Common Mistakes made by Freelancers

This post is for those freelancers who have recently started working on online freelance market places and also those struggling to win jobs.

Here are the 7 common mistakes that freelancers commit that may mean the difference between earning top dollar and not getting a job at all:

1.  Not presenting yourself as a business person

If you are interested only in pocket money, this attitude may be fine as you can make do with projects once in a while. But, if you are in it for higher income and more business, and you are in it full-time or considering the jump to full-time career, then you must play the role of a business person. This will instill confidence in the hirer as s/he understands that you are serious about your reputation. You will thus stand a higher chance of winning projects. Naturally, you will ask – What does ‘presenting oneself as a business person’ mean? For this take a look around at successful business in your community or even the elsewhere. You will see that they have certain things in common, like – they fulfill a need or fill a gap by providing the goods or services, they put customers’ interest first (adhering to deadlines, service quality etc.), they constantly evolve or adapt as per changes in the business environment, and they have higher productivity (more output per input). These are just some of the differentiators of successful businesses. Not following them will simply put you across as an amateur.

2. Profile is incomplete / outdated / unrealistic

All hirers will tell you that given all things equal, they will most likely award a project to a person whose profile is updated. Your profile has a brief about your experience, skill-sets, portfolio etc and is the next stop an interested buyer will reach after reading your proposal. An incomplete or outdated profile will put them off with the thought that the freelancer doesn’t have attention to detail. Some freelancers give an impression that they are experts in everything from logo design to HTML and dozens of programming languages to Internet marketing and SEO. The skill set list is sometimes deliberately kept large – it is called ‘keyword stuffing’ so as to always be figured in every search result. “Stuffing” keywords might land a prospective client during search results, but will certainly miff them for waste of time. Its logical that one person can’t possibly be doing all that is written. So just write what you are actually good at.

3. You always bid low

When one begins freelancing, a low bid amount may be alright for first few projects in order to win the project and thus get feedback ratings which will consequently land you more jobs. But once you have completed some projects, ask for what your work is worth. This way, you too are motivated to continue and the clients get their work delivered by a motivated freelancer. And it is certainly acceptable if you ask for more in case of project scope changes in between. For higher value projects, bidding very low may send out a signal that you are not too confident in your abilities and hence are competing only based on price.

4. There is a communication gap

If you have any questions before bidding on a project, it is always better to ask. Even during the course of the project, don’t shy away from seeking clarifications, maybe recommending better alternatives, or even placing new ideas before them. It will delight the client to know that you have their interest at heart. I always emphasize on the importance of keeping the employer informed regularly on the status of the project. In a research done on doctors in the US, it was observed that patients are less likely to sue a doctor if s/he (the doctor) communicated well with them and also used humor. After the project is complete always thank your clients for the project and the rating. This will go a long way in forging a business relationship. This is also a good opportunity to let them know about other services that you provide and also a chance to give them your contact details.

5. You are shy about asking for review / rating

This follows from the last point about communicating with the clients. After the project is completed, go ahead and request the client politely to rate your services as it will land you future projects. Some clients may not know how to go about rating – assist them by going to the “Help” section of the website, copy the address to the relevant post on ratings and send it to them. This will help them do it faster and will also leave a positive impression on them.

6. Too Many Missed Deadlines

Missing a deadline for valid reasons are acceptable by the buyer / client. Explain to them why this project may take longer and request for an extension of the deadline, which they will have to set through their account, or you are likely to receive automated warning messages from the marketplace about missed deadlines. In some cases, it may trigger an automatic project cancellation or even worse, an arbitration / dispute resolution process. But, if you keep missing deadlines for reasons that seem like lame excuses, it will surely get you bad ratings. After all, the client too has responsibilities to their business or organization. Sometimes you miss the deadline due to procrastination, low energy or one is just plain bored with the project. You should consider the “don’t-feel-like-getting-out-of-the-bed” factor in the schedule when you bid. Take care of your health, eat the right food that don’t leave you tired, drink lots of water (a cup or two of coffee is okay), listen to your favorite music, walk / exercise, and take 10 minute breaks after every 2 hours. This way you won’t dread going back to work on that project.

7. Wrong Project Choice

The Pareto principle (or the 80-20 rule) in business states that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. So don’t say yes to every project that comes your way. Decline low paying but effort intensive projects politely – it is better if you can refer them to some of your friends who will be happy to do it. Treat valuable clients – those clients who hire you time and again at the right price – like VIPs. In the same note, avoid clients that cause you stress. Those extra dollars are not worth it if they will be used to buy Aspirin.

I hope that this post has helped you to identify your weak points – go work on them and wish you much success!