The 5 biggest mistakes that freelancers make – and how to avoid them
Mistakes are easy to make. But when you’re starting out as a freelancer, inexperience can lead you into some common traps, which can hamper your progress as a business or cause you stress and delay. In this article, we take a look at the biggest and most common freelancer mistakes, and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Not having a contract
You’re eager to get going on a project, the client seems nice enough, so do you really need to go through all the faff of writing up and signing a contract? Why not just dive in and get started.
This is the thought process of many inexperienced freelancers. However, once you’ve experienced a client dispute, pushing the boundaries of the brief, or arguing about the deadline, you’ll soon wish you had spent that extra time drawing up a contract.
A contract is an important agreement between you and your client. It sets expectations, outlines key dates, offers payment terms, and agrees responsibilities. Without all this, you can leave yourself open to extra work and hassle for what should have been a simple job.
• Have a standard contract that you adapt for each job or new client.
• Make sure it contains space for you to add in deadlines, agreed deliverables, and a payment
schedule as a minimum.
• We have put together a helpful guide on what to include in a freelancer contract.
Mistake #2: Undervaluing your time
Many freelancers are undercharging. This can come about for a number of reasons: you haven’t researched the market properly, you don’t feel confident in your own skills, you’re worried about losing clients if you charge more, or you underestimate how long jobs will take you.
Undervaluing your time is a costly mistake to make as a freelancer. It can mean you have to work extended hours to make ends meet, upsetting your work/life balance.
• Research the market rates for your services and level of expertise.
• Compare with other freelancers.
• Know your worth – see our how to set your rates as a freelancer blog for more insight.
• Review rates regularly. You could think about increasing them annually, or in line with inflation, or as you gain additional skills and experience.
Mistake #3: Taking on too much
As a freelancer, if you are not working, you’re not earning. It is tempting to say yes to every offer of work that comes along, because who knows what next month will be like.
Unfortunately, if you’ve got too much on your plate – it is likely to all go wrong. You’ll have to work faster, which might lead to mistakes. You might start to miss deadlines, irritating clients. Taking on too much might actually lead you to lose work.
• Use calendars or diaries to plan your workload, and don’t overbook.
• Schedule in breathing space for projects that overrun unexpectedly, business admin, or just to take care of your own health.
• Learn how to say no when necessary!
Mistake #4: Being too nice
Trying to keep client’s sweet means it is tempting not to rock the boat too much when you’re a freelancer. Often freelancers let their boundaries get overstepped time and time again, feeling powerless in the face of larger organisations. Late invoices, for example, are a common problem.
Over half of freelancers have experienced late payments, according to research from IPSE. Freelancers are also vulnerable to scope creep, where the client keeps adding extra work onto the task without offering any additional payment for the time it will take.
• Challenge clients if they behave unprofessionally – you can be assertive without being impolite.
• Get Freelancer Assist – this service comes bundled with every Dinghy freelancer insurance policy and can help you chase unpaid invoices.
• Check out our blog for guidance on how to stop scope creep.
Mistake #5: Not having business insurance
Freelancers operating without business insurance are taking a huge risk. Being uninsured can leave you open to financial losses, which can come about if a client is unhappy with your work, or if there is an accident and someone is harmed as a result. Sometimes these claims can stretch into thousands of pounds, so not having business insurance is one of the costliest mistakes a freelancer can make.
Get business insurance sorted ASAP. We recommend these types for freelancers:
- Professional indemnity: to protect your work against accusations of negligence, bad advice, and other mistakes.
- Public liability: to protect people around you and their property.
- Business equipment: to protect your essential business gear.
- Cyber liability: to protect your data and systems.
Look for insurance tailored specifically for freelancers – these will have policy limits suited to the scope and size of your business, and expertise in handling claims from freelancers like you.
Choose an insurer that allows you to pay monthly to spread the cost. Look out for unique features like the ability to pause your policy when you’re not working.
We all make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes are valuable – they provide us with an opportunity to learn, change and grow. But these common pitfalls can get in the way of your business flourishing.
We hope that this guide will help you avoid these freelancing banana skins. A flexible insurance package like Dinghy’s will help protect your business and livelihood against other slip-ups, accidents, and threats. To get covered, answer a few quick questions about your business to get a no-obligation quote straight to your inbox.