Freelancer’s errors: a few tips to work better

To choose to work as a freelancer involves, obviously, a series of advantages and disadvantages with which each of us have to deal with. On one side, the long yearned  professional freedom and the desire to self-manage one’s own professionalism, on the other side the economical insecurity (especially at the beginning), the difficulties in the bureaucracy management ( how to draw up a good preventive? What kind of contract to use? ) and  the organization (how to find the first clients? How many projects can I work at the same time?)

Actually, taken off all the beginning difficulties caused mainly by  the inexperience, the freelancing offers more opportunities than  hindrance and bonds, as long as one knows how to react in a proper and positive way  in front of the different problems as they present and know how to avoid  those small  typical errors of  who work in freedom  and have to rely only on themselves.

What kind of errors am I talking about? Let’s take a look at them together.

Taking one’s own job lightly

The passage from an employee to an independent worker is always exciting and the first mistake that can happen to make is, almost always unwillingly, is to take it  too easy: finally we can throw away the alarm clock and take a decent break for lunch and perhaps take a nap after lunch… winding up with a mountain of  piled up work and dozens of non respected deadlines.

Being a freelancer doesn’t mean not to have a  boss, but be the boss of yourself and employee of every single client that you have to which you must give the maximum professionalism and dedication. My advice is to start  giving yourself rules to respect like on the working schedule, breaks, and job organization. Consider that,  unlike when you worked as employee, you have to find time to work out marketing strategies, to contact potential clients, to update your portfolio and more you have more you put…..a self employed worker can’t afford to rest on the laurels! Before you can  relax there’s a lot of work to do.

My advices:

1- Eliminate the distractions: if you were an employee during the working hours you couldn’t receive phone calls from your best friend or talk freely on skpe (yeah, right…) o waste hours and hours jumping from one blog on web design to another…all these distractions make you waste your time and lose your concentration, making it impossible to finish a project. Establish  precise moments to control your email, turn off the mobile’s bell  and close the social network.

2- Buy an agenda where you can mark daily things ( for a major organization you can arrange the different hours of  the day)  to do, in a priority order.

3-Leave for the end of the day the light work like backup, updating and email handling. These activities require a little waste of energy and concentration respect the main ones.

No time for yourself

On the other side, killing yourself with hours and hours of work has no sense: it’s useless to start an independent job from home and never leave the desk or skip the meals to work more. A positive aspect of the freelance activity is the possibility to have some time and  “unplug the plug”, for awhile. A good shower (especially in these months of heat that , my goodness, are going to come), a break for a coffee or an ice-cream, half an hour of television or read a  book. The breaks make us happier, satisfied and more productive, this  is the fact. My advice, in this case, is only one: take the best of it!

Accept every  job

I often read of freelancers that complain for the vast amount of work they have, because they don’t have anymore Saturdays and Sundays, because they work “more than  as employees”.

This can be true, but actually nobody orders you to accept every job: you are the one who values, weigh up the opportunities (total of hours, total profit) and choose if you are more or less able to accept a job.

Don’t be greedy: even if you are at the beginning and the absence of  a secure salary starts to show, don’t say yes to every job, apart  the payment or what your client aspects from you. Always value how much time they give you and the other projects that you are working on and be ready to decline the job if you simply realize that you can’t do it. You are the responsible of your choices and you have to answer for eventual delays in the deliver or for badly done projects: it’s always better to be honest with oneself recognizing one’s limits than  cut a poor figure and be considered as a newcomer with no experience  that doesn’t know how to organize his time and for a couple of dollars accepted a job for which doesn’t have the right competencies

Summarizing: better two satisfied clients than ten neglected clients, right?

Not protecting one’s work with a private deed

This is one basic principles of the freelance activity: be the lawyer of oneself . Everything that has to do with the service offered, the prices, the conditions of payment and deadlines have to be written down and signed by both parties.

Even if the price will be accepted by voice or by e-mail, send and mark an official preventive. Therefore, even if the client is kind and assigns you more projects in a determined period, for every single project draw up a contract including the price, the work to do and the time limit in which the project will be finished and delivered, even if this means  sending three contracts in a week and seems for both parties a boring and useless bureaucratic routine

Each time that there’s a request for changes or additional work not estimated, write a note make your client sign it: unless the client  is worth  of your unconditional  trust, don’t do an extra job without being in some way protected.

Give too much confidence to the client

In an idealistic world this wouldn’t be considered as a error. It can happen that, for character or for spontaneous sympathy, or for who knows what, you give to client more confidence than the one required  for a  equal professional relationship. This often brings to urgent requests for free work(“it’s a fast thing, you’ll do it in a minute!”), retards in the payments (“come on, meet me half way”) and phone calls at every hour of the day and so on, because unfortunately, it’s a human thing and  (un)fair that if I give a finger, as a result they’ll take the whole hand without asking permission.

My advice is, obviously  not to maintain the distances with the client :we’re human, and it’s human that arise sympathies, and even friendships or that at a long term  relations of collaboration and reciprocal trust get stronger. What I advice you is to be ready say no when your availability  gets distorted and  exploited  to obtain a better price,  a discount , extra work  a whatever advantage for the client.

Always defend your professionalism: this has nothing to do with  your sympathy or your interpersonal capabilities.

Stop studying and improve oneself

A lot of work and little time, a real bad mix for a web designer freelance.

The technologies go forward, the trends change, new books and new methods (almost always better)come out to do the same job: who stands still is dead, as it‘s said. In our job it’s essential to keep on studying, read and being informed, as it’s really easy to be left behind and be labelled as obsolete and uninformed.

So, try to carve out a space in order to take care of your competencies: buy (and read) books, take a break and take a look at the blogs on this sector or follow a tutorial,  keep in practice and always find new ways to improve what you do: if you don’t find them today, surely you’ll find them tomorrow or the day after.


In this article I wanted to give you, as a friend,  some advices regarding the management of your activity as freelancer: especially if you’re a novice, or you’re planning to leave your comfortable nest of wage job to work on your own account, some of these tips can come useful.

Instead, if you recognize yourself in one of these errors, be honest….which one is your weak point? In which of these freelancer’s errors do you  recognize yourself in most?


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The Author

Web designer, has been working in the field of graphics and web development for six years and at the moment besides collaborating with a web agency successfully manages her freelance activity under the name of mascara design. Like many freelancers she is used to handling more roles, ranging from paper graphics to the development of html and css codes; nonetheless this passion of hers remains, always and however, web graphics.

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