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Freelancing is by its nature a different experience for every person. There’s no company handbook, no set policies and no hard and fast rules (other than those imposed by the tax authorities!). Working style, dress code, working hours and a host of other variable factors mean that each person takes their own approach to freelance working, whether they work in the professional translation industry or in any other sector.
That said, there are certain similarities between freelancers, including some of the mistakes that they can make. Here we look at five of the most common freelancing mistakes and how to avoid them.
Marketing and strategy
Many freelancers operate without a marketing plan or strategy in place. This is a mistake. Although these are often seen as documents that are only useful for large companies, they can actually reap rewards for freelancers as well.
Marketing plans and strategy documents don’t need to be more than one page. They don’t even need to be typed. The purpose of them is to focus the mind on what your goals are and how you are going to achieve them – essential considerations for anyone looking to maximise their potential!
Even if the whole idea of marketing fills you with dread, spend an hour working on your strategy and see how it changes the way you think about your freelancing. We think you’ll be surprised by the results.
Whether you provide a translation service, work as a writer or specialise in data entry, chances are that invoicing isn’t one of your favourite tasks. For many freelancers, it’s a burdensome admin task that takes time away from actually earning money.
However, putting off your invoicing until you have time is a mistake. If you delay issuing your invoices, you are delaying receiving income from your clients. This will impact on your turnover. Instead, have a fixed day of the week or month when you set time aside to issue your invoices, grab your favourite snack as a treat and work your way through those bills until every last one is sent out!
Interestingly, many freelancers are reserved about sharing their rates with new clients. While this shouldn’t be the first thing you introduce in a discussion with a potential client, it also shouldn’t be something that you are shy about bringing up. As a freelancer you provide a professional service that has a set value. Don’t feel embarrassed about raising that before discussions with a potential client advance too far. If your rate is too high for the client, then progressing the conversation any further will waste both of your time.
Publishing your rates on your website is a good way to address this. You can ask the potential client whether they have visited your website, to understand immediately whether they already know what you charge. If not, be clear at an early stage.
All freelancers have tasks that they view as dull, unpleasant or irritating. The nature of freelance work means that you have to deal with marketing, finance, taxation and all other matters related to your employment. Some of those jobs will be the kind you could happily put off for a lifetime, but delaying them can be a mistake. Instead, address these tasks swiftly when they arise. First thing in the morning is always good, as you can tick the task off your list and then feel pleased with yourself for having done so for the rest of the day. Leave a boring task to the end of the day and it’s all too tempting to snooze it to the following day!
Many freelancers struggle to say no. Whether it’s to additional work when they already have a full schedule, to working with horribly demanding/time-consuming clients or to lower rates than they would usually accept, saying no can be tricky at times.
However, being nervous of turning down a client’s request can lead to undue stress and can impact on income. Be confident in your skills and abilities and have the courage to say no when the situation demands it. You’ll be pleased that you did.
What other common mistakes do freelancers make? Have you made any of these yourself? Share your views and experiences with us via the comments box.