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Smashing eBook 2 Successful Freelancing

Smashing eBook 2 Successful Freelancing

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Published by David Perez

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Published by: David Perez on Jun 23, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/03/2014

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by Robert Bowen

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Smashing eBook Series: #2 Successful Freelancing for Web Designers

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Seeing as we are all human (well, presumably whoever is reading this
post anyway), we should recognize that mistakes happen. They even
have that saying, “To err is human…,” which goes to show that it is not
only commonplace for us to err once or twice: it is expected. But a
method is behind this madness, because making mistakes is one of
the major ways we learn. This is no different for freelancers.

Finding our way over these bumps in the road often gives us valuable
insight to take away. It helps us develop techniques and methods that
we can incorporate into our creative process. As freelancers, we have
the benefit of access to an entire online community that is willing to
share its experiences so that we can learn without having to make the
same mistakes.

So in this chapter, we look at some critical mistakes freelancers make.
Hopefully, if you haven’t already made one of these mistakes yourself,
you can learn the lesson behind it.

They don’t use a contract

One of the first things freelancers learn when contracting out their
services to others is… to use a contract! Unfortunately, we often learn
this lesson the hard way. For whatever reason, we think that a
particular client of ours is someone we can work for without the aid
and protection of a contract. This tends to end in one way: by biting
us in the back end.

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Without this safeguard in place, you open yourself up to so many
potential problems, and you may inadvertently end up committing to
more than you had intended or even imagined. Freelancers only make
this mistake once, if at all. This lesson is not a secret in the freelance
community. The advice comes up often: always use a contract. And
many heed the warning once they hear it.

They misuse social media (or don’t use it at all)

Another common, but critical, pitfall that freelancers tumble into is
misusing social media, if they even use it at all. Social media is a major
tool that offers all freelancers an invaluable resource at their
fingertips. An entire community of professionals connected via
modems, ready and willing to offer each other whatever assistance
they can. Neglecting this stream of industry insight, or not using it
properly, can hinder the growth of your business.

Social media is about interacting with people and fostering
relationships, which, if done with consideration and attention, can
create opportunities you would have otherwise missed out on (not to
mention friendships that can outlast jobs). Especially at the beginning
of your freelancing career, if you make the mistake of misusing the
media, you could be seen as an anti-social pariah in your corner of
the Web.

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They put quantity over quality in their portfolio

When putting their portfolio together, some freelancers mistakenly
believe that the more they add to their portfolio, the better. Then it
becomes about quantity and not quality of work. They forget the
value of the portfolio in opening doors and creating opportunities.

The phrase “Put your best foot forward” applies in this situation. Your
portfolio speaks volumes about your skills, freeing you from having to
say too much and risk coming off as more arrogant than confident.
Let your portfolio do the talking, and don’t make the mistake of
prioritizing quantity and sending the wrong message. Quality makes
the best first impression, so make the most of it.

They stop learning

This one has to be said. It can do so much harm to freelancers, no
matter what their field: that is, they stop learning. But especially for
freelancers who work in a field as dynamic and ever-expanding as
design and development, staying ahead of the curve is absolutely
crucial to meeting your clients’ needs.

This field is continually evolving with new techniques and
applications. Throwing in the towel on education is virtual suicide.
You, your work and your career would stagnate. Thankfully, with this
online culture we have today, cultivating an environment in which we
can sustain our education is easy. Not taking advantage of these

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learning opportunities is a mistake that could potentially cost you
your business.

They don’t know how to deal with clients

Another common mistake is that freelancers forget their people skills
when dealing with clients. For whatever reason, we let slip in our
minds that clients hire us because they don’t know how to do the
work themselves. They are in unknown territory, and as freelancers we
should always be sensitive to that and bridge as many gaps in
knowledge as we can. This will only improve your future dealings with
the client and earn you more respect and trust in the business.

Obviously, without clients, you are a freelancer in title alone, so make
sure you know not only how to engage clients but how to entice them
back. Being able to assess needs that they aren’t even able to
articulate and then communicating it all back to them is an invaluable
skill. Neglecting it can be costly.

They fail to prepare for dry spells

This mistake is definitely better learned second-hand, and that is not
preparing for occasions when no work is coming in. Droughts hit even
the best of them, especially in these tough economic times.
Freelancers often forget to account for that in their pricing structure
and to save up in good times for when things go south.

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There is a logic behind the rates we charge, and part of it is to sustain
us after we have completed work for one client and eagerly await the
next. Of course, we can always find work to do, but paying work is
what sustains us as freelancers. Calling this mistake costly is too close
to punning for comfort, but its impact is definitely felt and could force
you to suspend freelancing and seek out supplemental employment,
thus making it even harder for you to create your own opportunities.

They overload their plate

This next mistake sometimes results from a fear of the
aforementioned dry spell. Of course, greed might also play a role.
Whatever the reason, some freelancers don’t know when enough is
enough, and they continue to take on new projects as their plate
overloads. Overextending yourself and your business like this can
destabilize your workflow.

Freelancers need a certain degree of self-awareness to know when
they have reached their limit. Reputation—that is, a good one—is
important to your business’ development. Spreading yourself too thin
is never good, and the distraction could hamper your creativity. This is
another of those mistakes that are difficult to recover from.

They miss a deadline (and think it’s no big deal)

This, too, is often a consequence of the previous mistake in our list.
Falling behind when you are overloaded is all too easy, but missing a

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deadline can have a debilitating effect on your business. And if you
think missing a deadline is no big deal, your career may be over
before it begins. Deadlines keep you on track and help you multitask,
as well as keep your client on track with the development of their
project.

Once again, reputation is critical to building your brand and making
your mark in the freelancing market. And a great way to ruin that
reputation is by proving yourself unreliable. Stay productive and
ahead of your tasks to avoid disrupting your client’s timetable. If you
end up making this mistake, own up to it. Don’t offer excuses, simply
propose a new timetable and continue working hard to meet it. But
clearly acknowledge the problem you have created for your client. If
you make this mistake once, you may not have an opportunity to
make it again.

They lack confidence

Lacking confidence in themselves or in their work is another mistake
that can plague freelancers, even beyond their business. Being your
own worst critic and holding your work to a higher standard than that
of others is natural (right?). But at a certain point, you are no longer
critiquing so much as tearing down your work. Dismissing the talent
and abilities that have carried you this far is misguided and will do
nothing for your productivity.

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Without confidence, making it as a freelancer will be extremely
difficult. You’ll start taking useful and well-intended criticism bitterly,
missing the person’s point and spiraling further into a pool of doubt
and self-pity. Lack of confidence hinders your skills and the growth of
your business. Clients will pick up on it quickly, because the freelancer
is supposed to have a commanding role. Our responsibility is to guide
the client to make effective decisions and win them over to our point
of view; without confidence, this becomes unlikely. You’ll undervalue
both yourself and your work. So have faith in your abilities, and know
that your unique voice is needed in the ranks of the freelancing arena.

They go to work for someone else

Another blunder freelancers make is to work tirelessly to build their
business, only to accept the first offer for a cushy job that comes
along. No longer being your own boss would seem easy to adjust to,
but it can be like moving back under your parents’ roof after you’ve
tasted the freedom of living on your own. It simply doesn’t fit as
comfortably as it once did. Simply readjusting is not so easy because
freelancing is more than a job: it is a way of life.

Some people tell themselves that freelancing was all along a stopgap
to some greater dream, but true freelancers find that pill hard to
swallow. For some, that might be true, but then those people were
not freelancers so much as temporary independent contractors.
Freelancers crave the freedom that comes with the ’lancing. Still
others believe they can work for someone else and maintain their

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freelancing on the side. In theory, this might appear viable. The reality
is harsher: freelancing is full-time. It is a way of life, and turning it into
a part-time job spells trouble.

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