3 mistakes I made when I started freelancing
In a lot of ways making mistakes are a good thing. It means you're pushing the boundaries of what you can do and what you want to achieve. You make mistakes, understand what you've done wrong and then have the opportunity to learn from it and make sure you do things a lot better next time round.
n the business world people make mistakes all the time, especially when they're fairly new to something. I've been freelancing for 3 years and I know I've made a lot of mistake throughout that journey. The good news is, that I've learnt from those mistakes and made lots of improvements. For my own benefit and hopefully others, I wanted to look back at some of those mistakes and see how I would do things differently today.
1. Offering ridiculously low prices on my website services
When I first started I took on a handful of jobs that essentially cost me money. In a desperate bid to get as many clients as I could I was offering to build websites for next to nothing. In theory this seems like a good idea, building up your client list, build up your portfolio and then gradually increase your prices. In reality it doesn't work like this at all. The problem is that when you start at such a low price it's very difficult to break out of that. If you get referrals from these low paying clients, they are to other people who want exactly the same deal! So you end up in this vicious cycle that you feel as soon as you break, you'll have no clients. What would I do different now? Firstly, more research! I should of spent far more time researching the prices I should be charging for the services I was offering. There are some good sites that will show you averages for different areas of expertise. http://cole007.net/blog/130/freelance-rates-survey-2012 although a little out of date, shows a nice break down of expertise, location, experience to give you an idea of freelancer rates. I recently found another handy tool to work out your freelancer rates...http://ournameismud.co.uk/fraq/ The other point is spending time on finding out more about your client. I should of been far more picky over my clients, especially the ones that wanted further reductions on my already rock bottom prices! Ask yourself, Are they well established, are they in an industry thats growing? What size are they? Are they just looking for a cheap deal or a good quality service? Also, don't be afraid of a client saying 'it's too expensive', this will only encourage you to go in with a lower price. If you've done your research and put together a fair price for both parties, then you're doing the right thing. A little side note on pricing. Sometimes you'll under price things and that's a little different. Certain things will take a little longer than expected but hopefully that will average out with a few things that were a lot easier than expected too, this is another thing you'll get better at over time.
2. Trying to be something you're not
This is related to what you call yourself and how you present your 'business'. I believed that in order for things to be real, I needed to have some creative business name that would prove I was a 'company' so that clients would take me seriously. Even though it was just me, freelancing, I thought that to get more business, with bigger clients I needed to pretend I was a company, with a team of people. The reality is that it's bullshit and there is nothing worse than companies/small businesses trying to pretend they're something they're not. What would I do differently now? Looking back, I wish I'd just used my own name and made it very clear that I was a freelancing and working on my own. To be fair, I always made it fairly clear I was a freelancer, just working under a company name. Don't fall into this trap of worrying clients won't want to work with you if you're on your own. Sure, there will be some clients that won't but for every client that doesn't there are dozens that will want to work with you. So if it's just you, say it's just you, don't tell people you have a "team" or sign up to one of those silly virtual assistant things…just answer your own phone.
3. Being afraid to ask for support/help
I used to think that if you asked someone for help, it meant that you didn't know what you were doing. I thought that because I'd taken the decision to work for myself so I should be the expert and it was my duty to solve all the problems I encountered. This thought process caused me so much stress and it's probably one of the biggest mistakes I made. The reality is that regardless of your skill level, there will always be times when you need some extra input or to thrash out a problem with a like minded person. What would I do differently now? The first thing I should of done is focus on building up a network of like minded people. I wish I'd reached out to similar people in the area, who were doing similar things. I didn't do this and became a little isolated which only made it even harder to find people that could help out. Secondly, if you previously worked at a company, think how many meetings and phone calls you would of had to solve problem X. Did that mean you didn't know what you were doing? Not at all, it was just the smart thing to do in order to get the job done well. Don't take everything on your own shoulders, ask for help when you need it and don't be ashamed to do so.
To be perfectly honest, I could probably dig out a number of other mistakes but I think that will do for now. Maybe I'll follow up with another post later. The final thing I'll say is this, when you start freelancing, network with as many like minded people as you can and you'll be amazed how many have the same questions/concerns and problems as you and are more than willing to help out. I think every business or person I've worked with, competitor or otherwise has shared advice that have helped and hopefully I've done the same for them.Tweet