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4 Mistakes That Could Send Your Freelance Career Down The Drain

03/10/2016 3:11 PM IST | Updated 05/10/2016 8:33 AM IST
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Working as a freelancer is an exciting prospect, but it brings a host of responsibilities. When you work as a freelancer, you don multiple hats across all aspects of your business. This can range from creating business plans and strategy, to product design and service deliverables, all the way through to ensuring a stellar customer experience.

Being your own boss and having no supervisor requires you to be good at devising winning strategies and rules.

When you freelance, it's easy to make mistakes that can compromise your work and client relationships. It doesn't matter whether you work directly with your own clients, collaborate with other freelancers, or are hired by agencies—mistakes will only set you back and potentially damage your business. Being your own boss and having no supervisor requires you to be good at devising winning strategies and rules. Therefore, in order to achieve success, one must avoid the following mistakes:

1. Presenting a quotation without understanding client needs

New clients often lack the ability to benchmark the quality of your work. They may have predisposed ideas or expectations from a previous service provider, and hence may assume your work to be of the same standard. It is therefore important that you construct your quotation to bring out the nuances and the quality parameters you offer. This will help prospective clients to understand the impact of your services on achieving their goals.

Setting the right pricing strategy is an extremely difficult task given the lack of clear comparative criteria, and the dynamic competition that results from a plethora of service providers competing for the same job. Key considerations are:

  1. Deep undercutting may lead to a race to the bottom with other freelancers. Do it only if you have the ability to sustain the price drops.
  2. Ask yourself if this is a one time job, or if the client is likely to need your services over a longer period of time. Tailor your price with the term of the job in mind.
  3. It's best to regularly check your competitors' price for similar work for self-evaluation. This understanding will help you get a higher share of your customer's wallet as well as keep you honest and fair. There are many open source benchmarking tools available today where one can compare prices even within categories.

2. Expecting to work regular business hours

The freedom to work flexible hours is one of the biggest attractions of freelancing. This is in direct contrast with the regular 9-5 jobs that many freelancers switch from in order to break the monotony and routine, which directly affects one's ability to think and work efficiently. With digitization, your business has become 24x7. This means that your customers across the globe expect you to work or provide them updates irrespective of time zones and work hours. Be prepared to be nimble, and prioritize tasks to meet your client's deadlines and expectations.

Be prepared to be nimble, and prioritize tasks to meet your client's deadlines and expectations.

Another important and simple way to keep your clients happy is to provide time estimates and service-level commitments upfront. By planning your schedule well, you can be available to both global clients during their work time zones, and your business partners locally, too. Most office suite and email providers have calendars that can synch with multiple devices and help you keep track of your meetings on the move. Ensure that you create a work flow chart, inclusive of all the man hours required for the end result.

3. Failing to Communicate

It is of utmost importance that the entrepreneur devises his or her communication based on the client needs. At a high level, the information required by a client at different stages varies. For example, when making a sales pitch, the focus of the communication should be on calling out the service benefits and earning trust. Similarly, when an existing client reaches out for a query or a complaint, it is mostly related to the work product and may be technical in nature.

There is always the temptation to say yes to your client, even when you know that what they are asking for is outside of your expertise.

The best way to streamline communication is to create broad templates for a sales pitch, FAQs and blurbs. Some of the most frequent responses can be even automated using email-based alerts and notifications. Most freelance marketplaces offer such automation tools for freelancers. It is also important to note that the most common client query is, "What's the status of my job?" Proactive status updates will not only reduce the communication burden, but will also keep the client informed about the progress of their jobs.

4. Taking on projects outside your skillset

Reliable, expert freelancers are difficult for a client to identify, so when they find one, they want to maximize their work with these providers. This is definitely a big win and it often results in steady business. However, one has to guard against over-committing to clients. Over-commitments can be caused by a lack of resources, or by accepting work that requires skillsets that you lack. There is always the temptation to say yes to your client, even when you know that what they are asking for is outside of your expertise. Freelancers often do this—they say yes, and then they devote time to research the new task. This may lead to distraction from your schedule and does not guarantee a high-quality output. Moreover, the client may not have agreed to pay for the time invested by you in research. Of course, you might be able to use the new knowledge or skill to find new clients or win new contracts, but it is best to evaluate such skills on their own merit, without a looming deadline and a nervous client.

Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, being a freelancer brings a great many challenges, but also offers the flexibility to do what you'd like, when you'd like. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can properly value your time and your skills, produce great results, and keep a healthy work-life balance.

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