The freedom that comes with online freelancing is amazing. Opportunities are limitless and if you do it well, you’ll also find yourself laughing all the way to the bank. However, there are a few mistakes that freelancers make that are killing freelancing careers every day. They are often left wondering what went wrong. I admit, I once made some of these mistakes myself and I learnt heavily from them. You don’t want to make them if you value your profession.
There are probably hundreds of mistakes, but in this article, I’ve picked out some of the worst ones. Read along.
MISTAKES TO AVOID AS A FREELANCER
1. GETTING INVOLVED IN SCAMS
The desire for fast and easy money is driving people crazy and making them desperate. They can do absolutely anything to make fast money. However, this also makes them a target to some really bad scams that are sinking people into depression. Some of the current scams include MMM, PublicLikes, BitcoinSlip and D9 Clube among others. They simply promise you heaven and earth with no effort. And as humans are naturally greedy, heavy cashout for the hunter.
Note that in life there are no rewards without effort. All these scams end in only one way. They come crashing and people lose millions (and even billions in some instances).
Do not get caught up in scams and do not refer people to scams as well. Learn to always earn from your sweat. It feels awesome to earn legitimately. And in future, things also get easier as you set up semi-passive and fully passive streams of income.
2. DESIRE TO WORK UNDER SOMEONE FIRST
“I don’t want to look for my own clients, I want to first work with someone, learn from them and then get my own clients.” This is the excuse that some freelancers are now using to replace laziness.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some people who will take you under their wings and have you working under them till you can stand on your own but they’re rare and even for the most kind-hearted people, this gets tiring and they stop making such arrangements. Sometimes, the inexperienced workers even end up messing with these kind men and women. Trust me, I’ve been in this situation. I sacrificed so much to give people free stuff, only to end up regretting it.
I still give people lots of free stuff, but in moderation so that I don’t end up being misused.
If you’re absolutely new to online work, I recommend you get some training first and note that there’s nothing like free training. You’ll either pay someone to train you and show you the ropes or you “pay” by doing lots of online research and trying things out, which may sometimes mean making lots of rookie mistakes.
Both paid training and self-training work. It’s just that having someone train who can help you go faster and reduce your chances of making mistakes. But if you’re starting out broke, you can still take a few hours per day to learn things yourself.
Once you’re ready, go straight to the clients. Don’t look for some knight in shining armour who will spoon-feed you because, in most cases, that knight in shining armour does not exist.
3. OVER-DEPENDENCE ON ACCOUNTS
For those who aren’t aware, working accounts are different freelancing websites where people join to look for clients and jobs. There are “take” accounts like iWriter where you just log in and get jobs and “bid” accounts like Upwork where you apply for jobs and wait to get hired by clients.
A lot of people mistakenly think that “take” accounts are better. I, however, have stated before that “bid” accounts are the best because of the direct client approach.
Back in 2012, accounts were the in-thing and we would get hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars weekly from these but right now, things are different. Accounts are getting more strict every day so it’s difficult for new freelancers to get into some without proper guidance. There’s also increased competition, therefore many people don’t earn thousands or even hundreds of dollars from them anymore.
I’d still like to clarify that you can actually earn well using accounts. However, not everyone pays for expert training. Unlike in 2012, most who join these sites without a good strategy didn’t end up earning much.
Some clients on these sites pay peanuts and scammers are on the rise. Let’s not even mention the exorbitant rates some of these sites charge. Others discriminate and thus, will not let you in just because you’re not from the “right country”.
In fact, there are many people worldwide who are campaigning against accounts. I don’t campaign against them. I just tell people to diversify their client acquisition strategy. After all, we’re not all blessed the same way. Some will succeed through accounts and others will succeed in getting direct clients.
So, how are people getting awesome clients today? What’s the future of online work?
The answer is direct clients. The very best clients aren’t just somewhere sitting in a site waiting for you. The best (in most cases) are out there in the online wilderness, and you need to find them, pitch and convert them. So you should diversify your strategy to include online accounts, job boards, cold-pitching, blogging and social media. Also, your friends and family who are in a complementary business e.g. if you’re a writer, your web designer friend can get you to be the writer in all the sites s/he designs
However, when it comes to direct clients, you really need to avoid working for the annoying ones.
4. WORKING FOR ANNOYING CLIENTS
If you are dealing with a bad client, some of the things you’ll be handling include insults, unwarranted revisions, low pay, poor communication, late payments and unreasonable deadlines.
These are not the kind of people you want to work with. If you come across such, fire them immediately. They can make your life so miserable that you may even want to give up on online work completely.
I once worked with such a bad client for a month and after all those nasty words, crazy revisions etc, I realized that I wasn’t really moving anywhere with him. I fired him and went on to look for awesome clients. He keeps trying to come back but that ship has sailed.
I never ever again tolerate bad clients. All my clients now value my work and I. We have awesome working relationships.
So remember you’re the one in charge of your success and you can do better without that nasty client.
5. WRITING BAD PROPOSALS
Remember I told you the world is changing? Great jobs are no longer just found in different freelancing accounts.
Now, whenever you’re looking for a job, you need to actually interact with the client and show them you’re the best person for the job. This is either done through a proposal e.g. in sites like Upwork, or a pitch when you’re reaching out to direct clients.
And this is where a lot of people have it all wrong;
Writing proposals is a skill that you need to work really hard to acquire. Social media has gotten people used to short responses such as “Interested”, “I’m in”, “Give me the job” etc. That doesn’t cut it. Even if you’re a super-freelancer, a client won’t get convinced by a simple “Interested” comment while there are dozens of guys, probably not as qualified as you, who are sending in mouth-watering proposals.
Did you know that Upwork is now kicking out people who keep sending too many proposals without winning jobs? Yes, they figured out that it’s messing up the client experience on their platform. They are trying to reduce those comments you see in groups and forums stating, “I tried getting a freelancer in Upwork but didn’t manage. Where else can I get one?”
Such comments come from people who posted jobs and got very useless proposals.
Whoever must have told you that it’s a numbers game lied to you. It is more of a quality game. Instead of sending too many regurgitated, impersonal proposals that don’t appeal to anyone, send targeted, impressive, assuring proposals that make it so easy for the client to scream “yes” to you.
An awesome proposal should simply respond to the client’s deepest needs and assure them that you’re the right person for the job. Take your time and think carefully whenever you’re approaching a client with a proposal or pitch. You can even research and learn from the best before giving it your shot. Clients are busy so they only want your best shot.
6. PUTTING ALL EGGS IN ONE BASKET
Serious cut-throat competition is forcing everyone to try to work smarter. Sites are also pushing in powerful algorithms and smart detection measures to ensure that only the best people are aboard. This may sometimes mean that your account may get in the cross-hairs whether legitimately or due to a false alarm.
This, however, does not only apply to freelancing websites such as Upwork. Anything can fall apart. Even the most foolproof plan. For that reason, you need to always diversify. Always.
Below are some diversification suggestions:
- Use different client acquisition methods as earlier discussed.
- Mix up freelancing (such as writing, transcription, graphics) with internet marketing (such as affiliate marketing, selling online courses, writing and selling eBooks, advertising)
- Get a financial expert to advise you on ways to save, invest, insure, budget etc.
- Start an offline project
There are no limits to what you can do. But never put all your eggs in one basket.
7. NOT FOCUSING ON GROWTH
This is one of those mistakes that most people don’t even realize they’re making.
- Have you been doing the same job at the same pay rate for the last 2 years?
- Do you always dwell in your comfort zone, never trying out anything new?
- Are you still afraid of approaching direct clients since you love your Upwork job or top rated status?
- Are you scared stiff of starting to create legitimate passive or semi-passive income streams?
If your answer to any of the above is yes then you may be doing great now, but you’re not focusing on growth. This means that in no time you may be overtaken by today’s newbie, or even become irrelevant.
I once balanced tears when I saw a writer who started writing before me back in 2011 still charging $3 per 500 words now, all these years later. My thought was that she’d have grown to the $20s (or even $50s) per article. Or at least $10s. But she’s still charging the same amount she did when she was getting started years ago.
Life is all about growth. Your business should also grow from toddler stage to adult stage – and keep growing till it ages gracefully. In fact, a good business lives beyond the owner. Think of businesses such as Coca-Cola and Apple which are still there despite the demise of their founders. Keep growing.
8. NOT OPENING YOUR EYES TO OPPORTUNITIES
What’s hot right now? Is there any new challenge sweeping the online space?
All those challenges bring forth heavy opportunities for people who open their eyes and cash in on them.
For example, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp started Uber simply because they couldn’t find a cab in Paris. This led them to want to start something that would enable people to easily find cabs nearby. Noah Kagan started AppSumo (and SumoMe) simply because he wanted free software.
All these people are now making millions and changing the way things are done. You can therefore either keep complaining about how they’ll mess it up, or take it up as a very lucrative opportunity, if only you open your eyes.
I’ll leave you to think about how you can benefit from this influx of people hungry to make money online. What are their needs? How can you solve these needs for some profit? Smart people are already taking swift actions.
9. NOT MAKING MAXIMUM USE OF FREE INFORMATION AND OFFERS
One thing I know for sure is that most people look down on free stuff. I don’t.
Below are some things I got absolutely free (or through an offer):
- My first blog review was done by an awesome guy called Steve Watson. He was giving a freebie on his blog where he’d look at your blog and do a video on what you need to improve. I grabbed that opportunity and managed to really make my blog professional.
- The first online course I ever bought was AffiloBlueprint. At that point it was going for a one-week launch offer at $77, after that, it went to $197. The returns I got from that training are just too many to count.
- I solidified my knowledge about cold-pitching from a free challenge by a guy called Bamidele Onibalusi. I already knew about cold-pitching before that, but his free training gave me more meat.
- I recently bought an amazing course from a guy I’m following for only $1 (instead of the regular price of $49). He had a few days’ promotional offer. Of course, he was using that as a tripwire but I knew it was a tripwire, and never fell for the bait. Look up “tripwire” to know what I’m talking about.
- I got an email marketing trick from Neil Patel’s free webinar. This little trick really skyrocketed my earnings from something I was promoting via email.
The list goes on…
When you get something free but valuable, take it and run with it. Also, keep an eye on good offers. Be cautious though, there are times where everything may look appealing and you may find yourself spending too much time or money on things you can never implement.
Therefore limit yourself to a course every 2 to 3 months, then after taking it, try and implement everything before jumping to the next one. Don’t keep jumping from one course to another every day, whether it’s paid or free. You’re human and definitely have a limit as to what you can successfully implement within a certain timeframe.
10. NOT SPENDING MONEY TO MAKE MORE MONEY
Afraid to spend a dime on some knowledge or tool?
I was once in your shoes too. I kept wondering why I’d need to spend on a blog while I could get one for free. I just couldn’t comprehend why people were paying lots of cash every month for their email marketing programs while I could just use free email. It was even crazier for me to buy a course. Why pay for something I could easily find free by searching Google or YouTube?
The same goes for so many other things including an online support desk, a training website, social media tools, productivity tools, virtual assistants etc.
I’m so happy that I got rid of all these myths and started paying for knowledge and tools, as long as they had significant returns on investment which they did. A lot. In fact, some of the above give me more than 100 times whatever I put in but still, you’ll find people who are not willing to invest even #5 ($0.0139) on a course/material. I’m not talking about those who don’t have, but those who have but prefer to spend it to eat out on a weekend instead of doing something that will help them earn more and build their career.
I want you to be successful and that’s why I’m telling you all these mistakes that you shouldn’t make.
This is all from the heart, based on some mistakes that I personally made and learnt from, and mistakes that I’m seeing other people make. I hope you won’t be one of them. I hope you listen to advice and take actions with what you learn.
These mistakes are extremely crucial. Even though it’s quite easy to make money online as a freelancer, over the years I have seen many freelancers quitting online work for good just because one or more of these mistakes messed them up completely. If you find yourself in that position, you need to learn from your mistakes and use them to build a solid career.