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53 Freelancing Mistakes That Are Costing You Clients, Cash, and Credibility

"I don’t know about you," says +Samar Owais  but when I started freelancing as a writer, I made a ton of mistakes."

And by “a ton,” she means everything was pretty much a disaster.

Thankfully, you can fix mistakes. And contrary to popular belief, making mistakes is a good thing — provided you learn from them.

But if you’re thinking, “Great! As long as I learn from my mistakes, it’s all good," there's something you should know: 

You may not even know you’re making a mistake. Samar explains:
Making mistakes is a good thing -- provided you learn from them. But the problem is that you may not even know you're making a mistake.
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I've made the "single big client" mistake more than once. It happens when your client is in a growth stage and you're creating a lot of content for them. But two things can happen ... they get to the end of the project, or they get to the end of their budget for content. In either case, if 25% or more of your income comes from one client, your income is in jeopardy. This is the area where cultivating partners that you can parcel out extra work to is most important. That way, you continue to bring on new clients while servicing the "heavy" client. Now, you still have work and ongoing clients when your big client drops the "project is done" or "we're over budget" bomb.
Exactly, +Dana Griffin It's much better to refer another freelancer to a client instead of returning them empty handed. Even if you don't work with the client, there's no reason not to build a relationship with him. 
Mea culpa! Early on, I made more than my fair share of the mistakes you've listed. I'm still making some of them ... but, thankfully, the ones I'm still making always shoot ME in the foot, not my clients! At the moment, 99.99% of my clients are delighted (and delightful) and have become viral sneezers on social media and elsewhere and have written testimonials galore, but my bank balance remains anemic so I just raised my rates. (After seven years as a freelance copywriter and over 40 years as a published freelance writer, it's time to claim earnings based on VALUE: my clients' ongoing ROI for the evergreen copy I create for them). And WOO HOO! I'm on the cusp of Joint Venturing with a three-time NYT bestselling author and business coach who saw several examples of my copy and wants me to write copy for his clients, so I'm going to MEMORIZE this list and make sure I take as good care of myself as I do my clients!  It's long overdue and I thank you profusely and profoundly for the reminder and the blueprint for doing just that!
+Kristine M Smith That's awesome! Congratulations! It sounds like a really good opportunity. And 7 years without a raise? faints
Oh also "... I'm going to MEMORIZE this list and make sure I take as good care of myself as I do my clients!" <- THIS! You've hit the nail on the head. At the end of the day, you are your best client. 
These are great things to keep in mind for ANY business owner.  Wonderful, comprehensive list!!
Samar, I've given myself minimal raises over the years, but have always been hesitant to pull out all the stops and claim what my copy is truly worth. (My actual clients find out, real fast, what it's worth! I've had a handful of them ORDER me to raise my rates after sending nice bonuses and writing, "You don't charge enough!" ) The JV partnership opportunity is what has finally convinced me to stop being a wimp and ask for what I'm worth, instead of fearing that prospective clients will run screaming for the exits!  It's scary--but do I really want to be writing for clients who don't get it? It's an educational process a lot of times so I've just written a brochure that explains (and documents) the value (ROI) of riveting, converting copy.  It's being printed professionally this week and I can't wait to start handing and emailing it to prospective clients. It should help a lot. We'll see!
+Natalie Petitto - It often boils down to guts. Listen to them in the first place and then stick to them. That's something that only comes with experience though. 
That's great +Kristine M Smith Gotta love friends who push you to raise your rates. I recently had a friend do the same to me too.
Excellent article, couldn't agree more with pretty much all of it.  Just starting out at the moment and good to know my initial plans are on the right tracks.  I will come back to the list regularly. 
Early on I worked for a major client, so I assumed they knew better than me. They didn't. Like the post stated, clients often know nothing about writing, so it's up to us to speak up when necessary.
Super helpful advice, Samar! I love the Freelance Flyer and am so excited to see you guest post for Copyblogger!!!
I always found it funny +Natalie Petitto that I would be hired by a client to do work for them because they couldn't do it only to be told HOW to do it.  Makes no sense.  In many cases it's simply a matter of the client telling me what they want and how they want it done, but I have to stand firm and tell them how it needs to be done or what CAN be done.  If for any reason I feel I cannot do the job I was hired to do and know how to do, I will walk.  That's setting me up for failure on this job and potentially future jobs due to bad reviews.

In the case of a client capable of doing the work and simply not wanting to (hiring me instead) I have some very clear guidelines.  While they are easier to work with as they understand the process, they need to no micro manage my process.
+Robert Nissenbaum I have a client right now who hopped into Google Docs and made edits as I was in the process of writing. I typed "GET OUT" in bold letters.
+Natalie Petitto That's true Natalie. The trick is in how we let the client know. It's all about tact in these situations.
This is definitely one list to keep on hand as I plan my career in copyrighting. Thanks so much!
We need to be professional in our business, not just talented and skilled in producing.
This was a great list of suggestions. I will definitely pin it above the computer.
HI Samar, great to see you on Copyblogger. Congrats! I've bookmarked this post and will use it to make a checklist. The tips in the Marketing section are the most actionable for me, though they are all excellent.
Amazingly helpful! Thank you for such a delightful and informative post +Samar Owais Nail on the head. And I can't hear it enough. :)
Thanks +Rohi Shetty I made the most mistakes from the business and rates section. Good luck with fixing your marketing mistakes.
A list of amazing suggestions. I took a print of this post,  Really I do almost all nearly 90% mistake of them. Thanks Copyblogger.
+Sushil Sharma 
Thank you +Samar Owais . This is worth printing and posting on my wall to keep me on track with best practices.
Samar, that is one eye-popping dandy of a list! What's more, most of the suggestions are eminently doable, even for practiced procrastinators. Thanks!
I'm seriously going to set a reminder to read this once a month. You've truly covered off everything. Thank you so very much for this!
Great list with great suggestions. My biggest mistakes are:
1) Freelancing is a hobby
2) I don't have my projects

See you in few months with new comment :).
Excellent post, Samar!

Recently, I've the mistake of not charging enough, and the funny thing is the client was the one telling me about it.
Now I'm more aware of the value of my work.

Thanks for all the great tips.
I love everything about this! Thanks for the pieces on contracts etc... So helpful!
Found a few that I need to work on, especially numbers 10, 45 and 46. You always share such excellent advice. Thanks, +Samar Owais! 
I disagree about charging per project.  

If the big argument against charging per hour is that you get so fast you don't make money is silly.  You can take on more work or pad your hours (that is what per project is essentially doing).  You can also just spend the time you estimated and produce better work.

Per hour solves scope creep and gives the client a transparent view of what they are paying for...and solves a million other issues.
This article was well worth my time to read. Thanks so much for posting it.  Every one of these tips can totally be applied to my video commercial biz and its refreshing to see that I've already picked up on several pitfalls listed here.. That tells me I'm doing some things right naturally :D   - The biggest one that stands out for me was the suggestion to delegate work.. I've been doing a lot of script writing for clients who dont want videos. Script writing takes up more time than recording + editing videos for me .. And I dont enjoy it so much.. So now I've got a team to help with the stuff I don't like and its working out rather well.. Talk about free up time too! 
Hi Samar, I came across your article randomly when googling for advice on freelancing. You've pretty much nailed a good chunk of all the common mistakes we make. My field, illustration is a little different than writing but there are so many things that are common in a creative industry. So far, my biggest mistakes are:
1. Wimping on contracts, payment schedule, working terms and conditions. The thought has crossed my mind many times, but I could never find the resource to work on those aspects Like hiring a legal advisor to help me. How would you go about it?
2. I'm also pretty bad at social media advertising. Maybe because I despise public posting. I get annoyed by people posting their latest work every week. Feels too much like self-indulgence. Maybe I'm too self conscious. How to change my frame of my mind?
3 Finally, having big plans for my business. I've read so many articles about growing a business. But nothing that relates to my specific situation. I think screen writing is close enough my situation which is being a one man band managing their own business. I'd like to take it a step further and have the business run while I'm on holiday or taking a break. Getting a partner seems like a good way but what if my income decrease because of it... Do you have any words of wisdom about stepping out of the one man band?

Again, thank you for taking the time writing that article and any advice is greatly appreciated.
Hi everybody, I wonder how much is applying for Network Engineers. I've read a lot of good tips. Maybe I should take some time and make myself a personal compilation. Excellent article Samar. Thank you!
This was a great read. I myself am a freelancer building my business, and it was like this entire blog was written directly at me.

I thank you for all the insight and have currently laid out some to-do lists for tomorrow after reading this. Thanks again!
Cory brown 
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