A freelancer is someone who doesn’t work for one employer. They sell their work or services by the hour, day or project… a.k.a #BeYourOwnBoss. Working freelance can be exciting, rewarding & fun. However, it can also feel like trying to find your way around a jungle with no data on your phone.
Without a sole manager or a boss to report to, it also means no one to tell you the rules. So it’s very easy for freelancers, especially the new ones, to make choices that hold them back without them realizing. I’ve spoken to freelancers from an array of fields about the mistakes they regret making, when first starting out. Here are 10 mistakes that freelancers often make or overlook:
1 – Fail to catch up with trends
Being good at something doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to learn or change. For example, a makeup artist I know told me that there are freelance makeup artists today, who started out in the 80’s and are STILL using the same style and techniques that were popular back then.
Can you imagine hiring a makeup artist for your wedding and having to walk down the aisle sporting electric blue eyeshadow & neon pink lipstick? When you’re not up to date with what’s popular today, you’ll lose out on a huge market. Clients aren’t likely going to want to hire you again nor recommend you to their friends!
2 – Neglect the importance of contracts
Sometimes, when we accept small jobs, especially as newbies, we tend to assume there isn’t a need for a legal contract. Clients offering small jobs also don’t usually offer to draw up one. As an actress, I once agreed to be part of a flash mob scene as a “dancer” in a movie. After the work is done, they told me they couldn’t pay me & the other 30 over “dancers” because investors had pulled out last minute. It being a small gig, so I didn’t think to ask for a written agreement. The movie was never released, but we were also never paid & I couldn’t do anything about it. Protect your rice bowl with the law!
3 – Display desperation
Yes, it could have been a bad few months and you’re rather desperate for the next gig before dust starts to collect in your bank account. However, when you carry yourself as someone who desperately needed the job, you give off the impression that you need the client more than they need you. In that case, clients often won’t be inclined to feel like their money was spent well on you. Clients like to feel like they have found someone to work with that is sort of a superstar in that field of work. It helps them trust you with their project more.
4 – Overconfidence
When you’ve hit a good stride, it’s easy to get complacent & forget that future jobs are still not guaranteed. For example, a junior digital illustrator gets a big project to redesign the logos & brand image of a huge corporation. A job that usually only goes to high-profile designers. Along with the big bucks, he starts to carry himself as if he knows better than others. Fast forward a few months, big project is done. He has no news of other gigs & wonders why.
More often than not, an industry where you can be a freelancer, is usually a small one. People talk. Word spreads. No one wants to pay someone who isn’t a joy to work with, when it’s easy to get another eager freelancer who is just as skilled as you.
5 – Fear of over-quoting
It’s common for freelancers to fear that they would lose a job to someone else if their rates are to too high. So naturally, they would try to under-quote, just to try and secure the job. Clients are always trying to save costs and they often expect freelancers to negotiate higher. When you start by offering a lower rate, you already position yourself at a loss. Always quote higher than what you’d be happy with and let the client haggle that down!
6 – Trying to fake preparedness
Be it pretending like you understood the details of the client’s campaign brief & winging it, or trying to get away with quickly memorizing the script the last minute on a film set…quality work never comes from smoke & mirrors. At the end of the day, people can tell the difference between confidence that came from preparedness & fake confidence. If we don’t practice preparedness, we will also never improve our craft.
7 – Prioritize quantity over quality
It’s common for freelancers to accept whatever job that comes their way, even if they are already busy with other existing projects. This is what people call, project-hoarding. We think, “What if I don’t get jobs next month? I need to make as much money as I can now!”. The problem with that is, when you try to do too many projects at once, the quality of the work you deliver will inevitably suffer. Avoid burning yourself out. When you can focus better on the tasks you have at hand now, you’ll produce much better work and that will take your further in the long run.
8 – Fail to see importance of self-branding
Prior to popular belief, being versatile doesn’t always take your career far. Being known for one style of your craft can often take you further than being a jack of all trades, but master of none. For example, a freelance tattoo artist who is known to be amazing at realism tattoos, can charge higher fees than a tattoo artist who does any style in general. This is because clients who are looking for realism tattoos, would often rather pay more for a master to do it. It is going to be on their bodies for a lifetime after all. Building yourself a brand will not only lessen your competition, but also make you more memorable to clients.
9 – Neglect rest hours
Sure, being on Team #NoDaysOff and #SleepIsForTheWeak could get you lots of work done. However, many freelancers fail to manage free time to improve themselves. Sure, you work hard to keep money coming in, but you’re not building a strong career in the long run. For example, a freelance film director could really benefit from watching more award-winning films to learn from,
10 – Not saving for a rainy day
Many freelancers fail to see (or refuse to admit) that they need a backup fund. You’d be surprised at how many aspiring freelancers fear that having to find other ways to grow their savings means giving up hope on their freelance career dreams. As much as that disapproving aunt or annoying cousin is going to enjoy asking how things are going during a dry spell for you, it’s important to prioritize building a safety cushion. It’s okay to pick up side hustles while working on your main hustle. You need to eat & stay alive in order to make your dreams work.
So there you go! I hope this has help opened your eyes to a new side of things that you might not have realized because of your natural, human fears (that are totally normal and rational). Sometimes, we just need an experienced perspective outside of our own.
All the best!
As always, stay tuned to our website updates by liking and following our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Nightowlcinematics/
For any fan art / recommendations / queries for advice that you would like to submit: https://noc.com.sg/submit-content/
And for any business enquiries, send it here: https://noc.com.sg/contact-us/ and we will respond to you as soon as possible!
Last but not least, watch our latest episode of Spotlight below!