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Top 10 mistakes to avoid as Freelancer

Top 10 mistakes to avoid as Freelancer

May 25, 2017

Having worked as a freelancer for sometime, I had the chance to make beautiful mistakes and learnt a lot while performing them. To be honest, it is a great experience, while being immensely frustrating. If you are planning to open up a company or are looking forward to collaborate with company/friends to get work, following are the points you should keep in mind else you are highly bound to make these yourselves. I will be stating points which encompass both sides and show you what the client might understand or think and what you might interpret it as.

1) Avoid working with middlemen

Who are the middlemen? You guessed it right, these are individual who probably donot have the required skill set for a particular work but still take on work from companies promising delivery. They then post to social media and hire at fraction of the cost and take huge sum of money from the company. What happens next? Next, they get responses and ask those individuals to provide them with a demo. The cost, if demo is approved, is stated high initially which they don’t intend to pay. This demo is then given to the client, and to your surprise you never hear from these people again, until you keep sending them texts and when they do reply, it’s a big no. Now, you came in to get them the project and were left out the moment they got the project (in most cases).

This has 2 negative impacts. The companies end up wasting money as the work after this is substandard, making them regret their decision and hence find it hard to trust freelancers. Thereby making it difficult for people like us to gain trust to get such projects for ourselves. Secondly, on personal level, you start getting suspicious of every such person approaching you.

I had 2 such experiences where recently I was asked to model a 3D Tshirt based on reference and once submitted all the posts regarding that project on social media stopped and also I was told that the client didn’t like it, client being an international agency. Another such experience was with a firm which took on video presentation (PPT to Animation) project without the required skills in their firm. They then asked me to make a demo of some slides. I purposely selected 2 separated slides to avoid continuation in content, as such companies keep sending out such requirements and combine all demos together to get their work done. And that is precisely what happened, they kept asking to make changes in DEMO (who does that?!) and later asked me to send separate individual slides itself. So they were firstly still pitching for the project and in case they got the project were trying to place different slides from different demos to get the work done for free. AVOID SUCH COMPANIES AND STOP THEIR WORK IMMEDIATELY. NO ONE ASKS FOR CHANGES IN DEMO!

2) Careful while working with Friends and Family

It is a comfortable situation for us when we have to work with a friend of family member for their project. But they turn out to be the most difficult people to work with. These set of people have much more changes, demands and are difficult to talk to when it comes to money matters. These situations define the make or break of your relationship. One of my friend asked me to get some website work done and as it was our first project together, I agreed to charge less. While the work was going on, there was much more stuff added but when it came to adding money for the extra work and time, he backed out and paid only the previously decided amount.

I had also worked for a family member who needed a website for home based business. The concept started from a simple showcase website to a full-fledged e-commerce website. Initially, as it was a showcase website, it was decided to not charge much as I would’ve taken a small template to work on. But later when the website turned into an e-commerce website with logo which would normally cost about Rs 90k +, could no longer be done for free as it took me 2 months to get it done and later was informed that they didn’t want the website which spoiled our relationship in the end.

Family and Friends are within our comfort zone to work for but demand way more time, effort and end up being very less worth for your efforts, so be straightforward in your dealings.

3) Avoid Under or Overcharging

As newbie freelancers, we tend to sell ourselves as low as possible to get projects. Similar to what Rickshaw drivers do, but they have a code among themselves that there is a minimum value set below which no one would charge. On websites like Fiverr, people showcase their work for as low as $5! I mean seriously? But they slowly build their portfolio to make pitch for bigger projects. That is one way to go. Other could be to prepare samples of your work and show them to clients while pitching and putting forward your quote. Avoid too much bargaining also by charging justly.

Same way overcharging is bad for freelancers. Companies can afford to quote Rs. 10 lakhs for a project that you would take Rs. 1-2 Lakhs because people trust companies and not individuals. People coming from known institutes tend to charge way more than what a normal university passout would charge, well that is on account of their background. Amount you charge should cover your basic direct costs, travel time for meetings, eatables cost while in meeting plus set an hourly rate for yourself to make it easier to charge for your work. As you grow, you can charge what you want based on your portfolio. Don’t start out charging high is what my point.

4) Keep every detail recorded

This is a point I cannot stress on enough. A lot of times you will see clients shrug from sending email on updates, they prefer to call and confirm. This generally is alright till the point where they keep moving forward in the decided work. Quite a few times it happens that the changes begin to move back and forth. When this happens, you need to tell the client to finalize the change and as proof of such change can be traced back to the mails exchanged earlier. This will help simplify who said what and when discussions and avoid arguments. The progress is also continuously monitored.

5) Keep everyone updated

A lot of times, while working we forget to send across update to clients. Now clients being on the blind side, will always worry about the work progress, naturally as they are paying you for it. They will then end up calling you 2-3 times a day to get updates which will naturally make you irritated like someone is keeping a tab on your movements. You will find it hard to make time for yourself maybe because on someday’s you don’t feel like working or are going out and telling that to client will make them more anxious and might end up losing faith in your work.

Best way to cope up with this is that you should decide and intimate your client and any party involved about your update period. Update period is nothing but the number of days or hours in which you will automatically send them an update of progress. So for me it was every 3 days I would send a compiled update of all the changes done and new features added based on discussions.

6) Finalize every feature before committing

During the initial discussions, everyone is excited. You, as freelancer, have a new project in sight and client is obviously excited for his new idea to come to life! In this excitement a lot of points/features are missed. These points come up later during the project and then payment issues prop up.

Added/Extra feature = Extra Time involved = Extra money from client.

But a lot of times, clients show a shocked face as though these features were meant to be obvious. So, when you start, note down all the points you feel are important features, get the confirmed from the client, send them a mail asking to add any other feature that they might want to add later and inform them that any extra work/feature will be additionally charged and that is fair. You can’t ask the builder to build 2 floor building and then when it’s done ask him to do the 3rd floor for free. 😛

7) Mention your concerns

Before you commit to project and take advance, express your concern, if any, on any feature that might be difficult or that might require you to hire someone with you or a feature that you may not be able to implement. Let the client decide whether to give the project to you. In case they feel, that the feature might not be too important they would rather tell you to start and they would assist you in someway making it a more comfortable scene for both parties.

A lot of agencies/freelancers take projects even if they don’t know what to do and later search for people who might be able to do it, again becoming the middlemen I mentioned in the first point. Don’t take a project if you lack the skills! Be honest. Why would you want to cheat someone with no reason and make it hard for them to get their work done? Say yes if you can, no if not. Don’t waste client’s time and your time.

8) Share your workflow beforehand

For example, while making websites, you first take references from client to understand what they want, make your designs accordingly, get them approved from client and then start working on code. You have to tell this to the client. He might be expecting a design from you and your workflow says that you have to first code the basic template and then set it up. This will again create discrepancy and mistrust. Client-Developer relationship is normally hanging by a thread, if you know what I mean. Any small issue or judgement can cause issues. Be clear of your process and keep everyone involved in a loop!

9) Share relevant information only

In my first freelance projects’ 3rd meeting, I was asked if I was in a relationship or not. At that moment I gave a direct reply but later felt that the question wasn’t relevant to the work and unethical in someways. Client wanted to know if I would dedicate enough time to their project. Understandably, they were excited about their project but choosing words wisely is also a good judge of what people are looking at you for.

10) Work Effectively not Frantically

What newbie freelancers tend to do is work like crazy stressing themselves out and making no time for other important things in life. Having fun and working are both important. Try and balance your time. This is difficult to do as even I do this at times. I try to think that finishing work quickly will give me enough time to chill later. But the moment that “later” comes, we are looking at either a new project or a new self-initiated project idea to work on. So there is no rest period. Have fun, chill.

If you are freelancing, it’s either because you like to be your own boss and have those skills or you think you want to spend time more effectively rather than sitting in a chair for continuous 8 hours still being judged by others for taking a coffee break. So take breaks, roam around, don’t stress out and make yourself work for 10 hours compared to 8 in office :D. Smart work should be your preference. Give realizable/realistic timelines.

I have covered quite a few points with my personal experiences trying to help the new entrants and also make regular freelancer realize that you might be missing out on stuff as you work on your own. Connect with other freelancers and collaborate for work that way you end up working on more projects and also you learn to share profits in exchange for variety. I would love to share projects with honest and smart working individuals who have the eye of a perfectionist or maybe not :D.

All the best!

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