Freelancing is bittersweet. On the one hand, you have freedom from your 9 to 5 job; you can finally set your schedule, decide which clients you want to take on, and (depending on the work you do) you can work from anywhere you want to. On the other hand, though, freelancing can be risky. It can be difficult to find clients, collect the money that you’re owed, manage your time and maintain a work-life balance.
Despite all of the risk and difficulty, many find freelancing to be worth because of the freedom and flexibility it allows. It lets them do something that they enjoy or something they are simply good at.
If you’ve just entered the freelance space, you might feel like you’re over your head some days. It’s like being thrown into the deep end of the pool. There’s no manager to walk you through it, there’s no team lead to answer your questions, and you’re the one that has to make all of the executive decisions.
It can be overwhelming, but luckily (even though there’s no one to guide you through all the ups and downs) there are other freelancers who have been there before, who have made mistakes that you can learn from and avoid, and who will support you through your journey.
Here are some of the biggest freelance management mistakes that others have made that you can learn from so you can avoid making the same mistake too:
Lack of designated work space.
Having a designated work space is a necessity for freelancers. It’s a place to get away from the distractions of the rest of your surroundings, and it lets you step away from work and relax when you’re finally done for the day.
Not only it is essential to have a designated work space, but it’s important to specifically schedule a time to work. That doesn’t mean it has to be the same every day, or that you can only work during the morning—you can schedule three separate parts of the day to sit down and work, it's just important to set the time aside so you always have time to work, but have time to take a break too. Platforms like are great resources to help you and your team stay on track (and on budget) as you enact company and client projects.
There’s no easier or faster way to start overspending and losing money than not keeping track of expenses. It’s important to keep a detailed list of what money is coming in, where it’s going, what’s pending, etc. Tools like make it easy to track every penny you spend on business related purchases and events, so that at the end of each quarter can you take a strategic look at your professional spending habits and determine how to better allocate budget in the future. Not only should you keep track of your budget and when and where payments go, but you should track what’s coming in to make sure you don’t forget to collect any monies owed.
Freelancers will receive payments, but they have to make them too. Whether it be to a vendor, for taxes, or any other reason. Not only is keeping a detailed record of expenses important but so is keeping payments organized (which will help you better track expenses). eChecks is a great tool that makes it super easy to send and receive checks, print checks, and deposit them. It also keeps a log which helps you better organize your payments.
Communication is a significant part of all aspects of life, and freelance work is no exception. If you don’t ask questions when you need clarification, communicate proactively, and stay in touch, there’s bound to be some friction between you and your clients.
Underestimating the length of a project. It’s natural to want to make your customers happy and give them a quick turnaround on work, but if you underestimate the length of a project, you’ll be stressed and your client will be frustrated about the extended wait time. Life happens and sometimes there are roadblocks—it’s better to slightly overestimate than to underestimate.
Not marketing enough or at all. Marketing is extremely important for any business, but especially for freelancers. Although word of mouth is a great way to bring on new clients and draw attention, you still have to get the word out there that you’re in the market and you’re ready to work. Maintain a blog, implement SEO practices, get on social media, etc. and make sure you’re present and relevant.
Not requiring a contract. The unfortunate truth is that, as good as we want to assume people are, some would rather skip out on payments and steal services. Not only is it frustrating and disappointing, but it’s also harmful to your business. If you don’t require a contract, it will be easier for the less than honorable clients to get away with delinquency and will leave you vulnerable and liable.
Taking on too many clients. As a freelancer, it’s important that you know when enough is enough and that it’s okay to say no. Even though more clients mean more money, it also means more work, more stress, and more pressure. Not all clients are quality clients either. Don’t be afraid to turn someone down if your workload will be too high or if they just aren’t going to be a good fit.
Letting go of your work-life balance. As a freelancer, you are your business. If you get sick and can’t work, you don’t make money. If you push yourself to your limits, the quality of your work may suffer. It’s important that you maintain a work-life balance and take care of yourself. That doesn’t mean that you have to stop working at a certain time each day, or that you can’t work on the weekends, but it’s okay to RSVP to a party or take a day off now and then.
Freelancing can be hard work, but most agree that it’s worth it. Although there’s much of individual learning that takes place, you can learn from others’ mistakes. What are some other mistakes that you or people you know have made when it comes to freelance work?