Let me share 14 of the most common of the mistakes new freelancers make that often keep them broke and don’t get paid what they are worth
When I posted my requirements on Elance (now Upwork) for hiring people, I saw a lot of proposals that I can reject right away. The reason is they had some common issues. Let me just share some of the common mistakes that freelancers make so you don’t repeat the same.
1. Incomplete Profile
The most common of the mistake among new freelancers is they tend to leave the profile as incomplete.
First thing first, and you should always complete your profile on a site that you want to pursue any kind of work. Be it freelancing sites like Elance or be social networking sites like LinkedIn.
An incomplete profile never helps, and it will not be of much help to you if you just don’t complete it and start in a hurry to apply for a job.
It can be quite enticing to apply for a job that you think you are the best fit for it, but then doing it the right way is essential.
As an example, if you applied for a job where your profile does not have your profile picture, it is quite unlikely that you may be hired. In this digital world, a picture speaks more than a thousand words. If you just don’t have a profile picture, people are not confident if they are talking to a human or only a robot.
Take time to go through these articles and get your Upwork profile.
- How to Get Upwork Profile Approved Even After It Is Rejected
- Should You Create an Individual or an Agency Upwork Profile?
2. Copy-Paste Proposal
How many times I see the mistake of copy-paste proposals that new freelancers make. I understand people apply for every job with the same proposal. Just copy and paste.
I was looking for an editor for my site www.mathstips.com. My requirements were precise, and I even asked for samples of articles they have written in the past for the maths niche. I saw very few people replying with samples or at least mentioning anything about what I have asked for. They just saw a job in the writing category and pasted the same proposal they had prepared for that particular category.
If you don’t take time to read what someone is looking for, why would the other person read what you have written in your proposal? Tit for tat.
- My Upwork Proposal Template That Wins Me Projects
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- Proposal Email Template With Sample to Win New Clients
3. Unprofessional Profile
I have seen a company logo as profile pictures of individuals. It can be acceptable for companies, but for individuals, it is a crime. Even for large companies, it should be the team leader or project manager’s individuality that should be the profile.
Take a simple example. Someone wanted to hire your company, but before that, they wanted to discuss some requirements over a phone call. Will you give them your direct number or your company’s number, where it will ask a few automated questions before reaching your desk?
Apart from that, I see photos of people that aren’t formal. If you are on a job site applying for work, you should make things more professional and make it look official. The outfit you are wearing reflects your character, and so does your hair.
4. Lack of Negotiation Skills
Some freelancers are even ready to work for very little and still don’t get hired. The reason is they don’t understand the difference between price and value and is one of the most common mistakes the new freelancers make.
You can negotiate a higher price and still can provide value, and you can get paid higher. On top of it, they will not only be more than happy to hire you again and again but will be thankful that you are working for them.
5. Missing Deadlines
You can’t miss deadlines. Period. If you ask me what is the one reason you have done so well as an individual on sites like Elance is, I never missed a deadline. I know my capabilities, and I try to keep myself light on client work, so I never miss a deadline.
I take up fewer jobs but always meet a deadline. It has allowed me to increase my rates consistently as well as has stopped hunch for new clients all the time.
6. Work Without Contract
I see a lot of freelancers want to be working outside of freelancing sites like Upwork. However, I beg to differ and consider it a mistake, at least for the new freelancers who still are trying to build the expertise. I prefer to be working for my clients through freelancing sites. I know they take a cut, but then it is not about what they are taking from you but how confident you are making your client.
It is always clients who ask for my PayPal account, and I don’t prefer telling them that you can pay me through PayPal as well. As long as they are fine paying me through Freelancing site, I am ok with it because my price on the freelancing sites includes the extra fee they are charging me.
7. Lack of Effective Communication
I see a lot of freelancers lack primary communication discipline. The mistake is in the 7th position, but it is one of the most common not only among new Indian freelancers but even with seasoned freelancers.
I had a lot of issues with many freelancers where they took the task, and then they were either very slow in response or not as fast as they have been initially. I usually expect a turn around time of 24 hours or less on weekdays, and if you don’t work on weekends, I accept a response on Monday morning.
Usually, the lack of communication happens mostly with companies and not individuals. If you have taken up a task, but the person who would be doing the job is not available anymore, you cannot make it up by delaying the job. Being more transparent may help by communicating with the client and know that the job is not doable anymore for so and so reason.
Moreover, I see freelancers don’t even use the “Reply to All” when replying to emails. There are some basic etiquettes of communications that you need to learn as a freelancer.
8. Only Considering the Price
Everyone thinks freelancing site is all about being price competitive and its completely wrong and a common mistake by new freelancers.
Such myths have been floated by various bloggers and in lots of forums. It happens to people where they may need to work for dirt cheap, and it does not mean there is a flaw in working on such sites but because they don’t have negotiating skills.
I have been a freelancer as well as an employer on freelancing sites. I don’t see being hired when my services are the lowest price, nor I hire the person quoting the lowest price for my job.
The hiring process is not sorted by price and hire the one at the top of the list. It is all about seeing what people offer at what price and if at all you can do the job for me.
Anyone would hire the person who offers the same quality at a lower price. That’s part of globalization.
9. Over-promising Under-Delivering
You should be under-promise and over-deliver, but people at times commit a lot more than what they deliver.
A simple example that I have seen quite often is people always commit that they will deliver excellent documentation of what they have done with their code. If you commit, I expect thorough documentation of the code. As the project progresses, documentation takes a backseat, and ultimately it is never delivered on its own. When asked about it, the answer is “being prepared”.
Finally, it is a few paragraphs just put together for the sake of it. If you did not promise documentation, and if I see the same document, I may be surprised and impressed.
10. Saying YES to Everything
I have posted quite a few jobs and have tried quite a few freelancers. I see the same freelancers apply for various kinds of jobs, and they are ready to take up almost anything being offered.
Yes, it is always good to learn new things. However, it is not about saying YES to everything. You cannot be a doctor and an engineer at the same time. You have to say NO to one of them to be better at the other. Similarly, say NO to something that you think you may not be able to deliver the best.
11. Unjustifiable Pricing
Propose an amount to a task which should be justifiable on an hourly rate as well. I have seen people quote $100 and even mention that it will take a few hours to do the job. When I look at their hourly rate, it is close to $10 or $15.
So I ask them why such a discrepancy in the pricing and they justify that they will do research and other such extra efforts which they did not include when proposing the hours but is included in the price.
I also propose similar pricing, but that is within the justifiable limit.
I never price it like ten times the price for me on an hourly to fixed price, but at times it is not inline to my hourly cost.
Let’s say I propose an amount that is not justifiable on a per hour basis if a client asks me the difference in the price of the job to per hour rate. My answer is, I take up jobs that are a minimum of X amount or at least x hours. It always works for me.
If you propose an unjust price for a fixed price job over your hourly rate, it can look quite unprofessional and sounds like you are here to make quick bucks.
12. Unjustifiable Reasons
Accidents are quite common in India. At least that is what every client who has hired Indians think. At times people ask me to have you met with a road accident.
I was a bit surprised initially, but when I found that they were asking me such a question because they have hired quite a few Indian freelancers and all have had road accidents – a way to buy time.
When I hired a few freelancers, I also found there are many such common reasons for the delay in the job.
When I was hiring aggressively, I started not to believe even if someone said there is a death in their family.
13. Freelancer Don’t Blog
Most of the freelancers don’t have a blog of their own. It is not a mistake of only new freelancers but many seasoned freelancers don’t blog. They have their company website, but not a blog, and I don’t understand the reason for not having a blog.
If you are a writer and don’t have a blog, no reason can justify it.
As a developer, you will always come up with an issue that you wasted hours to find a solution. It can still be on your blog for reference, as well as helping others and to showcase to future clients.
If you are a designer, you can always release some of your designs on your blog just for the showcasing.
Not having a blog means you are closing the doors on your clients who search in Google for similar issues and can approach you directly instead of you trying to find clients.
I have found so many of my long term clients from my blog.
As a freelancer, you are more likely to have a domain and hosting. So a blog does not cost you anything extra. Moreover, keeping it updated allows you for numerous opportunities.
Apart from opportunities that a blog can provide, it can also help improve your communication skills. If you are writing for your blog, it can improve you as a writer who can help you write a better response (in email or otherwise) to your clients.
14. Lack of Non-Financial Motivation
One can’t continue working for money forever. So you have to be motivated to be working for yourself and being able to develop your skills.
You work and get paid for it, but this cycle means the more you work, the more you get paid. However, after a specific time, when you do not need money, you may not be motivated to work if money is the only driving force to freelance. It is when you need to be driven from within.
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