5 Mistakes I Made When I Started My Freelance Career

June 14, 2017

Advice For New Freelancers | The Elgin Avenue Blog

Freelancing? Thinking Of Going It Alone?

Swat Up On This Savvy Advice For New Freelancers ????

Freelancing is a topic of conversation which comes up fairly often in the dialogues my friends and I share. Many of them work within industries which are notably compatible with freelancing – journalism, public relations and photography to name a few. It figures then that advice for new freelancers is a pretty important dialogue to be having right now. 

As Inc.com shares, ‘freelancing’ used to be a pseudonym for ‘a stop-gap between salaried jobs’, but now more so than ever, it’s a career option people are actively pursuing. 

Full time blogging often feels like freelancing, and in many ways small business owners, especially those which provide services such as graphic design, photography, copy writing and similar follow very much the same pattern of ‘project x = income x’.

I am so delighted to open up the conversation of freelancing via contributor Chelsea Becker’s truly great advice. 

Having started her own business almost a year ago. I found myself eagerly absorbing Chelsea’s advice and thinking “dang, I wish I’d known this when I started blogging full-time!”. 

Read on for advice on mistakes to avoid when freelancing. And if you know of any friends considering the move, be sure to forward this on to them too!

Over to Chelsea!

Love, Monica x

Advice For New Freelancers | The Elgin Avenue Blog

5 Mistakes I Made When I Started My Freelance Career

In August, I’ll be gratefully celebrating my one-year anniversary as a freelance writer. The jump from a stable, well-paying job as a corporate writer to freelance was exciting and scary, but it was also full of (lots and lots) of lessons.

I felt very prepared in terms of finances and all that good stuff – I hired a stellar accountant and saved up before quitting like I was told – but there were so many other things that I simply didn’t think or read about. Mistakes I wasn’t prepared to make!

By sharing these with you, I’m hoping that any new freelancers – or anyone thinking of going out on their own in general – won’t struggle with them like I did.

Because we should all benefit from the mistakes of others, right (slightly kidding of course!)?:


– Mistakes I Made Which You Can Avoid

1 – Getting too personal

When you’re freelancing, you usually have clients who you build relationships with. And although you want to enjoy your clients (and vice versa) and get to know them, I realized that I was being too unprofessional with some. At the end of the day, your clients are technically your boss, so you want to keep a level of professionalism when communicating.

Write smart emails, forgo too many emojis, use proper names, and so forth – until you are getting those casual vibes from the client. Then, it’s likely fine to communicate similarly, or in the same manner, but follow their lead and remember that this is still your career.


2 – Saying ‘yes’ to everything

Ahh, you’re new to freelance and a project with a paycheck comes your way. Congrats! But before signing on the dotted contract line or agreeing, give yourself a day to think about it. This is something I definitely did NOT do and found my first few months to be awful and unaligned with what I wanted, to be honest.

Stop and think: Is this really the type of work I left my corporate job for? Am I passionate about the subject? Am I only saying ‘yes’ because I’m scared I’ll never make money again (p.s. you will!)?

Of course we all need to stay afloat money wise, especially when jobs are less stable, but that’s where proper savings BEFORE you go freelance comes into play. Most people go into freelance for the flexibility and to follow a passion, so do your best to stay within your interests. Only take the job if you are excited about it – or if you really, really need to pay rent.

Advice For New Freelancers | The Elgin Avenue Blog


3 – Being unsure about rates

Similar to the ‘yes’ thing, you want to make sure your rates are 1. Fair and representative of your time and 2. Consistent.

I can’t count how many times I flip-flopped between rates, especially when a client would ask if I could do it for less. Not only was it hard for me to keep track of who was paying me what, but I often times got underpaid. Not fun!

Do research for fair rates in your industry, then stick to it. And remember that you need to account for things like email chains, setting up documents, etc – things that you don’t always invoice for within a project.

I’m only flexible if it’s an insane foot in the door, it’s consistent work, and I’m confident they aren’t taking advantage of me – but I know my rates are fair, so I stick to them 99% of the time.

Advice For New Freelancers | The Elgin Avenue Blog


4 – Doing too much

As projects came in during the beginning, I found myself working 24/7. Can you guess what happened next? You guessed it! Burnout city.

I was 2 months into freelancing and completely sick of writing (my job!) and exhausted. It took me one burnout to realize that no matter the money, working 12 hours a day and on weekends wasn’t OK. Now, I stick to 8-9 hours a day (scheduling every task out really helps) and savor my weekends for the most part (sometimes I actually love working Sundays but I’ll take the Monday off instead!).

You must schedule breaks to be your best self, even if you love the work you’re doing.


5 – Taking things personally

When you’re working in a corporate job, you tend to have monthly check-ins or yearly talks about raises with your manager(s). There’s face-to-face chats and you usually know your boss pretty well.

Being someone who lives for people pleasing (a work in process!), I struggled without these things from clients. Did they like my work? Was it good enough? Were they upset with me?

As a freelancer, you’re working with a handful of clients – if not more, so it’s key to remember that everyone communicates differently. A lot of these people you don’t know well either.

Just because you’re getting a short reply for someone after you finished a huge project doesn’t mean they didn’t love it. Without the structure of many “check in” systems, don’t assume anything negative until you hear it directly from a client. They will usually speak up, so free yourself from the anxiety.


What’s Your Take?

Tell me, what did you freelancers learn at first? Anyone thinking about going freelance and have some fears? Questions?

Love, Chelsea x

Follow Chelsea’s day to day adventures on Instagram here.

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