Don’t Fall for These Common Freelancing Mistakes
Freelancing used to be a taxing business. You’d have to go to endless business events, hand out countless cards, and cajole clients face to face until they decided to take a chance on you.
Email changed all that, allowing you to connect with prospective clients around the world. Still, challenges remained. Over email, it was difficult to gauge a client’s interest, get a good sense of their needs, or figure out whether they’d pay you on time (or at all).
Then along came freelance marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, and literally hundreds and hundreds of others. Every day, these sites post hundreds of thousands of detailed assignments from eager buyers. And they facilitate the payment process, so you never have to chase anyone down for your fee.
Today, millions of boomers and Gen Xers are earning full-time or part-time through these networks, doing jobs for clients they’ve never met…and probably never talked to.
Yet despite the huge potential in online freelancing, many newcomers get discouraged when they first explore these networks. They look at the fees and think there’s no way they can make any real money. Or they see their first few bids rejected, and they give up.
The problem here is that many newcomers don’t really understand how to maximize their earnings on these networks, because they don’t understand how the game is played. New freelancers think it is about getting assignments. But there is something bigger going on here and anyone who isn’t aware of this bigger reality will limit their income.
The secret is that freelance buyers are not just looking for one person to do one job; they are looking for talent. Talent that they can use over and over again. Your initial assignments are often auditions from the buyers, to see if they want to put you on their team of “go-to talent.”
So your goal should be to find good clients rather than just one-off assignments. To do this, you need to avoid some of the traps newcomers fall into. To help you on your way as a freelancer, here are some of the most common mistakes new freelancers make, as well as some tips on how to avoid them.
1. Bidding on jobs that don’t match your skill set.
In the long run, it doesn’t pay to bluff your way into being hired for a job that’s not a good match for your skill set. The ratings and feedback that employers leave stick around forever, so it’s important not to risk getting a bad rating. Don’t bid on a job unless you’re confident that you can satisfy or exceed the employer’s expectations.
2. Submitting a sloppy or incomplete proposal.
A proposal that is too curt or that has numerous spelling or grammatical errors is not likely to land a job. Imagine an employer reading “I’ve done something like this before and will do this job for $75,” as compared to two or three well-crafted paragraphs that describe the freelancer’s qualifications, experience, and skills. Which do you think will get the job? Take the time to create an interesting and unique proposal for each job.
3. Using a generic proposal template.
There’s nothing wrong with using a proposal template, but tailor it to each individual bid. You may even want to have a few different templates for different types of jobs. Also, add some details from the job description to your proposal, to avoid giving employers the impression that you submit bids without paying attention to the specific requirements of each assignment.
4. Thinking that the lowest bid gets the job.
Most employers are savvy enough to realize that the freelancer with the lowest bid is not necessarily the best one to hire. Although winning a job by placing the lowest bid may help you get your foot in the door, it’s not a good idea to make a practice of always underbidding other providers. Instead, create a winning proposal that will make employers want to hire you.
And don’t be deterred by freelancers from less-developed economies who place very low bids. The reality is that many employers steer clear of these proposals due to the risk of lower quality work and confidentiality concerns.
Check new job listings frequently, keep submitting bids, and work on polishing your proposals. The reality is that most freelancers who deliver quality work on time soon have more opportunities than they can handle.
By Winton Churchill