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Common Mistakes Freelance Designers Make

Freelancing can be very appealing: working from home, being your own boss, setting your own schedule. But with these perks come responsibilities; and if you’re interested in becoming a freelancer, there are a few things you should know first.

It’s estimated that about 29% of graphic designers in the U.S. are self-employed. However, the lifestyle of a freelancer doesn’t fit everyone. Some people prefer going in to an office every day and having a routine schedule. You should first decide if this lifestyle is right for you. These are some characteristics you should possess if you have what it takes:

  • Open to new ideas and influences
  • Quick to react to changing trends
  • Capable of working independently and under pressure
  • Self-disciplined
  • Assertive

If this sounds like you, then you’re in for an exciting career that has the potential to be both creatively rewarding and financially beneficial. And if you avoid these common rookie mistakes, you’re bound to increase your success.

Mistake #1: Not Using a Contract

While you may find administrative tasks to be tedious, a contract is your safeguard. Many freelancers have learned the hard way that without a contract, clients may claim that you owe them more work than what was originally agreed upon. A contract outlines project expectations, deadlines and payment plans so that there is no confusion or disagreement. This is especially effective with when working with client invoicing. For help with this specifically difficult task, refer to this freelance invoicing guide to pick up techniques for dealing with clients and making sure you get paid.

Mistake #2: Not Collecting a Percentage of Payment Upfront

Another common mistake is not collecting part of your client’s payment upon signing the contract. Doing this ensures that you’re working with serious clients, and it lowers your chances of having payment issues later. If the client has something invested in the project, s/he is more likely to stay committed to your agreement.

Mistake #3: Stop Learning

It’s easy to get blocked off from the world when you’re working on your own. Make sure you pay attention to what’s going on around you to keep up with current trends. Communicating with other freelancers is also a good way to get interaction with people in your field so you’re not totally isolated. There are plenty of forums and websites for you to do this through. Basecamp is a good program for not only collaborating with others, but also managing your projects.

Freelancers can also get stuck in their own style and taste and start to only produce work that is familiar or comfortable. This limits the quality of results you can deliver to your clients. If you stay up on new trends and understand your clients’ needs, you’ll be able to adapt your skills to each project, rather than vice versa.

Mistake #4: Fail to Look for Work

Even when you’re busy, it’s a good idea to continue looking for work. Busy times and slow times fluctuate, so stay proactive to make sure that you have a consistent flow of work to keep you going.

Mistake #5: Overloading Work

While on the topic of workload, you should keep in mind that you don’t want to take on too much at once. A natural reaction when starting out is to accept every job that comes your way – but too many jobs can lead to missed deadlines and becoming unreliable. Reputation is everything for a freelancer, so it’s important to give your business a good name.

A way to maintain an even amount of work on your plate is to figure out which jobs are right for you. Clients choose you, but you should choose them as well. To maximize the use of your time and capabilities, learn which types of projects and clients you want to work with. It’s okay to be selective.

Mistake #6: Not Having Self-discipline

You should be self-disciplined if you want to have a freelance career and lifestyle. After all, you are your own boss. And you’re not just a designer – you’re responsible for a whole business. You have to set your own deadlines, and stick to them. Reinforce your reputation of holding up your end of the deal.

You are also responsible for planning for taxes. A major difference from being an employee, you are in charge of deducting your own taxes. You need to have the discipline to keep track of what you owe and resist the urge to spend it.

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About Author

Luke Clum is a web developer, video editor and dog lover. He lives in Seattle, loves alpine climbing and is crazy about Saturday morning brunch. Follow him on twitter @lukeclum

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