A friend of mine, who recently started freelancing, asked me a question the other day. Here it is in his exact words: “How come I’m not getting any work on UpWork when you’re making a butt load of money?”
I’ll tell you the same answer I gave him: The first few months of your freelancing career is not going to be a pleasant experience. You will struggle to find work, you will make a lot of mistakes, and you will often get criticized by your clients.
Now, I’m not trying to make freelancing look bad. Of course, you will have a much smoother experience and a steady income stream once you build your reputation. But, this is a career that comes with a few challenges.
An important step you can take to make sure you don’t fall to the same pit of most freelancers is to figure out what you’re doing wrong. Start by avoiding these classic mistakes.
1. Waiting For Work To Magically Appear
So you’ve uploaded a cool profile photo, wrote an awesome bio, and completed your profile on the freelance site. All you have to do now is wait for clients to contact you, right?
Wrong. Unless you’re Seth Godin, no one’s going to contact you to offer you their projects on a silver platter.
Solution: Explore the freelance platform for appropriate jobs. Apply as many projects as you can, which are suitable for your skill set. And try sending a personal message to potential clients to tell them about your services.
“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything” – Win Borden
2. Your Pricing Is Not Right
For some reason, most freelancers seem to think that lowering their price is a good way to win more clients. Clients actually see this as a desperate attempt made by amateur freelancers.
Low prices not only lowers the value you put on your experience but also exhibit low self-esteem.
Solution: Forget about hourly rates. Price per project according to the amount of work and time you have to invest.
3. Too Much Competition
Sites like UpWork and Freelancer.com are infested with cheap freelancers who compete for low rates. Trying to win on those sites will eventually force you to fall to their level as well.
Solution: Find a freelancing site with low competition and stick with it to build your reputation. And then slowly start working with clients outside those sites.
“The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.” – Seth Godin
4. Incomplete Profile
Completing your freelance profile is the first step you take to make money online. This is the page your clients come to learn about your skills and experience.
Sadly, most freelancers don’t even have five minutes to complete this step.
Solution: Complete your profile with a solid bio and a front-facing picture with a smile (no selfies). Show that you’re a professional.
5. Your Pitch Is Bad
No matter how many projects you apply every day, you will never get accepted if you write a bad pitch. The tiniest grammatical mistake in your pitch could have your clients doubt your abilities.
Solution: This may sound a bit cruel, but here’s a sneaky trick to find how to write a good pitch: Post a fake job on a freelancing platform and see how other freelancers apply for your fake job. Take note of the pitches sent from people who’ve made big sales.
6. Not Showing Genuine Interest
This is a common mistake that part-time freelancers make. They don’t take their freelance work seriously enough since they have a “real” job. So, they apply to projects like they’re trying to do a favor for the client.
Solution: Take your freelance career more seriously. Do what you’re passionate and excited about. Otherwise, get out of this business because you won’t be a successful freelancer.
“Follow your passion, be prepared to work hard and sacrifice, and, above all, don’t let anyone limit your dreams.” – Donovan Bailey
7. Trying To Fool Your Clients
“So, you’re 20-years-old and you already have 10-years of experience as a web designer? That is incredible. Here, please accept our project.” Said no client ever!!
Solution: Clients have experience dealing with freelancers. You can’t fool them. Be realistic and be honest about your experience and skills.
8. Bad Profile Description
Here’s a horrible profile description that I’ve read on a popular freelance platform with just one sale (name replaced) – “A former HR professional, [John Doe] is a certified PMP, freelance writer, and entrepreneur offering writing and graphic designing services to small and large businesses thereby helping them achieve their marketing and communication goals.”
Don’t you just hate it when people refer to themselves in the third person? Only egomaniacs do that.
Solution: Write your profile bio in first-person. Personalize your description to fit the freelance site and try not to brag too much. Instead, focus on telling others how you intend to help them.
9. Too Late to Reply To Client Emails
You’re not the only one applying for a project posted on UpWork. Dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of other freelancers are desperately competing to win that job.
To find the right person for the job, clients often send messages with questions to many of those applicants to see who’s capable of handling their project. And then give the project to whoever replies first. Yes, it’s a true story.
Solution: UpWork has a cool feature that allows you to enable desktop notifications. Enable that to stay updated. Also enable email notifications on your phone and be ready to reply instantly to your client emails.
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” – William Shakespeare
10. Not Showcasing Your Work
Your potential clients will often ask to see your previous work to confirm your claims about your experience and skills. Do you have a portfolio to showcase your work for those situations?
Solution: Keep a list of links and files of your best work ready at all times to show to your clients. If your freelance site allows to showcase your work, fill out that section as well. If you don’t have any work to showcase, start working on that right away.
11. Bad Communication Skills
Good communication is key to building long-term relationships with your clients. Copy pasting the same message to all your emails and pitches will never work.
Solution: You should never address your clients the same way you talk to your friends. Be respectful and friendly. And always double check your messages for typos and grammatical mistakes.
“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.” – Jim Rohn
12. Applying For The Wrong Jobs
An eBook writer should never take a job for writing product descriptions. Those jobs require two different sets of skills that most writers don’t even understand. Applying for this type of jobs will waste both your and your client’s time.
Solution: Apply only for jobs that you would feel comfortable with. See if your skills set matches the requirements first. This will help you write a better pitch for the project.
13. Trying Too Hard To Make Money
Desperate times call for desperate measures. There will come a time when you have zero cash in your pocket and you feel like applying for any kind of job that appear on your job feed.
It happened to me more than once. Don’t let that happen to you.
Solution: Plan ahead. Even if you have a ton of clients right now, you’ll never know when they might disappear. Always keep a small “rainy day” fund to cover your expenses during those occasions.
“Never spend your money before you have earned it.” – Thomas Jefferson
14. Asking The Wrong Questions
You can’t understand your client’s needs without asking the right questions. It’s a crucial step you can take to determine the project’s requirements and also show your enthusiasm to your clients.
But, I’m not talking about questions that are in your favor, like how much they’re willing to pay you or if you can take breaks whenever you want.
Solution: Don’t rush to accept projects or propose your prices. If you have any questions, ask them first.
15. Not Promoting Your Services
There are thousands of potential clients who don’t even know about freelancing sites. Are you promoting your services to them?
Solution: Build a following on social media and start a blog to promote your services outside freelance platforms. Share links to your freelance profiles and service pages to show that you’re available for work.
16. Promising Beyond What You Can Deliver
Sometimes, when you’re super excited about a job, you might oversell your abilities and skills in a desperate attempt to win the project. Clients are highly suspicious of those guys who offer to do way more than they request.
Solution: Know your limits and understand your client’s needs. Don’t try to oversell your experience or to convince clients of your skills. If they see your potential they will offer you the project. If not, it’s their loss.
17. Imitating Someone Else
I’ve seen a fair share of freelancers who use fake names and profiles to promote their work, especially on Fiverr. I can’t blame them because people can be very judgmental when you come from a lesser known part of the world, or a third-world country, like me.
But, using a fake English name and a stock photo is not going to help you win any clients.
Solution: Be who you are. Focus on your talents and experience. Build your reputation around your personality instead of someone else and an endless line of clients will come looking for you.
“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” – Bruce Lee
18. No Follow-Ups
Doesn’t it feel a little awkward to send a follow-up email to your clients? All freelancers suffer from that illness. I can’t remember how many times I’ve hesitated to hit reply to send a second email to a client.
Solution: Remember to send a follow-up email to your clients to let them know that you’re waiting for a response. Take a risk, it’s better to fail than not trying at all.
19. Trying To Do All Kinds Of Work
You’ll find plenty of multi-talented freelancers on sites like UpWork and you’ll also notice that they have a very low success rate, even though they excel at many fields.
Solution: Don’t try to be a Jack of all trades and master of none. Master a specific skill and stick to it.
20. Too Busy To Accept Large Projects
Unless you have too much work to handle, you should never say no to an opportunity to make a big pile of money. Doesn’t matter if you’re freelancing part-time or full-time, commit yourself to find time for large projects.
Solution: Treat your freelance work as a business. Keep a schedule to manage your time so that when you receive a new order, you are ready to handle it.
21. Scared To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Freelancing is not the same as doing a desk job. If you’re just looking for job security and a safe way to earn a few bucks, go get a day job.
Freelancing requires commitment and the will to challenge yourself every day to learn new things.
Solution: If a client contacts you for a great job, but too afraid you can’t handle it, just take it. You can learn the necessary skills while working on the job.
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.” – Richard Branson
What is the biggest problem you’re having as a freelancer right now? Send me an email and let’s talk.