7 Horrible Mistakes To Avoid When Starting Your Freelance Business

  • Reading time:8 mins read

There are seven things that I have found while looking back over my freelance business and listening to your input through social media, questions through email, and so on. These mistakes are horrible, and can seriously hinder your success as a freelance business.

So, you need to pay close attention, and learn how to stop these mistakes before it’s too late.


One of the biggest misconceptions that new freelancers make is that you need to do free work in order to build your portfolio. I’ve already debunked that and shown you how to build your portfolio without happy clients, so that’s one thing you need to stop right now.

Spec work is cancer to the freelance business community and by doing work for free, you’re demeaning the worth of other freelancers and building up the idea that we’re all cheap labor, which is the furthest thing from the truth.

Freelancers are some of the biggest, brightest workers in our fields, and since we’re not constrained to the 9-5 lifestyle, we can learn and grow as fast as we want.


Pricing is one of the biggest problems that we’ve all come across throughout the years, myself included. How do I price the work? Should I bill by the hour or by the project? Should I charge less than my competitors in order to sneak in and get more work?

Every 6 months you need to reevaluate your skill level and the things you’ve learned. Once you do this, you’ll see if you’ve built your skill set enough to justify a price increase. Keep it small at first, 5-10% of your current rates will be fine.

Test the waters and see how this works out for your client retention percentages. If you’ve really increased your skills and grown your knowledge base enough in the past 6 months, a small increase is justified.

You have to remember that you deserve to be paid what you’re worth.


Here’s one that I personally struggled with a lot in my earlier years. I’ve got a better grip on it now, but I wished someone would have slapped me in the face to explain the repercussions that come with missing deadlines. Chargebacks, bad client relations, negative reviews, missed word of mouth referrals. The list goes on, and none of it’s good.

If you’re setting a deadline for your project, give yourself an extra couple days to account for personal problems that might arise. If you think the project will take 5-6 days, tell your client the project will take 9-10 days. This way if you have something come up, there’s some cushion, and if you finish early, you look even better.


Stretching yourself too thin is one of the biggest reasons you’ll miss deadlines. You only have so many hours in a day, and if you start overlapping clients, you’ll have people feeling just like you do when you’re in a doctors office waiting to be seen and you know they’ve double booked every 15 minutes of the day; less than important.

That’s not what you want your clients to feel like. Yes, you need to fill your time, and not all clients will move at the pace you’re able to, so this is a skill you’ll need to learn over time.

Under book your time at first, testing the waters and then as you start to realize how long specific projects generally take, you can start booking clients closer together.


You want the biggest and baddest tools to freelance your business, right? From invoicing apps to project management apps, from premium fonts and design resources, there’s a lot of ways you can bleed money in your freelance business.

Do you need to rent an office if you’re a solo freelancer? Do you really need to spend money on a separate iPhone and phone number to separate your business from your personal cell phone? What would happen if you took a more personal approach, letting people know the real you and not hiding behind the business name?

Look for ways to cut corners when you’re freelancing, since the feast or famine cycle can hit you at any time and it’s best to hoard as much money as possible to keep yourself afloat in the slower times. Those extra expenses are rarely needed and open source versions of a lot of the tools you use as a freelancer are available.


One thing I’ve been looking into personally lately is upsells for my freelance business. I develop WordPress powered websites for clients, and I’ve looked into a few different areas to expand my upsells. From logo designs to premium WordPress plugins, I’ve tried a couple and found my own lane with what works best for me and my clients.

If you’re a freelance copywriter, why not offer an upsell of a package of social media marketing tweets to help the client grow their social media presence. You could also offer an upsell of personally promoting their site by submitting it to CSS galleries, directories, offering a guest post package that you’ll write and submit to related websites in order to promote their business.

The possibilities are endless, and the potential cash flow on the table can help you sustain your freelance business, even in the slower times.


You should already know why being all things to all clients sucks, but let’s take a quick refresher course. You try to do too many things, scared to say no to a client, and you paint yourself into a corner, unable to complete the work you promised and you end up looking bad.

Are you a jack of all trades, and a master of (n)one, or are you a specialist who knows exactly what you’re best at and not stray from that area of expertise? If you’re doing too much, try to narrow down your focus a bit, let people know what you do best and let that work shine.


Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others. ― Otto von Bismarck

What’s something you know you’ve made a mistake as in your freelance career? Share in the comments and help other freelancers learn from your mistakes.

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