What are things to avoid on your first freelancing project?

One benefit of being a freelancer is choosing what jobs you want to work on. Learn what to avoid when choosing a freelancing project here.
What are things to avoid on your first freelancing project?

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Freelance work is plentiful when you learn how to go about it. It's a style of work that so many people are moving toward, due in large part to the evolution of technology.

You'll get to work remotely or on a client-by-client basis as long as you're skilled and on top of your business. If this is you, and you're all set to take on your first set of clients — great! Now, what?

We've got you covered. Here is what you should know about taking on your first freelancing project.

What should you avoid on your first freelancing project?

A lot comes with becoming a freelancer, so it's best to go into it as prepared as possible. Unfortunately, there are several mistakes that people make when they're first trying to get into the business.

Here are some things you should avoid when you're taking on your first project:

1. Taking on a project that you can't handle or don't want to do

Never overburden yourself when you're jumping into the freelance business. The last thing you want to do is take on a project that you're ill-equipped to turn around on a certain deadline, or at all.

This begins with knowing what you are capable of and how long it takes you to complete work. Understand what kind of workload you can handle, and it will allow you to know when you are biting off more than you can chew.

Decide whether you will need to collaborate with other freelancers if it's a project that is very work-intensive and laborious. If you start fostering these relationships with other freelancers, not only will they be able to help you split a workload that is too big for you, but they will also pass some work your way when they run into the same situation.

This gives you more assistance, and some potential new business to boot.

2. Failing to have a contract in place

Hash out everything that should be included in a contract when working with a customer. Failing to have a contract in place will create more problems than it's worth, and will leave you open to issues.

The contract needs to include matters like a description and scope of the work you're going to complete, a deadline for the project, the price that you agreed on, information about deposits, requirements for payment, and other such matters. This is easier than ever to do today since digital contracts are not just acceptable — they're now the norm.

You can also use a digital dashboard that lets them endorse it immediately, in addition to looking over the invoice and paying it.

3. Not being aggressive enough or thinking like an employee

As an entrepreneur, you need to think like a boss, and that means balancing workload and taking ownership over every facet of the project. You're in charge of the whole show as a freelancer, so make sure you are prepared to tackle the entire load.

Too many new freelancers treat getting their first client like a prize that they're lucky enough to win. While you should absolutely celebrate landing that first client, you need to go about it with the assertiveness of a business owner.

Running your own business is completely up to you, which means you're in charge every detail from start to finish. Every part of your planning, communication with the client, and delivery of the work needs to be conducted with this in mind.

It's easier to manage this when you use a client management dashboard that includes time tracking if you charge billable hours, and your own project management timetable so that you can stay on task until the finish.

4. Charging less than you deserve

Figuring out how to set your rates is a huge piece of the puzzle as a freelancer.

It's a tricky balance for your first client since you're still trying to get your foot in the door. While there's nothing wrong with customer-friendly prices to start, don't make the mistake of low-balling yourself.

Start by researching what kind of rates other professionals in your field charge. Gauge their experience levels and how it compares to yours, and break down what pricing structure they stick to.

Use this, and then consider your overhead costs. Reverse engineer it and figure out what hourly, daily, or weekly rate you would have to charge in order to cover your bills. Break this down by how many projects you can handle each day or week, and use this as a foundation for setting your rates.

5. You didn't properly vet your client or customer

<tweet-link>Every freelancer has to realize that they're in full control when it comes to deciding who they'd like to work with. <tweet-link>

Too many new freelancers are desperate for work and take the first client that comes their way. This is a mistake for several reasons.

For one, you shouldn't spend your precious time on clients that are difficult, rude, or unreasonable. You also shouldn't take on clients that are out of your area of expertise, or not aligned with your brand.

A handful of dynamite customers far outweigh dozens of stressful ones, so take control of your career and your company by making the decisions that make the most sense for you.

6. Not properly communicating enough with your clients

It's critical that you stay in touch with clients every step of the way while they're waiting for you to deliver a completed project. In this day and age, we're all connected 24/7, so business hours are less set in stone, and people are always on their devices.

Give consistent updates and take in feedback as needed. You can use a project management dashboard for this. When you use one of these software platforms, your clients will be clearly laid out on your calendar, and both you and the clients can leave notes on different parts of the project.

These platforms show a snapshot of your entire history with the client, which will let you draw on previous information whenever you need it.

7. Being too nervous or prideful to get help

Many entrepreneurs also get too nervous or prideful when it comes to asking for help. If you get too overwhelmed by your first project, you might need to reach out to others for assistance.

This could mean collaborating with another freelancer to carry some of the load, getting in touch with an accountant that can help with tax questions, or consulting a business attorney if you need help creating a contract.

8. You didn't charge a deposit upfront

Failing to collect a deposit is one of the worst things that you can do as a freelancer, but is one of the most common mistakes that people make. This deposit weeds out the serious clients from those who are wasting your time.

It also allows you to keep some money in the event that the client goes ghost or doesn't pay you the rest of what they owe. This deposit should be between 25% to 50% of the total price that you are charging, with the rest due upon delivery.

When you use a client management platform, it allows you to collect the deposit immediately and acts as a go-between that secures the work for you.

9. Not setting aside some money prior to going the freelance route

Make sure that you also set aside some money as a buffer when you're beginning to freelance. Having some savings stashed will allow you to have more confidence as you hunt for clients, and will prevent you from making desperate decisions or doing business with clients that you shouldn't.

As a best-case scenario, set aside at least three months of your living expenses so that you have a safety net in case you go through a dry spell with clients.

10. You didn't organize and create a business bank account

Finally, most freelancers don't get organized with the way that they go about their business. They fail to use client management and project management platforms, and just as importantly, neglect creating a business bank account.

Creating a business checking account allows you to separate your personal and business expenses, and keeps clean records for tax purposes. Having separate accounts also makes it easier to track your expenses and transactions through your project management software, while also having a clean paper trail for your paid invoices.

Take on your first freelancing project to the best of your ability

When you take on your first freelancing project, the tips in this article will be helpful in every regard. Avoid these common mistakes at all costs, and keep working to improve yourself as a professional.

We can set you up with a variety of tools that will help you with project management, time tracking, invoices, and so much more.

Take your entrepreneurship to the next level by checking out more of our content.

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Our team of career freelancers writes about best invoice practices, what makes a great client, and repeats the mantra, "never work without a contract." We're opinionated about the future of work and will always be on the side of freelancers.
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