5 Mistakes New Full-Time Freelancers Should Avoid

Guest post by Miranda
9 of 365 "Working from home"Most new full time freelancers learn how to handle their business through trial and error. Many times learning these lessons is frustrating and costly.

There is no perfect system for managing your freelance career, but there are five major mistakes you can avoid that will save you time, money and aggravation.

Don’t Do It “Under The Table”

Many new freelancers dream of all the tax-free money they can make if they just keep things hush-hush. However, your dream will quickly turn into a nightmare when a client reports what they’ve paid you on their tax forms and the IRS starts questioning why you did not report the income. Therefore, consult a professional, break out the best income tax software, or simply file your taxes on your own. Keep track of all the income you make and set aside a portion of it for taxes so you are not slammed with a huge tax bill at the end of the year.

Calculate Your Hourly Rate

Clients often offer a lump sum for a completed batch of work. Estimate how long you think the project will take and then divide the total amount the client is offering by the number of hours you think that you’ll spend working on it. Novice freelancers often end up working for less than minimum wage because they look at the “big number” without considering how much of their time it will take.

Minimize your Distractions

The most difficult part of successful freelancing is time management. It is very easy to get distracted during the course of the workday checking emails, taking care of household chores and doing other tasks that could wait until your workday is complete. Set aside a certain number of hours per day that you devote strictly to working and save everything else for after you have met your deadlines.

Don’t Blow Deadlines

An unreliable freelancer is a freelancer who runs out of work. Word of mouth spreads very quickly in the information age. Don’t be so eager to earn money that you take on more work than you can reasonably complete within any given time frame. The short-term gain is not worth it if you shoot your credibility in the foot.

Avoid Nasty Breakups

It is inevitable in every freelancer’s life that some working relationships don’t pan out. Maybe the client isn’t paying enough for what they’re asking or maybe they’re unreasonable in their expectations. No matter what, you should always behave professionally.

If you get an email from a client that sends you screaming from the rooftops and you are ready to fire them, take a deep breath and calm down before you respond. The best approach is to thank them for the opportunity they’ve given you then nicely explain why it’s not working out for you and it’s best that they find someone else.

Freelance work is a business just like any other. You have to act professionally, manage your business and be conscious of your image. The strength of every freelancer’s business depends on how they handle it; handle yours properly and success will follow.

What other mistakes should be avoided?  What tips would you offer a newbie?

Miranda is a surgical technologist by day and blogger by night. She loves researching internet marketing and blogging techniques and enjoys sharing her discoveries with others.


  1. These are absolutely spot on. Working at home, as a freelance, needs as much discipline as working in someone else’s company or business.
    Too much freedom is dangerous because it will get you nowhere.

  2. At first the excitement is big, so many mistakes can be done. The most important is to act like a professional in front of your clients no matter what.

  3. Hi Miranda, from the client’s perspective I agree with you about the hourly rate. I like to know how much a freelancer charges per hour – and how long they estimate that each task will take. Thanks for the other points too. I’ll be sure to share this with my freelancer friends.

    • Yes, for most of the time, those people who decide to become the full time freelancers never consider the qualities that they should have. They make the decision simply based on the few that are succeeded.

      But about the majority who fail? Have they look for the reasons of such failures?

      As long as they do not think about this issue, I am confident they will be only average freelancers if not bad.

  4. Good tips, and not just for new freelancers. I’ve been freelancing full-time for almost 3 years now, and while I think a lot of my success has come from the fact that I’ve always adhered to #1, 2 and 5, I find that #3 and 4 are perpetual challenges that become even more critical as your business grows.

  5. Being self employed, working at home and basically being accountable to yourself requires a level or discipline that is alien to many work places.

    • Agree with you. The first thing that we should consider before “venture” into the self-employed world is whether are we disciplined enough?

      Without it, we are heading to more problems instead of better life.

      Unfortunately, that is the common problem that most of so called freelancers out there have.

  6. I don’t know about the taxes, that might be the case in the US but in other countries, especially if you are getting paid through Paypal, you can’t be found by the government and I am pretty sure they won’t pursue, mainly because they will never find out.

    But keeeping a book of your payments and commissions is always great for back reference and statistics.

    Being a freelancer usually means that you will get work by how good your reputation is so blowing deadlines might be your demise as a freelancer.

  7. You should realize that if you want to be successful and compete others, you have to study – new tools, methods, techniques, strategies – in order to keep up with the world and the business.
    Also you have to remember that if you stop for a while, you’ll have to start everything from the very beginning – people have a tendency to forget you in no time.

  8. I did all of these things in the first few months but now that I can see through the storms, these are all the things I would tell others to avoid.

  9. Still yet i am part time blogger but planning to be full time. I will keep your advice for that time. Thanks

  10. Thanks for the tips, but when you start you need a bit of assistance as you need to learn so much about being a freelancer. I mean all the tools and sites and programs. Before you get very good at everything, you will make a lot of technical mistakes. I may just advise to learn somehow before you start working independently. The second biggest trouble is for sure time management as you can’t still control the time you need to finish every task and you can miss deadlines. You need very careful time check.

  11. Good tips. I can add that for me, taking some breaks is a good idea. Like every hour or hour and half take break, just like 5 mins to stretch or whatever to clear your head a a bit.

  12. I would add on working ‘under the table’. People who work on sites like Elance or oDesk form good working relationship with clients. They thus try to get away with the fees and work for the clients on their own. This is alright, but usually it is good to work through the site simply because it is a feedback system and a good feedback can help you bag those coveted deals in the future. I see the fees as an investment for the future when clients dry up and you need to start over.

  13. Like one point you made about avoiding nasty breakups, we should know how to separate our work from our personal life even if we work at home or freelance. We can have a difficult time concentrating on our priorities if we won’e organize.

  14. Hi I never shared my personal life and I had a break up with my friend…and that was a nasty one..weeks of work and health disorder..so points mentioned above should be practically implimented

  15. After reading the post I was going to add something but after reading the comments – nothing to add but the information is interesting and worth considering for future.

  16. Brilliant article, minimizing distractions takes a lot of practice to get a solid grip on, especially when your freelancing. It’s easy to get lost when surfing the web. And nasty break-ups can be avoided if you set the a nice working foundation at the very beginning of client – freelancer relationship. Cheers!

  17. “Don’t Do It “Under The Table”
    - For some places, it’s really important to consider paying your tax. However, it’s not that imoprtant for some places wherein not all works are acceptable job in their society because it’s not as famous as the work as an employee.

    “Minimize Your Distractions”
    - I find distractions difficult to handle until now. Though I must say that I was able to improve myself but find it hard to totally eliminate it.

    • I’m not sure that the fact that a job-type is more famous than another negates the legalities of paying your taxes.

  18. Like 1 point you made about avoiding nasty breakups, we should know how to separate our work from our personal life even if we work at home or freelance. We can have a difficult time concentrating on our priorities if we won’t organize.

  19. Like you have said, time management and the hourly rate seems to be good to have looked on. When i am offered a large sum for some seo work, in the former days, i hadnt bothered about the hourly rate. But seems then that i usually get a cheap hourly since the work is more. So i have started checking the hourly rate too now.

  20. honestly speaking I was hurt by this “Don’t Blow Deadlines” I tend to accept job that I could think I can do but in the end I’ve realized that I can’t handle all the jobs I’ve accepted and my goals aren’t reached after all.

  21. At first you are delighted that you do not have a timetable, you’re your own boss but you can make many mistakes, but if you make a program that you’ll respect you have a good chance to succed

  22. It’s pretty hard to calculate an hourly rate in the beginning because that’s when the new freelancer needs money most and can’t afford to lose clients.
    What i used to do is just ask the clients for their budgets and work around it. If forced to, i would ask for more than i would take, and see how they react. Every client likes to bargain, if you tell him your lowest price it can backfire. Not to mention that some of them actually afford to pay even more than that.

  23. In my opinion the worst mistakes from those 5 is first not be able to deliver a project within the deadline and have strong argument with a client because the most valuable asset of a freelancer is his reputation

  24. Thank you for information, i’ll use it in the future.

  25. Hotels in Reading says:

    Hmmmm I think I have alot to learn

  26. PrIyAnGsHu says:

    Well , these mistakes should certainly be avoided by all the freelancers . I’ve been freelancing since 2 years , and I’ve commited a lots of mistakes during my journey of being a freelancer , and most of them are listen upon here . These mistakes should always be avoided by each and every freelancer .

  27. Still yet i am part time blogger but planning to be full time. Before you get very good at everything, you will make a lot of technical mistakes. When i am offered a large sum for some seo work, in the former days, i hadnt bothered about the hourly rate.

  28. Fred Willis says:

    Great insight Miranda, thanks for sharing. Using these tips it can help freelancers to be more aware on what to do. After reading it all it gives me lots of idea on how to deal with things as a freelancer. One of the things I eager follow is not to blow deadlines. Working on tasks and meeting deadlines is crucial. When a freelancer can’t do tasks on time the consequence is having a bad reputation. It will reflect on how you work on tasks and when an employer sees that you can finish tasks on time. Opportunities of working are low. I effectively finish task on time and meet deadlines with the help of time management. First I list my entire tasks and organize it depends on priority level this way I can easily determine what tasks are needed to do first. I also set an estimated amount of time when working on each task. This way I can limit wasted time, stay focus on tasks and meet deadlines. Discipline is the key that I can effectively follow scheduled tasks.

  29. Just found something I was searching for. It’s tough to show you how much happy I’m to get the thing I needed. The describing style was really a little different from others.

  30. Hi Miranda, firstly thanks for all your important guidelines. I will always keep these points in my mind as i don’t want any kind of complications in my professional life. :)

  31. Rule #1 in my book: “An unreliable freelancer is a freelancer who runs out of work.”

    Breaking a deadline is a one-way ticket to breaking the employer/freelancer trust.

    If you’re going to miss a deadline you’d better had a incredibly good excuse – anything other than ‘my entire family has died’ will likely get your contract terminated!

  32. Working by the hour needs to be calculated properly. I’ve never fallen into the trap but yeah, it’s easy to see the big dollar sign and forget how much it breaks down to per hour. You wanna start out on the right foot and if you do a few jobs where you find yourself working for next to nothing then youll get sick of freelancing!

  33. Not submitting on deadline can be nasty at times. Making the same mistake more than once is also not acceptable. Taking Criticism lightly or acting in an unprofessional Manner should be avoided. Being a freelancer, one should also look to experiments and find ways to survive doing jobs beyond the Core Service that he/she offers.

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