7 Mistakes All Freelancers Make Once (At Least)

Posted 8 years ago in Small Business Tips
by Emily Bell

The joys of freelancing are numerous, but so are the pitfalls. It’s all too easy to be lead astray when you’re completely your own manager. Little “sins” can lead to much bigger ones, and eventually, you may find yourself spinning out of control—at least when it comes to keeping your business on track.

To help you avoid such a disaster, we’ve compiled the seven deadly sins of freelancing. If you can manage to forgo these major mistakes, then you’re all set for a smooth and easy journey down the freelancing road. But be warned, some of them can be quite tempting.

Taking on business outside your core competency

Sometimes, the grass looks awfully green on the other side. It’s easy to peer over the fence and see a host of exciting new opportunities to work on different projects. Sometimes, your client will even offer them to you. However, these projects can quickly dilute your business model. Focus on excelling at what you’re genuinely passionate about, rather than jumping at every opportunity. It will make branding yourself much easier, and let you develop the skills you need to stay competitive in your field.

Taking on too many clients

Scheduling out your work properly is something you don’t have to think about much when you’re in-house. You have managers to report to or dole out your assignments. However, when you’re on your own, it can be quite tricky. You want to make good money, but you also need to find a balance. Creating a long term schedule of your various projects (not just what you have on your plate that day or week) will give you a better idea of how much you can take on. On the flip side, accepting every project willy nilly tends to backfire—you’ll end up with a lot of missed deadlines and unhappy clients.


A lot has been said about the dangers of under billing in the freelance world. However, overbilling is just as deadly, if not more so. It may be the quickest way to lose clients. Overbilling makes it too easy for you to get undercut on price by your competitors, and at the very worst, it can brand you as a dishonest contractor. Be sure you study your field carefully to know how much others at your level of experience are charging, factor in the specific circumstances of the project (e.g. a rush delivery) and then pick a quote based on that.


Procrastination is another temptation that’s a special curse for freelancers. If you’re working from home, there’s no one looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re not constantly scrolling through Facebook. Try downloading free apps like StayFocused, which only allow you to access certain sites when you have deadlines approaching.

You might also be free of time wasting habits, but still a victim of the “anything but” procrastination: the bizarre, but very real temptation to work on anything but the project you have due. If you’re ignoring your upcoming deadlines, that’s still procrastination!

Bad customer support

As a freelancer, are you likely to be constantly extroverted and perky? Maybe not. Should you ever be rude to client or customer? Definitely not. Resist the urge to be snappy or grumpy, no matter how difficult the project. You are a professional, and should treat everyone with genuine courtesy, even when you have to resolve disputes.

Losing focus/not setting goals

Very much like the sin of lust, envy can distract you by getting you to think too much about what else might be out there… and too little on your goals for your core business. Make sure you have a solid, long term plan on how you want to grow your business gradually, with definable metrics along the way. Be careful about pursuing the latest “freelancing fads” and not having your focus where it should be.

Over promising, under delivering

This is a freelancing “sin” that can be hard to escape, since it often happens when everything else is going well. You are confident in your ability to quickly turn around top-quality work, and that’s a good thing. But if you take it too far, it can cause problems. You should err on the side of caution when you are providing your own deadline to a client, or promising a certain type of work. It’s better to set realistic expectations, and meet them consistently, than to disappoint people with overblown promises.

We hope this list has been helpful. If you want to take your freelancing focus a step further, be sure to check out ZipBooks, which lets you send free invoices and manage your bookkeeping easily online. It’s a great way to keep ensuring you can put your time towards what matters most.

Privacy Preference Center