Categories / Shop Center

8 Mistakes Every Freelancer Makes

Nick Hiley March 31, 2021 · 5 min read

We didn’t set out to be freelancers because we love dealing with clients, sorting out taxes and taking our financial lives into our own hands, we are freelancers because we love the craft that we do. We’re creative people not business people and because of this it’s easy to make mistakes.

In my time of freelancing I made plenty of mistakes which I’ll share with you today and how you can avoid them in your career.

1. Charging Too Little

This is probably the biggest mistake I made and that’s why it’s at number one. My idea was to charge as little as possible for my work with the hopes of that being attractive to potential clients. This actually has the opposite effect. Clients may see you as ‘cheap’ and someone who provides low quality work.


It’s important to charge what you think you’re worth as well as how much you need to live. Here are a few articles about pricing

2. Contracts

Having no contract or formal agreement in place when working with a client can mean you doing more work than you expect to and some clients may take advantage of this. A contract should make everything clear about your services for the client. This means you should spell out everything about your services from payment schedules to the amount of revisions you’re willing to do.


You don’t have to be a lawyer to get yourself a contract, there are plenty of templates and samples out there to help you set your terms and conditions for your clients. Here are a few to get you started:

3. Knowing When to Say No

Many will argue that the client is always right. Others will argue the opposite. Regardless of this sometimes you need to say no. You may be asked to work less than your regular rate or the client may add tasks to your current work pile. It’s good practice to say no to clients that could harm your reputation, try to barter on pricing and companies with a bad reputation.

Before starting work for any client you should research their business. How do they treat their customers? What are their work ethics like? Answering these questions will help you get a better understanding of the project and also give you an idea of what to expect working with them will be like. If you decide to say no, don’t regret it – there’s plenty of more potential clients.

4. Appealing to Everyone

It makes sense to offer more services to broaden your market. However, focusing on and specialising in one or two services could gain you more clients. This is because you can easily make a name for yourself as the expert in landing page design, for example, but it’s much harder to be known as the best web designer. Pick a niche that you love doing and something you’re good at.

5. Staying in Touch with Clients

You work so hard to find your clients and then once the work is done, you simply pack up and leave. This is something I did often and probably lost out on a lot of work. The easiest way to stay in touch with past clients is to build an email list that provides your clients with content about your business. Offer discounts to your previous clients and they’ll be sure to hire you again.

6. Time Management

I used to give my clients inaccurate time scales and think that I could work faster than I could. When this happens you miss deadlines and even lose a client’s trust. When giving your client an estimate of how long a project will take, it’s easier to break it up in sections and think how long these sections have taken you in the past. That way, you’ll keep your clients happy!

7. Marketing Yourself

When I first started freelancing, I built myself a portfolio, added some concept work, had business cards made and then waiting for clients to come to me. I now see how ridiculous this sounds because nobody knew who I was and my only clients were people I already knew. If you want to find work, you have to go to them and find your clients. Here’s how.


Probably the most popular way freelancers market themselves is by blogging. Show your potential clients how professional you are by writing about your craft.


Networking online and offline can gain you a lot of clients as they get a chance to know you before they work with you. Setting up your social profiles, sending email proposals and participating in industry meetups will help you meet potential clients and future colleagues.

8. Working Too Much

As a freelancer, you are the only person in your business and means that you don’t get paid time off or other benefits that employees get. This caused me to work everyday all day in fear that I would never have any money and I soon burned myself out. Taking time off for yourself helps you to regain motivation and feel more refreshed to work.


Many self employed people regularly put earnings into a savings account so that when it comes to take time off for whatever reason, they have the money to do so and not have to worry about losing out on income.

What Mistakes Have You Made?

It’s our human nature to make mistakes. If we didn’t mess up once in a while, we would never learn so don’t feel bad about screwing something up, embrace it! Let me know some of your mistakes you made as a freelancer in the comments below.

Products Seen In This Post:

About the Author
Nick Hiley

Founder of King Digital, a digital design studio for small businesses and startups.

View More Posts
Related Articles
  • Never say no (well, don't work for immoral people), charge whatever a client can afford, work all the time, and always bite off more than you can chew. Go beyond what you think you can do. Don't get crazy with contracts (lots of fine print turns off more people than impresses) - And always do the best job you can; which will make you work more hours than you have charged for the job. If that turns you off then don't work for yourself. You'll never be successful without hard work and lots of it. 7 years ago
  • "The easiest way to stay in touch with passed clients" should be "past clients." 7 years ago
  • Great article, it surely raises the right points. I've had a long career, so I can say I made ALL the mistakes at one point or the other… hopefully learned from them. 7 years ago
  • mediumstudio what you mean never say no? I will not take a job that is gonna cost me time and money. By working for a bad client that consume a lot of your time, you take away time that others will pay for. You need to say no to some jobs, you just don't need to say "wtf no, go away" or something, you need to find a way to avoid this job without insulting the client. For example you can ask a lot of money, and if this doesn't turn the client away it still ok, because that extra money will cover that unpaid hours mentioned above. Also charge what clients can afford? This is half ok, I will set a minimum and go up depending on what the client can afford, but I will not charge less because he can't afford my services. If he can't afford my services then maybe he need to find someone else to do the job, because this way I may not afford to live myself, none of the bills they call me to pay at the end of the month care about what I can afford. Also hard work does not make you successful if you don't focus it on a right plan, I have worked harder than all the people I know combined in my previous job and I merely got a "good job Nick"... Now that I focus my hard work on my freelance I do way better. 7 years ago
  • My biggest mistake is getting personally involved with a client and then feeling bad for charging them the normal price for future work... 7 years ago
  • Ummm Rachel... nope, wrong. 7 years ago
  • Thanks! 7 years ago
  • Hahaha ditto Sean. Rachel, your comment should have read as follows: The "you're" in "what you think you're worth" is 100% correct. His sentence reads perfectly fine. First off, YOUR sentence however is incorrect in trying to correct an already correct sentence and two, what is incorrect grammar on this page is YOUR sentence where you wrote "is should". Instead of people criticizing, why don't we do what the article suggests which is to share what mistakes we have made. One mistake I have made was tiring myself out on a client that paid well and on time but unfortunately they were someone who liked to take advantage of their prompt payments and told me "If you can include this, this and this then I will pay you tomorrow". This soon became too overwhelming very quickly. Another mistake I've learned from was taking on a project at a lower cost because they convinced me they had future work. I'd say 95% of the time this desirable mistake always fails me so I stick to my costs and I find myself a lot happier with ongoing work. Thanks for the article! It confirms what I do correctly and clearly shows what I should improve on :) 7 years ago
  • @Rachel Rubio The "you're" is actually correct. 7 years ago
  • One extra mistake: Trying to be perfect. Once a client loves your design/work - stop improving it. The extra details rarely count as big as you think they will and the extra time it takes will eat into the other items on this list: keeping in touch with clients, marketing, meeting deadlines, etc. To loosely quote Voltaire, " 'Perfect' is the enemy of 'done' ", or to quote Mark Cuban, " 'Perfect' is the enemy of 'profitability' ". 7 years ago
  • Great points, as I think all of us who have been doing this a while have learned at one time or another. I have learned that you don't always have to say no to a client who may not be easy to work with for whatever the reason. One way to prevent that is to charge a higher hourly rate for that client. If a client is going to be overly difficult, then your time is worth more. You need to charge what it is worth to you to do the job. Some clients are easy, so they get the normal rate. Others are far more challenging, so they get a higher rate to ensure it is worth it to you in order to do the job. If the client thinks your fee is too high, then you are better off not taking the job. That is always a great way to get rid of clients you want to 'fired'. Just charge more than you believe they are willing to pay. They magically go away after that, and there are no hurt feelings. 6 years ago
  • "Offer discounts to your previous clients and they'll be sure to hire you again." Great write up Nick but this is terrible advice as it goes against "charging what you're worth". Instead of discounting, I suggest offering bonus services. Not only do you keep your integrity but your client sees you as treating them specially if you throw it in when you quote or 'going the extra mile' if you pop it in when you present. 6 years ago
  • Saying "NO" to the client is the most challenging thing to do. You don't need to literally say "NO" to them, but rather highlight your points, and justify it. Try to listen to their intentions, and do a collaboration with them to make things work on both ends. Sometimes, we just really need to educate the clients on how things work (technically or not) and it is important for them to know that you are not just after their money, but to build a good relationship with them. 6 years ago
  • Thank you for sharing with us. Will follow the steps. 6 years ago
  • I recently started saying no (About a year ago, after watching a episode of Silicon Valley) - It's a delight, and actually, the clients get even more 'attracted' to my work and business (They want what they can't get).. I'd argue it actually increased my bottom line by AT LEAST 25% 6 years ago
  • Nice article, but be careful with" Offer discounts to your previous clients and they'll be sure to hire you again." Nothing kills your value like offering discounts. Connect with old clients by offering a new service or a new product, but never a discount. 6 years ago
  • I agree with most of this article, because each thing I've learned from experience. I used (and probably still do) to work for ridiculous prices, but I'm stopping doing that and raising my fees because otherwise it isn't just worth it. I do make contracts because most of the times the clients will come up with more tasks, more requests, an insane number of revisions, and sometimes you really better ask for a percentage in advance, because you may never see the rest of the money (I don't know how it is abroad, but in Italy is nearly impossible to force a client to pay you. They just say "uh, oh, I don't have enough money to pay you, sry". It happened to me twice, for a total of 4 months of work). Most clients don't even read the contracts and always try to ask for something that the contracts clearly state they can't ask, and that's when I pull out my dear contract and I avoid losing the client, because if they're reasonable they'll understand that it's their mistake. Usually they do. 6 years ago
  • I am just getting started on my own and also with a business partner on a different type project. We are both getting great heads up from your "mistakes" and I already so appreciate them and this blog service from Creative Market. Thanks so much for helping us to not suffer so much right off the bat, to not cause our families to suffer through our mistakes financially, and to look forward to learning different mistake lessons the hard way and not these!! Here's to creatives working as a team out there in the big ole world! 6 years ago
  • Taxes are mentioned in the introduction, but not as one of the mistakes freelancers make. I'd add in this #9: freelancers often don't withhold enough (or anything) and when quarterly or yearly tax time comes around, they come up short. If you're in the USA, set aside approximately 25% of what you earn as you receive it, to ensure there's enough to cover taxes when it's time. 5 years ago
  • Never take on a client from your or your parents church. It will always end badly. Personal relationships cannot interfere with payment. If the person cannot pay you, you cannot be hired by them. Also, although working in your jammies seems like fun, I've found that getting dressed and having a nice breakfast gets me started earlier in the day than if I simply lounged around in my jammies all day. I get more done and I'm happily spending my evenings playing CAH, and drinking beer with friends, instead of stressing over a client's job. 5 years ago
  • Nice article, but be careful with" Offer discounts to your previous clients and they'll be sure to hire you again." Nothing kills your value like offering discounts. Connect with old clients by offering a new service or a new product at, but never a discount. Good Job. Keep it up. 3 years ago
  • Thank you for putting this list together Nick . I know some VAs and will pass this on to them in case there are some new one for them to check out. Appreciate you putting taking the time to put this together. Hope you’re having a great week. 24Task 2 years ago
  • Do you know the types of virtual assistant services? This chapter of our How to find a virtual assistant- A Definitive Guide offers complete information at 2 years ago