Living as a freelancer: 5 mistakes to avoid if you want to get paid

Freelancers not getting paid? could you make one of these mistakes?.

When I first started out as a copywriter, I did everything I could to make a name for myself.  There was a lot that I didn’t know and I didn’t fully understand the business side of freelancing – at first.

It was tough to build a reputation as I also had to learn how to get client and projects, to be reliable and trustworthy as a freelancer.

In fact, at one point, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it.

I had a passion for writing, but I had to learn about the business side of freelancing.

I made a lot of mistakes!

Avoiding mistakes will help you not only get paid but to grow your business. Because that’s what it is: a business.

If you take shortcuts and don’t get the business side of your work organised, you will be ill-prepared to handle your business when it grows. If you’re good at what you do as a freelancer, you can almost be assured that it will grow.

This post shares some common mistakes that stop freelancers from getting paid for their work.

1. Working without a contract

Even in the early going, a contract can be helpful when dealing with any client because it sets the terms of the agreement and gets your payment and expectations in writing. Make no mistake; there will be clients that will stiff you and won’t pay you. A good way to prevent wasting your time is to get everything in writing before any work is assigned.

If you don’t have a legal-looking contract, make sure your terms and conditions are comprehensive and clear and include them in your proposal of work. When the client agrees to your proposal (in writing, of course) they also accept your terms of service.

2. Working with any client

It’s hard to turn down work and it feels like a luxury when you’re just started out but the harsh truth is, some clients simply aren’t worth your time.

As you work with more clients, projects will inevitably end badly. It happens. Maybe you had a “bad feeling” about someone. Maybe your client was super nice but so disorganised they derailed your work.

As you develop your processes around working with clients, notice red flags that might signal a difficult client and consider politely declining their offer.

Respect goes both ways. If you are punctual about getting your work in on time and respond to your clients’ notes/emails in a timely fashion, it would make sense to expect the same from them. On the other hand, if they don’t, working with them will ultimately end up frustrating and demoralising.

Learn to recognise clients who aren’t going to work well with you!

3. Taking on too much work

On one hand, the more money you can make as a freelancer, the better. However, keep in mind that once the quality of the work you turn in begins to suffer, that client will take that as a note that you can’t handle the workload, which, in turn, will damage your reputation.

Never sacrifice quality for quantity and only take jobs that you’re certain you can devote the appropriate amount of time to.

When you deliver an exceptional experience and product, clients will fall over themselves to book you again AND share you with their friends.

4. Missing deadlines/appointments

Even with enough time, freelancing can make it oddly easy to fudge on timing and schedules. Especially when you begin to take on more and more work.

Time and task management is tough!

If you start slipping on deadlines a few things can happen. A client can fire you. Yes! They can! The bigger issue is that you can develop a poor reputation. And that can spread like wildfire.

Take deadlines seriously and make sure you’re not falling behind without a good reason. Your clients are counting on you to submit your work in on time. They’re professionals, after all, and they may just let you go if it becomes too much of a problem.

5. Not selling your value and charging too little

Often times, freelancing can feel like a bit of a junk-drawer type of work classification and some clients can make you feel like you’re not worth that much.

Your price is linked to your value. When you charge too little, you’re sending a message that you’re not worth much. A higher price brings higher expectation.

You’ve got to have enough confidence in your work to not sell yourself short. If you truly believe you bring something of value to a client, charge them what is fair to both them and you.

Create a professional looking website and include a portfolio. Produce proposals that sell your value and explain your process to clients so they understand how to work with you. Look for opportunities to create more value for your clients (and more income for yourself).

Develop repeatable processes that deliver an exceptional client experience and capture raving testimonials.

Doing all of these things can give you a tremendous advantage over other freelancers being considered for the work.

They are also good for your self-esteem. You’re worth it!

Now it’s over to you.

Did you make any mistakes when you started freelancing? What happened and how do you avoid it happening again? Share your experience!


14 Responses

  1. Great advice! I’ve been freelancing full time since September, so this is very timely! Would love to know more about what kind of ‘contract’ you would recommend. Are there any templates worth using? Or simply areas you would recommend get covered?

      1. Thanks, they look good. I’m loving freelancing life! Only thing is a lack of people contact when working from home. Do you do much coworking?

        1. I don’t. I have done a little but I found it too distracting. I loved hanging out with people… a little too much!

          To stay connected with people and practise real conversation, I attend regular networking events. I find, I can be social but in a businessy setting. The best of both worlds!

          1. I’d love to know some of your favourite networking events! You’re in the Melbourne area too?

  2. “Indeed, Never sacrifice quality for quantity. The quality of work is very important for it builds credibility and reputation of one’s business. Reputation is essential for business survival and the trust and confidence of the clients can have a direct and profound effect on a company’s bottom line. What I like about being a freelancer is you’re the boss of your own business and making all the tough decisions just became your responsibility; you have all the control. Unfortunately, Being your own boss and working from your home also means that it can be difficult to distinguish between your work time and your personal life and being a freelancer means that your income and your workload are unstable and inconsistent aside from that you run the risk of not getting paid. These were great tips to avoid not getting paid. Nice article, keep posting.

  3. Very helpful post! I have received advice from multiple freelance writers–some say ALWAYS include a contract, others say it’s not always necessary. I’ve been freelancing part-time for about a year and still feel like I’m scrambling to figure things out! Your blog is full of great advice!

    1. Thanks Rebecca! It can feel a bit like you’re stumbling around in the dark sometimes. If you have to choose, go with a written verification of the relationship. It’s better to look back and think it wasn’t needed than be in a tussle with your client and wish you’d got the agreement in writing!

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. When I started working as a copywriter, my biggest mistake was taking too big orders. I begin my career in an online writing service like this one where there are lots of work and very tight deadlines. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to do work fast and properly. It was a hell. I was very close to leaving a writing niche. Then I read about various freelance platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, and it was a relief. Such websites allow you to manage your time and workload on your own. You can start small, and gradually become more proficient and skilled. At the same time, it is a good opportunity to build your portfolio. Now, my advice for all starting copywriters is to work with freelance platforms. It’s a good start, in my opinion.

    1. They can be a relief James but they can easily keep copywriters locked in low paying jobs as many clients on Upwork push for the lowest price possible. I always recommend copywriters begin their own marketing to source clients off these platforms. This gives them the chance to sell their value… not their price.

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to Hit Turbo on Your Copywriting Business?

Want to Hit
on Your Copywriting Business?

Of course you do.

Find out your copy biz shortcut so you can focus on the actions that will accelerate your business growth.

You’ll learn what YOU should focus on right now (spoiler alert: it’s not all the things) and get a bunch of tips, advice and extra resources to help you take action.

Have Some Feedback?

Let us know if you see any missing content, weird bugs, or just have general feedback about the new site design!