Nine ways to avoid common freelance nightmares

Considering going freelance, or new to the industry? Here are nine ways you can avoid common freelance nightmares.

If you’re thinking of going freelance, you’ve probably done a bit of research to find out what’s involved, and what it’s really like freelancing.

If so, you’ll have undoubtedly come across a horror story or two.

Late payments, no payments, horrible clients and even undeserved legal action litter the freelance landscape. Indeed, almost every freelancer has a story to tell.

And while it’s true there are some tough projects and terrible clients out there, with a bit of knowledge and caution you can avoid some of the biggest freelance nightmares.

Nine ways to avoid common freelance nightmares

So, if you’re thinking of launching a freelancer career, here are nine tips to help you do just that.

1) Write a business plan

No, you’re not looking for investors. In fact, it’s unlikely that anyone else will ever see your business plan. But it’s an integral document to create in order to understand your own goals and how you plan to execute them.

Financial goals, monthly goals and end of year goals should be fine when you’re just starting out. The more success you gain, the further you can expand your business plan and perhaps even consider including other people in the work. For the less ambitious, simply consider it a way to conduct your own performance review every now and again.

2) Set up a website

Marketing yourself is an integral aspect of being a freelancer and the cornerstones of your effort need to be a viable website.

Having your own domain makes you credible, approachable and can even act as a portfolio of sorts. For some clients, it can also be a way to assess your success, as the better your website the more successful you seem. So don’t be afraid to polish this obsessively before you begin your freelancing in earnest.

3) Network on social media

Some people find social media tedious and a waste of time. An attitude which can have a negative effect on your freelance efforts. Just as important as a website, your social media channels can be a window into your work ethic which will give your clients an idea of who you are and why they should hire you.

LinkedIn is also a great platform to help grow your professional network. Write a few articles, reach out to potential clients and your brand authority will grow exponentially with just a little effort.

Find out how we help you write a LinkedIn profile that will attract clients for just £49

4) Do the maths

Accounting isn’t fun, especially if you are a writer and thus more creatively inclined. But, if you avoid looking at the numbers for too long you might find yourself in trouble with the tax man. Getting reliable accounting software, however, can also help you to create invoices for your clients to make sure you are paid on time.

Beyond that, having a full account of your finances is often the only way you can determine how successful you are as a freelancer.

5) Don’t work for undeserving clients

Sweat, blood and tears are the hallmarks of any great endeavour. So why waste them on a client that treats you badly? Part of avoiding a freelancing nightmare is learning when and how to say no.

Ridiculous last minute requests, severely cut rates and the like are big things to say no to from the outset. Learning to put these boundaries in place early in your freelancing career can save you a lot of headaches.

Find out how to put off clients with small budgets (and why you should)

6) Insure yourself

What is the biggest nightmare you can imagine as a freelance writer? If it isn’t having legal action taken against you, then you’re not thinking big enough. Having professional liability insurance is part and parcel of working for a larger employer, but as a freelancer, you don’t have this luxury. Make sure you invest in freelancer insurance and avoid having no one in your corner if a client does become dissatisfied enough to sue.

You should also consider the benefits of business insurance. If items you use to conduct business become damaged or stolen in your home office then you may think your home insurance will cover it, but in many scenarios, it won’t. Business insurance protects your assets and can – in the worst case scenario – keep you in business.

7) Avoid becoming a workaholic

Work hard and success will come. Work too hard and you will burn out. Overworking is the surest way to destroying the foundation of your freelancing endeavour before it even begins, as working all hours of the day surely will. Setting yourself regular working hours, the full 9 to 5, may seem restricting, but it could save you from exhausting yourself. Or worse: writer’s block.

Take your time, work hard (but moderately) and don’t lock yourself away from the rest of the world. Build the foundations right and success will follow.

8) Don’t forget taxes!

This is something that can never be stressed enough as if you forget to do your taxes you could be in a world of trouble with the tax man. As a freelancer, you are solely responsible for reporting every cent you make. A fact which can be difficult to work out in the beginning as a freelancer who is used to taxes being withheld by an employer.

If you are in the UK or USA then there are government guides available to help you report your taxes – in fact, most countries have such guides to help simplify the process for you.

To be on the safe side when it comes to taxes, first and foremost you need to work out how much of your income you will need to pay quarterly towards taxes. Then the hard part: don’t spend it. Put it in a separate business account if necessary, but always ensure you have this money to put towards your taxes when the time comes.

9) And lastly… avoid content farms

Planning to become a freelance writer? Our last piece of advice is very simple: avoid content farms!

Whether they are good for an easy buck early in your freelance career is debatable, but content farms are definitely a bad idea in the long run. The pay is poor, the work simplistic and neither you nor the person receiving the content is getting a good deal. The only person really winning in a content farm is the person running it.

Honestly, there are a whole host of reasons about why you should always avoid content farms (enough for an article in itself). But, here are a few pretty good ones to keep you away from them:

  • The pay is abysmal. Full stop.
  • It’s repetitive, boring, boring work and won’t leave you fulfilled.
  • You are treated like a machine, not a real-life person.
  • No recognition for your work.
  • They turn you into a bad writer given enough time.

Overall, the bad reputations of many content farms exist for a very good reason. If you take yourself as a freelancer seriously then avoid them where you can and use them for a quick cash flow fix at best – never let them become the width and breadth of your freelancing efforts.

Want to become a freelance writer? Here are 10 practical tips to get you started

Launch your freelance career with confidence

Avoiding nightmare as a freelance writer can feel a little bit like trying to avoid an invisible tripwire. Sooner or later, you’re likely to land on your face.

But taking these nine steps to protect yourself from the outset is a great way to cushion these fall – and launch a successful freelance career with confidence.

Photo by Annie Spratt