Freelancing is one of the most popular ways to get started when you want to work remotely while traveling the world. It’s so appealing because you can start it on the side, slowly build it up, and by the time you quit your 9-5, you’ve already replaced your income. There are also huge benefits to freelancing too:
Working on a variety of projects, with a variety of clients - which keeps things interesting
Charging a premium
Working anywhere you want
As appealing as it is, there are five mistakes freelancers make and how you can avoid them.
#1 You Haven’t Picked a Niche and Try to Serve ‘Everyone’
This has to be one of the biggest mistakes freelancers make, especially when they are just starting out make. They are so eager to work remotely that they become desperate for work. In which case they become willing to take on any client willing to pay. You’re then trying to serve everyone. Any business that has a goal to serve ‘everyone’ is likely not in business anymore.
Why it Matters
Speaking the Same ‘Language’ as Your Customer - The problem with trying to serve everyone is that you can’t fully ‘speak’ to your ideal customer. This will come through in your website, your marketing, and your sales calls. When you hone in on a niche, you can really understand a clients industry and ‘speak’ their language - whether it’s quite literal with use of industry jargon, or simply having an understanding of their business.
Instilling Confidence - By having a niche, you’re telling the client you understand their business and needs which automatically instills more confidence in your ability. Remember, clients want to be seen, heard, and understood. It’s the key to any and all sales success. You can already be a step ahead if you already understand their business.
Smaller Learning Curve by Working with You - From another perspective, when you understand your clients business it saves them from having to spend time explaining who they are, how their business works etc. They know that if you serve their business, that you can dive right into working with them, reducing the learning curve time.
It’s critical you find a niche of who you serve.
You need to get clear on who you’re serving. This also ties into what service you niche on. Say you’re a designer - you could focus in on website design, or could be logos and brand guidelines or perhaps maybe it’s social media graphics. For this example let’s consider you’re a designer who will focus in on website design. Here’s how you’d find your niche… and these questions apply to any sort of freelancing business so be sure to work through them for yourself as well.
Ask yourself the following questions.
What type of client do you want to work for? Serious or fun? Corporate or startup?
What industry are they in? Fashion, tech, fitness, travel, personal or professional development etc. A good start is picking something that you have a personal interest in and an industry that aligns with your values.
What products/services do your clients offer? Again, think of your interests. Do they offer an online course teaching financial education, or perhaps they create in-person travel experiences around the world. You’ll need to consider what exactly your ideal client is offering as well.
What is this clients typical financial situation? If a client is just launching their business they may not have as much capital to pay you and as a result, may push you on costs. If however, they are a business that has been around for 5 years or just received funding from investors, they may have more financial flexibility. This essentially means less of a “headache” for you. Again, non-profits typically have less funding then say an equity firm.
Does this client see the value in whatever service you offer, or in this case as a designer? This is a huge one. If your clients have already worked with designers and see the value in strong, quality design, then you’re already in a good place. The last thing you want is to not only try and pitch your services but to have to try and convince your client why they should invest in a good designer.
Will this client bring in consistent work or referrals? This is another to consider as well, especially as a freelancer. In an ideal scenario, you get your client on a monthly retainer so that you know every month you have consistent income coming in - it’s all about that cash flow. Trying to chase new projects every month can be very exhausting. Consider a type of client that would be reoccruing work or that perhaps has many contacts in need of designers that they could refer to you.
In my ‘Remote Work Accelerator’ online course I cover the whole process in detail but these prompting questions are a great way to start.
#2 You Offer ‘Everything’ as a Service
Trying to offering ‘everything’ as a service and not niching down is again, one of the biggest reason most freelancers struggle to succeed.
You’re essentially trying to be every ‘thing’ to every ‘one’ and that’s the path to failing as a freelancer.
This is especially the case when freelancers are just starting out. They become desperate for work and become willing to take on any task, even if it’s not in their area of expertise. The problem with this is that your work doesn’t become focused and that’s when gaps start to show up.
Imagine trying to do a million little things over 40 hours, then imagine doing one, single-focused tasked.
Which sounds less stressful?
Which option allows you to put your best work forward?
Here are some examples of what that looks like… Consider who you would hire in the scenario of a Designer.
“I create strategic and beautiful website design to help tech startups bring their brand to life online so that the incredible value they offer their customers offline can be reflected online.”
“I am a designer who does websites, logos, branding guidelines, social media icons etc.”
Obviously, the first statement is more powerful. It’s focused and helps the clients clearly understand the value that they’ll get.
Why it Matters
Understanding exactly what you offer to your clients is critical for many reasons.
Clients Should Clearly Know Your Area of Expertise - When you try and be everything to everyone, no one wins. When you can niche in on a specific skill set or services, your clients can clearly see that that’s your area of genius. Which leads to the next point…
It Instills More Confidence - When you are working with a client and they’re very clear with what you offer, it’ll instil more confidence with your clients.
You might be thinking…
”But isn’t that a lost opportunity to make more money.”
“I don’t want to turn down paid work.” etc.
To overcome this, find other people in your space who offer complimentary services to you. Ie. say you’re website designer but know another designer that focuses on logos and branding - this is the perfect opportunity to refer work to one another. Win-win.
It Becomes Easier to Communicate - It’s then a no-brainer that if you’re more clear on what you offer that you can better communicate this to your clients.
Make a list of all of your possible services/offerings.
Now pick the top 1-3 that you’re strongest at, that are also in demand. Not sure? Just pick. This can always change.
Why does your client need that service/offering? Why is it important to them? Why should they care that they have it? How will it impact the bottom line of their business?
Write a single statement outlining who you serve, the value you provide, and why it’s important.
Re-read the statement. Could anyone read that and know exactly what you offer?
Side note: Be sure to have many conversations with potential clients so that you can use their own wording to explain their pain points and solutions. There may be a certain word or phrases that you notice they keep using. Use this exact wording in your marketing and sales call. Again, clients want to be seen, heard, and understood.
#3 Lack of Clarity
Another reasons freelancers are struggling to succeed is simple lack of clarity. They don’t know what they offer, to whom they offer it… and then how to execute on that vision - that is, if they’re even clear on what that vision is.
Why it Matters
You’re Busy but Not Productive - If you don’t have clarity you’ll find yourself diverting your energy in a 100 million directions, not getting anywhere. This can feel frustrating and overwhelming. You’ll find yourself really busy every day but not really getting anywhere. When you have that clarity you can focus on the most important task at hand - usually ‘income generating tasks’ and ensure you’re propelling your freelance business forward.
It’s Overwhelming - There’s nothing more frustrating than working crazy hours and not seeing any of the rewards as a result. When you have that clarity on your business and how you should be spending your time, that’s when you’ll start seeing results.
So how can you gain more clarity and focus as a freelancer?
Determine what you offer and to whom - Again, we covered this above.
Determine what you really want… your WHY - If you’re freelancing and acting out of alignment, things won’t flow. Oftentimes freelancers who are just starting out will pick what they ‘should’ do rather than what they’re passionate about.
This ultimately comes down to having a deeper WHY. When you know WHY you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll have the passion to pull you through it all and to act as a compass as you move forward. It will guide all of your decisions and ultimately give you the clarity you want and need.
Everyday write down the most important task for the day. Hint: This should be an ‘Income Generating Task’. Again, we want to be moving the needle forward, not spinning around in a hamster wheel. By writing down the most important task of the day, you’re becoming intentional with your time. You’ve evaluated all possible tasks and can feel confident you’re pursuing the one that will actually move you forward.
For example. Let’s say you have the options of posting on social media vs getting on a sales call. Clearly the sales call will be the task that can directly impact sales of the business. It might feel more uncomfortable, and maybe you rather post on social media, but the sales call with be the part that moves you forward.
#4 Lack of Confidence in Selling
Funny enough, lack of confidence can also be caused by a lack of clarity. A lot of freelancers are an expert in a certain field, whether that’s design, development, writing, marketing etc. They have a very strong skill set in that topic.
However, when you shift from employee to freelancer, the service or skills you’re offering are no longer the only piece to the puzzle. You’re now the sales person, the project manager, the accountant etc. Sure, you can figure a lot of those out but one of the biggest barriers that prevents freelancers from succeeding is not understanding how to “sell” their service.
Why it Matters
No Confidence = No Sales = No Business = No Success. Whether you like it or not, if you’re not making sales, you don’t have a business. This is something you’re eventually going to have to get comfortable with.
Reframe what sales means to you. When most people think of sales they think of ‘ick’. The point of sales is not to try and convince someone that they need your service or product. The point is to find people who a pain point that you have a solution for and then communicate how you can provide value to that person.
The reality is, if you’re not a “sleazy, icky person” then you won’t come off as a “sleazy, icky salesperson”.
Instead of calling it ‘sales’, maybe even consider instead as, “Understanding my potential clients pain points and communicating how I can add value to them and offer a solution.”
You should never have to convince someone to buy product or service from you. Your ideal customers will see the value in the solution you bring. Again, this is why it’s important to get clear on what you offer and who you offer it to as we discussed above.
Believe in what you’re offering. If you don’t truly believe in what you’re offering and the value you’re providing, then what makes you think a potential customer will? You have to wholeheartedly believe in what you’re offering. Energy doesn’t lie. You can say all the right things, but if there is something out of alignment, client will sense it immediately.
Have clarity - who you are, what you offer, and why it matters. We’ve already said this many times throughout this post and that’s how important it is. If you’re clear on who you are, what you offer and why it matters, you’ll feel more confident in communication that with potential clients.
Develop your ‘sales’ skills. On the other side of fear is ‘unknown’ or ‘misunderstanding’. Ultimately, the more you know about sales, the less scary it becomes. When we break down the fear we can start eliminating the fear. Do research online about sales, then speak to people who you admire and learn how they approach their sales. You’ll start to see sales in a new light, understand what it really means to sell, and ultimately you’ll feel better ‘selling’ when you understand what it is and how it works.
Practice Confidence. Confidence doesn’t come once you have X,Y,Z or after you’ve accomplished X,Y,Z. Confidence is a practice. You’ve got to act like you have it already. It’s almost like a fake it until you make it, until you find yourself actually showing up in this way.
Most people think…
Once I HAVE _________
Then I will DO _________
Then I will BE _________ … in this case, confident
Instead, reframe this to…
I will BE _________ … in this case, confident
Then I will DO _________
Then I will HAVE _________
Powerful. I invite you to give it a try. Notice how you end up showing up in the world and what happens as a result.
#5 Poor Project Management
This also includes miscommunication and lack of setting expectations. As a freelancer your ‘job’ isn’t executing on a specific skill that a client has hired you for. Again, you’re now:
The marketing team
The sales team
The finance team
… and the project manager
This is huge and so many freelancers overlook this.
Your job now includes managing clients. You’re now responsible for:
Following up with client
Keeping them posted with how work is progress,
Setting clear expectations etc.
There should never been “grey” areas or areas of uncertainty for clients when they hire you as a freelancer.
Let me reiterate, it is NOT the clients job to manage you or the project. You are no longer an employee.
If you send client an email requesting something, don’t hear back and then the project falls off track, it’s not their fault. It’s your responsibility to follow up with client, as many times as it takes, while expressing the importance of what you need from them and what will happen as a result if they don’t get back to you. We’ll go through an example but first, also remember that you’re talking to humans. Never place the blame or assume anything. Strong communication will address this.
Now, let’s go through an example of how that looks:
What NOT to do; “Hi X, Can you please send through your logo and brand guidelines for the website.”
No follow up.
Project gets delayed.
No one is happy.
What TO do; “Hi X, I’m just following up on my previous email, if you could please send over the logo and brand guidelines for the site. Looking at our agreed upon scheduled, we have this scheduled to be completed [insert date]. This will ensure we can stay on track in terms of budget and timeline. Just a reminder that we will need this before getting started on the design as it will guide the entire design.”
There is follow up.
There is communication.
Project is on time and budget.
Everyone is happy.
Another side note, client shouldn’t be getting a ‘surprise’ email from you on the delivery due date, saying, “Hey, the deadline for the logo and brand guidelines is today if you can please send through asap.”
You should be sending the client a reminder before the deadline, “Hey, just a friendly reminder that we have it scheduled to get the logo and brand guidelines from you by end of week.”
Freelancing - Your Key to Going Remote
Freelancing can be a great opportunity to start living the location independent lifestyle - if you understand how to properly approach it. You can learn through trial and error, which obviously costs a lot of time and money or you can learn a proven strategy that sets you up for success.
On the Remote Work Accelerator Online Program, I take you through the process of laying the foundation for your freelance business including everything from:
Determining your Niche and What you’ll Offer
Picking your Ideal Client
How to Sell with Confidence and Without Feeling Icky
Sales and Email Templates that Convert
How to Network
How to Structure your Days for Ultimate Productivity and Impact
And so much more!
If you’re ready to learn a proven strategy to not only start but succeed as a freelancer (and a digital nomad) be sure to sign up for the Remote Work Accelerator online course.
Explore the daily life of what it’s like to be a digital nomad and follow along on social media