This freelancing tutorial will be about making money. There are a lot of other benefits to being a freelancer, but for the sake of this post, we will be solely focused on the money aspect. As an entrepreneur coach and lead instructor of Freelancer Masterclass, I can tell you from experience that money is a major motivator for transitioning from a side-hustle to full-time freelancer. This freelancing tutorial was written specifically for those transitioning to being a full-time freelancer.
Who this Freelancing Tutorial is NOT For?
Please don’t mistake this tutorial for someone new to freelancing. Yes, if you are looking to become a freelancer, you will get value out of this tutorial. However, the intent of this post is to help those who are wanting to quit their jobs and become a full-time freelancer.
So let’s dive into the top 7 mistakes I see freelancers making and what to do to rectify them. If you prefer to listen to the audio version of this post, check out the Freelancer School podcast on this topic here.
Mistake #1: Working 8-5
Rectifying this one mistake alone will increase your revenue by 35%. Studies have shown that by working in the proper flow you can be more than twice as productive (and much more efficient). Thanks for the advances of neuroscience, we know that the optimal time a human brain can stay focused is around 52 minutes given a 17-minute break. In other words, work 52 minutes undistracted and 17 minutes doing something different than what you were doing. So, if you were on your computer writing for 52 minutes, you should take a walk for 17. This will put your brain in optimal focus. As an entrepreneur and freelancer, you have the benefit of not having a boss and being able to alter your workflow to your satisfaction. Do it and watch your productivity, efficiency and accuracy increase!
“The optimal time a human brain can stay focused is around 52 minutes given a 17-minute break.”
Mistake #2: Inconsistent Prospecting
When times get busy, freelancers stop prospecting for work. Why take time prospecting for work when you’re full of work right? Wrong! Most clients, especially the larger ones, don’t need your services right away. By continuing to prospect you are ensuring fewer dry spells during your freelancing career. Always block off at least an hour of every workday to either work on prospecting or take prospecting calls to continue to develop relationships. I am telling you from experience when I made this change to my business my revenue skyrocketed.
Mistake #3: Accepting All Work
Too many freelancers just accept all work that comes to them. This is a bad practice. You need to stay focused on the best work that you can deliver to your best clients for the best value. Turning down work is very difficult, but just remember, it’s for the best. You’ll also like being a freelancer a lot more when you start filling your calendar with work that interests you the most.
Mistake #4: Setting your Rate Incorrectly
Set your hourly rate too low and you come off cheap. Set it too high and you price yourself out of a job because your value doesn’t match what you’re asking. So how do you determine the right rate?
If you want to determine your hourly rate not based on the value you can provide to your client but based on your goals, you simply subtract 3 zeros from your salary goal. So, someone wanting to make $100,000/year would charge $100/hour. If you’re a side hustler and want to quit your job to do full-time freelancing, you’ll want to calculate your hourly rate based on what it would take for you to replace your salary at work. You can do this by dividing the salary you want by the number of hours worked each year: 40 hours/week × 52 weeks/year = 2,080 hours. $100,000 desired salary ÷ 2,080 hours = roughly $50 per hour. But as I teach in Freelancer Masterclass, you would be an extremely busy freelancer if you were billable 8 hours a day every day. Realistically a busy freelancer will have 4 to 5 hours a day of billable work and the rest of the day is spent prospecting.
The best way to determine your hourly rate is to start with your yearly goal, take off the three zeros as I mentioned earlier, then adjust that rate based on the amount of work you have. This way, your rate will be tied to the value you provide the client. So, if you are full of work and have a long waiting list of clients wanting to work with you, and your rate is $100/hour, try putting in your proposals that you charge $125/hour or $150. When you do that and you see people stop hiring you, then you can move it back down.
Mistake #5: Not Limiting Communication with Clients
Freelancers want to react fast to their clients. It only makes sense, right? A client is paying you and you want to be there for them when they have a question or need to talk. This sounds good in theory, but ultimately it is a productivity killer for your freelance business. As a freelancer, your time is money. If you don’t stay billable, your income suffers. So why would you keep getting distracted responding to client emails, Slack messages, Skype calls, etc.? Every time that happens you are taking time away from working on your client’s work. There is an even more detrimental aspect to this though. By having this policy of always answering your clients as soon as possible, you will lose clients quicker. I can hear you now “But Mike, how would I LOSE clients being a great communicator?”. That’s the difference, you’re not being a great communicator, you’re being a fast communicator. That’s where you’re going wrong.
“As a freelancer, your time is money. If you don’t stay billable, your income suffers.”
What you need to be doing is time-blocking your calendar. You need to put a specific time on your calendar for responding to emails, phone calls, and other distractions. And that includes moving your phone OUTSIDE of the room you are in. Yes, just hearing your phone make noise is a focus distractor that limits productivity.
Adopting this rule has made me so much more efficient. Now, my day is much more structured and focused and my billable hours have increased as a result.
Mistake #6: Using the Try, Fail, Give Up Approach
Marketing works well but only if you have your approached dialed in. So many freelancers try a marketing tactic and give up too soon. I recently had a freelancing student of mine set up a marketing funnel. That marketing funnel included paid ads on Google. He ran the ads for a week spending $200, then gave up. When I asked him why he gave up he said because no calls came in. In my opinion, it was way too early to give up. Don’t think you need to spend a certain amount of money but look at the average conversions you should be getting. Assume that you have a well written and designed website that should convert well. If you ran Google ads and drove 500 pieces of targeted traffic there and no one called, then yes you have an issue somewhere along the funnel. Don’t just give up though. Analyze the funnel. Was there a problem with the ad? Perhaps it was the ad copy or the website. Whatever the case, ensure that you give your marketing efforts the time they deserve.
Mistake #7: Working Without Goals
Working without goals is like getting the car to drive somewhere but having no destination. How will you know where you end up? For every 100 freelancers I work with, maybe 2 at best would approach me with an actual goal they have written down. That is a pathetic statistic.
You should be reviewing your goals weekly. Personally, I schedule time every week to review my goals. I have a yearly goal, that breaks down into quarterly goals, which I review weekly. I can’t stress to you enough how important this is. Once you have goals you will consciously and subconsciously find a way to achieve them.
Goals don’t have to be monetary, but let’s take a revenue goal as an example. Let’s say you want to make $100,000 freelancing over the course of a year. That means, every month you have to make $8,333 ($100,000/12 months). Now, assuming you know that every client you bring in is worth $2,000, that means you need to bring in 4 clients a month ($8,333 revenue/$2,000 avg client pay). Your goal now is twofold. 1) Bring in 4 clients a month and 2) Ensure the clients are paying an average of $2,000 each. Once you know these metrics your brain will start making that happen. Believe me, it’s weird how the world works, but there is a law of attraction that absolutely works and by having a goal you will be attracting the things that will make that goal happen.
“Working without goals is like getting the car to drive somewhere but having no destination. How will you know where you end up?”
I hope this post helped you recognize some of the mistakes you may have been making. If you haven’t yet, check out Freelancer Masterclass. Share this article and comment below on some mistakes you identified within this freelancing tutorial.