Freelance. It just sounds cool, right? You make your own hours, pick and choose who you want to work with and aren't tied down to one company. Creating successful relationships with the people who hire you can be complicated, especially when you're working remotely, relying only on e-mail to communicate about a project from start to finish. The best way to learn is from experience, but in the freelance world, one mistake can get you blacklisted from a company for good. To save you some time and money, here's 5 ways to be a bad freelancer.
1. Don't Communicate
Your resume and experience might be enough to get you the gig, but how you communicate will be the number one factor in whether or not you keep it. I can't stress this enough: freelance doesn't mean free-to-reply-whenever-you-want. If you take a job, no matter how big or small, be available -- no news, is not good news to someone who is paying you to complete a task. It's easy as a freelancer to get on your high horse and feel as though you don't owe anyone, anything, but you do. You owe them the common courtesy of letting them know where you're at with a project, don't make them ask. Be honest and upfront, especially when things aren't going right. One time I interviewed a business owner for a video and when I uploaded the clips to my computer my stomach dropped; everything was perfectly in focus, except his face! Even though I never use it, somehow the auto-focus setting on my camera was turned on. My mind raced with clever ways to spin my massive mistake into a sad, couldn't be avoided accident. Thankfully, I came to my senses and fessed up, the guy I interviewed was gracious and told me it wasn't a big deal to re-shoot. Lying might temporarily cover up a problem, but the truth always comes out and as a freelancer, it only takes one half-truth to get you whole fired.
2. Don't Overthink Your Reply
As a freelancer, you may have more say, but you're not the boss. No matter what you think is the right way to do something, in the end, it's not your call. This is exactly why you need to think before you type and then think some more before you hit send. It can be easy to get frustrated when an employer e-mails asking you to change your work in one way or another. You might be convinced you've done it the best way and feel like they don't know what they're talking about -- sometimes they won't, but the hard truth is, it's their money. You can try to gently steer them in a direction you see fit, but never, ever, tell them their idea is bad. Here's why: think about a special order you make at a restaurant, it doesn't have to be a big request, maybe it's as simple as taking the spicy brown mustard and pickles (you hate pickles) off of the Cuban Sandwich. Not a big deal, right? You go to this restaurant often and spend a lot of money there; you want what you want. Now, what if the chef came out and personally told you, 'You're ridiculous for wanting to leave off the mustard and pickles -- those are what make a Cuban a Cuban!' The chef says he refuses to ruin his product because of your bad taste. Insane, right? That would never fly. You'd snatch your wallet up and walk out, never to return. I know it's a silly analogy, but everyone can relate to food and just like with food, whoever is paying you for a service knows what they like and that's what they want. Don't get caught up while replying to an e-mail and forget what side of the table you're on. Treat your customer the wrong way and they'll walk out too.
3. Focus Only On The $
Working as a freelancer is challenging because you don't have the luxury of knowing a paycheck will be deposited in your bank account every two weeks. It's hard to do anything besides focus only on the money. I'm the first to say, don't undersell yourself and take a job for less than you need to make because the work will be miserable. You'll constantly be reminding yourself of all the other things you could be doing with your time instead of working on ________ project. On the flip side, working freelance can't be all about the money, sometimes you'll take on a project that might not be perfect, but it's a foot in the door. If you're offered a project you feel is beneath you, ask yourself why you feel that way? One time I was offered a writing gig for $150. I wanted to turn it down. After taxes, I knew it wouldn't be worth my time financially, but I took it anyway because I thought it would be a good in. Now, I write for them on a regular basis and it is worth it financially. Next time you look at an opportunity, take away the dollar sign attached to it; would it be something you'd enjoy doing? Are you letting your pride get in the way of something that could be bigger than you can see right now? Don't underestimate the importance of the decisions you make -- they can come back to either haunt or help you.
4. Don't Support Their Social Channels Because "It's Not Your Job"
I'm not sure if this applies to most freelancers, but for me, a writer and videographer, it does. When I take on a project, I do my best to support the company online and off. I follow them on social media and Like their Facebook posts and Tweets. I'm not getting paid to re-tweet them, but I feel it adds an additional layer of trust between myself and the company. It shows I care about being a small, sometimes even just temporary, part of the team. It tells them, 'Hey, I'm here and I care!'. If you want a job where you clock-in, do the bare minimum and clock-out, freelance isn't for you. Freelance takes a willingness to go above and beyond even if you never verbally get recognition for it. The recognition comes when you're hired for another project or hear they liked your work enough they recommended your services to another company. Get fully onboard and eventually, you'll get noticed.
5. Don't Follow Up
Not following up after a project is an absolute rookie mistake I've made too many times. Don't be afraid to ask for feedback on how you could improve your work with a company, it shows you're serious about the relationship and are thinking long-term, not just until you get paid. Don't assume they'll call you when they need someone next time, file this under: the world doesn't revolve around you. You might hope they're thinking about your work, but most likely they're thinking about their own. Be proactive about getting your ideas in front of them and it could lead to more opportunities in the future.