Why I Screwed Up At Freelancing

Mon, Apr 5, 2010

Inspiration, Pricing

Why I Screwed Up At Freelancing

It may come as a surprise to some of you, however, I was not always a successful freelancer. When I started off as a freelancer I failed, in fact, I failed drastically and at times I would regret even choosing this path. After so many failures and mountains of bills later, I actually started making money and seeing success generally.

There were a few things which caused me to “screw up” at freelancing and years later I can look back and reflect wishing I had never made any of these silly mistakes.

Freelancing Whore

When starting out as a freelancer you will notice that you don’t automatically get lots of clients, in fact they come after a while and when they do, it is very hard to say no during negotiation. This leads to new freelancers agreeing to do every project which comes there way. The problem with accepting every single job offer is that you will end up compromising.

If you are a freelance web-developer, I can almost guarantee you will get a stingy guy who will try to get a “good” deal out of you. NEVER agree to silly propositions. These can include clients who offer you a share of the income of the website in return for work. Others include clients who want pro bono and clients who want silly discounts.

The fruit of patience is sweet
Old Saying

If you wait patiently a little while longer, you will definitely get excellent clients. Personally, I love my clients, because they appreciate my ability, my work and my experience. If however they did not, then I would hate my clients and I would not deliver with the enthusiasm and dedication with which I do.

Do not accept every project in desperation.


Charging too Little

I always knew my worth based on my knowledge, experience and ability. Yet still when the outlook for good business looked bleak, it was easy to be disheartened and lose trust in what I charged for my valuable time. You may not accept every silly project which heads your way, but by lowering you rate, you may as well.

I lowered my hourly rate to get more clients. A new problem was now rising, which was that no matter how much I worked, I was still never paying my bills. The only difference was a few pounds but all of my time was being used up. There is no difference between a freelancer who sits without business and a freelancer who just about breaks even. One has the perception that he/she is doing work, while the other at least knows he isn’t doing anything.

Here is a small demonstration of how this is a problem. If you work 40 hours at an hourly rate and double that rate and therefore lose half your business and work 20 hours instead, then you have an extra 20 hours to drum up new business.

Charge your worth.

Past Clients

The greatest blunder in freelancing is perhaps  to not get in touch with previous clients for new work or even possible referrals. A past client is testament to your ability and will definitely take you on again if the opportunity arises.

You most definitely need to get in touch with all previous clients and even offer them discounts to keep good relations  with them. The 80:20 rule is that 80% of your business comes from around 20% of your clients. This may not strictly be true, but I am sure you would agree that past clients can offer greater opportunities.

Get in touch with past clients.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 54 posts on Freelance Apple.

Shoaib Hussain is an web entrepreneur who was formerly a freelancer. He is the main writer and owner on FreelanceSchool.com and aims to enlighten young freelancers with his vast experience and deep knowledge. Shoaib Hussain also spends his time giving advice to budding freelancers and helping web businesses.

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9 Responses to “Why I Screwed Up At Freelancing”

  1. Jordan Walker Says:

    I guess you learn from experience.

  2. Issa Says:

    Nice views you’ve got. I’d say I can really relate to what you wrote here, specially when I’m starting to make it in the tough world of freelancing. So, you might ask – how I have survived it? It’s 10% luck, and 90% sweat. I would have given up in a few months time, yet, my patience and passion for what I do paid off at the end. I can now ask for rates I truly deserve. Cheers!

  3. KJ Says:

    I have to disagree with you “partly” about this argument “These can include clients who offer you a share of the income of the website in return for work.”

    Well… actually, this can also lead to great amounts of money, and it can lead you to zero… you are really gambling if you take that kind of an offer. Myself… I started out as an freelancer in 2004, and my first project was a project like that.. 6 years later, I am still working on the same project/website, and I made a great fortune, a lot bigger fortune than I would have made if I had continued as an freelancer. Instead of taking a share of the income, I decided to go 50/50 with the project owner, and it was only because I really belived in the project.

    Of course… 95% of these “share the profit” are just bogus offers, but still… 5% can be a really good deal, especially if you have the time and money to wait for the business to get really good and actually make some money. The best decision that I ever made.

  4. Nicole Foster Says:

    Great article! You pretty much described my earlier years of freelancing. I look back, and realize how idiotic it is to lower your rates and to accept every project. You’re only harming yourself by making less money and working harder.

  5. yudiacro Says:

    “Charging too Little” That’s me!
    Thanks so much for pointing that out.

  6. Brett Widmann Says:

    This is a greta article. It nice when people share their experiences so others can learn from them. Thanks!


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