This is the mistake that most freelancers make when they get started

Updated: Apr 20

This is the mistake that most freelancers make when they get started. They have a skill, something they are good at and they want to start selling their services. It could be writing, it could be video editing or it could be programming. They start responding to jobs on freelancer platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, not really knowing how much to charge. They go with the flow and let their client take the lead. How long do you think this freelancer will stay in business? One of two things will happen. They will either slug it out for a few months before getting their act together or they will run through a handful of clients charging the bare minimum until they burn out. I know this because I have seen it many times before. How can you prevent this from happening to you?

Who is the wrong client?

Not every client is going to end in success. It is quite common when you are starting out to come across clients who want to pay the bare minimum. Oftentimes, these clients will have unreasonable demands that can go beyond the scope of what you are offering. For example, you might be selling a service that should take you around 4 hours for $100. Despite your best effort, your client might request revision after revision. Before you know it, you have put in an additional 3 hours work which wasn’t included in the scope. There are ways to avoid this type of client and often red flags on first contact.

Unfortunately, this type of client can be very common at the lower tiers of freelancing. When newbies are starting out, they can easily get taken advantage of. Clients like this often don’t realise they are taking advantage of you, that is not their intention. Oftentimes, these clients are only just starting out in business themselves. They don’t have a lot of money or connections so they post an ad on these freelancer platforms. They don’t exactly know how much to budget for so they will do their best to get a bargain. This will then attract freelancers who are either living in very low cost of living countries or who are not confident since they are just starting out.

Go easy on the client, they simply may not be the right fit for you.

Dealing with a bad client

When you start to see the red flags and realise that a client might be more trouble than they are worth, don't be afraid to cut ties. There is no shame in firing a client, it is a part of doing business. New freelancers might feel awkward or weird about cancelling a contract because they are turning away paying clients. Trust me, it is sometimes better to turn your back on the money than to continue a damaging and destructive relationship. The last you want this early in your career is to set bad habits or feel burnt out by a negative experience.

Be upfront and honest with your client. Explain to them that you feel that the project is not a good fit for you and that they would be better off with someone who can dedicate more time. Be polite and professional. In most cases, your client will be grateful because they are likely to have a lot of anxiety about the project as well. If you are feeling they are not a good fit, they might be feeling some apprehension as well. Lay everything out and either offer them a refund or come to some kind of partial arrangement. This will set you up for the future by helping you build your negotiation and communication skills.

How to find good clients?

This is the question every freelancer asks when they have cycled through a few bad clients. Where are all the good clients? The best clients aren’t often going to freelancer platforms, often because they have a network of freelancers who they know and trust. How can you be a part of that network? It’s quite simple really. You need to make yourself known. To do that, you need to set your business up as a professional operation. You need a website that explains who you are and what you do. You need a proposal document that outlines your scope, how many revisions you offer and how much you charge for each package. By having the right tools, you can start moving towards larger, higher paying clients that will value you and your services.

Clients at those higher tiers are more respectful, pay better and often have a better understanding of what they need. This leaves far less room for error and dreaded scope creep. If you feel you are ready to start pitching to these premium clients, check out the Freelancer Launch Kit. We prepared everything the professional freelancer needs to take themselves off the platforms and launch their own business.