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6 Mistakes Freelancers Designers Make (part 1)

Posted on: 23 June 2017

I’ve been freelancing, both full-time and in my spare time, whilst working full time as an employee. If theres been mistakes to be made, I’ve made them… and most importantly of all, learned from them. I’ve tried to work smarter, harder and be many things to many people. You have to wear many hats as a freelancer… but don’t try to do too much or you’ll come a cropper, just as I did.

This is part one… 1-3, we’ll cover 4-6 in the next post.

1. Saying YES! to everything.

This is the most common mistake that freelancers make. Any client request, any new job that comes in, we shout out, YES! I’ll take it, give it to me! And why do we do this? We’re petrified that someone else will get the work instead of us and if there is a certain aspect of a project we’re unable to do the client may take the whole project elsewhere. Even worse, we’re scare that should a client give that portion of the project to someone else, they will impress them enough to make them shift their business to them rather than you.

So what’s the solution? Quite simply stop it! Taking on every job going might mean more money in your pocket but the more work you take on, the more your current projects will suffer as you’ll spend less time on them, will get sloppy and start submitting sub-standard and half finished concepts. Turn some work down, or ask the client to wait if you’ve not got the time to devote to it initially. If they’re serious about working with you, they’ll wait.

  • Take some time out for yourself, recharge those batteries.
  • Stop saying yes without thinking
  • Don’t take too much on
  • Estimate time correctly (see 3)

2. Working long hours… and saying you work long hours

Theres a perceived image of freelancer that seems to mean that they work all the time, early mornings, all day, evenings and weekends. I’ve often been approached by clients to produce work over the weekend because I’ve indicated that I work at the weekend or I’ve finished off a job over the weekend and inadvertently mentioned I finished the job over the weekend. Sooner or later you’ll get that client who feels entirely happy with dropping a rush job on you Friday afternoon and will expect it on their desk by Monday morning. So whilst they’re enjoying a relaxing weekend with family and friends, you’re working… and working hard. It’s a slippery slope and soon you’ll be doing it regularly.

Working long hours will burn you out so much quicker than you’ll realise and taking too much work on will mean you’ll be working those long hours. Your work ethic might be good but tiredness and fatigue will have an impact on your work quality. It’s essential that you look after your most important assets, your brain and body, you’ll not be able to work at all if you make yourself ill from burning the midnight oil every night. Believe me, I’ve been there, I’ve made myself ill from working too much and it’s not a pleasant experience. Tone down your working hours, make some time for leisure time and get some headspace, you’ll be amazed how you’ll cope better with your workload and how you deal with it.

  • Don’t make a point of saying you’ll work on jobs over the weekend.
  • Free time is important for your body and mind to recharge, take some time off
  • If you can’t work on a job over the weekend or overnight, say so. Keep business hours.

3. Not estimating time correctly.

You’re trying to impress a client over the phone or in person, they ask you how long it’ll take… and straight away you pluck a time off the top of your head… tomorrow, by the end of the week, or something similar. The chances are you’ve not thought about it at all and that lead time just came tumbling out of your mouth without you even noticing. It’s only as you’re on your way home or sitting back to think about it after the meeting that you realise just how little time you’ve given yourself to do the job… the panic sets in and soon you’ll be burning the midnight oil to make the deadline.

The solution to this is to prepare in advance. Before you go to that client meeting or even arrange the call, take a look at your current work load and see what deadlines you’ve got. Chances are before the meeting or call you’ll have an idea of what the job will entail and you should have a rough idea of how long the job will take. Be honest, if you can’t fit the job in for a few days, say that and state when and at what time you’ll be able to start on it and when the client can expect the initial visuals. Give an indication rather than an exact time and if you are pressed on a time, let the client know that you will attempt to make that deadline but will inform them if it takes any longer. Communication is the key, clients don’t like missed deadlines but are usually fine if you’ve communicated to them in advance that you’re not going to be able to be a little late. Design is not an exact science and clients should be made aware that exact times for delivery can often be unattainable.

  • Be prepared to have to give a time when you can start a job and give a realistic date for initial delivery
  • Don’t say yes, when you don’t know. Say you’ll check and get back to them if you can’t confirm.
  • Don’t say you’ll move other work to accommodate them. This gives the unrealistic impression that you’ll do this every time.
  • Need to miss the deadline, let the client know asap!

by Nik Gill   |   Posted in: Clients, Graphic Design,

Nik Gill

Nik Gill

I’m Nik and I’m a graphic designer from Sheffield. I love design, be it web design, logo design or Print Design and I’m generally excited by fabulous design!