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5 tough lessons I learned as a novice freelancer that cost me thousands in potential earnings

5 tough lessons I learned as a novice freelancer that cost me thousands in potential earnings
  • Mary Kearl is a professional freelance author and marketing consultant.
  • When she first began freelancing, Kearl says she made mistakes that cost her thousands in misplaced potential income.
  • Now, she asks for partial deposits from unusual potentialities, confirms rates and budgets upfront, and avoids unpaid tests.

I began my freelancing career while I was detached a journalism undergrad and held numerous side gigs at some stage in my 20s and early 30s as I climbed the ladder in social media, snarl, and marketing roles. Finally, at 32 I determined to leave my chubby-time career behind to give freelance writing and marketing consulting a attempt.

Initially, my goal was merely to travel with my family for a year while working remotely to assist offset the cost of visiting 12 international locations. However as soon as I purchased the taste of being able to state my absorb hours, maintain my potentialities and projects, and determine my absorb rates, I was curved.

Early Newspaper

Pointless to say, it wasn’t – and detached is never any longer – always easy. I am continuously learning find out how to wander my business extra efficiently, to state each my potentialities and myself up for success.

Along the way, I’ve definitely had some challenges. Right here are some of the essential financial lessons I’ve learned, that cost me thousands of dollars in wasted time and potential misplaced income,my


for avoiding these kinds of disorders altogether.

1. Now not seeking out partial payment upfront for unusual smaller potentialities

Many of my initial freelance gigs have been with major companies, such as Adobe, Zillow, and Target, with formal processes for handling everything from freelance contracts to the invoicing and payment task. While everything was largely on their phrases (no longer mine), I almost never had to grief about chasing down payments.

It wasn’t except I began branching out to work with smaller companies, startups, and solopreneurs that I learned the hard way what I wanted to carry out to make positive that I may well be fairly paid.


One of probably the most important lessons: Each time attainable, when onboarding unusual, smaller potentialities, I ask for a 50% deposit upfront for the primary project before I begin working.

I began to carry out this late in 2019, after I may well created a social media


, a snarl calendar, and social media posts for a startup marketing agency consumer who ghosted me. First, the project was put on maintain. Subsequent, my contact stopped responding to my calls and emails about the project and invoicing for the work I may well carried out. Then the in-condominium email they’d created for me stopped working. I attempted various routes to track down payment, to no avail.
This may be an extreme example, however if I may well asked for a partial payment upfront I may well have $1,000 extra dollars – at least 50% pay for the work I done.

Since then, I now ask for deposits upfront. In an initial introductory call, I say something along the lines of, “My phrases for kicking off unusual projects with unusual potentialities include a 50% payment upfront before I begin working on the assignment.”

Now that I ask for partial payments upfront, I am a lot much less about getting paid and can focal point on producing high-quality work.

2. Participating in multiple rounds of interviews before confirming funds and rates

When I first started freelancing, I had blended success securing work with unusual potentialities. Some knew what they have been looking for, what they have been willing to pay, and that their wants and funds aligned effectively with my abilities and compensation expectations.

For others, it seemed appreciate I had to soar via a series of hoops – calls, take a look at projects,, and writing proposals – before I even may well find out if I was a accurate match. And most times after investing this time upfront, I merely never heard back.

For one B2B startup that was looking for social media enhance, I went via four rounds of interviews and done an unpaid snarl strategy take a look at. In total, I probably spent six to 10 hours pursuing this consumer before they ultimately went with someone else who charged much less.

These days each time I acquire in contact with a potential unusual consumer, I thank them for his or her interest and ask them about their funds apt away before even getting on a call. Right here’s a sample acknowledge I’ve traditional to save myself and potential potentialities time and snappily eliminate opportunities that aren’t a match:

Hello [Name],

Thanks for reaching out and to your kind phrases. The alternative to collaborate with [Company name] sounds exciting, and I may well be interested in learning extra about the chance to assist out along with your wants. Can you share what funds you have in mind [for XYZ project] to make positive we’re in the same range?


3. Doing unpaid tests instead of paid take a look at projects or sharing my most relevant samples

After years of freelancing, I now higher peep the value of my time, expertise, and capabilities. As a consequence, I most productive pursue opportunities with potentialities who will accept my most relevant samples or are willing to pay me for a trial project.

Completing paid tests helps me land steady copywriting and snarl marketing work, and also helps me acquire a really feel for whether the projects are a match for my interests and abilities.
Even in case you’re suitable getting started, you can create sample work to your absorb websites or social media. Platforms appreciate Medium are great ways to demonstrate data of a particular topic or in-demand talent and may even generate inbound leads after individuals survey your work.

4. Now not sharing probably the most relevant work samples

When I am chatting with a potential unusual consumer, I attempt to share with them probably the most relevant examples of my past work. I drill all the way down to samples that highlight my expertise with a similar:

  • Variety of company (whether a B2B business, B2C brand, nonprofit, and so on.)
  • Dimension company (such as startup versus corporate)
  • Variety of talent or provider they’re looking for
  • Industry

For instance, if a company is a mid-size B2C brand in the wellness space looking for general marketing enhance, I can share samples from my time working for 2 healthcare startups, marketing for 3 health publications, and serving as the social media lead at the New York Metropolis Marathon.

The extra niche a company is, the greater relevance and industry expertise they’re usually looking for.

5. Being too generic when pitching to unusual potentialities

“I am a seasoned [freelancer offering XYZ general skills] with X years of expertise who has worked for XYZ effectively-identified [but general] companies, and I may well raise to assist [name of company].”

That’s an OK pitch, however with some easy tweaks it may be a lot extra practical.

After all, potential potentialities invent no longer all necessarily care about the work you have carried out for suitable any various company, no matter how great you name tumble or talk to your alternative of years of expertise. That’s because suitable appreciate any various kind of customer, they invent no longer want to be sold on your product features.

Instead, they want to be sold on the advantages of your product – that is, the advantages of working with you as a


– and be assured that you’re the greatest individual to meet their wants. So, flip your pitch from being targeted on you and your general expertise, and instead center it on the company’s particular wants and how your expertise matches up.

Generic pitches similar to the one above have cost me landing paying potentialities, so I’ve updated my pitch to make positive that I am focusing on the categorical wants of the customer, no longer suitable stating accomplishments to be spectacular. Right here’s what I say now:

Hello Name,

I survey that [Company] is looking for [specific type of freelancer] with an understanding of [industry niche, such as SaaS] and [specific skills, such as content strategy] I may well be happy to assist along with your [specific needs]!

I have worked with [well-known companies within a given niche] and have [specific skills you’re looking for]. Right here are samples of my work [specific to the company, industry, niche, and skills desired].
Thanks for the chance to collaborate!

5 tough lessons I learned as a novice freelancer that cost me thousands in potential earnings