If you’re starting out, feel free to use this list as a list of WHAT NOT TO DO. Some of these I have made and rectified, others are the ones I consistently see other people making that make me want to tear my hair out.
- Rushing in madly.Freelancing is hard. It’s tough. While you may decide to jump into it part time or full time at the start, it definitely pays to sit down and think everything through from the systems for organisation you will create, to your business model, your marketing and who is your target market and what you need for the business. Skip this step and you will flounder for a lot longer than necessary and decimate valuable resources. Do this step properly and it will become a springboard.
- Not checking the legal requirements.
What do you need to operate the business you want to where you want to? Do you need council approval? Planning approval? Do you need certification from a particular organisation? Do you need a certain set of qualifications? Have you got the right tax related and business related numbers and do you know what kind of business you operate and whether you need to register a business name or charge GST? Do you have the right insurance cover and equipment?
- No plan for rates or how much you charge.
How much you charge should take into account your desired annual income, the hours you will actually work apart from hours for admin and so on, tax, superannuation, savings and what your expenses will be as well as what your union and professional societies dictate your minimum and maximum rates should be. For an easy means of calculating, check out this article. Of course you have to remember to add extra in for the cat’s expenses as well.
- Blindly following a set path.
Sure, you can do a Google search and find this site or any other site that offers advice on how to go about setting up a business and how to freelance and yes, that is part of this site’s purpose. However, you have to remember, you are you not the person who set up the website. You’re not me for example and while you can rush off to calculate rates and get your ABN, I would not recommend making an effort to follow in my footsteps exactly.
Why? You’re not me. You may not be interested in science journalism or policy document editing. You may not be interested in the kind of writing I do. In which case, you need to sit down and figure out what you do enjoy writing about and why and then use the advice I give you such as getting an ABN and buying a copy of the Australian Writer’s Marketplace and looking through it for who publishes what you want to write about whether it’s Arabian horse breeding (tons of publications apparently) or travel options for over 60s. In the process of my work, I edit documents to do with policy on environmental management or public service reform – stuff that is usually dry as dust and I have to make it readable. I have to go interview people on what whale sharks eat, how fast space is moving and highly complicated genetic and DNA testing related equipment. If you are not interested in this stuff, you won’t learn on the job and if you don’t learn on the job or as you go or have a prior interest or knowledge, you won’t be able to do good work.
And you need to do good work so don’t give yourself more work to do – go write about something you love and it may be hard to get but chisel that path out for yourself.
- Putting the marketing blinkers on.Do not do this. First, think of your market – your target audience. You want potential clients right? What do they do? Who do they work for? Where would they likely hang out online and in the real world? Now target your main marketing efforts there.A lot of people who want advice find me online. A few clients find me online. The rest tend to find me via the real world usually though my online presence helps a lot. So do not just restrict yourself to being either online or offline.
If you like this post, let me know. I may do another set of mistakes that you shouldn’t make, next Monday. I hope it helps. Print it out and paste it next to the computer if need be.