“Have your say!” seems to be all I hear these days. I can’t so much as watch a TV programme without being invited to “join the conversation!” or “get involved on social media!” In some respects, an egalitarian society where anyone with a blog and an idea can be heard is a good thing. In others, it is not.
It feels like everyone, everywhere is now in the business of sharing advice for freelancers and would be entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, as well as individuals with a great message and some top advice for freelancers, that also includes people who have never even started a freelance business.
As a result, their advice is sometimes terrible. Like really, REALLY bad. But because it sounds appealing, and has been repeated so often, it often becomes accepted as fact. In this post I thought I’d present what I consider to be some of the worst advice for freelancers and (much more importantly) how you can flip it on its head to your advantage.
“Don’t mix business with pleasure!”
While I would agree that doing business with friends or family isn’t the best idea, this also implies that you should never become friends with clients.
I’ve been freelancing for a long time and pretty much every time someone gets in touch with me because I’ve been recommended by someone they know, it’s a client who I’ve built a good personal relationship with.
In my mind, that makes perfect sense. If someone says to you ‘hey, I need a copywriter. Know anyone?’ you’re far more likely to recommend someone who’s friendly and easy to work with than someone who’s cheap or whose name you can barely remember.
That’s not to say you need to become best buddies with every client you ever have; you can’t force these things. It might be down to a lack of common interests, a big age difference, a different style of doing business or something else entirely but sometimes a client is meant to be just a client.
“Don’t take no for an answer!”
You go on a date with someone and have a great time. You send them a text that week to say you had a great time and would love to do it again some time. No response. A few days pass. It’s now acceptable to send another message asking if they got your text and that you’re free this weekend if they’d like to meet up.
If they don’t reply, it’s definitely NOT appropriate to bombard them with message after message saying what a good time you had, how much you like them and how they’ll regret it forever if they let you slip through their fingers.
In that respect, dating is a lot like trying to hook up with that dream client – after the initial conversation or email, you’ve got one, or two max, more chances to follow up. If it goes nowhere, let it go. And remember…
There are plenty more fish in the sea.
“Never work for low pay!”
I’ll admit that there’s actually some merit to this one. In theory, working for free or low pay isn’t a bad way to get your name out there but it comes with two caveats:
– You can’t pay your rent/mortgage/bills with *exposure*
– The best places to write for won’t expect you to do it
Freelancers who have a steady stream of leads, something you may not have, will eagerly tell you that you shouldn’t work for less than £50 per hour ‘because you’re worth it’. While they’re channelling their inner L’Oréal, they’ll conveniently leave out the fact that they want to keep the market as clear of cheap copywriters as possible.
This is a bit of a balancing act, because setting your rates is quite a subjective thing. If you live in London you’ll need to charge £30+ per hour to afford your rent, but it’s a very different scenario if your mortgage is all paid off and you just want to do some part-time blogging to earn some guilt-free pocket money. Go with your gut.
“Do what you love and the money will follow!”
If this was true, I’d be getting paid to eat pizza and play video games. Don’t get me wrong; I love writing, but the money didn’t just miraculously ‘follow’. A few people who are in the right place at the right time end up earning an income through a hobby like playing video games (Pew Die Pie, anyone?) but, for the most part, the above is really bad advice. Even if you love something, you have to work hard at it and sometimes come at it from a different angle to turn it into a viable career.
Like anything else, work is what you make it – lately I’ve been writing SEO articles for gambling websites, and I’ve found myself really enjoying it because I went into it with an open mind. If you’re constantly thinking about the next job, where you get to do what you really want, you’ll never have be satisfied.
“There’s only one path to success.”
I know some very successful people who went to University, and some who didn’t. I also know people who are really struggling, some of whom went to University and some of whom didn’t. When it comes to freelancing, there are so many factors in play that you can never accurately predict the path to success.
People who tell you that “you have to do” something in order to succeed are wrong. They may have an agenda, like trying to sell you something, or they may not but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re wrong. There are things you can do, and there are even things you should do, to improve the likelihood of success but there’s nothing that you have to do to be a successful freelancer.
Well, except your taxes.
“Don’t worry about failing!”
Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
has become worryingly dominant among startups and entrepreneurs in recent years. Here in the real world, for all but a few lucky trust fund babies, failure is still a huge deal. It can mean the loss of significant sums of money and potentially cause serious personal problems. No matter? Actually, yes, big matter.
The attitude that failure is a problem, and a huge one at that, is actually a good thing because it will help you stay motivated and keep hustling.
“Everything will be ok in the end.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. Sometimes, even if you’ve done everything right, a freelance career just doesn’t pan out. It doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong, it might just be a case of bad timing or a joining a niche that’s already teeming with skilled people. There’s no shame in giving something a shot, and I mean a real shot, only to return to 9-5 employment or looking for some other alternative.
Good advice for freelancers?
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the really bad advice for freelancers that’s out there, and it’s something that I’ve spent more and more time thinking about recently. I could keep writing 1,000 word blog posts about it, but I decided to do something bigger instead.
I’m in the middle of writing an eBook on the mindset I believe it takes to make it as a freelancer. I’ll be posting a preview or two closer to its completion but, if you want to be among the first to know when it’s out, just pop your email in the form below. No spam, I promise.