Any job offers a steep learning curve. Any career means slowly but surely ascending the competence ladder. We start off consciously incompetent. We’re armed only with a smattering of knowledge, a little help and support and a whole lot of positive attitude. Over time, as if by magic we pick up the skills of the trade and become consciously competent and eventually unconsciously competent. That is to say, we know our job so well that we don’t have to think about it anymore. Yet, while this may be the endgame from a training and learning perspective, it’s also where boredom, apathy and depression can start to set in. A good employer knows the value of constantly training their employees to keep them motivated. If we don’t get this at work, our employer can’t be surprised when we take our skills to another business… Or to the freelance market.
If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you face an altogether steeper learning curve. Your skills will need to develop without the scaffolding of an employee training program or mentorship. Yet, this learning curve is unforgiving and some of the completely well meaning mistakes you make can wind up getting both you and your business in a lot of trouble…
Failing to declare your income and expenditure
While you may have the skills and talent in spades when it comes to what you do; be it writing, graphic design, animation or coding, your skills in the administrative side of freelancing are still nascent. As such it’s especially important to guard against sloppy record keeping which could either land you in trouble with the IRS or see you pay more tax than is necessary.
An accountant will be able to help you and is always a worthy investment. Nonetheless, keeping your records up to date is your responsibility, not theirs.
Make sure that you retain receipts and invoices for all expenses claimed. Likewise, ensure that you retain invoices sent to clients for work carried out. If you take on any work of a casual nature, the income still needs to be declared so use a Check stub maker. When your income and expenditure are kept up to date, tax trouble will never be a problem your business needs to face.
Relying too much on your regular clients
Being a freelancer is like being cast adrift in the ocean. Our clients are like huge chunks of driftwood and it stands to reason that we would cling to them. Yet, it’s important to remember that while you might have a good relationship with them, you should also be hustling for other clients. Companies go out of business, they experience cash flow problems, budgets dry up. You shouldn’t become over reliant on even your best clients.
Over committing and overextending yourself
Finally, as vital as it is to ensure that there’s always another job on the horizon, even as you complete the job you’re working on, it’s equally important to guard against over committing. This will lead you to work long hours, take on more work than you can handle and inevitably burn yourself out. Despite your best intentions the quality of both your work and your life will suffer.
The finest line a freelancer walks is keeping a steady flow of work coming in while still being able to stick to their set working hours.