The Bad Freelance Habits You Should Avoid


Working on your own can be a rewarding experience. The freedom of setting up shop wherever you like is a big reason why many web designers choose a freelance life. You just don’t get the same experience while working for someone else.

But this lifestyle can also result in some negatives. It’s nice to not have a boss looking over your shoulder all day long. Yet this freedom can be problematic. If you’re not careful, you may form some bad habits that can hurt you both personally and professionally.

Like most bad habits, they seem to start slowly. Left unchecked, they have the potential to wreak havoc. Let’s have a look at what can go wrong and how to fix it.

Being Unresponsive to Clients

A lack of communication is one of the most self-destructive things a freelance designer can do. I’ve seen it time and again. Clients get tired of trying to get a response from their designer and move on to someone else.

I admit that I have occasionally let an email slip by me. There have been busy days where I meant to get back to someone and… forgot. It happens to everyone at some point.

However, it becomes a problem when you’re consistently making clients wait. This behavior gets in the way of their ability to do business.

The Fix: Set aside some time each day and reply to messages from clients. It may require a little bit of discipline at first. But eventually, you’ll have formed a good habit.

Make time to respond to emails daily.

Cutting Corners to Save Time

There are times when you may find yourself incredibly busy. Days when you sit at your desk for hours without so much as stretching your legs. And, if you’re the type that gets highly stressed in these situations (like me), you may start to forget the little details in your work. You know, the stuff that ensures quality and functionality.

The frustrating part of this is that you end up making more work for yourself when any mistakes are uncovered. Even more unnerving is that sometimes those errors may not turn up for months (yes, it has happened to me).

The Fix: As difficult as it can be, find the strength to give each task its proper allotment of time. It is so tempting to rush, but give your best effort towards doing the job right.

Slow down and give each task on your to-do list proper attention.

Failure to Keep Up with Finances

Designers aren’t accountants. But if you have a business, you need to keep track of every penny that comes in and goes out. Otherwise, you can find yourself in a heap of trouble when tax time rolls around.

But finances include more than keeping track of income and expenses. It’s also important to keep an accurate record of who owes you money. After all, you can’t get paid if you don’t send out invoices.

This takes a lot of discipline and a bit of time to get used to. For instance, I developed the bad habit of not marking paid invoices promptly. I figured that I would simply remember what I did and when I did it. Long story short: that didn’t work out so well.

The Fix: Develop a process for recording all your financial records. You have the freedom to do so in a way that makes you comfortable. But don’t put things off until later. Later may never come.

Create a process for keeping track of all financial transactions.

Surrounding Yourself with Distractions

Another perk of freelancing is the ability to set up a personalized work environment. While it’s nice to have things just the way you want them, be careful.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of having the TV blaring next to you or listening to a sporting event while at work. While that may be fine for some, it can serve as a huge distraction for others.

Our line of work requires a good bit of focus. Anything that takes away from that can be detrimental to getting things done.

The Fix: Configure your workspace so that you can concentrate. Have plenty of entertainment options. Just be sure they aren’t a distraction.

Limit potential distractions in your work environment.

Believing You Aren’t Good Enough

OK, this is a bit more existential than the other bad habits on the list. But it’s perhaps just as important.

We know that there is no shortage of talented designers out there. Some of them do brilliant work. Seeing this can make you feel like you don’t have what it takes to achieve great things.

It leads to not bothering to strive for something better. For instance, you may see a project out there that interests you. But don’t bid on it because you think it’s beyond your skill level. But as your mother would probably tell you: that attitude will get you nowhere.

The Fix: I think that every designer goes through a bit of imposter syndrome. To break out of your funk, do something that makes you feel good. Learn a new skill or start a fun side project. A little boost in confidence can do wonders.

Find activities that will boost your self esteem.

Perfection Not Required

During your freelance journey, any one of the bad habits above can strike. But that’s no reason to panic. We all go through periods where we don’t handle things ideally. The key is in using those times as a learning experience.

There will always be ups and downs. But the best designers keep working to get a little better each day. After all, nobody said the road to success is linear.

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