Working on your own can be a wonderful experience. The freedom of setting up shop whenever and wherever you like is a big reason why many web designers choose the freelance life. You just don’t get the same experience while working for someone else.
But this lifestyle can also result in some negatives. While it’s nice to not have a boss looking over your shoulder all day long, that freedom you cherish can be misused. If you’re not careful, you may just form some bad habits that can hurt you both personally and professionally.
Like most bad habits, these seem to start slowly and, left unchecked, eventually take on a life of their own. Let’s have a look at what can happen and how to fix it.
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Being Unresponsive to Clients
This is one of the most self-destructive things a freelance designer can do to their business. I’ve seen it time and again. Clients get tired of trying to get a response from their designer and look to make a change.
I admit that I have on occasion let an email slip by me. There have been busy days where I mean to get back to someone and…forget. It happens and doesn’t make you a bad person (for my sake, I sure hope not).
It becomes a real problem when you’re consistently making clients wait 24 hours or more during the business week for any kind of a response. This behavior leaves people hanging and gets in the way of their ability to do business.
The Fix: Set aside some time each day to get back to messages from clients. It may require a little bit of discipline at first, but over time you’ll have formed a good habit.
Cutting Corners to Save Time
There are times when you may find yourself being incredibly busy. Times when you sit at your desk for hours straight 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 really frustrating part of this is that, in an effort to get things done and please everyone, 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 be in a rush – but give your best effort towards doing the job right.
Not Keeping Up with Finances
Designers, as it turns out, 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 is something that can take a bit of time to get used to. For instance, I developed the bad habit of not marking paid invoices as such in a timely manner. I figured I would just 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 finance-related records. You have the freedom here to do so in a way that makes you comfortable. But whatever you do, don’t put things off for too long.
Surrounding Yourself with Distractions
Another perk of freelancing is the ability to setup your very own personalized work environment. While it’s certainly nice to have things just the way you want them, you have to be careful not to go too far.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap having the TV blaring next to you or listening to a sporting event while at work. While that may work for some, it can serve has a huge distraction for others. Our line of work in particular requires a good bit of brainpower. Anything that takes away from that can be detrimental to getting things done.
The Fix: Configure your workspace so that you can focus. And whatever entertainment options you do have should be kept at a volume that doesn’t disrupt your train of thought.
Believing You Aren’t Good Enough
Okay, this is a bit more existential than the other bad habits on the list – but perhaps just as costly. We know there are no shortage of talented designers out there. Some of them do brilliant work. Seeing this can really make you feel like you just don’t have what it takes to get to that level.
It leads to not bothering to strive for something better. You may see a project out there that really 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 every designer goes through this at one time or another. 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.
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 of time where we don’t handle things in the most ideal way. The key is in using those times as a learning experience.
There will always be ups and downs. But the best designers out there keep working to get a little better each day – fully knowing that there will be missteps along the way. Nobody said the road to success is perfectly straight.
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