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7 Mistakes I Made Starting Out as a Freelancer

by | Nov 30, 2015 | Articles, Freelancing, Graphic Design | 0 comments

Starting Out as a Freelancer

I remember when I first set out to build my own design business. It was like a mountain climber staring upward from the bottom of Mount Everest. I really didn’t know where to begin. School doesn’t really prepare you for owning your own design business. For that matter, it doesn’t really prepare you for working in your field and actually being successful, but I digress. I learned as I went, and as you can imagine, I made a ton of mistakes. You name it, I made them. So in an effort to help others starting out, I thought I’d put together a round-up of the mistakes I made starting out as a freelancer, and what I would do differently.

local business

I Didn’t Focus On Local

When I first started out, I had the mindset that I would try to reach farther than just local businesses. Why market to my city, when I could market to the world. It’s nice to think big, but that’s thinking too big. I wish I’d focused more on local SEO and self promotion before trying to compete in bigger markets.

I Didn’t Network Like I Should Have

The life of your business comes from networking. One of my biggest mistakes was building a website and thinking that businesses would come knocking at my door. I wish I would have started attending networking events earlier. You have to get your face and your business in front of other businesses. If you don’t, if can take you 2-3 times longer to grow than if you network more aggressively.

I Tried to Be Too Broad

I tried to market myself as a graphic designer, a logo designer, a website designer and more, all at the same time. While I have the skills and the talent for all of those things, it’s better to become known for something in particular, because that is how you build a reputation. it’s a lot harder to be known for the guy that does everything, than it is to be known as the the guy who builds custom websites for businesses. People like to know exactly what you do that you are best at.


I Wasted Time Trying to Get Work Online (Elance, Freelancer, Odesk)

I am not knocking any of these sites. The only problem is that it is hard to break into these sites and be successful. When you’re just starting out, no one wants to hire you when you don’t have years of experience. Why hire you and take a chance, when they can hire someone with a killer portfolio and 5 years of measurable experience? They won’t. These websites are a better option when you’ve built a solid portfolio, and have proof of your skills.

I Didn’t Focus on Business Relationships

Business relationships are essential to your success. Nurture them like a growing infant. When you have a great working relationship with a business owner, they likely have friends that are business owners. Guess what? They will sit down and talk, and you’re likely to get a recommendation if you’ve done a good job and you have a strong relationship with that business owner. Referrals are a necessity, whether you are growing, or you’ve been in business for years. You always want to be open to and looking for new business.

I Didn’t Follow Up Enough

I should have followed up with and should have been more aggressive with a few clients. Some clients will toss the idea of hiring you back and forth. If you let them sit there and wait too long, they’ll think of 500 reasons why they don’t need your services. Some people just don’t like spending money, even if they need to. Follow up, and be aggressive, just not too aggressive.


I Didn’t Work On Building A Social Following

My main focus wasn’t to build a social following. I feel that this was a mistake, not because I get a lot of design business via social, but because I would benefit from the social proof. Having a large, engaged following will drive sales, but when business owners see that you have a huge following, and that you’re active in your field, it enhances your authority level and builds trust. Also, if you are eventually going to manage social media for your clients, it’s probably a good idea for you to have a huge following. I have other accounts (like for my bigger design blogs) that have a decent following, but it’s always good to have all of your ducks in a row.


You’re going to make mistakes. It’s inevitable. The goal is to minimize those mistakes, so that you can build your business faster. You won’t be as stressed out, because you wont have to recover from as many setbacks if you come into freelancing with proper preparation. Are you an experienced designer? Even if you’re not, I’m willing to bet you’ve made a few mistakes in your day. I’d love to hear about them and how you recovered from them. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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