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Tech and Innovation

9 Reasons Why Many New Freelancers Fail (and how to avoid them)

  • Freelancing doesn’t suffer fools.
  • And it takes a certain kind of person to make a long-term success of it.
  • When a freelancer fails, people often think it’s due to a lack of skills, but that’s not always the case.
  • Usually, they fail because of a lack of business acumen or the discipline required to become a successful freelancer.
  • Harsh, but true.

If you’re currently on the ledge, deciding whether to leap from job security into a world of your own creating.

You can save yourself a lot of time and heartache by learning from other freelancer’s mistakes.

Is there anyone so wise as to learn from the experience of others? – Voltaire

Let’s look at why many new freelancers fail, so you don’t.

#1 Not having an organized workflow

Not having an organized workflow is a huge time waster – and freelancers don’t get paid for wasting time.

If organization comes naturally to you, you’ll quickly find your rhythm, but if you’re used to working to someone else’s work structure, organizing your own should be your priority.

Good news, theirs an App for that:

  • Invoicing software – FreshBooks is a handy tool for streamlining your accounts, invoicing, and tracking payments.
  • Online management tools – TeuxDeux and RescueTime enable you to analyze your computer use. If you’re wasting time looking at pointless websites and social media, you can block them.
  • Time management tools – Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It’s a simple online timer many freelancers use to maximize their output.
  • Task duration tools – Toggl helps you watch how much time you’re spending on individual tasks.

#2 Putting all your eggs in one basket (having one client)

It’s easy to get comfortable when you find a client that provides regular well-paid work.

I did it for over a year, and while it worked out for me, I was one of the lucky few.

Because clients come and go. Or there’s a change of leadership and direction. Out with the old and in with the new!

Lack of leverage:

Another reason why you need more than one client is leverage. If they know they’re paying 100% of your wage, you leave yourself little room for negotiating better terms.

Finding other clients:

Part of your organized workflow should include a half-day devoted to finding new clients. Set up profiles on worksites that suit your niche, write a compelling bio, display your past achievements, and actively reach out to find work.

#3 Undercharging for work (not aligning with hours and expenses)

You’ll always have work if you’re the cheapest freelancer around.

But how much is that work worth to you?

It can be challenging to find the perfect price point when first starting out. Charge too much, and you won’t land any clients, charge too little, and you won’t be a freelancer for long.

Successful freelancers set their minimum rate from day one and quickly become attuned to estimating project timescales. Both are critical for your freelance survival.

Working out your worth:

Use this equation to work out your required hourly rate.

  1. Add up your estimated monthly outgoings (every dollar spent running your business) + any savings and profit you need. For example, $250 running costs $500 savings and profit = $750 per month.
  2. Now estimate the hours per month you intend on working. Let’s say 160.
  3. Divide 160 into 750 = $4.60 per hour before you earn a wage.

Now add the average hourly rate for your niche and experience level. That’s what you need to charge to stay in business.

Pricing Apps:

  • Apps like Motiv help automate your pricing process by calculating your hourly rate and providing an annual salary. And avoid the low-paying clients because they’ll treat you as disposable, ask for more than they’re willing to pay, or disappear when it comes to settling up. And raise your rates as your experience increases; this way, you’ll attract clients who’ll appreciate your worth.

#4 Not being consistent in your work (dropping standards)

I’ve seen this happen, and it doesn’t end well.

A freelancer’s cruising, demand begins to out-way supply, they get comfortable, start believing they’ve got it made, and take their foot off the gas. Next, they start winging it a little, sending in work they’d never have submitted when first starting.

Or outsourcing to a cheaper 3rd party.

The result?

The freelance world is a small one. If you get a reputation of providing sub-standard work, it will stick, and you’ll be back looking for work on job boards before you know it.

Keeping Up Appearances:

It comes back to your organized workflow.

Create a system that gets the best out of you, enabling you to achieve more in less time. Set your goals for each day the night before, and implement a strategy that ensures you reach them. And remember, our brains are like any other muscle; they get tired and need refueling.

When you look after yourself and commit to providing a service better than your clients expect, you’ll never fall short of their expectations.

#5 Failing to build a unique identity (branding)

You need to create a brand and build a unique identity to stand out from your competitors.

But more importantly, a well-designed branding strategy shows prospective clients that you’re serious about what you do. And enables you to connect all your marketing strategies, creating an established online presence, increasing awareness, helping you establish a strong foothold in your niche.

Personal Branding Tips: 

  1. Website – It doesn’t matter what your niche is; you need a website so prospective clients can gain a better understanding of your skillset and make an informed decision whether to hire you or not.
  2. Logo – Your brand needs a logo. We’re not talking about an Apple standard logo but one that’s suitable for your market and target audience. You can create one in ten minutes using an online logo maker like Tailor Brands.
  3. Selfie – You’re the face of your brand, so make sure it’s a good one! Smile in your photo, use an exciting background or props that give some insight into your creative nature and style.
  4. Colors – Colors are essential for setting the right scene. Use a color palette that suits your niche, then infuse it throughout all your brand marketing strategies.

#6 Working so hard you burn out

Don’t underestimate how quickly this can happen. I know, been there, done that, and still skating close to the edge.


Because freelancers are often highly driven individuals who take great pride in their work, striving for perfection at every opportunity.

Resulting in 05.00 AM starts, weekends becoming opportunities to get ahead, and broken promises of holidays and time spent with the family and friends. Here’s the thing, if you’re a quality freelancer, you’ll always have 24/7 work. But it’s not sustainable or worth it.

You’re solely responsible for running your freelance business; it needs you to be at your best.

Give yourself downtime to recharge your batteries. If that’s simply unrealistic because of income, raise your rates!

#7 Not having a marketing plan

Few freelancers become successful without a clear marketing plan.

At first, creating one can appear more than a little complicated for your average freelancer, me included. But when you run a client-focused marketing plan, you’ll begin to land better clients with better rates. Then you can start cutting your old low paying clients, freeing up your time to earn what you’re worth, and take that all-important time off.

#8 Not investing in client relationships

When you love your clients, they’ll love you back, which builds lasting working relationships. 

Freelance success isn’t only about earning the highest rate per hour possible. Sure, it’s an essential element and should be one of your end goals. But real success comes by investing in client relationships.

Odds are, your client has plenty of freelancers to choose from.

And when it comes to choosing one, who do you think they go for?

The cheapest freelancer who’s hard to work with. Or one that charges a little more but always goes the extra mile providing excellent results and is easy to work with.

Ensure clients choose you by making their choice a no-brainer.

#9 Quitting too early in the game

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-unsuccessful entrepreneurs is pure perseverance” – Steve Jobs. 

It takes the average freelancer 2 -6 years to establish themselves as a go-to authority in their niche. Becoming one of the few earning a comfortable six-figure income.

Only enter this game if you’re willing to commit, then play it as your financial life depends on it.


When you become a freelancer, you’re solely responsible for your success.

And that’s an opportunity most people never get.

Don’t waste yours by making any of the 9 reasons why new freelancers fail.

Good luck.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Tech and Innovation - 9 Reasons Why Many New Freelancers Fail (and how to avoid them)
Anna Papadopoulos
Anna Papadopoulos is a senior money, wealth, and asset management reporter at CEOWORLD magazine, covering consumer issues, investing and financial communities + author of the CEOWORLD magazine newsletter, writing about money with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. You can follow CEOWORLD magazine on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or connect on LinkedIn for musings on money, wealth, asset management, millionaires, and billionaires. Email her at