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5 freelancing pitfalls and how to avoid them

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Freelancing can be a difficult business. You have to find clients, beat deadlines and always stay ahead of the game. The stark reality is that you only get out of it, what you put in.

The recession has drawn more and more people to the world of networking as a job hunting tool but unless you use these networks correctly you might find yourself with a contract that you don't really want.

As with any career objective, you need to formulate a plan. A good way to do this is to draw up a road map detailing your goals and ambitions and how you plan to achieve them. If you audit your freelance career and undertake a project planning exercise you should avoid some of the following common pitfalls.

1. No marketing strategy

Without some kind of marketing strategy you're unlikely to attract future clients. One way to achieve this is to maintain an active presence on a networking site such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Even when you're engaged in a busy period you should keep your profile up-to-date and join in discussions.

2. Unrealistic time frames

When you're offered a job, you should check the amount of time it involves. Consider whether your time will be well spent or could it be better utilized elsewhere? Does the remuneration fit the task? There's little point in slaving away at a task with a large scope and little pay.

3. Lack of clear and precise communication

Freelancers, and clients, sometimes believe that the other party is telepathic. Both sides should be prepared to question the job requirements and the contract details. You need excellent communication skills and this leads to a win-win situation. The client's project is well executed while the freelance business is run efficiently. Always direct questions in a respectful manner and it's worth backing up verbal communication in writing just to make doubly sure there has not been a misunderstanding on either side. Remember not to compromise the project. If asked in a professional manner, questions will enhance a business relationship.

4. No time to upgrade skill set

Contrary to popular belief, you should constantly update your skills. Keeping abreast with the latest developments ensures that you can deal with issues as and when they arise. Past experiences may not be enough to get you through certain situations. The freelance marketplace is dynamic and if you don't keep up-to-date you run the risk of being left behind with the crowd. Even with a busy schedule, there should be enough time to read the latest industry news and update your skills.

5. What works for X must work for Y

What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for the rest. Everybody has different techniques and trying to emulate someone else may not always be the best or most efficient way of working.

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Image: Meal worm in venus fly trap by blmurch

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