Critical mistakes can break your business, your reputation and your bank account. I built my own freelance business, and made every mistake in the book. So, when starting your own business, keep an eye out for tricky bumps in the road. Based on my experience, here are five mistakes to avoid at all costs.
1. Blindly following your mentors
A lot of millennials who break out of the 9 to 5 life and embark on an entrepreneurial path naturally seek leadership in others. It makes sense, right? You've been told what to do your entire life, but suddenly you're on your own and you crave guidance. This is when a lot of mentors or coaches come into play, which can be incredibly helpful. But the key here is to remember why you started freelancing: to make your own decisions, work for yourself and live life on your terms. In my experience, a lot of emerging freelancers become "obsessed" with their entrepreneurial idols, losing sight of their own goals and forgetting to follow their gut.
Make sure that you're admiring these people, but not obsessing over them and following their every move. Heading on an entrepreneurial path is about following your own beliefs, systems and strategies, not copying someone else's. So, use mentors for guidance, but ultimately follow your own gut and meeting your own needs.
2. Being too pompous
Walking the line between confident and pompous can be hard to balance as a young freelancer. On the one hand, you want to come off as experienced and professional so that clients don't walk all over you. At the same time, you don't want clients to avoid working with you because you think too highly of yourself.
The answer to this is surprisingly simple: be polite, transparent and personable. If a client proposes a rate that's too low for you, say that you understand where they're coming from and respect their needs. But you can also say that you're a great at what you do and know that you'll drive them results. If they don't want to work with you because they can't afford your rates, that's okay. But that's when you should walk away and not lowball yourself or become self-righteous and fight them about it.
3. Failing to set a schedule
If you wake up every morning with no plan for the day, no schedule to refer to and no clear idea of what has to happen, you will hate yourself. It doesn't matter if you have one client or 10 (or zero ... yet). Every night before you go to bed, make sure that you write out your exact schedule for the next day. You can write it down on paper, use an online tool like Asana or both.
I personally like to block it off into sections. For example, for the first three hours of the day, I'll only work on one particular client. Then for the next 4 hours, I'll only work on another. And under each of those blocks, I'll write each thing I need to do for them.
I include personal to-dos as well. I block off an hour every morning just to read and an hour at night to work out. Include every detail so that you walk into your days with ease, not anxiety and frustration.
4. Thinking only in terms of where you are now
I'll never forget an EOFire podcast episode I once heard, where the interviewee said, "Make decisions from the mindset of the person you want to be, NOT from the mindset of the person you are today."
When many are first starting out on their entrepreneurial journeys, insecurities shoot through the roof. Our actions follow this attitude. When we become insecure, we start dropping our rates. We stop buying morning lattes for the sake of saving money. We become terrified that we won't be able to pay our rent and so we secretly start looking for full-time jobs. This fear takes over our lives and dictates every decision we make, turning us into limited, terrified people.
But what if we did the opposite? Instead of thinking from the mindset of who we are today, what if we thought from the mindset of the person we want to be? What if we were already making $200,000 a year, had a nice car and didn't have to worry about money? What if we could get any client we wanted? What if we had raving customer reviews and a community of followers?
We probably wouldn't desperately look for full-time jobs, skip out on morning lattes to save a few bucks, or lowball our rates to get clients. We would walk into our days with confidence and be proud of what we do. But why do we have to wait to have that mentality when we've reached a certain success point? Adopt it now, and the success will follow.
5. Lacking confidence in your own decisions
When you quit your full-time job and venture out on your own, it's common to start regretting your decisions or overthinking your future ones. Whether it's choosing your website layout, signing a contract with a new client or choosing a name for your business, there's no point in stressing yourself out and being nervous that you'll regret your decision. Because here's the secret: No one actually knows what they're doing. No one is 100 percent certain that their choices are the right ones or that the next move they make will produce a substantial ROI. The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones that execute with confidence and minimize any regret or doubt they might have. So, go forward and make decisions, even if you have self-doubt. It's the only way to get things done.
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