5 Client Mistakes Freelancers Make That Cost Them Serious Cash

by Ahmed Safwan 6 Minutes

It’s three a.m.

You’re still sitting at the computer trying to make your brain work.

Wading through a series of tedious tasks that never seems to end.

Your bed’s in the other room, but you haven’t spent much quality time there this week.

Oh yeah… I forgot to mention the best part:

You aren’t getting paid for any of this.

Sound familiar?

If you’ve been freelancing for long, it probably sounds too familiar.

Sometimes this extra work comes from unreasonable clients. But others – and these are the most frustrating because we do them to ourselves – come from our own mistakes.

Tired of working longer and watching your average hourly rate take a nose dive?

Good news: you don’t have to put up with this anymore.

The upside to making mistakes is that you have the power to notice them and fix them.

You can save yourself from a lot of stress and add thousands of dollars to your bank account… if you’re willing to pay a bit more attention and take action when the time is right.

Here are five common client mistakes to watch out for…

5. You Never Say “No”

Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

So you shouldn’t ever turn it down – especially if you’re a new freelancer.


Not exactly…

Refusing to turn down any client work is a phase almost every one of us goes through. Maybe we aren’t confident in our abilities to generate new business. Maybe we don’t want to offend anyone. Or maybe we just need to make next month’s rent.

Whatever your reasons, adopting a “come one and come all” policy to client work is bad business.

You end up taking gigs that don’t pay what you’re really worth.

You end up working on projects you couldn’t care less about.

That takes a toll sooner or later. You can only manufacture enthusiasm for so long – especially when you’re facing a string of 14-hour days because you just won’t turn down work.

What happens?

The quality of your work starts to dip. Your passion isn’t there anymore. And clients notice.

There’s an easy fix. From now on, whenever your gut tells you to say “no,” do it. Save your expertise for projects that pay you what you’re worth. You’ll be a lot more motivated to do a great job and improve your skills.

Being more selective might cost you a few opportunities in the beginning, but it will pay off as the months and years go on. You’ll make more money working less hours. Win win.

4. You Think the Client Is Always Right

As a freelancer, clients pay you to provide a service. They have problems. They need your expertise and focus to solve them.

Fair enough…

But are you letting people treat you like a retail-store employee instead of an expert?

A lot of us are. We’ve grown up around big retail chains and their standard philosophy: “The customer is always right.” It can affect the way we do business.

Sure, the client is right sometimes. But what about when they’re wrong and you know they’re wrong?

A policy that works for a corporation like Walmart won’t work for someone providing a customized, specialized service. Someone like you.

It’s always nice to be agreeable. Most of us don’t like confrontation. But when the results of the project are at stake, it’s time for the “yes man” or “yes woman” to take a backseat.

Clients didn’t hire you to agree with them.

They hired you to solve a problem – to create a certain result.

This doesn’t mean go out of your way to be confrontational. But sometimes disagreeing with the client (and standing your ground) is the only way to give the project a chance to succeed.

At the end of the day, if a client refuses to take your advice you don’t have to stick around. That flexibility is one of the greatest things about being a freelancer.

3. You Present Price Tags Without Value

Price, price, price.

It’s one the biggest things on freelancers’ minds when they’re just starting out.

“How much should I charge?”

“How can I convince a client to go for that?”

A lot of people pick a reasonable hourly rate as a starting point. That’s the rate they quote when they start pitching their services to potential clients.

This is an okay way to get started, but it misses the bigger picture:

Framing services in terms of dollars and cents – how much you’ll make and how much the client will pay – is rarely enough to justify the kinds of rates top freelancers charge.

Those freelancers have plenty of client testimonials and a project portfolio to help convince clients to pay top dollar. If you don’t have those now, you’ll develop them with them.

But top freelancers also have something else:

A laser focus on value.

When you approach potential clients not just with a specific amount of money in mind, but with a comprehensive breakdown of the value you can offer them, they’re much more likely to hire you and pay higher rates.

It’s 100 times better to say to a client:

“Writing this post will cost you $300 because I’ll interview you, interview your clients, write an engaging case study and write an attractive headline that will attract more people to read your post.”


“I’d charge you $400 for this post.”

The first approach is still compelling – even if the competitor quotes a lower price. It’s how top freelancers get away with charging amounts that make your eyes bulge. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same!

2. You Lose Touch with Former Clients

Getting the client is the hard part.

You hear that all the time from marketing gurus. And you probably know it from firsthand experience. It can take a lot of determination and hustle early on.

So why do so many of us land the client, finish the project, and then just let the relationship fizzle?

This is maddening. It’s probably cost me more than any other mistakes I listed. And it’s so easy to avoid… as long as you’re mindful.

When was the last time you emailed a former client and just said hi?

When I ran into a rough patch about six months ago – the feast or famine problem freelancers tend to face – I realized my answer to that question was “never.”

Here I was scrambling for new projects and I hadn’t even thought about turning to relationships I’d already built. I sent out a few emails to former clients to check in, and mentioned that I was available if they needed any more help.

Two days later I was booked solid again… and shaking my head for not thinking of this sooner.

Now, I’m working on a system to automate client follow-up so I don’t have any excuse not to stay in touch. Even if you’re busy now, maintaining contact with former clients could pay off in a few months (or whenever the rough patches inevitability come).

1. You Waste Time and Energy Trying to Keep Unreasonable Clients Happy

What does it take to be a successful freelancer?

Solve the problems clients hire you to solve and provide them with a great experience while you’re doing it.

Sounds like simple stuff… but it’s so valuable I can’t say it enough.

Happy clients are the best lead generators. People you start working with on referrals could be worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to you. But not all clients are created equal.

It’s worth taking the extra time to keep as many clients satisfied as you can.

Notice how I said “as many as you can” instead of “all?”

That’s because, no matter how hard you work, you’ll run into a client occasionally who refuses to be satisfied. I’ve spent hours going the extra mile for these kinds of people, giving up sleep for what always turned out to be an impossible task.

You don’t have to do this.

Whenever you come across clients asking for unrealistic things over and over again, eject them from your life as fast as you can. Their criticism can sting because it tends to be the loudest. But it’s also probably exaggerated and untrue.

Don’t worry when this (inevitably) happens.

It isn’t your fault.

Get rid of the problem client and focus on serving the others the best you can. You’ll make more money and save yourself a lot of time too.

Save Yourself Time and Gain Freedom

Most of us freelancers had to learn these mistakes the hard way. I know I did.

They cost me countless opportunities, thousands of dollars, and plenty of time I shouldn’t have been working.

The worst part?

Making these mistakes chips away at your freedom – a huge reason many of us became freelancers in the first place. We want flexibility and to work with clients instead of for a boss. But the mistakes will control your schedule and your life if you let them go on.

But you don’t have to make the mistakes I (and countless other freelancers) did.

Act now. You don’t have to overhaul your business all at once. But start watching for these red flags in your interactions with clients. Noticing them is the first step. Then you can focus on fixing them one at a time to accelerate your earnings and freedom.

Do any of these mistakes look familiar to you? How did you deal with them? Leave a comment below and share your experience!

**Editor’s Note: There’s a saying that you can’t make something right unless you acknowledge what you’re doing wrong (or where you’re going wrong.)

Mistakes happen, and they should happen. Mistakes indicate that at the very least, you’re trying!

While you’re learning how to overcome a few common freelancer mistakes, here’s another mistake to consider: You might be sending out proposals all wrong, if you’re sending them out at all!

We’re going to set you straight–sign up for our free 14 day trial offer for more details.

Get Our $270M Client Proposal Kit (free)

by Ahmed Safwan
By night, Ahmed Safwan is busy “figuring out how to make blogging simpler, not easier” over at Smart Marketing Boost. By day, he studies to be a dentist. Don’t leave without snagging your free videos on the 3 types of blogs posts that goes viral and the only promotion strategy you need to follow to make sure that your next post gets you more clients.