There’s a million rookie mistakes you can make when you first start freelancing, but I can definitely say these 3 seem to come up the most. I’ve even done some or directly experienced them. The first is probably the most problematic for designers, but free work is free work, and you shouldn’t do it except for very special cases.
1. Working Before Sealing the Deal
This tends to happen in the design community a bit more than it should. You may be reading a RFP that says they need to see spec work or comps of some kind with your bid.
Absolutely do not do this. Your time is valuable and they are asking you to do work with the potential of no pay. A strong potential at that.
I won’t say RFPs are a waste, there have been times I’ve replied to them with bids, but generally I won’t touch them because it’s a time suck. I definitely won’t touch one that requires design work though.
2. Spending Too Much Time in Research
It’s good to know what your up against when a client asks you to do something you’ve never done before. But that doesn’t mean spend a ton of hours researching how to build something so that you have a good idea of how long it will take and what to charge.
That’s just too much wasted time. That project just might be a good fit for hourly work. That said I have successfully convinced clients to pay me to have a short research phase on more complicated work, so you might want to consider that.
I would say provide some value with that though — like a PDF with non-technical, technical, and reference information that they could take elsewhere if they decide to do so.
It’s very likely they won’t, which is part of the point. There’s an added bonus that if you just don’t want to work with them, you’re not obligated to after the research.
3. Not Keeping Clients Updated
I’ve actually had this happen to me a ton of times when I’ve worked with other developers or designers, and it’s frustrating as shit. So I make a point to not do it.
You don’t have to over communicate (but hey, that’s not the worse habit you could have) to keep clients up to date, just a quick pulse check so they know your alive will do!
Don’t be the person that disappears and comes back like *TADA IM DONE*. Let your client know they didn’t just lose money and that you’re still alive.