Why I Quit Freelancing?

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Article: Why I Quit Freelancing

I started doing freelancing 3 years before during my college days when I learned designing and some fundamental web stuff. And after couple of years I had some hard span of time which makes me quit freelancing. After that this was the question which was coming into my mind for next 7 months and I spend many sleepless nights and gypsy days to find out the answer. I was not surprised after getting many answers to my one single question. Because I know that those mistakes were mine and I was totally responsible for them.

I think, in my case I started doing things my way without having so much knowledge about doing those things in a correct way. I started earning sufficient amount of money very soon and it makes me very desperate to earn some more and here I made my first mistake.

Accepting too many projects

Yes, that was my very first mistake. Accepting too many projects at a time and working on all of them simultaneously is too tough for a freelancer. It’s because you are the only one who have to handle many aspects of project single handedly. Each client has had their own needs and expectation from you. You have to attend their calls, reply to their emails, understand their need and requirements, etc. And it becomes very difficult to prioritize the work you have/should do when you started working on more than two or three projects.

When this is the situations, you end up with nothing but irritation and frustration. In the beginning when you are new in industry and struggling to create your own identity, it’s ok to work on maximum 3-4 projects (try to avoid this also). But after that, try to avoid this peril situation. Make such a reputation of yours, that you should be able to choose your projects. Choose projects which will excite you.

You will earn money, some popularity in industry, people will start recognizing you and you will also make some friends. These so called friends will ask you to do some friendly contribution in some of their project. Then this is an alarm! In my case I accepted one college event website projects. It was a very cool kind of feeling that I will be working on something like that. I designed the whole website, developed it and maintained it for almost one and a half month. I was not getting paid a single penny for that. The demands were rapidly increasing from the organizing committee. It was too much pressure and workload for me. I stopped working on the project without letting them know. And one fine morning they got another designer and a completely new live website. I went into too much depression because in the end I had nothing. No money, no credits! So, please don’t work on projects which will not pay you in return. Don’t do things for free in which you are good. Learn to say NO.

I never said NO

I think this was the most important reason behind all this. I almost never said NO to any one of my clients for their every demand. And it leads me to unfinished projects and empty bank account. If you always say YES without thinking the pros and cons of that “Yes”, then it will surely give you pain. It becomes a false promise/commitment, which degrades your credibility.

You can say No to the things which you are unable to do. Give a genuine reason for your No. It will really help to manage things in easy way. It will keep you happy and so your client and make easy for him also.

Unaware of my capabilities

I said above in that choose projects which excites you. But it doesn’t mean that you should accept it before analyzing the requirements of the project. I accepted one project which was demanding a very strong knowledge of PHP language. And at that time I would have given 3/10 to me for my PHP skills. I thought I can learn and make it done. But unfortunately I was totally wrong. I spend almost one month to improve my PHP skill and in between I lost my project for not providing it on time. In this case I was unaware of my own capabilities and skill sets.

Predicting project cost

I never calculated the cost of project, I predicted them. I predicted them on the basis of how much money I want to fulfill my needs. This was totally a dumb thing. While submitting a quote for a particular project I should have calculated the total cost of the project. I never done market research and tried to find out that how much amount other designers are charging for the same kind of work. Calculation depends on the total hours require to finish it, technology used, some outsourcing, complexity of project, etc.

Even If my predictions were almost right, I never asked my clients for money even after I had almost finished the project. Because I was quite shy kind of a guy. This was the most hopeless thing from my side and some people took advantage of that. They started throwing tantrums on me whenever I asked them for pending amount. And then after some time I also stopped bothering about it and used to get busy in next project.

Folks, never let your money go which you have earned by your hardwork and skills. It will affect your future projects. Your clients will think that they can get the work done in cheap price. So please avoid this. Never shy to ask your money and be prompt on this front.

Conclusion

It may be a point of argument that when you should start freelancing, after working with some established design studio or before it. While you work with a team, you gain experience about the current trends of industry. You will come to know how this industry works, what is the process, how to deal with client, etc.

Sometimes it happened like I got really irritating clients which make me work the way they were used to and I was not comfortable with that. On a concluding note, I just want to let my folks know that please avoid the mistakes I have done during my freelancing days. Doing freelancing is a great thing. You can choose your project; you can work on what you want to work. You will have that kind of freedom. You will be able to set up your own standards.

What would be the other reasons behind my quitting freelancing? I will be glad to know your views on all this.

Cheers!

Feature Image by: Joel Glovier
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Akash is a freelance web designer and developer and also the founder of Dzyngiri.com You can get connected with him on Twitter and Facebook

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14 Comments

  1. Great post. I quit freelance years ago for many of those reasons into a career exclusively of corporate and independent app engineering (although freelance keeps finding me in hiding from time to time). I completely relate with the difficulties of saying no to prospective clients, especially when they’re closely linked to you.

    Missing the other vital pieces of the development team was another major drawback for me. I’m a perfectionist and not having a person doing their own specialty role (such as project management, business analysis, testing, etc) at an expert level put a burden on me as a sole freelance designer/developer to spend much more time-comsuming (and tough to estimate hours) dabbling in those other areas of the development cycle while balancing too many projects.

    While some projects are great for a single designer/developer, I’m now a strong believer in doing most major projects in a team of at least 3 diverse development cycle skillsets for more world-class results.

    My thirst to build my own products also began to intensify which was the breaking point for my freelance career. For me, it was so much more gratifying building and nurturing creative projects rather than just engineering them and sending them off to a client, rarely to be seen again.

  2. Very good post Akash,
    It is people like you, willing to share their experiences that will help others like me. It is good to share and I try to help others on my journey through life by sharing my experiences.
    I am an MA interaction designer, a web designer, a web developer, a graphics designer, one who wears many hats, a freelancer at the end of the day.
    I am currently studying PHP MySQL and freelancing part time. It comes with all the headaches you have mentioned and when I am finished my training next year, I will either develop my own publications and become self employed or seek a job with a design / development company. The latter being my wife’s choice the first being mine!

    I live in Ireland, here the market is small, the competition with development companies and freelancers is BIG, many many freelancers under charge for their work which makes people think design and development work should cost near to nothing and everything on the internet should be free!

    The Irish economy is in the toilet near on five years and jobs in IT while they seem plenty are hard to get as experience is required and coming straight from college the jobs on offer are for unpaid internships or offer salaries so low they are not worth it(student rates I call them), yes gaining experience is obvious but paying your rent, bills, food etc.. is a necessity. I freelance just to build my portfolio but don’t plan to stay freelancing for too long.

    Emigration to Canada or the US looks like a healthy option for good paying jobs with seemingly good companies, it is a massive move for us, we have three children, mortgage, car loan etc…

    Keep the faith and you will do well!

  3. Great post, I like many other people have experienced the same mistakes as I began designing and developing. I think freelance work can be great for the right person and even supplement your current income as it does mine on occasion but you have to know what projects are good for you. When you work at studio that’s been doing it for awhile you get the expereince needed to be successful.

  4. An honest post you have posted here Akash and from the heart!

    It appears that you have been doing your freelance work more through passion rather than a profession and some of the points you have noted above are familiar with my work but hopefully I have moved on from these ‘blockers’. Predicting Project Costs on the basis of how much money you want to fulfill your needs is easily done especially when things are quiet and the fridge is now down to a block of cheese and half a bottle of milk! You have to survive and at this stage (and believe me you can be there at anytime) you will take on board a really difficult project which may demand areas of knowledge that you just dont feel at home with. In addition you will present a really low cost that does not justify the weeks you will be working on the project. At this stage you are working towards “Can design for food” syndrome.

    Only a few weeks ago I was talking to some clients from the City and they had a bad experience of a web design agency who did not deliver the project and after 9 months the clients decided to pull out and look for someone else – me. They told me the outstanding work was about a weeks worth of work and there needed to be some adjustements to the new website prior to it being launched. I looked over every aspect of the requirements and reality being was I calculated at least 3/4 weeks work left. I prepared a project quotation and at the bottom (in bold – not small print) I highlighted that any additional work or requirements would be treated seperately and would need to be built into the project cost. I also indicated that 50% payment would be required prior to starting the project and the reamining 50% would be required before the website is launched onto the ‘live’ server and to their satisfaction.

    The total cost was £2,000 and was looking forward to getting into the work.

    I received an email back from the clients saying they are restructuring the design and taking a number of elements out such as a microsite (which I quoted £500). They also indicated that they dont work on pro forma payments and the full payment would only be made on completion. My concern would be from experience and I know that previously in the older days any project I worked on and payment was to be done at the end of the project I ended up working more and giving into their demsands to do some ‘tweaking’ which probably put an additional 20% of my work on top but the clients would not want to pay anymore money. They always had the carrott in front of you and they knew that you needed the money and they could ask for further tweaks along the way.

    Anyway, back to the client: I called them and discussed the design issues and basically informed them that it is my policy and part of my working ethic to apply my payment requirements and I because of our differences I would have to decline the offer and we parted.

    A few days later they did come back to me and say they were prepared to pay the 50% down payment for the project but I needed to have an open policy on ‘any additional requirements’ they feel fit and I would be required to fulfill them. It dawned on me that the failure to deliver this project was not down to the Web Design agency who originally started the project but in fact the client! I had a week to look through the original information they had given me and there where a number of changes I could see along the way that the client had made – changing course in mid wind is not good for any designer, however if they wish to do so they need to understand that this will add more time and time is money!

    I never did accept the conditions and moved on! A year or two ago I would have taken this project on without doing any detailed quotation and its only after a period of time learning the ‘hard way’ that you build into your work ethic a strong discipline of work routine, quotation and standing strong on what you said you will deliver and for what price.

    Maybe you were going through the pains anyone would have experienced but your post clearly indicates that you were aware of them! Maybe if you would have stuck it out just one more year and applied discipline from your experiences then you would have made a success of it.

    Best of luck in what you are doing now!

  5. I want to work as a freelancer. I’m expert in HTML and CSS. Please contact me if there is any suitable project for me.

    Thanks!!

    • Hello Arun,
      Actually this is a wrong practice of marketing yourself. When you adopt such strategy, the client will think that you are in NEED of work. The clients will make work done from you and you will never get paid the amount you deserve!

      This is also a mistake you are doing! :)

      • Hey Akash, You just hit the chord with the best reply to Arun, indeed this is what happens with freelancing and Sales or marketing of the same.

        Just came across your website and felt good plus you had some awesome bootstrap themes as freebies, it lured me in no doubt. ( Already downloaded them even though i don’t need all of them altogether ;) but who know what is free today becomes paid tomorrow ) .

        • Thanks Sahil,
          And don’t worry, at Dzyngiri we believe that Knowledge must be open source.
          Everything is and will be free on Dzyngiri as we have some awesome readers and supporters like you ;)

  6. I have done the same mistakes for a $500 website. When you are a freelancer you clients seem to play the psychological card regularly. They do think everything on the Internet should be free or stupidly cheap. My last client, after all the work I have done, told me he couldn’t just see the website from his computer, complaining like I did something horrible and I needed to make out for it. He still haven’t paid a cent, and he wanted me to go to his house and fix it for him. This made me think that the level of respect he has for a freelancer, me, that accepts payment on completion, was not even enough to try to see the website from another computer. He just felt it was not good enough. Instead he used his problem to put me down and make me feel I am not doing what he asks. When I found out he could not see the website I asked 20 people around the world to test it and none had the same problem. I received compliments about the job, and have been told I should have asked much more than $500. This is a classic example of clients that only want to see how much can they stretch it.

  7. IMHO Akash, you did nothing wrong. What lead you in this situation was that you never though that freelancing is also a business. Primarily, you are trained as a coder or technical person NOT as a business person. There are two way to approach this. Either take some basic business management courses in a community college or you can hire an experienced office manager/bookkeeper (he/she can start part time). In that way, there will be a check and balances.

    In cases of developing new skills, join organization or discussion groups (example: Linkedin) and attend seminars. These will not only sharpen your technical skills, but it widens your interpersonal and networking skills.

    I myself personally experienced the same situation. It was a hard and painful experienced but it will turn you a smarter and a stronger person.

  8. When I started freelancing I took advice from some other people online. I investigated everything about freelancing beforehand. I never got fulling involved in a project until I got paid 1/2 up front. If they would not pay me half up front I said the magic word “No”. I started my conversations with them stating my fee schedule right up front so that no one was surprised, even on my very first project. In certain cases, I would do a mock up of a front page to get the ball rolling, but once they saw my quality work they knew it was a good investment. Get the first half up front, so if you never see that second half when the project is done you will not have done work for nothing.

  9. I am feeling that this article is mirror of my last 3 year of professional life.. If I explain my last 3 years experience it will 90% match with this article. I want to add one thing Which is one of my mistake that I always wanted to create a team with some of my friend and cousin who doesn’t know how to do outsourcing work, find client and make money. when they got the way of getting client and making money they back-step with me. They started make money individually.. I spend huge time on them to learn work and understand how to work and communicate with clients.

    Anyway….. Its feel better after read this article and there are lots of part I think I still need to improve… thanks

  10. This is exactly why after 3 years of graphic design freelance I got work at a multimedia studio where I get advice & business skills from the experienced professionals. I HAD CLIENTS THAT LEFT ME TOTALLY DEPRESSED & BURNED OUT. Freelancing was a good extension to my 9-5 income from retail, but it made me ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE. Honestly, it nearly destroyed my relationship with family, finances & leisure life. I no longer take on any random or referral clients unless it’s from a successful friend of mines. It’s best to work for or partner up with a professional company & do private contract under them. I’VE LEARNED TO TELL POTENTIAL CLIENTS “NO” before I even create a contract for them.

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