Working alone can be a rewarding experience. The freedom to set up shop wherever you want is a big reason many web designers choose a freelance life. You just don’t get the same experience when you work for someone else.
But this lifestyle can also lead to some negatives. It’s nice not to have a boss looking over your shoulder all day. But this freedom can be a problem. If you are not careful, you can create some bad habits that can hurt you personally and professionally.
Like most bad habits, they seem to start slowly. Left unchecked, they have the potential to wreak havoc. Let’s look at what can go wrong and how to fix it.
Being Unresponsive to Clients
Lack of communication is one of the most self-destructive things a freelance designer can do. I have seen it time and time again. Clients get tired of trying to get a response from their designers and move on to someone else.
I admit that I have let email slip by me from time to time. There were busy days when I meant to get back to someone and…forgot. It happens to everyone at some point.
However, it becomes a problem when clients are constantly waiting for you. This behavior affects their ability to do business.
The Repair: Set aside some time each day and respond to messages from clients. It may take a little discipline at first. But in the end, you will be done good custom.
Cutting Corners to Save Time
There are times when you can be extremely busy. Days when you sit at your desk for hours without so much as stretching your legs. And, if you’re the type who gets really stressed out in these situations (like me), you might start to forget the small details in your work. You know, the stuff that ensures quality and functionality.
The most frustrating part of this is that you make more work for yourself when any mistakes are exposed. What’s even more frustrating is that sometimes those errors won’t show up for months (yes, it happened to me).
The Repair: As difficult as it may be, find the strength to give each task its proper allocation of time. It’s so tempting to rush, but do your best to do the job right.
Failure to Keep Up with Finances
Designers are not accountants. But if you have a business, you need to keep track of every penny that comes in and goes out. Otherwise, you can be in trouble come tax time.
But finances involve more than keeping track of income and expenses. It is also important to keep an accurate record of who owes you money. After all, you can’t get paid if you don’t send out invoices.
This takes a lot of discipline and a little time to get used to. For example, I developed the bad habit of not marking paid invoices promptly. I realized that I simply remember what I did and when I did it. Long story short: that didn’t work out so well.
The Repair: Develop a process for recording all your financial records. You have the freedom to do so in a way that makes you comfortable. But don’t put things off until later. May not come later.
Surround Yourself with distractions
Another benefit of freelancing is the ability to establish a personalized work environment. While it’s nice to have things just the way you want them, be careful.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of having the TV on next to you or listening to a sporting event while you work. While that may be fine for some, it can be very disturbing for others.
Our work requires a little focus. Anything that takes away from that can be detrimental to doing things.
The Repair: Set up your workspace so you can focus. Have plenty of entertainment options. Just be sure they are not a distraction.
Believing You Are Not Good Enough
Okay, this is a little more existential than the other bad habits on the list. But perhaps it is just as important.
We know there is no shortage of talented designers out there. Some of them do great work. Seeing this can make you feel like you don’t have what it takes to achieve great things.
It doesn’t stop you from trying to achieve something better. For example, you might see a project out there that interests you. But don’t bid on it because you think it’s beyond your skill level. But as your mother would probably tell you: that attitude will get you nowhere.
The Repair: I think every designer goes through a bit of imposter syndrome. To break out of your funk, do something that makes you feel good. Learn a new skill or start a fun project. A little boost in confidence can do wonders.
Perfection Not required
During your independent journey, any of the above bad habits can strike. But that’s no reason to panic. We all go through periods when we don’t handle things ideally. The most important thing is to use those times as a learning experience.
There will always be ups and downs. But the best designers keep working to get a little better every day. After all, no one said that the road to success is linear.