5 big mistakes made by freelance contractors – and how to avoid them

Having amassed significant insight into the world of freelance contractors – from both dealing regularly with freelance associates, and my own personal experience – I have encountered a number of recurring mistakes.  By sharing the 5 biggest mistakes made by freelance contractors, I hope you can avoid the same pitfalls and maximise the enjoyment and rewards of being a successful freelance contractor.

Mistake Number One: Believing what a recruiter tells you

Whilst there are a number of trustworthy, reliable, and proactive recruiters, there are also a number of charlatans (feel free to get in touch for our recommendations).  The important thing to note with recruiters is that the employers they serve are their clients – NOT YOU.  Yes, they will only make money by placing you – but their priority and focus is with the client.  Adopt a default setting of ‘they’re lying’ and you won’t go far wrong.

Mistake Number Two: Turning down interviews – having been made a ‘contract offer’

Things go wrong, and contracts are cancelled.  Until you are sat in the client’s premises on your fist day, you do not have a contract.  Attend interviews right up until the start date of your contract.  Be open and honest about it, but mess people around at your peril (it only takes a moment to ruin your reputation) – who knows; you may just get a better offer, or save yourself from being ‘back to square one’ with your hunt for the next contract?

Mistake Number Three:  Waiting until the end of your current contract before seeking your next

Adopting this approach is a sure-fire way to reinvigorate one’s love with digit-wrangling.  Contract extensions do often happen (make sure you remain within the boundaries of IR35 regulations) – and it’s certainly great when they do; but regardless of any discussions with your existing client, one should start actively seeking the next contract from around 6-weeks prior to your end date.  Most employers reasonably expect a timeframe of up to 4-weeks from contract offer to start date, but any approaches to agencies that are further out than 6-weeks from your available date will more than likely instil abject apathy in the minds of third parties.

Top tip: keep all of your preferred third party agencies updated with your availability dates (no mater how far in the future they are) – and you’ll find that they contact you around the 6-week point (an easier life all round).

Mistake Number Four: Dealing with lower tier agencies

Regrettably, freelance contractors are often contacted about roles that are either dependent on a contract award, or from agencies that have been sub-contracted to help fulfil a role that a Tier One agency is struggling to recruit for.  At best, you will incur expenses for a role that may never materialise; and at worst you’ll have reduced your earnings’ potential – as more people are taking their cut from your daily/hourly rate.

Always check that the agency you’re speaking to is recruiting for a guaranteed position; and that they are the Tier One supplier (see Mistake Number One).

Mistake Number Five – Remaining in glorious isolation

As a freelance contractor, YOU are your brand.  Don’t rely on the profligate work ethics of external agencies to provide you with contracts.  It is true that the hardest contract to attain is your first; but once you’re contracting, you’re a known entity – and therefore more attractive to potential clients.  By servicing your contract in isolation, you are reducing the chances of ‘getting known’.

Get out there; network well, be active on Social Media, attend conferences and training courses, get a website…press the flesh and get to know interesting people.  Before you know it, you’ll be contracting directly with clients – saving them money and increasing your earning potential in one fell swoop.

Over to you…what have I missed?  Are there any other mistakes that you’d counsel against making?  Let everyone have the benefit of your experience in the comments section below.


ApproveMe Gravity Forms April 19, 2016

Networking is the lifeblood of making your freelance business work. Engaging with fellow contractors in the same field will have many benefits for your business; it can result in collaborative projects, potential leads, referrals and access to new resources.

the furious engineer Author April 19, 2016

Hear! Hear! It is said that 2016 may just be the year when marketing and promotional efforts divert away from online activities to those where we can ‘press the flesh’. Good comment – thank you!


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