We all start the same way – work in a regular job for a few years, get tired of the monotony, or a creativity-crushing boss, or a pay package that could be compared to peanuts for the amount of skills we have. But we finally take that step to become free. Working for multiple clients, handling a variety of jobs, getting paid for what we are worth, and of course, the satisfaction of ownership and being our own boss. All of these give a different kind of mental high.

I have been freelancing for a long time now and have had the good fortune to come across lots of fellow freelancers: beginners as well as experts. Based on my experience, here are the top five things that really annoy clients, more than you can imagine. Sit back and think – are you doing any of these career-damaging actions:

1. Not replying back to client’s mails/phone calls and not following up:

If you were working in a company, a boss would always be sitting on your head and monitoring your actions. You have a higher level of accountability and responsibility there. When you are freelancing, you have to maintain that same level of accountability. Nothing delights clients more than prompt replies to their emails. You don’t have to wait for your clients to revert; when you think it’s time to hear from them, it’s best to send a gentle reminder. Many companies fear hiring freelancers because of the mindset that they are irresponsible and might vanish any day, which brings me to the next point.

2. Taking uninformed offs:

Freelancing offers you tremendous scope of working anytime from anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that you switch off your mail box in the middle of the week and take off for the weekend to a place where it’s hard to catch mobile signals. Most freelancers get the maximum work and the major part of their income from long-standing clients. It takes time and effort to build that reputation. Even if you are going out for a day, you must inform your client about it – in advance.

3. Not delivering the work on time:

If you promise something, you must deliver. I have a hard time understanding why some freelancers commit to deadlines that they cannot follow. If you cannot get something done in a day then don’t say that you can. Most often than not, if you explain your workload to your clients, they will understand. When you are giving your work timelines to your client, add an extra day if you think that you might not be able to complete the work in time. If in case, you get delayed, inform your clients yourself – don’t wait for them to come to you.

4. Not maintaining a work sheet:

I always encourage fellow freelancers to maintain an Excel sheet or online worksheet to update the status of the tasks that they are doing. If you manage your work well, you can get it done in time and plan out like professionals. You can have several columns in your worksheet: client name, job, status, author, payment received, payment pending, internal deadline, client deadline, remarks. In the status you can put – to write/design, to edit, to do final review, to send to client, sent to client for approval, waiting for approval, to be uploaded, to be tracked, done, and so on. Highlight the tasks in different colors based on priority. When you have multiple jobs going on simultaneously, it gets hard to track them in your brain so it’s best to use Excel as your pensieve.

5. Not practicing what you are preaching:

You are a writer but you don’t have a blog/website; you are a designer but you don’t have an online portfolio; you are an SEO specialist but people can’t find you on Google; you call yourself a social media specialist and you have just tweeted thrice in your own name – these are things that you should take care of. If you are writer, take out time to maintain your own blog. Do for yourself what you are doing for your clients. This shows your authority and grasp of the work that you are doing.

Veteran freelancers might not be doing any of the above and that’s why they have reached where they are. This article is meant for beginners who don’t pay attention to such nuances and as a result are unable to sustain clients for long and return to normal jobs after a short stint as freelancers.

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