Four Pieces of Freelancing Advice That I Ignore

(Last Updated On: March 6, 2017)

There are a few pieces of freelancing advice that I constantly see splashed around the web. Experienced freelancers and freelance coaches are always telling their readers to pitch constantly, to create a freelance website, to never work for free, and to always charge what they are worth. This is all great advice for some freelancers in some situations, but it’s all advice that I’ve ignored for years. Here’s why:

I don’t pitch constantly.

In the first few months of freelancing, I pitched constantly, often sending out two or three pitches a day. But now? I haven’t sent a pitch in months. First, I have more work than I can handle right now, and I’m happy with the rate I get paid. Second, my priorities have shifted. I’m no longer trying to build my freelance business. Instead, I want to create more time to work on my blog. Third, I currently work with two corporate clients who are extremely reliable and let me dictate how much work I want to do. If I want to do more work, I can easily ask them for more assignments without pitching new companies.

Should I be pitching more? Maybe. But based on my priorities, the amount of savings I’ve built up, and my risk tolerance, I’ve made a conscious decision not to spend my limited time pitching for work that I don’t have time to do.

Freelance experts are always telling their readers to pitch constantly, to create a freelance website, to never work for free, and to always charge what they are worth. This is all great advice for some freelancers in some situations, but it’s all advice that I’ve ignored for years. Click through to find out why.

I don’t have a website.

I’ve been freelancing for 4+ years, and I’ve never had a website for my freelance business. I have a portfolio of work at Upwork and at Contently. I also keep all of my portfolio materials on my hard drive so I can send highly targeted portfolio pieces to potential clients.

Should I have a freelance website? Maybe. But in my niche of education writing I’ve found that cold pitching has been my best strategy for landing work. I tend to work with major education companies, who aren’t searching the web for freelancers. They have plenty of people approach them. My business might benefit from a website, but for now I don’t want to invest the time and money in a new website when I already have plenty of higher priority things to do.

I’ve done work for free.

One of the most common pieces of advice I see is “Never work for free!” I get it. It’s so important for freelancers to value their services and to not get taken advantage of. That being said, I do think there are strategic reasons to work for free. I’ve written blog posts for free to help build traffic and authority for this blog. I’ve also done freelance work for free in my niche of education writing. Before I agreed to work for free I did some research and learned that doing spec work in my niche is fairly common and the work I did for free would never be used by the company for anything other than evaluating me.

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Should I have worked for free? Absolutely. On the blogging side, writing unpaid guest posts has doubled the size of my email list. On the freelancing side, I’ve made thousands of dollars from companies that only hired me after seeing the work I did on spec. I made a strategic decision that working for free could help me reach my goals, and I’m glad I made that choice.

I don’t always charge what I’m worth.

I do think it’s important to charge clients for the value you bring to their projects, but there are times when I’ve strategically let clients pay me less than my regular rate. For example, I’m currently working with one of the major American education publishing houses. My goal is to get my foot in the door, make contacts at the company, and show them my skills with the hope that I can land better-paying work in the future.

Should I under price myself? I’m not sure. There is definitely an argument to be made that if a client is used to paying you less now, they will resist paying you more in the future. With this company, I know they have a hierarchy of freelancers, and I know there are opportunities to supervise or edit work from other freelancers. I’m betting on the fact that the supervisory work pays more and that I can eventually land one of those roles. We’ll see if my bet pays off.

The Takeaway

I’m not trying to advise you to ignore common advice. My goal is to help you realize that not every piece of advice will apply to you. Some rules are made to be broken, and some pieces of advice won’t work for  your unique situation. Learn from the experts around you, but trust your judgement and understand your own needs too.

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For every freelance “rule” that I’ve broken, I had a well-thought out reason or strategy for going my own way. Set clear goals for yourself, then make strategic decisions to help you achieve those goals.

Are you a freelancing or entrepreneurial rebel? If so, what’s one piece of common advice that you don’t follow?

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  • I think this is great! I read the same freelancing “rules” over and over again, and I completely ignore about half of them because they don’t necessarily jive with my core values – everyone should have their own rules that they follow that best fit their business!

    • Agreed! I think that new freelancers sometimes get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of advice out there. When something isn’t going the way they expect, it can be hard to figure out if it’s a “rule” that needs to be ignored or if there is some other issue at play. High five to all the confident and clear-headed freelancers out there who know what they want and know when to ignore the advice that doesn’t help them achieve their goals.

  • This is a wonderful reminder for me to stay true to what works for me in my business. It’s easy to get caught up in all those entrepreneur books and blogs about the “right” way to do things. But in reality, there are a million ways to do something. Thank you!!

    • Aww, glad I could be helpful. I find when I’m not confident about something it’s really easy to get sucked into advice that just isn’t working for me. I love your reminder that there are a million ways to do something, just find what works for you!

  • The trouble with your advice is that it works for you at this present time and your present situation. You were fortunate enough to build momentum off the backs of those other freelancers who have their market rates devalued as a result of your working for free, and underpricing yourself in the ecosphere.

    It is certainly advice that people can take, but it is pretty bad advice on an individual level, and field level, in my opinion.

    • Hey Saj, I actually disagree with you. First, in my freelancing career, the only time I worked for free was to apply for contract positions with major education assessment companies. Completing unpaid spec work is the standard application procedure in that very specific niche. It’s not possible to be hired unless you do this unpaid spec work, which companies use to evaluate your technical skills. I don’t see this as building momentum off the backs of other freelancers.

      Second, I’m not suggesting that other freelancers should work for free. My point is that we each need to find what works for our specific situation. Not all pieces of advice will apply to everyone.