I originally read this from a post targeted to freelancers titled “10 Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make As A Freelancer” over at SmashingShare. However, after looking at it, I believe the applications cut across any job and position one finds one’s self in. So, here are the the 10 career mistakes to look out for:
1. Pretending To Be Someone You’re Not
Throughout my career, I’ve certainly come across my fair share of people who are basically liars. While it’s certainly acceptable to put your best foot forward and present yourself in a much better light – I think the danger lies in stretching it too far that you end up promising what you cannot deliver! Maybe you’ll get away with it once or twice, but eventually, the truth will catch up and your cover will get blown.
Be honest on what you are capable of doing and not, tell it like it is and set KPIs that you are sure you are able to keep. If you fail a project because you took on too much or did things you don’t really do that well, your credibility will be affected and your reputation will take a hit.
2. Overpricing/Underpricing Yourself
Pricing your self/products/services can be very critical, so its important to do some good researching before you set your prices (If you’re freelancing then that would be your fees, etc. If you’re seeking employment, then that would be your salary/compensation package) . Check out what are the industry norms and ask around. In some situatinos, you might even be able to rely on different forums and websites that can help you out on this.
If you price yourself too high employers/clients can always choose someone else (or just get very unhappy when they receive the bill). If you price yourself too low it can be hard for you to make ends meet and some employers/clients may also find it a bit unprofessional (i.e. why are you so cheap?).
Just remember to do the required research before you start up. And most importantly: don’t be afraid to do adjustments along the way if you feel you started off a bit wrong.
3. Thinking You “Know It All”
This can truly be one of the biggest mistakes you ever make. Even if you land a great project, or ten for that matter, that doesn’t mean that you know everything. It’s so important to always have an open mind. This means listening to feedback and using it in a constructive way, evaluating yourself, seeing your own good and bad sides, spending time to read up on news in your field and being humble.
Just acknowledge the following: You will never be done learning, so you’d better keep your feet on the ground and always focus on doing your best. That being said it’s also important to remember to be confident and value your good sides.
4. Not Being Specific Enough
There are many things that can go completely wrong if you don’t focus on being specific in your communication with a employer/client. You should always have a set deadline, a price and a good understanding of what the deliverables are. If you fail on either of these you may be in for negative surprises. Having regular communications is a key way of overcoming this.
5. Delivering something unwanted
While it is certainly great to show initiative, one must always be careful that you still deliver on your KPIs/contracted items. I have seen numerous “overenthusiastic” staff and contractors head off in a completely different direction to work on some initiative that captures their interest and imagination greatly… but is something that I have absolutely no need for. This usually results in frustration – for you because you worked so hard on it but received no acknowledgment for your effort and for me/the client/the employer because this does not meet their need.
Whether we like it or not, the employer/client is the one who decides what he/she wants. As long as you make sure to involve your employer/client along the way you will be able to make sure that you stay on track and end up where you want to.
6. Breaking Deadlines
Breaking a deadline doesn’t necessarily have to mean that the whole project will fail. On the other hand you should always aim to plan ahead well enough to not break any deadlines. The way to do this is basically to always make sure that you don’t agree on too short deadlines.
I think it’s really great advice to think deadlines over at least twice before committing to it. And depending on the size of the project, always add some buffer (a day or two) to make sure that you have some time available in case unexpected things happen.
7. Working 24/7
In the Knowledge Economy, your brain is one of your most important tools – and it needs time to recharge! The buzzword for this is “Work-Life Balance.” I can understand the temptation because I’m one of those who can really work through the hours when I’m “in the zone” – but having attended seminars, read books and learned directly from many successful individuals, I have come to realise the importance of pacing yourself and allowing for breaks. Your overall productivity and quality of work improves when you leave “margins” in your life – for family, hobbies, vacations, health and exercise, etc.
8. Being Too Gentle On Yourself
To be successful – whether as an salaried person or freelancer – it is important to remember that you need to spur yourself onwards to ever-greater excellence. Even the most “successful” people do not stop and cruise despite their astounding achievements. Work hard and be disciplined, and always evaluate yourself and make sure to do the best you can.
9. Being Too Hard On Yourself
Even as you try not to be too gentle on yourself, it’s also important to not be too hard on yourself! Sometimes you will have to work extra hours, maybe more often than you prefer, but remember to also reward yourself and take the time required to rest up and do other things. It’s also important to sometimes actually be satisfied with your results and give yourself a pat on the back. As long as you don’t go way over the top, some confidence will get you a long way.
10. Failing In Separating Professionalism And Friendship
This is a touchy point. In many professions a lot of people know each other both on and off work. First you need to remember to not take the feedback you get personal and separate the person you are at work from who you are the rest of the time. Going into new work relations, it’s also important to always act professional. Don’t talk to employers/clients about other employers/clients, be aware of the language you are using and don’t mix work and leisure. If you fail on this point you may find yourself involved in complicated relationships and not knowing how to solve things properly.
Original blog post here.