Every freelance engineer knows that their career is one big learning curve. Every job that you do and every new client that you work for teaches you something that you didn't know before. It might be something very small, but it all adds up to make you more knowledgeable over time—and hopefully, more profitable.
But how can you get up the learning curve faster? One way is to look at the common mistakes that freelance engineers make, and try to avoid them. Here are our top four.
1. Taking on Tasks Outside Your Skillset
When a client finds someone with technical and engineering expertise—like you—they start to rely on that person. This is a good thing as it often results in repeat business, but there are dangers as well.
This is because of the temptation to say yes to your client even when you know that what they are asking is outside of your skillset. Many freelance engineers do this—they say yes, and then they devote time researching and learning about the task they have been asked to complete. The problem with this is that you will probably not be able to charge your client for the time that you spent learning.
Of course you might be able to use the new knowledge or skill to find new clients or win new contracts, but sometimes it is not worth it and it is better to say no.
2. Trying to be Good, Fast, and Cheap
In freelancing, there are usually three things that your client wants. They want you to be cheap, to do a good job, and to do it quickly. In the engineering sector, this is simply not possible. You may be able to deliver on two of the requirements, but there's no upside for trying to deliver on all three. You run the risk of burning out, you will be more likely to make mistakes, and you will start neglecting your other clients.
You have to come to terms with this, and you have to educate your clients as well. You can be good and fast, or good and cheap, or fast and cheap, but you can't be all three.
3. Not Managing Time Well
Managing your time is an essential skill for all freelance engineers. Being in front of your computer, or out on site, or in a design meeting, are tasks that need to be taken into account. However, as a freelancer, you also have a number of other tasks that you have to make time for. This includes marketing your business, quoting for new projects, finding new clients, doing your accounts, sending out invoices, chasing payments, and much more. Neglecting any of these things can be costly.
4. Not Getting Contracts in Writing
Every job that you do should be confirmed in writing, preferably with a contract. This contract should outline the scope of the work and the time frame. That time frame should include deadlines for you and your client. The contract should also clearly outline the payment terms.
Avoiding these four mistakes will help you achieve success as a freelance engineer faster.