10 Big Mistakes You May Be Making in Your Industry Freelance Career

10 Big Mistakes You May Be Making in Your Industry Freelance Career
Design by Judy Moore in Canva
Share this

Whether you’re ready to take the next step in your freelance career or you’re just getting started, we all want our careers to thrive.  Many of us learned the hard way from mistakes we could have avoided had we known the ins and outs of building a successful freelance career.

(Note: This post may contain affiliate links. That means that I make a small commission from any purchase made through these links, at no additional cost to you.)

Here are ten big mistakes you may be making that can slow down your progress in building your career:

  1. Not saving money for the downtimes.

Even the most successful freelance career has downtimes when we’re not making money.  Remember the months-long industry shut down of 2020?

That was an extreme example, but it certainly should serve as a wake-up call for the need to save money for the times when we’re not working.

Our industry is tough enough.  We don’t need to make it more difficult by being unprepared for the times we’re not working.

  1. Not living within your means.

The highs are very high in our industry, and the lows are very low.  It can be highly tempting to splurge on big-ticket items when we’re working, especially when we’ve been working incredibly hard.

But as freelancers, we need to be more disciplined than most with our spending, or we could find ourselves unable to pay the bills.

The occasional splurge is fine, but if you’re living above your means, you’re setting yourself up for a hard fall.  You may find yourself having to take jobs you’d otherwise turn down, or not having a job when you desperately need one.

Give yourself the gift of freedom by living well within your means.

  1. Not keeping solid records of your expenses.

Poor record keeping will cost you because we have many expenses that we can write off as business expenses at tax time in our industry.

Get yourself organized to keep track of all expenses related to your career throughout the year, so you’re not searching for lost receipts at tax time.

  1. Not continuously expanding your network of contacts.

If there’s one thing we can never neglect as industry freelancers, it’s our contacts.  They’re our lifeblood in our business, and we can’t succeed without them.

There are so many ways to keep in touch with people today that we have no excuse for not sending an occasional email to a contact or reaching out on social media.

We shouldn’t wait until we need a job to expand our contacts.  It’s a continuous process in our freelance world, and we can never afford to neglect it.

  1. Not having at least one other source of income.

Our industry is unpredictable, but your revenue streams don’t have to be.  I can say from experience that even a modest additional income stream can be a tremendous help during downtimes.

If you have a website or blog, you already have a setup for a few more revenue streams, and I have some suggestions for additional income streams here.

One way your website or blog can generate additional revenue is through affiliate marketing.  Highly successful affiliate marketer Michelle Schroeder-Gardner has an excellent free affiliate marketing ebook full of valuable information to get you started.

  1. Not understanding that all freelancing in our industry is not the same.

Being a freelancer doesn’t automatically mean that you’re an independent contractor.  You might also be a freelancer and be an employee with multiple employers.

Sometimes you may be both in the same year, depending on whom you work for and in what capacity.  It can get confusing but suffice it to say that you should always know which category you’re in when you take a job.

I wrote an entire post on freelance categories, which you can find here.

  1. Not having a plan for your career.

When I started my freelance career, I was happy to get work.  That was an acceptable attitude initially, but after a year, I needed more of a plan for where I wanted my career to go.

We need direction in our careers, or they’ll end up being just a series of jobs.  If you want to work in a particular industry area, start connecting with people who work in it now.

Yes, lucky things happen, but usually to those with a plan and a direction.

  1. Not taking advantage of opportunities to expand your skills.

There’s been explosive growth in the number of workshops and seminars we can access online.  With all the rapid changes happening in our industry, we all need to keep learning, or we’ll get left behind.

It’s an exciting time to be in our industry, and we should all be taking advantage of the many opportunities to expand our skills.

  1. Not making good use of social media to help build your career.

Yes, social media can be a playground where we go to relax, and it can also be a powerful career-building tool if we use it wisely.

Making good use of social media doesn’t mean trumpeting your accomplishments non-stop, as some people in our industry seem to think.  It means showing interest in the accomplishments of others, too.

Master that balance, and you’ll be making ideal use of social media.  Misuse it, and people will tune you out.  The choice is yours.

  1. Not joining a union if you have the chance.

First, joining a union may not be the best choice for every industry freelancer.  If you never work on union jobs and have no desire to do so, then staying non-union may be the best choice for you.

But many of us want to work on big union shows but aren’t in a union.  For me, getting into the DGA was a terrific career move and provided me with healthcare, a pension, and some valuable industry contacts.

If you want to work on union shows, the sooner you get into the appropriate union local, the better.  If you know you want to work on union shows, there’s no advantage to delaying joining, and it will only get more costly and possibly more restrictive in the future.

So if the opportunity to join presents itself, pounce.


There’s never been a better time to have a freelance career in the industry.  There’s plenty of work in multiple states, and I predict that will only increase as the pandemic wanes.

The more mistakes we can avoid, the more direct our path to achieving our goals.





Share this