Why freelance marketing work could be damaging your personal brand

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Freelance work is a great way for marketers to earn extra money in their free time. Along with the extra cash, it’s a good way to continue honing your skills and work on projects that you might not otherwise do.

You also can decide to do as much or as little freelance work as your schedule allows. Though these benefits are nice, the quality of your freelance work may be hurting your personal brand.

By its nature, freelancing can lack the structure you would expect when working for an agency. For example, a contract coming from an agency may be more defined, and legally speaking, sounder than one a freelancer would create (if a contract is used at all).

Or, a freelancer might let the client know when it’s time for payment but not send an invoice, where an agency most certainly would. Some freelancers are more stringent about these matters, but the point is that the administrative part tends to be looser in the freelance world.

The more important, and potentially damaging, aspect of freelancing is the quality of the work. People hire freelancers because they don’t want to pay agency prices, but they expect agency-quality work. Generally, this sentiment leaves freelancers with:

  • fewer hours to complete projects.
  • less time for project research.
  • less client communication.
  • a need to do unpaid work (when extra billable hours aren’t available) to complete the project in a satisfactory manner.

These obstacles may lead clients to be unhappy with the end results. When clients are unhappy, your brand suffers. Again, they don’t care that you are less expensive. If you’re taking their money, they expect results.

Like with anything else, you must set expectations when working with freelance clients, but that’s just the beginning. If you choose to do freelance work, understand that your personal brand is at stake. You don’t have your agency as a shield. Make sure you are in the right mindset to take on freelance work.

Be realistic

Before you take on work, determine how many hours a week you can spend freelancing. It’s easy to say that you will do the work during your personal time, but what else does this time entail? It might be family time, time spent on a hobby, or just time to relax.

Especially if freelancing will cut into your time to relax, make sure you aren’t burned out. For example, if you work an eight-hour day doing a specific task, are you going to want to spend two more hours that evening doing the same thing? Maybe the answer is yes, but you must understand your work mentality before committing.

You should also give clients padded timelines for the very reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. Your personal time can be erratic, and it’s difficult to plan as things happen.

You may be busy one night with friends, or you could get caught up in a home project. Or maybe you come home and decide that you don’t have the energy or desire to do any more work. Giving clients longer timelines offers you the flexibility to work at your own pace.

Be clear about what you can and cannot do

During a project, unexpected tasks are bound to come up. Sometimes these tasks are within your purview, and you can execute them. Other times, you either can’t complete the tasks, or taking on the additional initiatives would steer you away from the main project.

If you feel comfortable taking on the extra tasks and setting the expectation that it will mean more billable hours, that’s fine. If not, say so.

I tend to definitively state the tasks I cannot accomplish. Even if I know I can do them, I like to stick to the original assignment and what I do best. I’m happy to provide guidance or refer the client to someone, but I won’t veer off from the project I was hired for.

I want to ensure that I have ample time to do a good job completing the work I was contracted for, rather than being distracted with other initiatives.

Walk away

Quite simply, if you aren’t getting a good vibe from the client you will be working with, say “No, thank you,” and walk away. Here are some signs that the relationship may not be a good fit:

  • The client is unable to define clear goals.
  • The client doesn’t understand the work you will be doing.
  • The communication style (maybe you’re both speaking over each other, or the client is defensive).
  • Your intuition that the client may have trouble making payments on time.

You will save yourself a lot of stress in the long run by saying no if you don’t feel comfortable.

Final thoughts

The lure of freelance work is enticing. Who doesn’t want to earn extra cash by doing something you’re good at? You also can expand your network, which is always beneficial.

However, you must remember that your personal brand is associated with this freelance work. If the project doesn’t go well, it doesn’t matter that your efforts may have been hindered. Clients care about the end result.

As you bring on clients, ensure that you’re being realistic about the time you can devote and what you can do. If the fit doesn’t seem right, it’s OK to pass on the opportunity.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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