Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune once said "Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth." In other words, not all advice is worth taking. With over 20 years of experience in the freelance sector, we've been given a lot of 'advice' and dished out our fair share. Here are a few gems we urge you to avoid. 


Advice from the right places in invaluable but bad advice can send you down a rabbit-hole. We've been supporting freelancers for years and often hear the same titbits of advice pop up that makes us think 'What the *%$@, did they just say that?'. Here's our ultimate guide on Freelance Advice NOT to take.  

You Can Get Away Without Using A Contract

You'll notice with all of our tips on this list, there are grey areas but it's precisely those areas that they don't tell you about when offering up words of wisdom. It's true, when you land a new client, you can 'get away' without using a contract. You can also stick a fork into a toaster but neither means it's a good idea.

Contracts are extremely important and every business blog and adviser will tell you never to start work without one. We agree with this. However, there are times when you feel the suggestion of a contract could lose you the job or you're not comfortable asking a new client to sign a legal document for fear they might back down. In addition, there are situations when both parties feel it is unnecessary for a quick project and lots of people are cautious when it comes to signing legal documents. Some might say 'then don't take the job' but try saying that to a freelancer starting out or struggling to pay rent.

Freelance work takes place every day without contracts and it's a risk. If you feel you're going to lose the job without a contract and you're still willing to trust the other party make sure that all communication takes place via email so you have an outline of the project, the rate and terms of the agreement. It's not as secure but it's something. Depending on how much you can afford to risk, it's up to you to proceed or not. We'd always suggest freelancers use a contract (see our service or testing agreement in the Download Centre) particularly for larger jobs. If the other party refuses to sign, it can sometimes be cheaper to walk away. 


Don't Waste Your Money On An Accountant

Many creative freelancers want to get on with what they love to do and not be stuck in front of a screen tackling their self assessment form. For the first few years of my freelancing career, I did my own accounts. Picture a living room floor tiled with receipts, invoices, scraps of paper, a calculator and a manic-looking individual at breaking point. 

Although I found the system overly confusing and hugely time consuming, I don't regret it for a bit. It allowed me to understand basic accounting, the way the process works and it was often the only time I'd look at my freelancing as a business (another bad idea). We'd recommend that all freelancers have some grasp of how this side of their business works and try to take an interest in their finances. You may not have gotten into freelancing to do paperwork but understanding how your business works, where the bulk of your income is coming from and what you're spending money on will only help your business grow. 

In saying that, the day I hired my first accountant was the greatest day of my freelancing life. It truly felt the biggest weight was taken off my shoulders. Simply knowing that I would never have to go through that process again again put a smile on my face. It also transpired that the accountant was able to save me a few hundred pounds so I ended up making money - bonus. The next year I hired a bookkeeper too. 

Freelance Advice Not to take

Freelancers Don't Need An Office

A major attraction of freelancing is the 'free' part. The freedom to work on the move, be flexible and mobile. This has never been more relevant as businesses lean more towards freelance services to complete projects. A full time space may not be right for everyone but one aspect most freelancers don't realise is the hidden value an office space or hot desk at a co-working space can give your business. 

Whether you're renting a space full time and dipping in an out or hiring a shared desk space, there are so many more advantages than just a quiet place to work. Desk sharing spaces in particular are starting to accommodate the needs of the freelancer and they're providing some awesome benefits to those who choose to invest. Everything from free tea and coffee (believe me these add up if Starbucks is your alternative), super fast wifi and conference room hire will all add value. The less obvious benefits are the real beauties.

I've rented office space or had a desk for over 10 years in 3 different countries and without fail I have picked up clients in every single one of them. Clients are much more inclined to use the guy sitting across the room than sourcing an unknown.

To research for this piece, I looked back over my sales figures when freelancing and I actually made more in sales from contacts in co-working spaces and offices then the cost of rent.

Other advantages include being way more productive, particularly when it comes to areas of business you need to focus on (see accounting hell above), and with a conference room, you have a professional looking space to close deals. 

Want more? Get one on one advice from the freelancing gurus. Browse our Freelance Directory using the Mentor filter and connect with freelancers who have been there and done it.