06/27/2012 08:22 am ET Updated Aug 27, 2012

5 Keys to Avoiding Common Freelance Designer Mistakes

Being a freelance designer offers some wonderful liberties, like the ability to create your own schedule, but there are some pitfalls to avoid. There are also additional stresses: How do you find clients? Should you specialize in one area? What should you charge? For most freelance designers, comfort comes with experience. Here are five tips from design pros about how to turn your personal business into a thriving enterprise:

1. Be selective : Freelancers might be inclined to accept whatever work they can get, but that tactic could backfire. "It's a good idea to think about the type of clients and projects that appeal to you," writes Steven Snell at Vandelay Design. In addition to being fulfilling for you, those projects you're passionate about will make you more valuable to other potential clients. Keep yourself busy with assignments that will advance your career and your portfolio. It takes a willingness to confidently and politely say no on certain occasions.

2. Be assertive: Freelancers will regale you with countless stories about dealing with difficult clients. Although you might never be able to turn them into a perfect fit, there are some steps you can take to establish the terms and the relationship. "Make sure that the expectations are set so you don't get pushed around," advised Victoria Jordan, principal at Pureworks. For instance, if you get the specifics of the project down in writing and label deadlines appropriately, you'll have ground to stand on if the client begins asking for too much.

3. Consider your audience: Having a homepage where you can showcase your work is an essential component for freelance designers. Think about the message that your website conveys when someone visits it for the first time. This is your first, and arguably most important, chance to make a positive impression on a prospective client. Your site should accurately reflect your vision and design philosophy, but it should also be easy to navigate. The best way to achieve this balance is to recruit others to take a spin through your site and to provide constructive feedback.

4. Find like-minded professionals: "Networking takes effort, but it can be one of the best things you do for your business," said Snell. Thanks to in-person meetups or classes, social networking, and online message boards, networking opportunities are everywhere. Creative types might be resistant at first to participate, but it's absolutely essential to growing your business. Through getting to know the other people working inside your space, you will find advice, inspiration, assistance, and more.

5. Give yourself a break: It's easy to fall into the trap of making yourself available to clients all day long. If you're going to answer emails on weekends or field phone calls at night, Jordan said, then your clients will come to expect it. "I think most of us still want to have a personal life outside of work," she added. Even if you are a workaholic, take steps to enforce working business hours. If a client contacts you more than you'd like, suggest setting up a weekly call to discuss your progress. Above all, make sure you have time to step away and clear your head. You'll come back refreshed and ready to dive back in.

This post originally ran on Bigstock's blog.