Welcome to day 4 of my 12 Days of Freelance Writing series. You can view the whole series here.
Are you guilty of these freelance writer mistakes? Join the club. We’ve all been there. The sooner you identify these critical errors in your business, you can fix them.
1. You don’t believe this is your business.
I get it. It is hard to feel confident in your role as a writer when you are brand new to the scene. However, this is not a hobby. This is your new business, so act like it is. Also, know that it might take time to hone your skills and get to the point that you have the confidence to make cold pitches or take on bigger clients.
2. You are trying to be an expert at everything.
Just because you are a great writer does not mean you are a good fit for every type of company out there. Don’t apply for writing jobs saying that you can write about anything with enough research. Also, do not tell potential clients that you have always had an interest in X topic and then provide clips of writing in a different area.
3. You appear desperate.
Even though you might actually be desperate for writing clients, you cannot ooze that persona in your client contact. If a potential client wants you to do unpaid test articles or wants a lower rate, don’t give in because you just want any money. This move can earn you a few dollars now, but it ultimately hurts your career progress.
4. Your grammar stinks.
Too many typos, run-on sentences, and fragments can irritate editors and clients alike. I try to read Shrink’s The Elements of Style yearly as a refresher,and I have a copy of the AP Stylebook for quick reference. We are all human and prone to mistakes, especially when we are sleep deprived or pregnant/postpartum. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect, but also equip yourself with the right tools to avoid common errors.
5. You miss deadlines.
Clients prefer a reliable writer over a perfect one. Editors can fix minor issues with your copy quickly, but they can’t edit an article that isn’t in their hands. If you struggle with deadlines, try breaking down your assignment into smaller sections and assign yourself a deadline two to three days before it is actually due.
6. You bug your client too much.
Clarifying an assignment is one thing, but continually asking your client questions or for checks will get to them quickly. Many clients are busy, which is why they hired you. If you can prove that you are a stress-relieving, essential part of their business, you will be their go-to writer for everything.
7. You don’t follow instructions.
Some assignments will come with specific guidelines for SEO or word count. These aren’t just recommendations. Don’t think if your client asked for 500 words that they will be just as happy with 900. There have been times I was assigned a big topic, like “Plan Out Your School Year Month by Month”with a 500-word maximum. So basically, with an intro, conclusion, and 12points, each section would have to be 35 words.
I let them know it would be hard to give concrete advice in a piece with a limited word count. This then helped them see that it would be better to break up the piece by seasons. Still not the length I desire but more realistic.
8. You make repeated mistakes.
I am guilty of this when I have to switch between different AP preferences. One client likes all numbers in numeral form, while others adhere to the write out anything less than 10. Another client likes percent written out and another prefers the symbol for snappier writing and my Canadian client spells out percent like this “per cent.” Don’t even get me started on the Oxford comma.
It can be hard to keep track of all of these preferences or when an editor points out a mistake. I make a document for each client and quickly bullet point important style notes as well as an editor’s previous notes. This then allows me to review the client’s note quickly without having to dig up old emails or their 10-page style guide.
9. You get defensive about your work.
When you receive work critique or are asked for edits, don’t take it personal. You are not your writing. Some edits might need to be done due to writer errors and others might be requested due to preference.
10. You offer everything and the sun.
Freelance writers have somehow become the go-to for everything in the realm of content marketing. Some clients want their writers to do SEO research, interview, edit, fact-check, create social media prompts,provide images, and promote the content. If you can get the article featured on a big site too, “Great,” they say.
Your job as a writer is to write. You are not a data scientist, social media manager, or PR rep. If your client wants you to do more than is typically expected in the realm of writing, then they need to pay you for the extra time required.
11. Your rates are too low.
Low rates can land you a few clients quickly, but they put you in a bad spot. With low rates, you attract lower quality clients (usually the needy or degrading ones). You will have to focus on quantity of work rather than quality, which won’t allow you to scale your business.
Want to increase your writing productivity? My new freelance writing planner can help you set quarterly and weekly goals to ramp up your output so you can increase your income.