Venturing into freelance writing can feel like navigating a minefield with hazards at every turn. You’ve probably faced the pain of pouring hours into a project, only to realize it pays less than your morning coffee run. Maybe you’ve been ghosted by a client that seemed interested, leaving you wondering where you went wrong.
It’s not just about throwing words on a page; it’s crafting your own path and learning from the hiccups along the way. But you’re in the right place, and with some know-how, those beginner blunders won’t stand a chance.
- Navigate the freelance writing journey with awareness of common pitfalls.
- Set yourself up for success with professional habits and a strong online presence.
- Engage clients confidently, value your work appropriately, and achieve a work-life balance.
1. Not Defining a Niche or Specialty
When you start freelance writing, it’s tempting to take on any and every project that comes your way. But without a clear focus, you might struggle to stand out and attract clients. Here’s why picking a niche or specialty is important:
- Better Branding: Specializing allows you to brand yourself as an expert. Clients seeking your particular skill set will be more likely to find you.
- Deeper Knowledge: Over time, working within a niche builds your expertise, which can lead to higher quality work and better pay.
- Efficient Marketing: Instead of scattering your efforts, you can market to a specific audience. You’ll be able to craft messages that resonate strongly with your target clients.
For instance, if you’re passionate about health and wellness, focusing on this segment can help you become the go-to writer for health-related businesses. Similarly, a love for technology could steer you toward writing for tech startups or reviewing gadgets.
Before deciding, consider your interests, as well as market demand. Think about what excites you and where you can provide the most value. Do some research to find out which industries need writers and see where there’s a balance between your passions and opportunities.
Remember, you can always expand or shift your focus later, but starting with a specialty will give you a solid foundation for developing your freelance writing career.
Here’s a quick reference table to get you started:
|Choose a niche based on your interests
|Research demand in your chosen field
|Write regularly within your niche
|Streamlines Client Search
|Market yourself to targeted audience
Picking a niche isn’t about limiting yourself; it’s about giving yourself the best chance to succeed and make a name for yourself in the freelance writing world.
2. Applying Only to Highly Competitive Gigs
As a new freelance writer, you might feel tempted to jump into the pool of highly competitive gigs. These jobs often look attractive because they promise big names and impressive payouts. However, this move can be a misstep.
- Tough Competition: You’re up against experienced pros with polished portfolios.
- Lower Acceptance Rates: A high volume of applications means yours could get lost in the shuffle.
Strategies to Broaden Your Horizons:
- Diversify Your Applications: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Apply for a mix of jobs, including those with less competition to increase your chances of landing work.
- Build Your Portfolio: Take on smaller jobs to create a well-rounded portfolio. This can make you a more compelling candidate for those bigger gigs down the line.
- Networking: Sometimes it’s about who you know. Connect with other writers and clients through social media or writing groups.
Remember, getting your foot in the door with lower-competition jobs can help build the experience and credibility you need to win those coveted high-profile projects later on. So, spread your efforts and grow your career step by step.
3. Not Setting Up a Contract with Clients
When you take on freelance writing, having a written contract with your clients isn’t just a formality—it’s your safety net. Without one, you’re walking into projects blind, and miscommunication may lead to disputes, scope creep, or late payments.
Why You Need a Contract:
- Clarity on Scope: A contract makes it clear what you’ll write and for how much.
- Payment Terms: You’ll define when and how you get paid, helping to prevent delays.
- Protection for Both Parties: It outlines the responsibilities and expectations, giving both you and the client peace of mind.
Typical Contract Elements:
- Due Dates: Not just the final deadline, but any important milestones.
- Payment Details: Rates, payment schedules, and late fee policies.
- Revision Policy: How many revisions are included and what constitutes a revision.
- Cancellation Terms: What happens if either party cancels the project.
Top Tip: Don’t shy away from discussing contracts. It might feel formal, but it’s a professional step that shows you value your work and the client’s project. Contracts prevent misunderstandings, so you can focus on what you do best: writing. Remember, a verbal agreement or an email might sound convenient but it won’t offer the same security as a detailed contract. To protect your interests, always take the time to draft and sign a clear agreement before starting any project. It’s one of the best practices that you should adopt as a beginner freelancer.
4. Treating Freelance Writing Like a Commodity
When you start out as a freelance writer, it’s tempting to treat your writing like a commodity. This means you might try to compete on price by offering the lowest rates to get more clients. That’s not a great strategy. Writing isn’t the same as a one-size-fits-all product. Your skills are unique, and your work reflects that.
- Don’t sell yourself short. If you charge too little, clients may think your work is of lower quality.
- Value your time. Every article or piece you write took time and research; price it accordingly.
- Quality over quantity. It’s better to have fewer jobs that pay well than many jobs that pay little.
You’re building a personal brand. Your writing is a service tailored to each client’s needs and that’s something special, not just another item on the shelf. Treat it that way, and your clients will see the value in your work. Remember, freelancing is a business, and you deserve to be paid for the expertise and effort you bring to the table.
5. Failing to Understand the Value You Offer
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, knowing your worth isn’t just about setting rates. It’s also about recognizing the unique skills and perspectives you bring to the table. Don’t sell yourself short by undercharging clients, as this can lead you to overwork and underpay. At the same time, overcharging without the experience to back it up can scare off potential clients.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Identify Your Skills: List out what you excel at, whether it’s writing engaging blog posts, creating technical manuals, or crafting compelling ad copy.
- Research Market Rates: Check out what others with similar skills and experience are charging. You can use this information to gauge where your rates should be.
- Communicate Your Value: When you talk to clients, highlight specific outcomes they can expect from your work. For example, mention if your writing tends to drive engagement or sales.
Remember, clients aren’t just paying for your time—they’re investing in the results you deliver. If you’ve got a knack for making complex topics easy to understand, make that apparent. Your ability to distill information is a valuable service.
Lastly, don’t forget to display your best work in a portfolio. This shows prospects what you can do and gives them confidence in your abilities. If you’re not sure how to start, check out 9 problems every freelance writer faces when starting out for guidance.
Always be ready to explain why you’re the right fit for a project and how your work makes a difference. That’s key to not just finding work, but finding work that’s rewarding and well-paid.
6. Ignoring Client Red Flags
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, it’s tempting to jump at every opportunity that comes your way. But this enthusiasm can lead to trouble if you ignore the red flags that signal a potentially bad client. Recognizing these warning signs is key to maintaining a healthy freelance career.
- Lack of Respect for Your Time: If a client expects you to be available 24/7, or disregards your set working hours, that’s a clear red flag. Everyone needs time off, and reasonable clients understand that.
- Vague Project Details: You should be wary when a client provides little to no information about the project. Clear expectations are vital for successful delivery and a client’s reluctance to provide details can lead to misunderstandings.
- Unrealistic Deadlines: If a client needs something “done yesterday,” it shows a lack of planning on their part and could lead to unnecessary pressure on you.
- Budget Mismatch: Be cautious if a client wants high-quality work but is unwilling to pay market rates. Remember, your skills are valuable and should be compensated fairly. Clients expecting masterpieces on a crayon budget are often not worth the effort.
- Requests for Free Samples: It’s reasonable to show your portfolio, but a request for custom, unpaid work before hiring is a sign to proceed with caution. Clients should respect your time and the value of your work.
Keep these points in mind as you evaluate potential clients. Trust your instincts; if something feels off, it’s okay to walk away. Remember, protecting your interests is as important as landing a new project.
7. Underestimating the Time It Takes to Complete a Project
When you’re kicking off in freelance writing, it’s tempting to think tasks will wrap up quickly. You might tell yourself you’ll edit an article in an hour or draft a blog post by lunchtime. But here’s the truth: projects often take way longer than you’d guess.
Let’s break it down:
- Initial Estimates: Say you reckon two days for a project. Reality might throw you a curveball, and it could take up to eight days instead, as you realize there’s more to learn and do than you thought.
- Polishing Your Work: Writing the first draft can be quick, but refining and editing are where the clock keeps ticking. You could easily double your initial draft time.
Here’s a quick tip: next to each task on your to-do list, jot down how long you think it’ll take. Then be generous. Editing that ten-page document in ten minutes? That’s the speed of light. Aim for a more real-world pace.
- Learning Curve: Whether it’s adapting to a client’s style guide or getting the hang of new software, there’s always a learning phase that eats up the clock.
- Feedback Loops: Accounting for the back-and-forth with clients on revisions is often a blind spot. It adds up, so factor it in.
Remember, it’s not just about slapping words on a page; it’s about crafting quality content that meets your client’s needs. Taking the time to get it right is better than rushing and missing the mark. Learn from every project, adjust your estimates, and pretty soon, you’ll hit the nail on the head more often. And if you need more info on how long things might take, the internet’s got your back. Check out insights about estimating project time to get a leg up on planning.
8. Not Editing or Proofreading Your Work Thoroughly
When you’re diving into freelance writing, it’s tempting to finish a piece and immediately send it off to your client. But don’t skip the important step of editing and proofreading. Without it, small errors slip through, and they can make your work look unprofessional.
Here’s what to watch for when you’re polishing your piece:
- Spelling & Grammar Mistakes: They can change the meaning of a sentence and distract readers.
- Typos: Even though they’re quick to fix, they’re just as quick to miss.
- Punctuation: Misplaced commas and incorrect apostrophe use can affect readability and clarity.
- Repetitive Language: Variety in your word choice keeps readers engaged.
- Consistency: This includes aspects like tense, point of view, and formatting.
Tips to Improve Your Editing and Proofreading:
- Take a Break: Coming back with fresh eyes helps you catch mistakes. Sources like Kotobee Blog suggest a rest before you start reviewing your work.
- Read Aloud: Hearing your words can highlight issues more clearly than reading silently.
- Use Tools: Spell checkers are helpful, but don’t rely on them completely. Grammarly or Hemingway Editor can be a second set of eyes.
- Get Feedback: Having someone else read your work can uncover hidden mistakes.
Remember, editing and proofreading aren’t just about grammar. They’re about refining your message and ensuring your writing is the best it can be. Take the time to review your work; it’ll make a world of difference.
9. Failing to set clear boundaries with clients
When starting out as a freelancer, it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying yes to everything. You might think this will please your clients, but without clarity, you’ll be scrambling, and they might take advantage.
Why Boundaries Matter:
- They define the scope of your work.
- They prevent clients from piling on extra tasks without pay.
- They protect your personal time.
Create a Contract: A written agreement outlines what the job entails before you start working. It should detail expectations, deadlines, and payment terms. This way, everyone’s on the same page, and it serves as a reference if disputes arise.
Communicate Clearly: Be upfront about your availability and the lines of communication. Do you work weekends? How late can they contact you? Pin these details down early to dodge after-hours phone calls and emails.
Learn to Say No: It’s okay to reject tasks outside your agreed workload. Don’t be swayed by clients pushing for freebies or quick-turnaround favours.
Keep Professional Space: Remote work blurs the lines between personal and work life. Keep them distinct to maintain sanity and career satisfaction.
Remember, setting boundaries isn’t about creating walls; it’s about paving a clear path for a healthy working relationship. Your time and skills are valuable, so respect them and ensure your clients do too.
10. Not Following Up with Prospects or Unresponsive Clients
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, you might hesitate to follow up with potential clients, especially if they don’t respond to your initial outreach. But remember, persistence often pays off. Clients can get busy, and your message might slip through the cracks.
- Send a friendly reminder: A week after your initial email, send a brief follow-up. Keep it light and polite; just inquire if they’ve had the chance to consider your proposal.
- Stay professional in tone: Even if the silence feels frustrating, maintain a professional demeanor. You never know when a client will come back around.
- Be patient and consistent: If you still haven’t heard back, it’s alright to reach out once more after a couple of weeks. If there’s no response after three attempts, it’s usually time to move on.
It’s tempting to think a lack of response means a firm no, but that’s not always the case. Clients appreciate gentle reminders that you’re interested in working with them. Keep notes or a spreadsheet of who you’ve contacted, when, and what the response was, if any. This will help you stay organized and avoid sending too many emails to the same client, which could come off as pushy.
- Use a CRM tool or spreadsheet: Keeping track of your follow-ups can save you time and show you patterns in responses.
- Don’t take it personally: Ghosting happens in freelancing, but it’s not a reflection of your worth or skills. It’s a common challenge, and the best strategy is to keep moving forward.
11. Not Investing Enough Time Marketing Your Services
When you’re starting as a freelance writer, getting your name out there may seem daunting. But without dedicating time to marketing, finding clients becomes a game of luck. Remember, no one can hire you if they don’t know you exist.
- Create a Portfolio: You need samples to showcase your skills. Even without client work, you can write articles in your niche to include in your portfolio.
- Be Social: Engage on platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. Share your thoughts on writing and connect with potential clients.
- Network: Joining writing groups or forums can introduce you to peers and leads.
Marketing doesn’t mean you have to spend all day promoting yourself. Here’s a balanced approach:
Spend time crafting personalized emails to potential clients about what you can offer. Don’t be shy; if you’ve got a particular company in mind you’d love to write for, let them know. The worst they can say is no.
Remember, you’ve got the skills. Now it’s about making sure the right people see them. Use tools that automate some of these tasks to save time. Regularly updating your blog or posting writing tips can indirectly market your services by demonstrating your expertise. Stay persistent and give it time – building a client base is a marathon, not a sprint.
12. Overlooking the Importance of Having a Professional Online Presence
You might not realize it, but your online presence says a lot about you as a freelance writer. When starting out, you might think it’s enough to just be good at writing. But, it isn’t. Clients often look you up online before deciding to work with you. If they can’t find you, or worse, if what they find doesn’t show you in a professional light, they might pass you up for another writer.
Here’s what you might miss if your online presence isn’t up to scratch:
- Visibility: Without a professional social media profile or website, it’s harder for potential clients to find you.
- Trust: A well-maintained online profile can build credibility and show off your writing skills.
- Networking Opportunities: By having a professional presence, you can connect with other writers and potential clients.
You’ll want to have a clean, clear, and updated LinkedIn profile. It’s like your online CV. Your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram should also be tidy if they’re public. Think about what your posts and shared content say about you.
Don’t let a lackluster online presence be the reason you’re missing out. Here’s a quick checklist to keep your virtual self in tip-top shape:
- Professional Profile Picture: A simple, clear headshot is best.
- Updated Bio: Share your expertise and what kind of writing you do.
- Portfolio: Display your best pieces—make sure they’re easily accessible.
- Contact Information: Make sure potential clients know how to reach you.
Remember, looking after your digital footprint is just part of the job. It’s about making sure clients see the best version of you, even before you meet.
13. Overlooking the Importance of Building a Network
Starting off on your freelance writing journey, you might think the key to success is just churning out quality content. While that’s a big part of it, neglecting to build a strong professional network is a common misstep you really want to avoid.
Think of your network as a garden. Just like planting seeds, you’ll want to cultivate relationships that can grow into opportunities. A solid network could mean the difference between constantly looking for gigs and having work come to you. Networking isn’t just about collecting contacts; it’s about engaging with people who might influence your career positively. Engaging with fellow writers, potential clients, and industry experts opens doors to new projects and collaborations.
Here’s what you’re missing if you’re not networking:
- Referrals: Happy clients and peers pass your name along, leading to a steady stream of work.
- Mentorship: More experienced writers can offer you valuable advice.
- Collaboration: Working with others can lead to bigger and better projects.
To start networking, consider reaching out directly—for instance, to authors of pieces you admire. Attend writing workshops and seminars to meet peers and mentors. Remember the importance of networking for your growth. And remember, a genuine message can make a big impact. You’d be surprised how a simple “I loved your article” can lead to a long-term connection.
Finally, remember that your value is not just in the content you produce but also in the relationships you build. Networking can feel daunting, but it’s just talking with people—people who, like you, appreciate good writing and better opportunities. So, don’t be shy; reach out, and watch your freelance garden flourish.
14. Not Keeping Track of Your Finances Properly
Managing your money is a big part of freelancing, and when you’re just starting out, it can be tricky to keep track of every dollar. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself missing out on payments or spending more than you earn.
Set Up a Budget: Your income can fluctuate, and having a budget for your freelance business is key. It’ll help you manage those feast-or-famine cycles.
- Track your expenses: Make a list of all the monthly costs associated with your freelance writing.
- Plan for taxes: Set aside a percentage of each payment for your tax obligations.
Use Tools and Apps: A simple spreadsheet might work at first, but as you grow, consider invoicing tools to track payments and expenses.
- Invoicing tools can remind you when to follow up on late payments.
- Some apps help categorize expenses, making tax time less stressful.
Record Keeping: Stay organized by keeping detailed records of your income and expenses.
- Always save receipts and invoices.
- Regularly update your financial records.
Don’t Forget About Savings: Since your income isn’t consistent, it’s wise to save for those slower months. Aim to put a portion of each payment into a savings account.
- Savings can act as an emergency fund.
- Consider saving for retirement, even if it’s a small amount initially.
Keep these practices in check, and you’ll navigate through your freelance writing finances like a pro!
15. Setting Payment Terms to Net 30/60/90
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, knowing when to expect payment is important for financial planning. To avoid long waits and ensure swift payment, immediate payment terms, like “due upon receipt,” are typically best. However, sometimes you might be inclined to offer Net 30, Net 60, or Net 90 terms, which means payment is due 30, 60, or 90 days after the invoice date.
Using extended net payment terms can be risky because:
- Cash Flow: The long interval before receiving payment can hinder cash flow, especially if expenses arise.
- Client Relations: The longer the payment term, the less priority your invoice may have compared to others.
While these terms might seem generous and can potentially appeal to bigger clients with more rigid payment processes, they can put you in a tight spot financially. Here’s a quick breakdown:
|When Payment Is Due
|30 days after invoice is issued
|60 days after invoice is issued
|90 days after invoice is issued
If you’re concerned about timely payments, consider sticking to shorter payment terms or request a deposit upfront. Remember, it’s your work and your livelihood; you have the right to be paid in a timely manner. It can be tempting to accommodate clients with longer payment terms, but doing so can stretch your budget thin and add stress. Keep it simple, and don’t hesitate to set clear boundaries with your payment terms.
16. Not Being Proactive About Leveraging Positive Client Feedback
When you receive positive feedback from clients, it’s a golden opportunity to grow your freelance writing business. Many beginners miss out on harnessing the power of good reviews to build their reputation and attract new clients.
Here’s a quick guide on using positive feedback effectively:
- Create a Testimonials Page: Add a page on your website dedicated to client testimonials. Displaying positive feedback prominently can increase trust in your services.
- Social Proof: Share praise on social media platforms. Potential clients are more likely to take notice of your work if others are vouching for you.
- Improve Your Portfolio: Incorporate feedback into your portfolio. Highlight any specific skills or strengths that clients have commended.
- Ask for Referrals: Satisfied clients are usually happy to refer you to others. Don’t hesitate to ask them if they know anyone who could benefit from your writing services.
Remember, not using positive feedback is like keeping a shining light under a basket. Let it out and watch your freelance career flourish.
17. Not Backing Up Your Work
Losing all your work because of a computer crash can be a nightmare. When you’re starting as a freelance writer, making sure your work is safe is vital. You’d hate to lose hours of effort due to something unexpected. Here are some quick tips to keep your work secure:
- Use Cloud Storage: Platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox automatically save your work and you can access it from any device.
- External Hard Drives: They offer a physical copy of your work, just in case.
- Email It to Yourself: An easy, though not as organized, backup option.
Remember: Hard drives can fail, and paper copies can be lost to accidents like spills. It’s best to have multiple backup methods.
- Set Regular Backups: Choose a schedule that works for you, like end of each workday.
- Use Auto-Save Features: Many writing programs can automatically save your work every few minutes.
- Test Your Backups: Don’t just set it and forget it. Make sure you can retrieve what you’ve saved.
It’s simple: backup your work to avoid the panic of losing it. Start today, and you’ll thank yourself later.
18. Neglecting to Regularly Update Your Skills
As a freelance writer, keeping your skills sharp and current is vital to your success. In a fast-paced industry, outdated practices won’t cut it. Clients expect you to stay on top of the latest writing trends and platform updates.
- Stay Informed: Follow industry blogs and participate in writer forums. Knowledge is power and staying informed is the key.
- Practice New Styles: Writing is an art that evolves. Try out different writing styles and tones to match diverse audiences.
Improving your skills isn’t just about writing itself. You must be familiar with the tools of the trade. Whether it’s mastering the latest features of content management systems or utilizing new productivity apps, your technical know-how can give you an edge.
- Master Writing Tools: Familiarize yourself with tools like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor for polished content.
- Learn SEO Basics: Understanding SEO can make your content more discoverable and appealing to clients. Websites like Moz provide free guides to get started.
Invest in courses or webinars. They can be incredible resources for learning new skills or deepening your understanding of specific topics. Websites like Udemy and Coursera offer courses tailored for freelance writers.
- Take Courses: Look for courses on writing, marketing, or even niche topics that interest you.
Keep in mind that you’re your own boss. Put time into your development. Your career will thank you for it.
19. Ignoring the Need for Work-Life Balance
When starting as a freelance writer, you might feel tempted to take on as much work as possible. Amidst the hustle, forgetting to balance your work with life is a common oversight. You might find yourself sucked into a pattern of long hours, believing that this is necessary to succeed.
Creating a divide between work and downtime is vital. Without it, you’re likely to face burnout. Setting boundaries for when work begins and ends helps you stay productive without compromise. If you’re glued to your keyboard with no downtime, your creativity could take a hit.
Here are a few practical tips to avoid this mistake:
- Establish a schedule: Commit to specific work hours and stick to them. Work when you’re at your peak and rest to recharge.
- Prioritize tasks: Tackle your most important writing tasks first to make the best use of your work time.
- Take regular breaks: Stepping away from your desk every hour helps clear your mind.
- Set a workspace: Having a dedicated area for work can mentally signal when it’s time to focus.
To give you a hand, some experts suggest ways to create and maintain a healthy work-life balance as a freelance writer, offering practical steps you can apply.
Remember, ignoring work-life balance might bring short-term gains, but it’s your long-term health and productivity at stake. Respect your time off, and you’ll write better during your work hours.