By Ade Kiseu, freelance writer
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Starting a freelance writing business is just as challenging as starting any other business. But knowing the common freelance writing mistakes you should avoid can make the process much less complicated – and help you find success even faster!
If I were to list each mistake freelancers make, I’d have to create a very long list.
However, the mistakes listed in this article are the ones that can hurt your freelance writing career the most. Avoiding them can spare you the stagnation and frustration they bring.
Some of these freelance writing mistakes are ones I’ve made and include lessons that all experienced writers wish they’d known earlier. These blunders have cost me time, money, and even my sanity at times.
Read through the following 5 common mistakes freelance writers make and consider each of them carefully. Knowing the usual freelancing errors early on in your journey gives you an edge on the competition and helps you build a thriving career.
Not Handling Freelance Writing as a Business
I understand; you just want to be paid for doing what you love. So, you might not like the business part of freelance writing. But that doesn’t mean it’ll go away.
Whether you like it or not, when you are a freelance writer, you offer a professional service to others. Don’t worry, though; this doesn’t mean you have to stress yourself out with overwhelming business practices.
Here’s an easy guide you can use when starting your freelance writing business:
- Choose whether you’ll be freelancing part-time or full-time.
- Build your foundation as a freelance writer. Create professional online profiles that clearly show potential clients who you are and what you can offer.
- Use a project management site like Trello to organize all the aspects of your business. (If you use this link to sign up, I earn a free month of Trello Gold at no cost to you!)
- Begin building a portfolio. Find sites that you can publish under your own name like Medium and look for bloggers advertising for guest blogs (like me!).
- Determine your rates and how you will charge (per word, page, hour, or project).
- Be prepared to negotiate with potential clients.
- Decide how you will market yourself. Some questions to consider are:
- Learn to pitch like a pro to get reliable jobs.
- Ask your client the most relevant questions about the project to set clear expectations.
- Deliver the best content you can with open communication throughout the whole project. Use editing tools like Grammarly to make sure that you deliver quality writing every time.
- Keep working to improve your freelance writing skills to get higher-paying jobs.
- Track your progress in a way that suits your preferences. I like using Trello and the Google Suite.
When I started freelance writing, I just wanted to be paid to write and didn’t want to bother with business matters. However, I later learned the hard way that being your own boss means handling your craft like a professional.
So, I embraced the business side of my writing service, and I began to see a significant (and positive!) difference in the jobs I was offered and the pay I received.
You don’t have to love the business part of your art, but you must do it because it’s essential.
Trying to Write About Everything
Some freelancers are curious about numerous topics and would like to write for all of them — I am one of them. Unfortunately, being open to writing anything any client needs isn’t smart. While having the flexibility to write on a variety of topics is great, focusing on just a few niches will make you an authority on those topics, allowing you to land more profitable gigs.
Niching out is important for three main reasons:
- You earn more money.
- You spend less time finding clients.
- You spend less time creating content.
Most high paying clients look for subject matter experts. Therefore, when they say they’re looking for a “human resource writer,” they expect to get someone who has experience in human resources.
And they are more likely to pay you what you’re worth.
Since you’ll be looking for clients in specific niches, it’ll be easier to find work. You can effortlessly sort job advertisements with your niche keyword and even perfect your pitches for the particular niches you want to work with.
Moreover, because of the familiarity you have with the niche(s) you choose, the jobs you get won’t take as much time to complete. For instance, if you’re familiar with real estate, you’ll write an article about real estate much more quickly than you’ll write an article about biotechnology.
And let’s be real – no matter how curious you are, some topics will bore you to death.
You don’t have to give up every niche you like writing about. However, you can choose a few that you’ll focus on professionally. You can write about other passion topics in your free time. Even if you start writing on a variety of topics, make sure you plan on niching out in the long-term.
Prioritizing Personal Projects Over Clients’ Work
Personal projects are fun. When you have an activity you’re enthusiastic about, you want to spend all your time doing it. But you cannot forget about the clients that are waiting for you.
Because freelance work is most often done from home, you will frequently be tempted to procrastinate. After all, you just have to meet the deadline, right?
When your clients give you work due by a certain date, it’s best to start working on it as soon as possible, even if you have an entire week to complete it. Many things can happen that can delay your writing when you work from home, and waiting until the day the work is due to start can lead to disappointment for both you and your client.
Here’s why you should put your clients’ work first:
- You promised to provide the best work you can within the time given.
- The project might need edits you need to know early on.
- You may fall sick, or any worst-case scenario may happen near the deadline.
- What pays your bills should come first.
- Self-discipline involves doing work even when you don’t want to.
If you want to maintain a good reputation as a professional freelance writer, you need to provide great content before deadlines. And you do that by putting the client’s work first. Your personal projects can be a reward after.
Not Creating a Writer Website
Some people will tell you that you don’t need a writer website to score high-paying clients. While this may be true at times, it is often not the case. I wish I had realized that sooner.
Some freelance writers make high incomes working straight from social media sites like LinkedIn, but most freelancers struggle to find reliable work this way. Many experienced freelance writers recommend that you create a writer website, and there are a few reasons why.
To begin with, writer websites show a client that you’re an established professional.
More benefits of having a website are:
- You can earn more money.
- Your content is easily accessible.
- You can expand your reach and build your portfolio through blogging.
If you can afford to create a freelance writer website, by all means, create one — the earlier, the better. WordPress is an excellent website builder that is incredibly user-friendly – and it even offers a free plan!
Having a writer website comes in handy when trying to secure freelance jobs with well-respected clients and distinguished companies that pay well and provide you with long-term work.
Just one look at a beautifully designed and well-written website can hook your next big client.
Letting Rejection Slow Your Progress
Rejection is bound to happen in your freelance writing business. It’s part of the road to success. Some rejections will offer constructive criticism; others might be cruel. But either way, don’t let them slow you down.
Criticism may bruise your ego, but taking it to heart will hurt your business.
The time you spend healing will cause stagnation in your developing career. Carol Tice, an experienced freelance writer earning six figures, calls this emotional fragility in her article 3 Types of People Who Fail at Freelance Writing.
Don’t think this means you have to become emotionless to avoid this mistake. You only need to understand that rejection and criticism are a part of the job. Being confident in your skills as a writer and knowing your worth will prevent you from falling victim to emotional fragility.
Self-confidence is essential for a freelance writer. However, you need to be humble enough to know that you are not perfect, and not every writing job is ideal for you.
When you experience a setback, remember that you have lessons to learn, a business to run, and no time to waste on self-pity.
You can expect to make many mistakes throughout your freelancing journey (both big and small), and you will learn something from every one of them. But considering the experiences and advice of others in the industry can help you turn freelance writing into a lucrative business that much faster.
These 5 mistakes can have devastating effects on your business. So, making sure you steer clear of them can save you a lot of time, energy, and money.
Meet the Author: Ade Kiseu
Author Bio: Ade Kiseu is a freelance writer niched in SaaS and Health & Wellness. Apart from creating stellar content for her clients, she loves talking about her freelance writing and self-improvement journey, hoping to inspire someone with her story. She’s also a Hubspot-certified content marketer.
You can see her portfolio and contact her at contentwritingbyadekiseu.com.
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What mistakes did you make in the beginning of your freelance writing or blogging career? What was the biggest lesson you learned?
Tell us in the comments below!