Why would you care to know how to fail?
Seriously, what’s the point?
Tons of articles are written about how to succeed at freelance writing, and there are many things you can do to build a career in this business. Often, however, it’s just as important to know what not to do, to understand the common errors that block your progress.
You don’t want to sabotage your career before giving it a chance.
So, if you’d like to know what to avoid if you want a lucrative freelancing career, this post is for you.
Ignore Your Personal Brand
As a freelance writer, you are not just selling your wordcraft, you are selling your expertise and work ethic—in short, your personal brand.
Give some thought to your writing style and professional niche. Craft your personal brand to reflect that.
And yes, you will need a digital presence if you want your clients to find you. That’s freelance writing 101.
Price Yourself Out of the Market
It’s important to know how to price your skills in the competitive freelance marketplace.
Experienced writers with a proven track record can command higher fees, such as $1 a word or more.
However, if you’re just starting out, and you’ve yet to build a stellar portfolio, you will probably need to start in the 10 cents a word range, unless you’ve got an extremely narrow and in-demand specialty niche.
You can get a good idea of what your skills are worth by seeing what clients are willing to pay on some of the writer jobs boards.
Be honest about what you have to offer. And remember, in every assignment, there’s room for negotiation (and that goes both ways).
Assume Writing Skills Come Naturally
Sign up for online classes, read books, subscribe to newsletters from writing sites, and ask every editor you work with for honest feedback.
And schedule time to practice your craft. Like an athlete putting in time at the gym, you need to write every day–especially when you’re waiting for your next paying gig.Like an athlete putting in time at the gym, you need to write every day--especially when you're waiting for your next paying gig. Click To Tweet
Build your portfolio. Practice writing an article or case study for your ideal client. Do whatever it takes to build your writing chops and creative discipline.
Treat Deadlines Like Suggestions
Did you know the word deadline originally referred to the line past which prisoners could be shot?
That’s a helpful metaphor for writers and deadlines. Miss them, and you’re on the path to killing your career.
When you miss deadlines, you make your editor look bad, and there’s no faster way to poison the relationship.
Turn in Less Than Your Best Work
Editors seem to have a sixth sense about what a writer is or isn’t capable of, and they can spot shoddy work a mile away.
Give every assignment your best effort, and make sure it’s as close to perfect as you can make it.
This means writing your assignment, giving it one round of edits (at a minimum) for flow and readability, and a final once-over for proofreading, grammar, and punctuation checks.
And remember, a single spelling or grammar mistake can make you look incompetent.
It’s even better if you can finish your first round of reviews and put the assignment aside for a few hours or overnight to view it later with fresh eyes.
You’ll find things you missed the first time around, and the final check will improve your finished product.
Be Unavailable: Don’t Return Calls or Emails Promptly
Freelance writing is a business, and your clients expect to be able to reach you during business hours.
Perhaps the scope of your assignment has changed. Maybe they want you to make a few revisions.
Often, they just want a progress report. Whatever it is, you need to be available to your clients (and prompt in your responses).
Even if you’re well qualified to write a particular assignment, your clients will look elsewhere if you’re unreliable.
This is especially important for new writers just trying to build a clientele.
The marketplace is clogged with writers and bloggers hawking their wares on the Internet.
Most editors reaching out to a new writer will put a minimum amount of effort into making the first contact before moving on to the next candidate on the list.
Be sure your writer’s website and pitch emails have up-to-date contact information. If it’s an email account, make sure you check it frequently.
Make it easy for potential clients to reach you.
If you recognize yourself in any of these steps to freelance failure, it’s not too late to correct your course.
Now, it’s your turn.
What’s essential to your freelance writing success?
Leave a comment below.