As a writing coach, I meet many new and not-so-new freelance writers who are struggling to make a living. While the exact cause for each writer’s struggle is not the same, there are some common mistakes I see most of these writers make. Here’s my list of the top ten mistakes made by new and not-so-new freelance writers.
1. No Real Career Plan – A plan is like a roadmap. When you’re just starting out, if you don’t know where you’re trying to go, how will you know when you get there? Take the time to make a career plan, so you know exactly what the freelance writing career you’re trying to build should look like. Then, make sure your plan includes consistent, planned actions to take to build that career.
2. No Real Focus – This goes along with not having a career plan. Many writers never take the time to figure out the kinds of writing they really enjoy. Instead, they leap into freelance writing, figuring they’ll simply take whatever work they can get. Usually, the work that comes their way is not the kind of work they enjoy, so they give up before they ever really get started. Plus, there are thousands of writers out there who will take whatever work comes their way. It’s much better to focus on a particular niche and become a recognized expert in that area.
3. Little or No Training – If you want to become one of the top earning copywriters, for example, you need to spend time (and money) learning how to write GREAT copy. If you want to become a children’s book author, then take some courses that will train you to write specifically FOR children. Don’t just assume that if you like to write you can write anything and people will be glad to pay you for it.
4. No Understanding of winning queries and cover letters – Many beginning freelance writers never take the time to learn how to craft a winning query or cover letter. The ones who stick with freelance writing eventually get the hang of it, but when they’re just starting out, they waste a LOT of time writing queries and cover letters that couldn’t sell drinking water to a man dying of thirst!
5. A Weak Professional Resume – Too many freelance writers use the same all-purpose resume they’ve used for years instead of creating a professional resume specifically to attract writing clients and land well-paying assignments.
6. No website, blog, or online portfolio – Any freelance writer today needs some sort of online presence, whether that be through a website or blog. Part of that site should be an online portfolio of the writer’s work, plus a list of available writing services. Also, the site needs to look professional. If you aren’t a web designer, hire a professional to help you develop your site.
7. Under-charging for their services – This is probably the biggest mistake made by freelance writers. They also tend to accept jobs that pay too little. One of the reasons they under-charge is because they underestimate how much time and work a particular job will take. Right at the start, they should add 10% to any estimate they give a potential client because the job will probably end up taking more time and effort than they thought.
8. Fear of Taking On Well-Paying Assignments – Many beginning freelancers are afraid to even apply for jobs that pay well. As a result, they stay stuck working for peanuts for months, sometimes even years. You won’t land well-paying assignments unless you go after them. Don’t be afraid to do just that – go AFTER jobs that pay well. If you’ve trained and worked hard to become a good writer, then you’re worth the money!
9. No marketing plan – Many freelance writers are weak at self-promotion, so they have no real plan for marketing their writing services. Freelancers need to be promoting their writing products and services all the time and they need some sort of specific strategy for doing so.
10. Little or No follow-up – Most people won’t hire you just from seeing your website, blog, or business card. They’ll need to get to know, like, and trust you. In other words, you need some method for following up with people who call you, email you, or visit your website to find out about your writing services. If you get good at follow up, you’ll have a steady stream of clients to write for!
Whether you’re new or not-so-new to freelance writing, avoid these mistakes and you won’t need to struggle to build your business.
All the best,
P.S. Writing Career won’t budge? You need The Morning Nudge!