There are nearly 60 million freelancers in the United States alone. For many people, the idea of being a professional freelance writer is a dream job. The ability to set your own hours and be able to write from virtually anywhere there is an internet are all quality reasons for this.
As one may guess, becoming a full-time freelance writer is not easy. Competition is heavy and it can be difficult to make a name for one’s self. There is often a period where a prospective freelancer will find themselves taking jobs that pay below what they feel they are worth just to get their foot in the door.
Here we will look at several common mistakes freelance writers make, many mistakes that ultimately result in them giving up.
Many individuals overestimate their level of discipline and find they start working on projects too late. This usually causes the quality of work to suffer and may even cause the writer to miss deadlines.
“When one works a normal nine to five job they are required to be in a certain place, ready to go, at a certain time. This lack of choice is what ultimately motivates people to show up on time every day,” writes Jane Bishop, an HR consultant at Writinity and Lastminutewriting.
The best way to combat procrastination is by developing a work routine. Writers should develop a morning routine in which they are writing by a certain time, constantly reviewing their level of progress.
This can be a tough skill for those writers who have a hard time finding clients. A client can be considered bad for a variety of reasons. They may make constant requests for unpaid rewrites, may have issues paying on time or may be difficult to communicate with.
One of the most common issues writers face is clients that expect much more than they are willing to pay for. Clients who are already paying on the lower end of one’s acceptable compensation scale that ask for extra, such as graphs, photos, and other media items to be inserted into the article are likely asking for more than the writer should be willing to deliver on.
One of the main issues writers face with bad clients, especially those that offer regular work, is that they are afraid of not being able to find more work in the immediate future. This is a legitimate and very real concern.
If this is the case, the writer should be actively looking for new clients that offer a much better client-writer relationship.
Freelance writing, especially in the early days, has a tendency to burn people out. When starting out writers often take on as many tasks as they can. If they are diligent and disciplined they may spend the better part of the day writing. Those writers who do not possess such traits will inevitably start too late and find themselves feverishly writing until well past their bedtime. This will wear people down and cause them to either not get enough sleep or sleep at irregular hours.
There have been many studies done on the health effects of poor sleeping habits. For optimal functioning, people need to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night and be consistent in the hour which they go to bed and the hour they get up. Failure to do will ultimately impact a person’s overall well being and, eventually, their writing skills.
Many writers report being acutely aware of their energy levels and how it affects their writing. Those who do not get enough sleep, or find themselves sleeping at irregular intervals, report feeling groggy, uncreative, and mentally foggy.
Many freelance writers make the mistake of not thinking about their writing as a business; which it most certainly is. Writing is a service that the writer is selling to his clients. Approaching this basic reality in any other way than business is a precursor to failure.
Like any good business operator, time should be taken to analyze where exactly the writer is making most of their money. Writers should look at what niches they can write about quickly and efficiently. For example, a writer may be very good at writing on finance issues. When they look at the amount of time they spent on finance topics, and how much they made, they may determine that they made more money per hour than when they wrote on travel or tech topics.
While most writers do not want to pigeon hole themselves into one particular niche they must keep in mind the level of competition within the freelance market does not allow them to be a ‘jack of all trades’ writer. They are much better off picking a certain number of niches or topics they feel they are good at and focus on getting clients in those niches.
Freelance writers would also do well to look at the writing market and see where most of the high-paying projects are coming from. This is standard practice in business, but sadly many writers do not approach writing with this mindset. For those who still feel a block towards looking at freelance writing this way, they should remember, just because they do not approach it as a business does not mean that other writers won’t either.
There is a common belief that working for free, or next to nothing, is a good way to break into the freelance writing world. However, this isn’t the case. New writers obviously cannot charge as much as experienced writers, but they should still expect to be paid a reasonable amount for their services.
Another aspect of this to consider is that by working for free or very little the writer is bringing down the value of the whole writers market. Working for free does nothing to establish the writer and also impacts other writers who are looking to charge a reasonable rate for their services.
It can be hard for a new freelance writer to say no to more work. While it is good to have numerous clients, should one or two decide to stop providing work, it is not advisable to take on more than one can reasonably do. Some may decide to simply work more hours, but this is a good way to get burned out.
Many new writers experience burn out. This state can have negative effects on the overall quality of work. It is important to remember that quality work will always be better than quantity. If the quality of writing begins to suffer due to bringing on too many clients, writers may end up losing business.
Many new writers do not fully understand that most clients are looking for a professional level of customer support. Clients expect deadlines to be met and all issues communicated. They also expect to receive a response to any inquiry within a reasonable period of time.
It is very rare for someone to go straight from their nine to five job into a full-time freelance writing career. This generally takes some time to build up. Writers who undertake this venture without having some level of savings are, in the best-case scenario, in for a very difficult time. Building up a customer list to the point where a writer has full-time income does not happen overnight and almost all writers experience dry spells between projects.
Many successful writers say that they started their writing business by taking on a client or two and completing their assignments after work or over weekends. They usually work many long hours and it takes them some time to build up enough clients before they can comfortably quit their day job.
A full-time writing work describes the end result but does nothing to describe the steps needed to achieve it. Simply ‘working towards’ a full time writing career is not saying much. If a writer hopes to become successful they need to set specific milestones for themselves. For example, a writer may decide that by the end of this year they want to have three quality long term clients. With the goal in mind, they can now better judge projects and clients instead of just taking on whatever tasks are available.
Every freelance writer who has been around for a while knows that clients come and go. Some clients may have work for long periods then the work may suddenly dry up. A writer, even if they have one or two really good clients, should always be on the lookout for another client if they have the time. The more of a writer’s work is spread out over multiple clients the more stable their work will be in the long run.
Now that you’re working for yourself, you really have to think like a business. Just making one or two of these mistakes can cause you to lose clients, and in turn revenue. Keep this helpful list in mind next time you sit down to work on a project or take on a new client.
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