Freelance Writing Mistakes

How to Permanently Fix Those 3 Freelance Writing Mistakes

In my last post, I identified 3 mistakes made by the new freelance writing crowd. None of these mistakes come with a quick-fix (sorry), so below we’ll dig a little deeper into how to actually, permanently fix the problems plaguing the young freelance writing career.

1. Targeting Small Businesses

How to fix this mistake: attract attention instead of demanding it.

The answer isn’t as simple as ‘target huge corporations like Esso or Christianity’, you do need to earn the right to target larger companies.

The way to attract attention from larger, better-paying clients ultimately comes down to hard work. Freelance writing involves a ton of discipline and self-motivation – dedicate yourself to improving your writing skills.

  • publish weekly blog posts
  • when you do get work, makre sure you nail it
  • share successful work
  • listen to (and request) feedback

Freelance Writing Realities

Half the time freelance writing has nothing at all to do with writing.

It’s crucial to develop your habits as a freelancer. If you’re anything like me, you’re building a freelance empire on the back of your skills as a writer (or designer, or photographer, or goat-herder), and you had little experience running a company before you made this decision.

  • establish daily, weekly & monthly routines
  • create an automated calendar
  • use trusted tools to help you organize everything aside from the actual writing (Invoiceable, Evernote and Worktimer are daily staples for me)

Freelance writing isn’t all wine and cheese and black-tie mandatory parties in swank mansions (It’s 11am and I’m not wearing pants), so it’s important to establish a structure in your weekly routine.

Companies such as small graphic design studios or marketing agencies probably started off much the same as you did, so they’ll recognize your dedication to your craft. Construct well-thought emails, be honest with your quotes (more on that later) and show up to meetings dressed appropriately.

The short answer?

Instead of targeting small businesses, target businesses who will deliver a steady flow of work.

I’ve found three awesome marketing firms that hire me for every new web copy project they receive – it’s fun work with easy-going people and it pays well. It wouldn’t be possible without the hard work I’ve put in developing my writing skills and techniques, and it sure beats the hell out of writing one-off blog posts for content mills who can’t remember your first name.

2. Listening to Everybody

How to fix this mistake: educate yourself.

Tuning people out isn’t unique to writing, but freelance writers feel the pain of listening to opinions more keenly than most, because %100 of non-writers think freelance writing is easy*.

The short answer?

Listen to people you trust, but make them earn that trust. If you have a mentor that guides you, educates you and generally has your best interests in mind, then pay attention.

I have mentors that have walked the path I’m currently walking, so I listen to them and adapt my company and my writing based on their advice.


3. Publishing Everything

How to fix this mistake: be your own harshest critic.

I don’t regret publishing everything I wrote in the early days of my freelance writing career, but these days I have miles of posts that will never see the light of day because I learned how to let go.

  • Let go of content focussed squarely on the writer instead of the reader.
  • Let go of content only the writer understands
  • Let go of content that just doesn’t fit.

Let’s start with something simple, like a blog. I assume you’ve got a specialized blog running if you’re a freelance writer, so let’s analyze why.

What are your goals for your blog?

  1. To make money?
  2. To help people?
  3. To iron your craft and improve your connection with the market?

As you may have guessed, I most closely relate with answer three. One and two definitely mix in somewhere, but they’re generally bi-products of number three.

Your blog is a tool to grow your freelance writing business, but in order to eventually let go of topics that don’t fit, you need to understand your goals rather than the tools required to reach those goals.

Again, early on, throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. You’ll naturally develop goals as you progress, so it will be easier to discard posts and other content that doesn’t properly communicate those goals.

Now, take that to the next level and apply the same formula to web copy. Eliminate sentences, paragraphs and pages that don’t align with the ultimate goals of the project.

The short answer?

Remember, you’re biased. Of course you fall in love with everything you write – doesn’t mean everyone else has to (or will at all).

*cries self to sleep*

Anyone else have any common mistakes they made in the early days of their freelance careers? Doesn’t have to be writing necessarily, but include the fixes in the comments!

photo credit: Kurt Wagner via photopin cc

Comments (1)

  1. Great ideas about fixing these most common mistakes but I think you missed one: 1. Making sure your content doesn’t match anyone elses. You need to stay new so that you don’t get lost in your competition.

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