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6 Common Mistakes Most New Freelance Writers Make
Written by
Karen Banes
October 2017
Written by
Karen Banes
October 2017

Disclosure: Sometimes my work here (and all around the web) contains affiliate links. Find out what that means here.

Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they’re inexperienced. Recognising a few of the common mistakes new freelance writers make will help you minimise (or avoid) them. But it’s also important to realise that mistakes happen. Don’t ever let fear stop you jumping in and getting your freelance career started.

To give you a great chance of getting it started right, lets take a close look at exactly what brand new freelance writers tend to do wrong.

Thinking that if they build a website, clients will come

It baffles me when a new writer builds a website to try and sell his writing services to clients as the very first step in his freelance writing career. A great freelance writer’s website is an essential step in growing your freelance business, but if you build a website before you even start freelancing, you have very little of substance to put on it. No clips, no testimonials, no writing resume. You end up telling potential clients what you could maybe do for them if they hire you, not what you have already proved you can do for others. And as Henry Ford once said:

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.””

Falling prey to the content mills

Content mills are sites that produce a lot of cheap, sometimes low-quality content quickly by hiring (mostly) inexperienced writers and paying them peanuts. Some pay tiny upfront payments. Some let anyone sign up and post content. They then pay writers in a share of the ad revenue their piece generates, secure in the knowledge that low-quality writing from new writers will generate so little they may never reach the payout threshold.

I don’t advise new writers to do too much free writing but it can be a better strategy to write for free than to write for pennies. Try writing your own blog or volunteering to write for a non-profit rather than writing for the content mills. Both will look better on your writing resume.

Focusing on their (lack of) writing experience, not their (wealth of) other experience

If you’re pitching an editor or blog owner a piece of writing as a newbie, don’t focus on your lack of writing experience. Sell yourself based on the life experience you have that qualifies you to write this particular piece. You may not be a professional writer yet, but if you work with autistic children, run a therapeutic arts program or just gave birth to triplets, you’re certainly qualified to share those experiences with a relevant readership.

Thinking that they don’t need any training

I get fed up of reading advice along the lines of “Just write like you talk. No-one wants to read formal writing anymore anyway.” It’s true that internet writing, and blogging in particular, lends itself to a more friendly, informal style of writing, but those top bloggers who come across as friendly and informal put a huge amount of effort into sounding that way and still putting across the points they want to make clearly and cleverly.

If you want to be a writer, take some time to learn how to write well. It doesn’t have to be formal training. You can read books, blogs and articles about writing style and craft, and study the style of writing you admire.

If you’re ready to invest in some paid training, I’d advise the Write Your Way to 1K course, or if blogging is your aim, The Blog Writing Bootcamp program.

Being too precious about their writing

You are not your writing. Feedback and constructive criticism are your friend. Editors are there to make you look good. Stephen King and J K Rowling work with editors, so you are certainly not ‘too good’ to have your work edited. The quickest way to lose repeat business (apart from maybe missing a deadline) is to be precious about your writing. The easiest way to look professional (and more experienced than you are) is to respond quickly and cheerfully to requests for changes in your work. When you write for someone else you’re working together to bring forth a joint vision. Always be aware of that.

Shiny object syndrome

There are lots of opportunities for freelance writers and lots of information aimed at them. It’s easy to get distracted, suffer from information overload and go chasing after the next bright, shiny opportunity. Or read half of the ebook you downloaded or the newsletter you subscribed to, before noticing another one that might be even better. Do one thing at a time. Make a list of what you need to do to move forward with your writing career and work through it methodically.

New freelance writer? Struggling to find good freelance writing markets? Get a FREE list of freelance markets that pay writers and the chance to grab the Freelance Writer’s Success Kit. half-price when you subscribe over at my website.


This article was originally published on KarenBanes.com. To check out other freelance writing tips and access my list of useful writing tools, please visit the site.

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