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What Mistakes Do Freelancers Make When Submitting Articles?

Did you know when you create an article for a client, you should only spend 50% of your time actually writing?

You might be losing potential clients because you’re too focused on getting words on the screen. Maybe you think that great authors use long words and flowery sentences. Or you don’t bother learning about images because that’s a graphic designer’s job.

What Mistakes Do Freelancers Make When Submitting Articles?

Did you know when creating an article for a client, you should only spend 50% of your time actually writing?

Here’s a secret — producing sellable content is more than putting pen to paper. In this saturated market, you also need to craft articles that readers are more likely to click, read and share.

As a freelancer, it’s in your best interest to be a one-stop shop for your client. Your articles must be ready-to-publish, error-free and contain eye-catching images. If you make pain-free content for your clients they’ll keep coming back for more.

Here are the biggest mistakes freelancers make when submitting articles, and how you can avoid them.

They Don’t Know the Client’s Requirements

So you’ve landed a new client and you’re chomping at the bit to get the first article out. You’re so keen that you run off 1000 words in an hour and hit send. But your client is unhappy because the article doesn’t fit with their other content.

It’s a waste of everyone’s time to go full steam ahead without keeping the client’s style guide, tone and article requirements in mind. What’s their ideal audience? Is their brand sassy, formal, knowledgeable or fun?

If your client doesn’t have a style guide, ask them a few questions like:

  • Who is your perfect client?
  • What do you want the reader to take away from the article?
  • Is there a call to action?

Take the time to go through your client’s website and social media to get a handle on their brand and who they are.

They Don’t Format Articles Properly

Did you pick up the idea in English class that good writing equals long words and complex sentences? Your posts might be turning online readers off. The human brain can only take in so much information, especially on a screen.

Readers of online content:

  • Tend to scan text rather than linger.
  • Lose the meaning of the sentence if it’s too long.
  • Are put off by big blocks of text.

Keep your readers interested by formatting your articles to suit their needs. This doesn’t mean dumbing down your content. Keep it simple, not simplistic.

Here are a few ways to make your content as audience-friendly as possible.

Use Headers

To make your articles more scannable, break it down into sections and give each a headline. Try to format each header the same way — start each one with a verb, or format them as questions. Search engines love headers, so give each one a header style like H2.

Keep it Simple

Your paragraphs and sentences must be short and sweet. Keep paragraphs to three sentences and keep sentences to fewer than 25 words.

Be ruthless when you’re editing your work. Remove as many excess words as possible to keep your sentences lean and mean.

Use Strong Verbs

If you’re a waffler, try this trick. Remove all adjectives and adverbs from a sentence and use a ‘strong’ verb to paint a picture instead. A thesaurus is your friend here.

For example, if you have the verb ‘to look’ in a sentence that needs a lift, a thesaurus has these suggestions:

  • Glance
  • Peek
  • Stare
  • Gaze
  • Leer

Use these more descriptive verbs to bring instant colour to your writing.

Avoid the Passive Voice

If you use the passive voice too much you’ll lose your reader. A passive sentence is where the person or thing performing the action is buried near the end of the sentence. Always try to rewrite sentences with the subject at the beginning.

They Don’t Write a Catchy Headline

When you write unique and high-quality content, it speaks for itself right?

The Internet is saturated with content, both good and bad. Audiences are overwhelmed with the sheer amount on their social media feed, news sites and web searches. It doesn’t matter how good your writing is — if your audience doesn’t click it, they won’t read it.

So what gets them clicking? A well-written headline that stands out from the crowd.

Take a look at some headline generators to get some ideas down. Then, plug those headlines into an analyser. If your score isn’t high enough, keep tweaking the header text until you get the result you want.

They Don’t Add the Right Links

Links are the lifeblood of the Internet. They help search engines rank your content and increase the amount of time people spend on your site.

Internal links are essential for keeping people engaged with your clients’ site. The easier the content is to navigate, the longer people spend on their site to learn more about the company, click that call to action or remember their brand.

But why add outbound links to articles when you want to keep people on your website? Outbound links make it easier for search engines to rank your content.

You also want to back up any claims you make in your article. If you link to studies and trusted sources whenever possible, your article will appear more trustworthy.

Some clients don’t like outward links, so always check the style guide before adding them.

They Don’t Edit and Proofread Properly

So you’ve finished your article and the formatting is perfection. Your headlines are in the correct style, your sentences don’t have an ounce of fat and you’ve included links galore. But don’t click send just yet.

First drafts are always chock-full of mistakes. You will never produce a perfect first draft unless you took eight hours to write 500 words. Typos and grammar errors are all part of the process, and if you were afraid to write anything without making a mistake you’d have writer’s block.

But don’t start editing your work immediately after you’ve written it. Instead, take a break. Check your social media pages, outline another article, or do some admin. Do anything to give you time away and fresh eyes.

Then, sit down and work through the text slowly. Look out for typos and grammar mistakes, but also passive or flabby sentences. Wield that red pen until your article is leaner, tighter and easier to scan.

This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you use one.

Even with a thorough check, you’ll still miss things. Spell checks are useful but also consider using Grammarly to pick up anything you might have missed. It’s free and will help you catch those embarrassing errors.

They Don’t Source Eye-Catching Images

Your article is now error-free and scans like a dream. Time for a few images to bring it to life! But you can’t just Google image search and download the first picture you fancy.

It’s essential you only include free-for-use images to avoid copyright law issues. Make sure to download images from websites like Unsplash, Pexels or Pixabay that allow you to use their pictures for free. Then you can scroll through at your heart’s content.

If your client likes text on their images, you can add them yourself using Canva, a free and easy-to-use graphic design tool.

They Don’t Resize and Compress Images

You’ve found the perfect image to accompany your article, so you send the picture file to your client. But your client complains the huge size of the image is slowing down their site loading speed.

Do your client a favour and send them the correct image size. Do they have any technical specifications for images?

Even if they don’t, it’s a good idea to compress images before you send them. Drop the file into an image compressor like TinyPNG and it’ll reduce the file size without affecting the onscreen quality.

Over to You

If you want your clients to keep coming back, make sure that you’re a one-stop shop for their needs.

Do they want custom images? Give your pictures some oomph using a graphic design tool. Do they want to boost shares? Polish those headlines until they sparkle.

Freelance writing is so much more than just words on a page. And having these types of formatting and writing mistakes can hurt your business in the long run.

So roll up your sleeves, put in the effort and don’t be afraid to learn new tricks and tools. You’ll seduce clients with your pain-free, ready-to-go content!

Yvonne Reilly is a freelance copywriter and editor for hire. She's a jargon-buster and makes boring business content sparkle. Raised in Dublin and Luxembourg, she specialises in content for multicultural audiences and spends her free time sniffing out travel deals. Contact Yvonne or visit her website for more information on her services and to view her portfolio.

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Hi Yvonne, thank you so much for the great tips! As a ESL writer I particularly love your saying “typos and grammar errors are all part of the processes.” I also enjoyed reading your article shedding lights on headlines/visual aids, these are also recipes for the content that future readers want to read up on.Reply to Elizabeth
Hi Elizabeth, thank you so much! I do a lot of editing for ESL writers and it’s so important just to get it all on the page for the first draft and then walk away from it. Mistakes are much easier to pick out after that. For editing, Grammarly is a godsend, as is the ‘read aloud’ function in newer versions of MS Word for the odd word that’s missing or for identifying an awkwardly-written sentence.Reply to Yvonne
Yvonne, thanks for this great post! You highlighted some important details to remember as a new freelancer. The information on links for ranking and compressing images was especially helpful. I just recently started Elna’s Write to 1K course so I am soaking in all the information I can!Reply to Amy
I’m glad you liked it! Elna’s Writeto1K course is worth its weight in gold. I used one of her job board pitches from the course and it landed me a regular blogging contract on a job board today. Keep up the great work!Reply to Yvonne