The world of freelancing is new for many people.
Most of us start out with a job and stay with that job for years. Or, we bounce around from one job to another, working for someone else.
So, when the thought about becoming a freelancer pops into your head, you’re bound to make silly or sometimes, stupid, mistakes at no fault of your own!
I talk a lot about making mistakes as a freelancer on my blog because, well, I’ve made a lot of mistakes as a freelancer.
No freelance writer jumps into this business and gets it right the first time.
The process seems simple enough: write, pitch, wait and repeat until you land a client.
If you’re finding yourself caught in this cycle with no paid work to show for it, it could be that you are making a few mistakes along the way.
But the good news is that you don’t have to keep making the same mistakes over and over again!
You can learn from them and use that knowledge to start gaining clients and making a living from your writing.
Here are some silly mistakes you are probably making as a freelance writer:
1. You Didn’t Read the Job Ad
Not all job ads are the same, so it’s important to read them carefully before applying.
When a client posts a job ad, they are expecting it to be viewed by hundreds of potential writers. In order to minimize the amount of applications, they sometimes include very specific steps in the application process.
Some may require you include a certain word in the subject line or that your samples contain images.
In order to stand out and get noticed by the client, it’s important to read the job ad and follow the instructions for applying very carefully.
2. You’re Not Keeping Track of Your Pitches
One of the most common mistakes for new freelance writers is not keeping track of your pitches. I was totally guilty of this.
Just as you would any job you apply to, you want to follow up with your application. It’s hard to know where you sent a pitch and when if you don’t keep track them.
Likewise, some clients will give you a time-frame in which they respond to your pitch. If they say they will take 2 weeks to respond, you know after 2 weeks that they are not interested and you can send that pitch elsewhere.
You should create a spreadsheet to track where you found the job ad, what the rate of pay is and when you sent your pitch or application.
3. Your Content Doesn’t Have Structure
Whether you are writing blog posts or other types of content, it needs to be structured in a way that is easy for readers to, well, read.
If you show a reader huge blocks of text, they will have a hard time comprehending what they are reading. They end up losing interest and moving on.
You should break up your text using “anchoring” features that give the reader’s eyes and mind a bit of a break. Examples of these are:
- Numbered or bullet lists
Clients want you to write content that will attract and keep readers. If your text is chunky with no flow, it’s not achieving these goals.
4. Your Writing is Difficult to Understand
You may think that using big fancy words is a testament to your skill as a writer but you need to remember that you are writing for an audience.
That audience is looking for clear and concise information that doesn’t require any translating.
When readers are surfing the web, they have the attention span of a gnat. Only a small percentage, about one-third, actually read an entire article.
Imagine your content like a conversation. You wouldn’t use a word like “subsequently” while talking to a friend or co-worker, would you? You’re more like to say “after” or “finally”.
Keep this in mind when you are writing content. Don’t forget that clients are looking for pieces that will gain and retain readership.
5. You Don’t Have a Project Management System
When you begin to gather clients and multiple writing projects, you’re going to lose track of what is due to whom and when if you don’t have a project management system.
I’m a huge fan of pen-to-paper organization but when you’re dealing with this much information, it’s best to resort to digital management systems.
You don’t have to shell out a lot of money for programs to keep you on task. I’ve used Excel spreadsheets to stay organized – I gave each client their own tab as well as tabs for an overview sheet of my monthly income and expenses.
You can even use this system to keep track of your pitches.
As your business grows, you may want to look into more involved project management systems but, if you don’t have one now, spreadsheets are a great start.
6. You Don’t Have a Blog or Writer Website
Writing samples are enough to land you a client, right?
Although you want to have writing samples handing for when you submit pitches and applications, ignoring the value of a blog means you’re going to miss out on so many potential clients.
Prospective clients usually want to see live samples of your work and will seek out a blog to check out what you can do.
Alternatively, you also need a writer website (and you can host your blog there too).
After you send a pitch, clients may want to get to know more about you. Your writer website is a chance to showcase your talents and let your brand shine!
7. You Don’t Know How to Market Yourself
There are thousands of freelance writers trying to make it out in the world just like you are. You need to market yourself properly in order to stand out from the crowd.
Luckily, you don’t need an extensive background in marketing to become a successful freelancer. You just need to know how to draw attention to yourself and gain exposure.
The easiest way you can do this is through your social media profiles. I would suggest setting yourself up with a Twitter account as well as a LinkedIn account.
Here is my LinkedIn profile:
Don’t spread yourself too thin by signing up for every social media platform possible. Pick 2 or 3 and focus on attracting followers and highlighting your talents, skills and accomplishments.
8. Learn From Your Mistakes!
I call these silly mistakes because they are not going to make-or-break your freelance writing business. They’re silly because they are easily overlooked and easy to make.
The upside of this is that they are also easy to fix!
That means you can learn your lesson, make a few changes, and be on your way to building your freelance career and earning an amazing income while doing so.
Over to you – what silly or stupid mistakes have you done as a freelancer?