Though freelance writing has changed so much in the past twenty years, so many things have stayed the same. It’s still a hustle to find work, and we still have some less than stellar clients. The good news is that it’s easier than ever to become a successful writer. Those who make good choices and act in a professional manner will go far.
In the Internet age, more freelancers are talking and sharing ideas, which is terrific. Something not so wonderful is how some freelancers take the anonymity of the Internet too far, or how they don’t make good business decisions.
As new freelance writers begin their careers every day, I thought I’d share:
10 Things Freelance Writers Need to Stop Doing
1. Apologize for your choices
Are you happy with the writing you do? Do like your clients? If so, why are you apologizing for your choices? Very few people get to live their dream and work at jobs that make them happy. Always make the choices best for you, there’s no reason to be sorry. When you apologize for taking on a client someone else might not approve of or working for someone another writer doesn’t recommend, it shows a lack of confidence and if you can’t trust yourself…how can others? Never apologize for being happy just because someone else couldn’t hack it.
Bad mouth clients
A major pet peeve, bad mouthing clients has become commonplace on blogs and writing forums. The problem is, these things are left online forever. What happens if you one day reconcile with that client or end up regretting your choice of words? You can’t always remove a forum thread or blog comment. Even blog posts that are deleted often turn up later thanks to caches. What if a potential client or employer Googles you and visits a writing forum only to see some of your harsh words directed at past clients? He’ll probably pass in favor of someone who is more professional and trustworthy.
3. Make Excuses
Does this sound familiar:
- “I can’t…”
- “I don’t have time…”
- “I don’t have the experience…”
Those are excuses all freelance writers use to keep them from working to their true potential. Now, if you’re happy in your career, more power to you. However, if you’re looking to get ahead but put out more excuses than effort, you won’t get far. Instead of making excuses, make a list of excuses. Next to each excuse, write down why. For example, if you don’t have enough time to look for work, list the reasons why. Chances are, most of your excuses are easily remedied. For example, if you don’t have time, cut out an hour of watching TV or get up earlier in the morning. Excuses only keep you from achieving your goals if you let them.
4. Knock other freelancers for their choices
Do you call other writers “hacks” because you don’t approve of their choices? Do tell everyone they must not know better because they don’t follow your path? If so, it’s time to climb down off that ivory tower. There are ways to get your point across without insulting people. Moreover, no one wants to hang around with someone who continuously spouts negativity. If your purpose is to share tips with other writers, by all means do so. Insulting someone isn’t sharing a tip, it’s showing people you can’t validate your own choices without resorting to name calling.
5. Miss deadlines and make excuses
Do you have regular excuses for missing deadlines? Is someone in your family always sick? Did your Internet connection go out for the 20th time this month? It doesn’t matter if these are really things that happen or if they’re excuses because you kept putting off your assignments or didn’t budget your time wisely. Your client needs the work done in a timely manner. That’s why he hired you. If you can’t meet your deadlines or if you hate the writing you do so much you procrastinate, you need to find another line of work – or another type of writing.
6. Treat each client differently
If Client A pays less than Client B, you might be tempted to treat Client A differently. Pay is no reason to be unprofessional, however. Use good customer service practices regardless of how much a customer pays. Consider your name, your brand and your reputation. Also, lower paying clients now might be higher paying clients tomorrow. They may want you to grow with them.
7. Forget freelance writing is a business
Freelance writing is a business in the same way a restaurant is a business or a Fortune 500 company is a business. Though there are hobbyists, it’s safe to say most of us are doing this to earn a living. That means we have to practice good customer service, handle sales, act professionally and remember our deductions.
8. Stay inside the comfort zone
This isn’t a low pay/high pay/content mill thing. This is more about trying new things. Sometimes when we stay in our comfort zones we get a little bored. Branch out and see the world. Try a new form of writing or take on a new client. Mix it up a little and see how much more interesting life becomes.
9. Follow someone else’s path
Do you pitch magazines because someone told you this is what freelance writers are supposed to do? Are you only looking for journalism jobs because some blogger thinks this is a better idea than blogging? That doesn’t sound like you’re following your own path. It seems like you’re following another person’s vision. You’ll be a happier person if you stay true to your calling. It’s important to try new things, but don’t take on something you don’t enjoy simply because another writer thinks it’s what you should do.
10. Let one rejection set you back
I like to tell writers about Stephen King. In his book “On Writing” Stephen King talks of how he stuck a railroad spike in the wall of his bedroom and soon that spike was filled with rejection slips. King isn’t the only writer who has received numerous rejections. It’s all part of the job. Just because one person doesn’t think you’re a good fit, doesn’t mean you don’t fit another publication or website’s vision. I don’t know of a single writer who hasn’t received at least one rejection. Don’t let it get you down.