10 Mistakes Freelance Writers Make and How to Fix Them

At lunch yesterday, I was telling my tablemates about how CoryWest Media is getting lots of interest from freelance writers who want to write for us. [updated from the original post in February 2024]

Why the increased interest? I think it had something to do with our Hollywood casting approach profiled in Crain’s Small Biz Big Trends feature a few weeks ago.

As I talked about mistakes writers make and how I would fix them, one of my friends said, “That would make a great blog post!”

So . . . here you go . . .

10 Mistakes Freelance Writers Make and How to Fix Them

  1. Marketing yourself a freelance writer. Instead, be a professional writer. If you can’t own up to this career, then choose something else. Freelancers don’t earn as much money, or attention, as pros do. Who hires a freelance golfer? Start thinking of yourself as the top writer in your field and then do what it takes to earn the pro title.
  2. Being meek about making money. After I completed my Wealthy Mind training, I decided to invite fellow creatives. A writer who saw the program announcement asked, “Why would I want to make more money? I’ve been charging the same amount for 10 years and people are still paying me for it.” Exactly! Clients will pay you the same rate if you never raise your prices. Estimating a project rate, rather than an hourly rate, allows you to be compensated at a higher level.
  3. You don’t know what you want to write about so you write about everything. The mistake here is focus. Sure, you’re a marvelously talented researcher. Aren’t we all? But, writing site copy for the luxury market is way different than cranking out social media for a tools distributor.  So, choose an industry and specialize in writing about what you know.
  4. Sending emails with errors to anyone, especially to people who might hire you. There is no excuse for being casual when you communicate – ever. While I do pardon mistakes, I expect at least a 98% error-free rate in all writing.  Ask someone to proofread and edit important documents. Reread email communications out loud a few times and keep the length to five sentences or less.
  5. Writing without a contract. You must get the client to sign off on the project approach and scope AND give you a deposit before you write one word.  Looking to write for corporations? Then you’ll probably need professional liability insurance.
  6. Ignoring your online presence. Why is it that writers hate to write? Whenever I suggest blogging to a group of writers, they moan and say “That’s too much work.” Don’t want to publish a blog? Then consider guest blogging. Update your LinkedIn profile, upload writing samples, and start writing articles.
  7. Going it alone. Find a successful writing practice mentor who will encourage and challenge you to do your best. A small group mastermind also works well. When we moved from Oak Park to Glen Ellyn, I started IWOW, the Independent Writers of the West. You, too, can start a group or join one online.
  8. Taking criticism personally. Expect clients to critique your work. After all, they’re paying you to write in their voice or tell their story. Include room for a revision or two in every project estimate.
  9. Not advancing your skills. In 2002, I organized Chicago’s first writing for the web conference and I’ve been upskilling my marketing and communications ever since. Here’s a course from AWAI that looks worthwhile: Copywriting 2.0: Your Complete Guide to Writing Web Copy that Converts.
  10. And the number one biggest mistake of all? Not believing in your talents. To be successful, you’ll need to project confidence, creativity, and imagination. It helps to write every day, even when you don’t have any client projects to type on. Remember: you may be the writer, but the reader is the one who digests your work.  So leave room for them and be prepared to be enlightened, delighted, and surprised by their reaction.

What would you add – or ask?


Keep me posted on your progress!

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