The road of freelance writing is fraught with pot-holes, sharp bends, and hidden horizons, so it pays to know a few of the mistakes in advance to help make the journey go that little bit smoother.
It’s easy to make mistakes when working as a self-employed person, and even the smallest error may have a mis-proportionally negative affect on your business. Here we look at the costliest top 5 mistakes most often made by freelancers – monetary and business – and the easy ways to prevent them from harming your business.
Accepting The Lowest Offer
It’s very easy, especially when first starting out on the freelance road, to accept lower paying assignments just to get a foot in the door. It’s part of the bottom-up learning curve, and something everyone has to work through to get to the top.
However, many writers are willing to settle far too easily, both for cheap writing gigs, and for poor standards of work. You get what you pay for in this business like any other, so not only will your reputation go down the drain, but you will end up working every hour that God sends for a pittance.
Knowing when to move on from a market is an important part of freelancing, but it must be conquered it you are to grow to higher paying markets, higher levels of professionalism, and a better standard of living. Always strive to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and if that means thanking the editor of a reliable but poorly paid source of work, while ending your agreement with him, then that’s what must be done.
As you do move up the ranks, use your experience and confidence to ask for more money. Create a rate card and stick to it no matter what. This is hard to do initially because you will be afraid potential clients will walk, but when was the last time you challenged a plumber or electrician about their prices? Yes, they are expensive, but they are also the experts. Remind clients they get what they pay for, that you are the expert, and show them the benefits you provide.
Not Doing The Research
Don’t let ignorance of a subject put you off writing about it. Clients appreciate a willingness to learn and grow with them, and it opens you up to more market opportunities in the future.
When you do take on an assignment for a subject you know little about, always makes sure to do your research properly. Don’t assume because you have read the relevant page on Wikipedia you are suddenly an expert. A good freelance writer will check all sources, read up and study from various portals, talk to the people who do have the knowledge, and cross-check everything. Submitting an assignment with one or two errors in a new subject is forgivable, but handing in work that is riddled with inaccuracies and falsehoods will lose you a client, and your good reputation.
Finally, when querying an editor, don’t wait for him to call you or respond with a ‘yes’ before you begin your research, as you will look foolish when you can’t answer his questions. Do your research before you send your query, that way when the editor gets in touch, you will look professional because you are professional.
Missing a deadline is like taking a sledgehammer to your own reputation. Why go to the trouble, time, and expense to land a project, only for the submission date to come and go? It’s unprofessional, a mark of disrespect to your client, and suicidal. No editor wants to work with writers who are unreliable.
When you receive an assignment with a deadline, set your own personal deadline a few days before and stick to it. That way you can buy extra time should you need it, and if not, your client will be delighted you have exceeded his expectations.
Getting assignments in early means your chance of getting more work with the same client increase ten fold, and shows you are willing to work for an editor, not against him. But if for some reason you are struggling, talk to your client, be up front, and be honest. He is more likely to appreciate your honesty in advance, than be glad you missed the deadline without so much as an email.
Taking Editors For Granted
Trust is vital in the freelancing game; it can take one solid initial assignment to start it growing positively, but can be easily destroyed by one careless article or email to the editor.
Never email an editor more than you have to, but never be scared to ask questions either. It sounds like a catch 22, but the truth is, editors appreciate honesty and communication. They are busy people with more than just you on their mind, but if you have a problem or need clarification, then ask in a short, polite, and to the point email. Just don’t keep thanking them or asking how their personal life is.
Similarly, keep editors, publishers, or anyone else involved with the running of your freelance business off your joke emailing lists. Keep that sort of thing within your circle of friends, and don’t let the latest funny picture of a Himalayan goat ruin your freelance reputation.
Your relationship with an editor is a professional one, so act like a professional. Always remain calm, and if they have said or written something that offends you, take your anger out on an omelet and batter an egg instead.
Not Following Up
Never give an editor time to forget your name, and always strike when the iron is hot. Many successful business partnerships have been forged through the art of networking and self-promotion.
If you’ve completed a successful assignment and been paid, send a hand-written thank you note or a personal e-mail to the editor, and remind them you are willing to develop the relationship should they wish to continue. Make them feel good about hiring you, and prove you are as good as your word. Maybe they can’t offer you more work immediately, but many projects have been won by a freelance writer through recommendations and word of mouth alone.