5 Mistakes You Need To Avoid As A Freelance Writer

When I started to write for either small or big clients I made my fair share of mistakes.  As they say, you can learn from your mistakes and move on, but what you want to do as you move on is never fall for the same mistakes again, no matter what. Here are five mistakes you need to avoid as a freelance writer that I’ve made myself in the past.  Instead of learning from making such mistakes yourself, you can learn how NOT to make them at all from the get go.

Don’t Fall for Smooth Talkers

When I think smooth talkers, I thing specifically of one client that I’ve met about two years ago through an ad I posted to offer my services.  The guy was a smooth talker all right. He said that even though he wasn’t able to pay me well, I would be his writer forever, and he would even offer me more business in the long run.  While I was writing for him he called me almost on a daily basis and kept promising things.  I was writing articles and press releases for him well under my normal fee in order to build what I thought would be a long running relationship that would develop in more business.

Guess what? It never turned out to be that way.  The guy had a completely erroneous idea of what online marketing was all about, and he dropped all his blogs to start a totally different kind business. I should have remembered my mother’s words.  It’s wasn’t really pretty (even in French), but it sounded something like this… “Smooth talkers are usually full of S#*t”.  It’s sad to say, but it’s just so true.

Do not charge your clients based on maybes, perhaps, or if all goes well promises, or because they could win the actor’s award of make believe that they are your friend and have your best interest at heart.  If you do, You will soon regret you did.  I will never fall for that one again, but if I did.  I know that the potential of newbies making the same mistake is pretty high.

Don’t’ Send Free Samples without a Written Notice of what will Happen with the Sample

I have sent free samples in the past to either never hear from the client again, not even a note  saying “we are not interested”, or to find out that my written sample was used, but I never got paid for it.  Unless you are brand new, what you’ve written in the past should be plenty enough to prove that you can write.  If they want a specific sample, make them sign a contract specifying that either the sample will never be used, or if used, you’ll get paid for it.

Most reputable clients will let you know what will happen to your sample, but if they don’t feel to ask them.  If you decide to go ahead without making sure about what will happen to the sample, be prepared to whatever their might decide to do once they have your free writing sample in their hands.  Better be safe than sorry.

Don’t Take a Job that you won’t be Able to go through with

I know that the need for finding work as a new freelance job might make you accept anything and everything, but you must fight this temptation right from the get go.   A couple of years ago, I made the mistake of accepting a job that was way too heavy for me.  I had to do way too much reading and research and the price wasn’t worth the work involved. Frankly, the whole thing turned into a nightmare pretty fast, so I had to back up from that hell of a job without of course being paid for my time invested before I quit.

Don’t get tempted by everything you see. Some jobs are just not worth taking, unless you are expert in that specific niche.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t write about just any topic, as a freelance writer you should, but it means that you know your limits and won’t try to go beyond them just because you’re desperate to find work.  Save yourself some time, energy and frustration by resisting those types of writing jobs.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for what you’re Worth

I know that as a new freelance writer you will be tempted to accept freelance writing jobs way under the price that you were asking for, and maybe that’s OK for a little while as you are getting more practice and building a portfolio.  But eventually, you need to realize that some people are getting paid BIG buck to write, and yet, not only they are finding lots of clients, but they are being picky and are turning some down.

As a writer, you need to know where you stand, how good you are, and start accepting only GOOD deals.  In the long run, not so good and bad deals will burn you down, and you might as well go to a 9-5 job. It also brings our profession down as something of no value.

Don’t Start Writing without a Contract

I don’t care if I write for a friend or for a local business that I’ve known for years, I will not ever write without a contract again.  I know all too well the temptations of writing without a contract when there is a trust factor, but it’s a huge mistake.  Usually, no one needs a contract when things go well, but when things go wrong.  Unfortunately, if you don’t have a contract and things do go wrong, it would be too late to make one.

No one needs to be offended by a contract because it protects both you and your client as well.  Basically, the client promises to pay you, either in full or in half before you start writing, and you promise the client to deliver the work in time, according to the specifications of the contract.  A contract also helps things to run more smoothly, it seems.  It’s that one time that you will not have a contract between you and your client that things will be happening, and you’d wish you had.  Don’t make that mistake.

These are the five mistakes you need to avoid as a freelance writer.  Mistakes which I used to make myself as a new freelance writer. However, just by reading this post, you now know better and can avoid them all before you even start.

So, what do you think? Give me your feedbacks!


31 thoughts on “5 Mistakes You Need To Avoid As A Freelance Writer”

  1. Wow Sylviane, excellent tips.

    I guess since I’m not a freelance writer I really don’t have to worry about any of this but I can see where there could be some problems from time to time.

    I know unfortunately that not everyone is honest. Like your “smooth talked” you dealt with a few years ago. I’ve run across a few people like that since being online that would promise you the moon and the stars if you just give them what they need up front. Maybe I just wanted to believe them so badly. Big mistake and lesson learned.

    I will say that I’ve learned a few things from this post myself. Great tips you’ve shared here Sylviane and I have no doubt they will be very helpful for many.

    Enjoy your week.

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    1. Hi Adrienne,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, even though you have no much use for it as you said 🙂 However, some of those tips could be applied for other business as well, not only writers, and yes, smooth talkers are everywhere and anyone needs to be aware of them 🙂

      Thank your your excellent input, Adrienne.

  2. What excellent advice for anyone doing ANY kind of business! Oh, I know those smooth talkers. They promise you the world. They promise you lots of work and great referrals. Sometimes they want to cut a deal so you get part of their profit based on results from your work. It’s always bad news. Those are just wheeler-dealers and they never hold true to their promises. I never work with anyone who won’t simply PAY for what something is worth.

    Since these are all mistakes I made I can relate (no contract, getting paid too little, you name it). even with a contract sometimes you don’t get specific enough to deal with a problem that comes up. One thing I do is every time an issue comes up during a job – whether its big or small – I make a note of it so I can add a clause in my contract to deal with that issue if it ever happens again. It’s impossible to think of everything but after a while you learn the loopholes people are going to try to get through and you can close them up tight!

    Free samples are also a bad idea. It’s basically free work. My thought is, if you have a portfolio with samples that’s good enough. It doesn’t have to be a sample the person can use. I go through that with design work. They want a sample of a logo or something. Tough sh#$! Look at my portfolio of other logos and if you like them, then we’ll talk cold, hard cash!

    It’s hard to follow all this great advice when you really just want to get a job and get going, but in the long run you’re going to hurt yourself if you’re not careful. Thanks for sharing some great truths!
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    1. Hi Carol,

      Now that I’m reading the first comments on this post I do realize that this can be applicable not only to freelance writing business but just about any business. I can see that you are running into the same issues with your business as I am running into with writing.

      You are right, I’ve also adjusted my contract as time went on as to fill the little holes here and there. When it comes to clients you have the good ones that are alway happy and everything goes so smooth, and then you have the ones who are just never happy and try all sort of things to get a cut in the price or to make your life hell, so that you’ll give them a cut just to get them off your back.

      Excellent feedbacks here, Carol and thanks for coming 🙂

  3. I have had to learn those lessons along the way in my web design business, too. Many headaches and a lot of frustration could have been saved had I learned those lessons from someone else first and applied them.

    Too often, the lure of a paying client and building a portfolio causes one to forego a contract or maybe do a few projects under your normal rate. AND…there are many people out there who are just looking for the opportunity to take advantage of someone’s desperation or inexperience.

    But, this is an excellent blog post with some great tips. Thanks for sharing, Sylviane.

  4. Hi Freddy,

    I’m glad you liked the post and like Carol, you’re saying that such tips apply to your business as well. It’s true that some people will be looking for your inexperience and your need for work to take advantage of you. Our job is to not let that happen as much as possible.

    Thank you for your input as a business owner 🙂

  5. Hi Sylviane,
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and advice. This is excellent information that can be useful not only in the world of Freelance Writing, but for business transactions in general. I always say, it is good to learn from your own mistakes, but it is way better to learn from the mistakes of others. By sharing, you have provided useful insights which would hopefully prevent others from falling into the same traps.
    Much success to you.
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    1. Hi Yvonne,

      So nice to see you here. I definitely came to the realization that this post was not only useful for writers, but for any online business owners. I’m glad you enjoyed and hope you doing great.

      Thank you for sharing.

  6. Hi Sylviane,
    I have come through the last mistake you have mentioned here.I haven’t signed a contract when i first worked as a freelance writer for someone and i have paid a lot for that mistake.Since then i switched to blogging and made my mind to quit as a freelance writer.I guess that is the best thing happened to me as i get to know blogging much more and i am loving it.
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  7. Hi Sylviane!
    i read your article and i think your tips are not help to freelance writer but other newish blogger.in my view your list is sufficient to help us .i like your tips.
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    1. Hi Anshul,

      Ah, OK, first I wasn’t sure what you meant first. I think you mean that my tips our not only helpful for freelance writers, but also bloggers, right?

      Glad you like the tips.

  8. These are indeed the golden words. I am a freelance writer and I still feel a kind of hesitation on asking about the quotes an all. After reading this post, I got a new understanding about my rights as a freelancer. Thanks a ton for sharing this helpful post.

    1. Hi Aayna,

      Yes, I know what you mean, but remember that as freelance writers we are not panhandlers, we are a paid service like any other services. There is no shame in asking for our fees 🙂

      I’m glad if this post could help you.

  9. Hey Sylviane,

    Great advice as usual. Speaking of freelance writing, I know that I’ve already told you in the past I WILL be needing a freelance writer for online gaming in general on the main site I’m having. I’m not ready for one yet, but I have already told you I do intend on having you as like the expert writer. I’m also having smaller writers for sub-directory sites as well that are paid like ½ pay as team members, but I’m referring these other smaller writers to go to your site and seriously read it. I really don’t think I’ve seen a better blog than this that helps people with article marketing. I won’t go into the details now since I’m not ready, but yeah. I’ll give you the full info on that when I’ll need you. This is a great site people need to see.

    As I’m sure you already know, I’m not a freelance writer. 😉 But I will say that it annoys me greatly of hearing about smooth talkers. There’s a lot of weirdos online for real and if they don’t have enough money to be paying somebody to write for them, they don’t need to be paying. Chances are, they need to fix their website and put more content on it themselves for making it into a real website… I mean, it’s really not that hard establishing the structure work if you spend a little bit of time and effort behind something. Then to simply up and leave after promising you all that is pretty sad. My only guess is some of the online people really have no conscientious.

    I like the free sample one too. I think that’s pretty important because somebody could easily setup a fake landing page and get free articles over a category on their website somewhere else. If somebody really did do something like that, I think that’d be pretty sad if you ask me. 🙁 When you talked about that job you did, I actually understand some. Hah. Although the only thing I care about writing for other blogs is mainly techy stuff (like at become an author for techlabs.com), I have seen a few blogs that pay money for bloggers to write on very specific topics. I was sitting there looking at some of these topics, and I was like WOW. I would have to sit here and do a lot of research to even be able to understand this before I even write an article. I know a couple sites I looked at was over discounts and weight loss things I honestly didn’t care too much about. I know some about weight loss, but still… I totally get what you’re saying here.

    As for your profession Sylviane, I think everybody knows of your great reputation. Later on when I create a server (or maybe multi-site) for online gaming on probably another domain so people can create free sub-domains kind of like blogger.com or more specifically edublogs.org, I do plan on putting a small font link on the footer alongside a couple other ads that says like “Need a professional writer?” and do a 301 REDIRECT off a sub-domain I created and have it redirect to your Hire Me page (so you don’t get bad back-links). The truth is, I just like you. I’ve learned so much from you, you’ve always been a good friend to me, and I know I want to work with you for the benefit of both you and me. So I’ll stop there and just say thanks for this great post and look forward to what you write about next week.

    Talk to you later Sylviane.

    1. Hi Seth,

      Please, don’t feel bad because I didn’t reply to you right away. I had seen your comment, but was just waiting for the right time to read your it, because I did noticed that it was a little post of its own 🙂 But I do like it, and I am so, so flattered by your compliments, Seth. I don’t even know what I’ve done to deserve them 🙂 But if I have helped you some, I am very glad for this.

      Thank you for coming, and I do appreciate you, Seth, don’t ever feel like I won’t reply to your comments, I would reply even to comments that don’t even agree with me, so no worries about me, ok 🙂

  10. Sorry if that was a bit much, lol. I checked back and noticed I’m the only one you didn’t comment on yet.

  11. Hi Sylviane,

    I’m not much into freelance writing, you know that. But I know after going through your tips some of them are related to any kind of freelancers. Especially value is a big problem in that scenario.

    I don’t believe in smooth talkers, I mean if they are fraud. It happened to me once I offer services on my blog, but glad I didn’t fell for ’em. Anyway glad I read your post now too, ’cause I’m on a new project lately and it was lot of learning and researching. It’s one of my friends, but business and value will be global variables as I used to think as always.

    Have a nice weekend ahead dear 🙂

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    1. Hi Mayura,

      Always nice to see you here. I’m glad if this post could be of good advice as it is not only for freelance writers, but for anyone offering their online business 🙂

      Thank you for coming 🙂

  12. Hey Sylviane
    These are great points that every writer should keep in mind. Writers work equally hard just like any other profession need t be given due credit. I have done the mistake of sending free samples, even when I had considerable work to show my experience, and the same as yours, never to hear back again. People should have at least this much decency to tell that they didn’t like the work, or it won’t work between us. It is very annoying as writing each sample involves time and effort. It is true, you learn from the mistakes you make. Thanks for the share.

  13. I am a freelance writer-though not a native speaker. I have been writing content for many years now and am happy to say that a lot of my content is “out there”. I also have written for a US based diversion class-(wrote a series of course content targeted towards first-time offenders)despite which, many employers do not want to hire me because i am non native-so i end up working for peanuts! Nice share though-certainly useful to native writers.

    1. Hi Dipa,

      Do not ever let the non-native thing let people push you around. English is not my native language either. I also know a couple of very successful freelance writers that are not native of the English language either. Bottom line is quality and correct grammar. I also know lots of native who write like crap 🙂

      Just work on quality and forget about the language not being your first language 🙂

  14. You are so right about not writing without a contract Sylviane and the other points are also worth considering. Your posts are always informative. Keep sharing 🙂

  15. This is a great checklist, Sylviane for every freelance writer. Contract is a very important thing as it prevents you from getting exploited. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It will surely help the newbies understand the way better.

  16. Hi Sylviane, thanks for another informative share. As a freelance writer, I highly believe in the importance of commitment and dedication in fulfilling the tasks that are required from me but it’s also imperative to make sure that expectations are well-managed and that a contract is enforces. Being in dire need of money does not give you an excuse to accept any project out there, an assessment of the scope of work, deadlines and payment schemes must also be considered.

  17. Tut tut. Always remember to give an estimate on how much time it’ll take you to research a project or subject and factor this into your quote, or include it in a contingency. Any time spent working on a project should be paid.
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