Costly Mistakes Freelance Writers Make When Starting Out

Many people are eager to escape the everyday stress of waking up each morning at a particular time to go to work. They long for the freedom that comes with freelance writing; it seems to offer them some freedom to control their lives: wake up and go to bed when they want, work mainly on their terms, and so forth.

But while it is true freelance writing offers freedom, it’s not all rosy as some may imagine. They rush in and blindly make many mistakes along the way, and soon, they are in a worse situation than when they did their regular job. When starting out as a freelance writer, there are common pitfalls ahead to watch out for in order to succeed. As you’ll shortly find out, you need to learn about effective communication, self-promotion, niche specialization, and negotiating correctly, among others.

So, before quitting your day job to pursue freelance writing full-time (or if you’re already starting out), take note of these costly mistakes you must avoid.

Costly Mistakes Beginning Freelancers Make

1.    Lack of Niche Specialization

Some beginners want to write about anything under the sun. They are essentially experts in everything. But in freelance writing, particular clients would like to give work only to a writer with a proven track record in the particular niche.

A niche can be defined as “a specific area of focus or expertise.” There are so many niches you can choose from. In freelance writing, it is about narrowing your work to a particular subject matter; for example, you can choose to be a Home Improvement writer. After learning as much as possible about this subject matter, you can then write any related article. Or, if you want to specialize in creating pitches, you can learn more about pitch deck design services.

Likewise, you can choose to be a digital marketing writer, or pets, wildlife, technology, lifestyle—the list is endless. But when you claim to know about all these niches, no client would want to deal with you because you’re essentially admitting that you are not specialized. You will end up losing lucrative deals.

Jack of all trades, master of none 👎🏾

To choose a lucrative niche, study the market trends to understand what’s selling. See if it is something you can quickly learn and enjoy writing about. Don’t just focus on what you’re passionate about. Have an eye on the market as well. You can specialize in copywriting and let the world know that’s what you can do best. There are many success stories out there of writers who specialized and made it.

2.    Undervaluing Services

Out of desperation to win more clients, some beginners who have learned the ropes and can deliver high-quality work still end up undervaluing their services. That is, they underquote and so are constantly exploited. They work long hours every day but have nothing to show for it.

It’s good to understand your worth as a freelance writer. One critical consequence of undervaluing services is that clients may take it to mean the writer is not up to the task. After all, people with poor skills are usually paid less because they deliver shoddy work.

Once you are sure of yourself, setting competitive yet fair rates is best. Do not quote a figure that would scare away a potential client when negotiating. At the same time, do not go too low. Know your number and don’t go below that.

3.    Neglecting Professional Development

Some freelance writers start out by focusing all their energy on finding clients while neglecting professional development. They do not learn anything new apart from what they acquired initially.

Freelance writing is dynamic. Again, the competition is stiff; thousands of specialized writers are out there. So, how do you remain at the top in your niche? It’s through continuous learning, even as you look for clients. You may lose clients when you choose not to acquire new skills in your niche.

Learn other skills related to freelance writing: interlinking, rewriting articles, inserting pictures into your article, posting articles on a website, keyword research, etc. You can take relevant courses to learn these skills and more. There are lots of online courses out there to try. You can also join the several freelance writing forums on social media platforms to build a network for support and keep learning from experts or veterans.

4.    Ineffective Marketing and Self-Promotion

Some freelance writers do not market themselves effectively. They don’t know what to say about themselves or where to say it. It’s not enough to indicate on your Facebook profile that you are a freelance writer. Not all potential clients will be able to view your Facebook profile or WhatsApp status.

Saying you’re a freelance writer is not enough: potential clients have to know you exist! Never expect them to look for you. You have to market yourself effectively to succeed. Package yourself and promote your skills all the time.

You can start with strategies such as cold-pitching, which involves directly reaching out to potential clients via emails, for instance. Other effective marketing strategies involve social media marketing, starting websites, blogs, YouTube channels, etc., and using these to raise awareness about your skills.

Joining relevant online forums or groups and participating in the discussions is another networking strategy that would bring you closer to writing opportunities.

5.    Poor Client Communication and Management

The only way to guarantee yourself regular income as a freelance writer is to have regular clients. One mistake you can make is to treat clients as passers-by you will not need again. You should go out of your way to establish a strong working relationship with each new client. You have to retain your clients so that you get more tasks.

However, poor client communication and management can ruin this noble, win-win plan. It starts with not informing the client in time that you are unlikely to meet the deadline due to this or that, or asking all necessary questions about a particular task before accepting to do it so that you understand well what is expected of you. The result is a work that is below the client’s expectations.

Invest in client relationships to retain more clients. Take a course in communication skills if necessary. While you’re at it, make good use of tools for efficient client management.

6.    Ignoring Legal and Financial Aspects

Being a freelance writer doesn’t mean you are free to write about anything or do anything—even those that may not be legal—yet expect no legal action against you. Some freelance writers who made the mistake of assuming they are absolutely free have learned it the hard way. You need to know that you can find yourself taking responsibility for a range of legal consequences for your work.

Freelance writing is just any other business. You can be sued for not paying taxes, plagiarism, breaching your contract with the client, or promoting misinformation. You may need to consult a legal expert on your tax obligations as a freelance writer so that you always comply with the relevant local or international statutes.

Knowledge Is Power—Don’t Make These Mistakes

As you can see, being a freelance writer can be fun, but it also comes with responsibilities; it’s not absolutely “free” until you avoid certain mistakes, such as lack of niche specialization, undervaluing your services, or poor communication skills. Of course, things may not always work out as expected, even after trying to avoid such mistakes. You should always return to the drawing board to determine where you might have gone wrong and learn from your mistakes.

With the right mindset and determination, you will succeed as a freelance writer, with total freedom to control your career, choosing how much you’re paid, where you work, and who you work.

What mistakes have you made as a beginning freelancer?