Your Most Embarrassing Freelancing Mistakes

picture-3…can be great lessons!

There are times when you make the silliest, weirdest and most embarrassing mistakes as a writer. It can be simple grammar issues, editing oops or other random uh-oh’s. Whatever the mistake, seeing it online or in print can be enough to send you scrambling for the covers vowing to never come out again, but take heart you can learn alot from goofs.

  • Resilience – Key to being a freelancer, the ability to recover after a mistake or set back is an asset.
  • Humility – Nothing like an over-inflated ego to land you in oopsie land. Certainty of the perfection of an article can lead to relaxed editing on your end or overconfidence in a publication can lead to leaving it up to them to catch any mistakes. Every so often a writer needs to be reminded of the importance of basics.
  • Sense of Humor – Sometimes writers take themselves too seriously. It’s understandable, creative-types are prone to such seriousness, but sometimes you just have to laugh at your goof.

I goof up all the time. Missed punctuation, wrong words, etc., but there is always a lesson to be found. Online you can often get the information corrected, in print you’re out of luck, that’s one clip you’re down, but it’s likely a mistake you won’t make again.

Okay FWJ ‘fess up – share an embarrassing mistake!






21 responses
  1. Jenn Mattern Avatar

    My most embarrassing freelance moment actually had to do with the business side of things and not the writing side itself.

    I had a client about two years ago with a very similar name to a friend of mine (same first name and similarly-spelled last name). I shot off an email to my “friend” only to realize I let the email autofill put in my client’s email address instead. Oops!

    Fortunately there was nothing too personal in there, and the client and I had a laugh over it and continued to work together. Needless to say I’ve double and even triple-checked my “to:” lines ever since!

  2. Jodee Avatar

    Here’s one that I can share….and it’s a recent one. I was interviewing someone for an article by phone and had arranged to continue our conversation on another day. We had set up an appointment and it was right after the time changed. Well…when I calculated the time zone difference, I was an hour off, so I called him an hour before we had agreed to have our chat.

    He was very gracious, even though I was interrupting his morning coffee run. I apologized and left him to his Java and called back at the *right* time.

  3. Elizabeth Avatar

    I have never been a “speedy” editor…and saw something happen when I was in seminary that made me want to stick to the writing side of the profession.

    An employee (or student intern) at the school wrote up a brief news release on the death of one of the school’s professors. It stated, “He was always one to *over*estimate his importance to others.” I’ve kept a copy of that error for years…and its retraction and correction …to remind myself that my strongest talents, like that poor editor’s…are more in the writing realm.

  4. Lorel Avatar

    This just happened today. I do a bit of desktop publishing/graphic design in addition to writing. I’ve been working with a musician to develop a funky layout for her bio. She picked one she liked but wanted the font changed. I sent her a sample of 8 different fonts with a note, “I found several fonts you might like” and then several days for her to get back to me. I was starting to think she didn’t like anything I did and thought I’d check in tomorrow to see if she’d had enough time to pick a font. Finally, today, she said “any word on those fonts?” I forgot to attach the document. How embarrassing. I should have checked with her after a day instead of waiting so long because now we have a deadline rapidly approaching. It will get done but it sure taught me a lesson – always make sure I attach the documents that I am referring to.

  5. Alik Avatar

    Once I spelled my own last name wrong on an NDA Form, which was slick. The client and I had to print off new copies and go through the hassle of re-signing them, re-sending them, etc.

    @Jenn – I’ve done a similar thing as well. When I used to work for a corporation, I was forwarding a client’s email to a corworker to point something funny out, and I accidentally hit ‘reply’ rather than ‘forward.’ Luckily the client had a sense of humor about it and we didn’t lose their business.

  6. Jeanne Grunert Avatar

    I’ve got a doozy of a typo.

    Instead of the sentence: “You know how important that first one is” I typed (and submitted in the manuscript): “You all know how impotent that first one is.”

    The editor had a field day. I’m told she hung it on the newspaper office wall.

    Needless to say folks..never rely on spell check alone!

  7. John Lister Avatar

    Thankfully mine was only a near miss, but I did once mean to describe people without broadband in rural areas as “underserved” and, until catching it before publication, mistakenly wrote that when it came to broadband provision, they were “undeserved”.

  8. ClaraFreeman Avatar

    Being a lover of the ‘blues’ I prided myself on knowing most of the older musicians/songs. When I got the opportunity to do a newspaper piece…imagine my surprise when one of the subjects informed me of my goof! Still feeling out of sorts about that one:(

    Which leads me to edit a piece before hitting send…print, or, online…

  9. Marius Avatar

    I haven’t quite had time to score any big points in the “oops!” department, since I’m barely into this, but forgetting to attach writing samples to an email in which you talk about “attached” writing samples does count, right? 🙂

  10. Veronica Shine Avatar

    I once wrote a recipe for a magazine’s Valentine’s Day issue; whereas I referred the recipe as a perfect compliment for love as we all know the best way to man’s heart was through his stomach. When I wrote the preparation for the recipe, I wrote for the word bowl, bowel instead. The editor asked me if the recipe worked as a laxative too.

  11. Bobbi C Avatar

    I suppose my most embarrassing freelance moment came when, while applying for freelance ops en masse, I decided to reuse, in a slightly modified form, the same cover letter for all of them.

    Unfortunately, I forgot that I had typed in the name of the first employer in my closing appeal in order to personalize things, so a lot of other employers received letters referring to my desire to help the first company.


  12. Clare Al-Aufi Avatar

    Wow ! – I have sent off the articles (before enclosing the documents to gmail) Also I have sent of the pre edited versions by mistake. Luckily my clients are very patient …….

  13. Dana Avatar

    LOL, you guys have given me a good laugh…

  14. Perry P. Perkins Avatar

    One of the first short stories that I submitted, in my teens, was about a mountain man.

    In my ignorance I shipped the manuscripts off to about 40 editors at the same time (groan). I started recieving very strange replies and, looking over the manuscript, I found the following line…

    “They found what was left of old Jim Bridger back in that Grizzly’s cave. His rifle still in his hand and his mouth still full of SHOT.”

    Guess which word I had misspelled and how?

  15. Kristen Avatar

    When I was just starting out as a medical editor right out of college, I was assigned with coordinating a feature in the magazine that was like a puzzle. I was also learning acronyms and medical terminology at the time.

    Well, needless to say I wrote an answer up as “QID” not “QD;” that made the puzzle’s “answer” to say something about taking birth control pills 4 times a day. It published, and I have never forgot that feeling when the first (or many) readers’ letters came in. (I cried…thankfully, my editor-in-chief had a good attitude about the error.)

  16. Joellen Barak Avatar

    Let’s just say I’ve learned to be very careful about spelling the word “public” after omitting the “l” in an article about choosing a school for your teenager…

    1. Terreece Clarke Avatar

      That’s hilarious Joellen! Especially for an article about teens.

  17. Kristen King Avatar

    I haven’t had anything totally cringeworthy in print (or if I have, I’ve blocked it out), but I did just about crawl under my desk in embarrassment over one error I made in editing a medical textbook. The project manager clued me in to the fact that I’d been hyphenating “obsessive-compulsive” inconsistently, even sometimes in the same sentence. How’s that for irony? Still not sure how I managed to do that, but fortunately it was easy to fix and not a particularly big deal. 🙂 And she seemed to think it was hilarious.

  18. David Dittell Avatar


    I tend to rewrite my sentences by copy-pasting and comparing the new one visually to the old one. Unfortunately, sometimes this leads me to leave behind extra sentences and bits. It’s happened a few times, where a sentence would end and there’ll be a fragment of that old sentence right after it.

    It’s not even word choice or a typo — there’s just a random few words in the middle of nowhere, and only I could possibly guess why.

  19. Stephanie Faris Avatar

    I had one today. I had a scheduled 3pm call with a client. Right before, a different client e-mailed to ask if we could move a call from 3pm to 5pm. Because it’s not like I have all that many calls (1-2 a day on a busy day!), I wrongly assumed it was my 3pm and responded that we’d have to do it tomorrow…then hopped on my treadmill for my afternoon walk. Needless to say, my 3pm was FURIOUS that I was 5 minutes late to the call…and really, there was no getting out of it. I told her what happened but she wasn’t really all that understanding. She felt like I was disrespecting her time.

  20. Stephanie Durden Edwards Avatar

    In addition to freelance writing, I am a staff writer and a columnist for the local newspaper. Several months ago I wrote a column about an interaction with my teenage daughter. In the piece I meant to say that I committed the “cardinal sin” of talking to my middle schooler in front of a group of friends, only I wrote “carnal sin” instead. My editor found me in the office, and pointed it out to me with tears streaming down her face from laughing so hard. She laughed all the way back to the office. It took some time to live that one down.

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