10 Common Mistakes Made by Freelance Writers

Stop Mistakes

The world of freelance writing is quite competitive, so it is important to make sure you’re making as few mistakes as possible.  Of course, that applies to spelling & grammar mistakes, but this post is specifically about common mistakes freelance writers make concerning how they run their business.  Avoiding these issues will help you to become a successful freelance writer much more quickly, and with far fewer headaches.

  1. You don’t have a Website for Your Freelance Business
    While you might not think having a website is important as a freelance writer today, there will come a time when you wish you had one.  Having your own site will give you a variety of benefits which can’t be found any other way.  In addition to simply seeming more professional, you can enjoy these benefits:
    First, it gives you an easy place to refer potential clients to for samples of your writing.  Second, if a client offers you the option of including a link in the bio box of a post, having a website will be essential.  Finally, having a website will, over time, bring in search engine traffic, which can convert into new customers.
  2. You Rely on a Single Client
    It is exciting when you get that first private client who is ordering articles each day, or each week.  Some freelance writers focus all their energy on this one client, and forget to keep marketing themselves.  It is never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, so make sure you’re always trying to branch out, and get new clients.  Having dozens of clients who order a few times per month will help ensure you are not at the mercy of one or two larger clients.  Of course, you never want to turn away the work from a large client either, so it is an important balancing act.
  3. You Stop Marketing while you’re Busy
    When writers have a lot of work that needs to be written, they often put all their marketing efforts on hold.  While this makes sense at first, it is actually a bad idea for long term success.  Having a steady stream of new work is essential, and if you’re not marketing, you won’t get the new clients.  If you feel you’re getting more work than you can handle, consider raising your rates for all new clients now, and slowly increase the rates of existing ones.
  4. You’re not actively marketing At All
    Some freelance writers don’t take marketing seriously, and just rely on content mills, referrals and finding clients that fall in their lap.  While those types of things are great, it is not enough.  Marketing yourself to find new private clients is absolutely essential for long term success.  You never know when a content mill is going to close shop, or stop paying.   Finding new places to write, and private clients, all come from marketing yourself properly.
  5. Your Rates are arbitrarily Set
    If you can’t answer the question, “Why are you charging me $X for this order” than you need to take a moment and look over your rates.  Businesses don’t set the price of their products without understanding why, and as a freelance writer, you are a business.  When setting your price, factor in things like the value of your time, the cost of electricity, depreciation on the tools you use (computer, desk, chair, ect), and how much it would cost to rent an office space to work in (even if you’re working from home).
    Using all the data you gather, you can set a fair price which really makes sense.  Of course, make sure to also include the value of the content you’re providing and the demand.  Good writers should be able to make a real living as a freelance writer, so make sure you are charging enough to do just that.
  6. Ignoring Taxes
    You are a self-employed worker.  Many sites and clients won’t report your income to the IRS, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay the tax man.  If the IRS finds out about this income, you will be responsible for all the back taxes and other penalties.  Make sure you understand your obligations to the government in your country, and keep up on them from day one.
  7. Failing to Get Paid
    Many great writers find that they aren’t that good at keeping track of invoices, billing clients or following up with people who haven’t yet paid.   Whether you decide to only work after you’ve been paid in full, or you have a different payment management strategy in mind, make sure you are always getting paid for everything you write.
    If a client refuses to pay, attempt to sell the content you wrote for them on sites like constant-content or even just post it on your site as an example of your work. This will ensure you are getting some value out of your hard work.
  8. Failing to Save for Retirement
    If you are working as a freelance writer full time, you need to treat the income just like it was coming from a regular job.  This means saving for retirement, your kids college and other future expenses.
  9. No Rainy Day Fund
    When you start making good money as a freelance writer, it is important to set aside money for a ‘rainy day.’  What happens if, for example, you break a finger and you’re unable to type for a month, or the speed at which you can type drops during that time?  You need to have some money set aside to live on until you’re back up to full speed.
  10. You Don’t Take Your Business Seriously
    This is a common problem for people who are freelance writing as a second income.  Even if this isn’t your only source of income, it is important to treat it like a legitimate business, which it is.  Plan for the future of the business, keep track of expenses related to the business, treat your clients as business clients, ect.  You’ll make far more money, and have far less stress, when you start treating your business like a real business, and not just a hobby.

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      • Jaideep Majumdar says

        Thank you.

        I do not know if it is out of place to tell you about this, nonetheless I will go ahead and say it.
        Actually I have been doing freelance writing for the past three years and have written for a leading newspaper in India for a period of time. Besides, I have done some academic writing, short stories and lots of articles and blogs. I do my writing part-time as I am in a regular job. Do you think I should go ahead and have my own website even when I am not able to devote full time?
        I am also a bit confused as to how I should price my articles. Your point regarding the tax element was a really good one as I never considered that and end up paying a lot of tax at the end.
        I shall be extremely thankful if you can take a look at some of my work and let me know how I should go about.

        • says

          Hey, Thanks for posting, and this is the perfect place for it.

          Yes, I think you should have your own website. I think it is an important part of marketing. It will help you appear more professional, and can even bring in new clients.

          Setting prices can be difficult. That specific topic is on my list to write about. It depends a lot on the quality of writing you’re capable of, and the types of clients you’re working for. I would be happy to look at your work. You can send it to me at Michael@writeformoneyonline.com.


  1. says

    I completely agree about the first point. While my website isn’t visually stunning, it’s a convenient way to provide my background and experience for potential clients. Instead of sending off my resume, I think directing them to a website is more professional and convenient for both parties. Plus, you can eventually add things like PayPal plug-ins to help facilitate getting paid on time.
    Monica Dube recently posted…Freelance SEO writer vs. SEO agency: which one is best for your business?My Profile

    • says

      Absolutely! I think having a website is absolutely essential for any freelance writer. Especially when you consider how cheap it is to own and manage one. You can get everything built for under $25, and then it is under $10 per month for hosting. And that’s if you do it all the paid way!


  2. AJ Everton says

    Thank you for this great post! This is very helpful for someone like me who is just starting out in the writing business. I found the last point to be particularly helpful. When you work from home it is easy to put it off, work while watching a movie, or get distracted with other things. It is important to set a specific amount of hours to work without distractions, or set a certain number of articles/jobs to get done each day and then stick to it.
    Thank you for all of your helpful advice!

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