3 Costly Freelance Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

freelance writing mistakes

The competitive nature of freelance writing is as fierce as the wildlife in the Amazon rainforest.


Like the jungle, global talents are pitted into an online arena wherein you are considered as a small player. I am talking about decorated writers who may have a master’s degree in creative writing or current college instructors who want to make money on the side.

Like I said, it is a jungle out there, and it can be incredibly intimidating for freelance writers new to the game. Every new writer will face their share of ups and downs. However, if you can take my advice and learn from my mistakes, there are some pitfalls you may be better off avoiding.

The following are three costly freelance writing mistakes that will make you want to quit. Knowing them upfront will help you avoid them in the future and allow you a better shot at making your freelance writing career work for you.

1. Asking for the Moon

This is one of the most common freelance writing mistakes newbies can make. When I was in the early days of my freelance writing career, I usually quoted a price equal or less than the average bids. Why? I knew back then that such a price helps neutralize competition. Also, that price range gave justice to my flashy-yet-rookie skills. I realized that I had not reached my ceiling yet, so I did not expect compensation on par with the pros.

A common mistake committed by a newbie freelance writer is to expect an ‘accelerated pay’ immediately upon entering the freelancer’s jungle.  If you have no formal education in writing or know-how of a certain niche, you have to pay your dues before you can start requesting the big bucks for big gigs.

A typical rate for new freelance writers is between $0.01 – $0.04 per word. This rate — low as it may seem — can work well for writers who have the ability not just to type quickly, but think on the fly. Of course, hustle and hard work will always pay off. If you stay at it long enough, you will eventually start to land more and more lucrative writing gigs.

The moral? Work at a rate that you can tolerably accept as a newcomer. If you want to start making more money, you need to walk the talk by crafting brilliant content for happy clients. Like any profession, you have to work and earn your way to the top.

As the saying goes, you lost the moon while counting the stars. Freelance writing requires business savvy and the ability to recognize when you should be earning more, or when not to stir the pot if the after-work benefits (referrals, testimonials, rehires) are working in your favor.

2. Not Doing Your Homework

Unfortunately, in today’s online market, there is an onslaught of fake gigs, and dummy accounts purporting to be real clients online. This can make it hard to establish trust with a new customer. For any writer, there is nothing more infuriating than working for someone who has no intention of paying you.

Freelance writers must be vigilant when screening potential new clients.

Though not absolute guarantees, here are some actions to safeguard your business and ensure your transaction ends (or begins) with payment:

  • Screen clients: If you are sourcing new gigs on popular content sites like Upwork, or Freelancer, check if the client has an established payment method, and if they have sufficient stars on their “reviews” section. If you are sourcing your own clients, be sure to do your homework and check their sources — who have they used as writers in the past? What has their experience been? This doesn’t take hard investigative work — usually, a quick Google search will garner the answers you’re looking for.
  • Set milestones: All legitimate freelance websites, such as Upwork, or Freelancer, have this function. Since payments are based on project completion and are automatically deducted from your client’s account, there is no escaping financial obligations.
  • Communicate frequently: A genuine client exhibits enthusiasm in discussing project specifics. If a potential client rarely replies to your inquiries or seldom gives feedback, you may want to think twice before doing any work. This rings especially true if you are sourcing your own clients through your website, or online job postings. 
  • Ask the community: Most professional freelancing sites have a writers forum online, where freelancers are able to share best practices and solutions to common problems. They can also ask for a particular client’s reputation and trustworthiness through the group. Check if a potential client is included on their blacklist.
  • Never do free samples: If a client wants to test your proficiency and finesse in writing, there’s no better way than to look at your writing portfolio. Your writing portfolio should include samples of your best published work, and ideally be accessible online. If a client asks you to write a ‘sample’ that you believe is related to his field, make sure they also offer to compensate you for it.

Being scammed or taken advantage of in the industry is something no writer should have to experience. Experiencing it can make you want to quit and simply throw in the towel. However, freelance writing requires resilience and hard work. Always do your homework before working with a new client.

3. Thinking of the Short-Term

When freelance writers start cashing in money from voluminous writing gigs, they tend to be contented. They forget that the real prize of increased project rates lies heavily on investing.

In his article, “5 Essential Things Top Freelance Writers Invest in to Grow Their Business,” Internet Marketing Copywriter, Codrut Turcanu provides us with some insights on how freelance writers can truly expand their reach.

Invest in Outsourcing

Finding success as a freelancer means writing, A LOT. Eventually, you may find yourself so bogged down with work that you cannot keep up. This is when it is helpful to invest in outsourcing. Outsource your workload to other writers at a lower cost, and then insert your personal voice and expertise into the article after the bulk of it has been written. Hiring skilled writers to accommodate escalating orders is a smart business move when considering overall profitability. You can find great new writers to outsource your work to by posting a job on the Writer’s Job Board. Alternatively, you can post a job ad on Craiglist or one of the freelancer platforms we previously mentioned.

Invest in Technology

Anything that shortens your process or refines what you habitually do is worth spending your money on. That is what mobile-based writing and editing tools endow you.

The software often comes at a lump sum price with yearly renewals. Just think of the innumerable benefits you will get in the indefinite future when you feel indifferent about purchasing.

Here are some great productivity software we recommend to streamline you work flow.

  • FreshBooks – A cloud-based billing software that you can read more about here.
  • Grammarly – If you have a tendency to miss a comma here and there, or get confused as to when you should use a semi-colon, this grammar software is definitely for you. You can read our full review here.

Invest in Relationships

Stay connected with your clients. Attend networking events. Follow-up with customers. You never know where you might find a good lead or your next big gig. Every successful freelancer knows that sometimes the best marketing is simply word-of-mouth.

Invest in Education

Trainings, seminars, and workshops not only serve as decorations on your resume but also attest to your competency about a subject matter.

Needless to say, you need to be versatile in freelance writing. Money-spinning gigs are usually found in the more specialized niches, requiring formal training.
There are also many writing communities which offer training programs, online workshops, writing tips, and even have their very own job boards, such as the Freelance Writer’s Den and Contena.

Invest in books

There’s a good reason as to why I frequently read SEO eBooks from HubSpot. It increases my knowledge and keeps me informed on the latest industry trends I need for search engine popularity.

Reading is not all about expanding your niche. It also encompasses learning street-smarts and practical tips from established experts.

It is important to note that all of the aforementioned “mistakes” are attitudes rather than technicalities, in writing. By avoiding these negative outlooks, you can easily scale your freelance career.

Monica Morgan

Monica Morgan is a free-spirited woman having vast experience in article writing. She loves to travel Asian countries, writing reviews on each of them on her website, and prefers using diverse writing styles to properly engage with a wide array of readers.

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