Improve Your Freelance Writing Prospects with These 8 Expert Tips
Common freelance writing pitfalls to help you troubleshoot and improve your business model.
When you read about freelance writing, it seems grand.
Working from a laptop at the beach. Saying goodbye to early morning commutes. Enjoying your day, free from micromanaging supervisors.
Freelancing has its perks, yes. But it’s not enough to just be a good writer. Business skills are also essential. Without them, you limit your potential for success.
If you’re aiming to build a profitable freelancing business, watch for these common freelancing pitfalls.
#1 You’re lacking structure and organization.
Freelancers don’t always work within the same structures as a traditional employee. Employees clock in at a designated time and space. Supervisors keep them accountable — you’re less likely to procrastinate and watch Netflix when you should be working.
Freelancers, on the other hand, must be self-accountable. They set their own hours, deadlines and find clients. And when you’re the boss, you might be giving yourself more slack than you should.
Tip: Treat freelancing like a job.
Like you would as an employee, you show up on time, ready to work. There’s no, I’ll get to it later because I can work whenever. You’re ready to work at this time, at this desk, to finish this task.
#2 You’re not seeking new clients regularly.
Freelancers often go through feast and famine cycles. One month, you’re drowning in more projects than you can handle. The next month, tumbleweeds. If you’re not regularly seeking new clients and freelance writing jobs, you leave yourself vulnerable to extended famine periods.
Tip: Set aside 30 to 60 minutes daily for seeking new leads.
By marketing yourself daily, you can eliminate or shorten those famine periods. If you’re lucky, you may even build a waitlist of clients — that means paid work always in the pipeline.
#3 You’ve been undercharging (for too long).
In the beginning, you may feel comfortable with undercharging. You’re just starting and you think it fair, considering your inexperience. But don’t let yourself get stuck in low-paying gigs indefinitely, either.
Employees typically negotiate a raise annually. It’s similar for freelancers. You’re responsible for raising your freelance writing rates — especially to keep pace with rising inflation.
Tip: As you gain more experience and expertise, increase your rates.
Moving forward, quote prospective clients with your higher rate. For existing retainer clients, give them two- to three-month notice that you’re increasing your freelance writing rates.
#4 You’re not being a very good CFO.
When employees their paychecks, the taxes are already deducted. When you’re self-employed, you need to do that yourself. If you don’t hire a bookkeeper or accountant, you’re responsible for being your own chief financial officer.
Tip: Transfer taxes when income hits your account.
When you receive payment, immediately set aside a percentage of that income for taxes (don’t forget savings!). Keeping up with this helps you prepare for when Uncle Sam comes asking for his money.
#5 You’re operating without a client onboarding process.
When somebody lands on your website or portfolio, do you outline a clear roadmap for that visitor to turn from prospect to client? Do you provide details on what it’s like to work with you?
Or do you just slap your email address on there and call it a day?
Onboarding processes helps freelancers stay organized and vet prospective clients before working with them. They only work with serious clients that can work within their rates and workflow.
Tip: Create or update your onboarding process.
Consider creating a step-by-step process on what it’s like to work with you from start to finish. FAQs can also help save time (your rates, processes, revisions, etc.). You can post this on your website or create a stylized PDF you send to interested prospects.
#6 Your niche is too generic.
There are several advantages to specializing within a freelance writing niche. For one, you can charge more — companies with big budgets want to work with a writer knowledgeable about their industry.
Also, it’s helpful for securing clients. Most likely, content managers and editors are seeking “finance writers” or “healthcare content marketer” — not “generic wordsmith.”
As you gain more expertise, you also write faster. You understand the industry jargon and you need to do less research.
Tip: Refine your niche.
If you’ve been writing across multiple subjects, consider choosing one to specialize in. It could be a niche you enjoyed writing about or one that pays especially well.
Remember: your niche isn’t permanent. If you discover writing about healthcare doesn’t work, you can pivot to a different industry.
#7 You’re not collecting valuable social proof.
Growing your freelance writing portfolio is important, but take it a step further. If a project goes well, ask for metrics or proof that highlights your services. This might look like:
- Positive testimonial of your services
- X% increase in subscribers from your blog post
Social proof helps create a future-facing portfolio. As you grow your freelance business, your social proof becomes a valuable marketing tool for attracting higher-quality clients.
Tip: Create a post-project process
For instance, after a project is completed, you can send an exit survey that includes a section for the client to write a testimonial. Or you might set a reminder to follow up one month after the article goes live to collect data on its performance.
#8 You’re not learning and applying improvements.
I clearly remember the first time a client returned my draft with revisions. I was devastated. Painted red, with tons of requested revisions — I thought I hit the mark.
But I realized it wasn’t all terrible. They were suggestions to improve my writing and editing skills.
Tip: Continuously study and sharpen your writing skills.
Don’t just apply your revisions and move on. Take time to study these requests. Why did the editor ask for them? What makes it better? How can I apply this next time?
Taking this approach teaches you how to be a better writer. And over time, you sharpen your expertise, allowing you to command higher rates.
Freelance Writing FAQs
What makes most beginner freelancers fail?
If a freelancer is unable to convince prospective clients of the value they can offer, they’re unlikely to secure business. By positioning yourself as a professional and expert — through social proof (case studies, testimonials, etc.) and a clear niche, for instance — you can close contracts and command higher rates.
What could be the disadvantages of freelancing?
Freelancers can often struggle with feast and famine cycles — one month they’re fully booked, but the next month, they’re scrambling for work. Many freelancers often wear multiple hats, including bookkeeping and marketing, which can add more responsibility and stress. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of freelance writing before getting started.
Dan is a freelance writer specializing in small business and personal finance. He works with FinTech and B2B companies and has written extensively about small business, from startup guides to payment processor reviews. Hire him to write for YOU at danmarticio.com.