You can’t seem to figure it out:
You’re pitching daily, marketing your latest blog post on social media and you’re even approaching your clients for referral work.
But no one is biting.
You haven’t had a new client in two months and the ones you do have aren’t even the best clients around. Something gives and you don’t know what.
I’ve been freelance writing for less than a year and in that time I’ve learned some valuable lessons. I’ve also killed some awesome freelance writing gigs along the way.
But, for many of my mistakes, I had no clue I was making them.
This wasn’t good for my business and it’s certainly not good for you.
If you’re trying to get paid for your writing, wouldn’t it be a good idea to make sure you can keep the clients you have and never worry about having enough money to pay the bills?
Because I’m sure you don’t want to lose another client, get told, “uh, no thanks” to your latest pitch or even end up ruining your reputation (ouch, could that be the worst?). Mistakes happen, but they don’t have to happen to you.
Here are four freelance mistakes many freelance writers often overlook – and could cost them their clients and cash.
1. Your Writing Sucks
I’m not the best writer. Heck, I don’t even have a writing degree. My background is in Psychology. But, even though writing isn’t in my blood, I have very happy clients under my belt.
Part of this reason is because my writing doesn’t suck.
What does this mean?
When my clients receive my work it is free of errors, free of big words and is easy to read. So, let’s look at this a little deeper.
Your Writing Has Mistakes
I know, we’re human.
We make mistakes (I mean, this is what the post is about, right?). Well, I don’t know about you, but if I’m being paid for something, I’m going to do my darndest to make sure my writing doesn’t have any mistakes.
(Now, comments – that is another thing. Since I do most of my commenting on other blogs during the day when I have my twin toddlers around, I end up having mistakes in my comments and not realizing it.)
What types of mistakes do I mean?
- Improper use of capitalization. For example, writers will capitalize a word that doesn’t need to be capitalized like Blogging or Copywriting in a sentence.
- Those darn your vs you’re words. Most editing tools catch this silly mistake, but not always.
- Forgetting to make a word plural. For example, “you can even make some of the major change to your entire home office.”
- Using unnecessary words. For me, the biggest one is using the word, that. If the sentence still makes sense without using it, then remove it. For example, this sentence sounds fine if we remove the first that, “Well, I know that I’m not the only person who has ever felt that way about LinkedIn.” Other articles you can cut from your writing are: which, a, the, and an.
- Being too wordy. You might think saying more will help get your point across. But, it doesn’t; it only makes your thoughts cluttered and hard to understand. So, for example, instead of, “There is a need for more inspection in your writing,” you can simply write, “Inspect your writing consistently.” Here are some more great editing tips.
- Writing a list post with no list. If your headline is something like, “5 Ways To Type Wickedly Fast,” I expect a numbered list. I often see list posts without a list.
Your Writing Is Difficult to Understand
Sure, using big fancy words shows off your great vocabulary. But, when it comes to online writing, you don’t want your readers needing a dictionary just to read your post, do you?
People have very limited attention spans when they read blog posts. In fact, only about 20-28% of people actually read word for word.
So, when you use big, complex words, people will have a harder time skimming your post and will end up skipping it altogether. Using big words also slows down your writing.
Instead of thinking about the perfect word to use, just use a simple one:
- Instead of quell use squash
- Instead of happenstance use luck
- Instead of commence use begin
Here are some more alternatives to use.
So, how can you make sure your writing is keeping readers glued to your content? Try putting one of your blog posts or client’s post you’ve written into a readability score calculator.
For one of my blog posts, my overall reading score is at a 5th grade level.
You might also notice my Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level is quite low – around a 4th grade level. The more complex words you use, the higher your score will be.
While you might think this is low, if you look at how well Americans read, around 50% only read at an 8th grade level.
It seems, though, that conversational type writing does well online. So, before choosing a complex word like “subsequently” think about your audience and choose an easier, more conversational type word like, “after” or “finally.”
You’ll get more readers, more shares and readers will be able to relate to you better.
2. You’re Not Charging Enough
When you get an email from a prospective client and they ask you, “so, what’s your rate?” does your heart rate go up? Do your palms suddenly become sweaty?
You don’t want to lose this client with an outrageous quote, but at the same time, you don’t want to slave away writing for pennies either.
So, what do you end up doing? You let fear get the best of you and end up writing a 800 word blog post for $10.
To get out of that mindset remember these four things:
- Don’t limit yourself. What you think is an outrageous rate, is often chump change for many clients.
- Don’t stick to just one rate. It’s best to have a range of a low end and a top end. So pick an amount you will not go below and a high one you hope to get out of every prospect.
- Don’t give every prospect the same rate. You will have writing gigs that are a cinch to write and other ones that take more time to research and write. Don’t give the same rate for these two different jobs. Jobs that require interviews, extensive research, images and anything else extra costs you time. So, make sure to make up for that with a higher rate.
- Develop your niche. When you have expert knowledge in an industry, you can market that for premium rates.
What’s the ideal freelance writing rate? As a freelance writer with a couple clients, they can get away asking for $50 per 500 words when there’s a perceived value attached to the price.
How do you show a perceived value? Here are some ways I show a perceived value in my writing services.
You Know How to Use Styles
Did you know that Microsoft Word and Google Docs have styles? These help you create your headline and subheadings.
When you can show a client you know how to format a post correctly, it makes their job easier. Since most of your client’s blog posts will go into a CMS, having those H1 or H2 headers is a blessing.
You Understand SEO and SMO Editorial
Writing with keywords or with the intention to get social shares is an important element many clients want for their blog.
There are many places to learn about the basics of SEO, such as on Udemy, but understand that the best SEO strategy is to naturally incorporate your keywords and to write for the audience, not Google.
SMO, or Social Media Optimized, editorial uses certain copywriting tactics to lure and hook a reader into reading a blog post.
Such things as a catchy headline, a hook and bucket brigades all hold the attention of the reader and makes them want to read more.
You Have Social Proof
Let’s be honest here:
Owning a lifeless blog is like the uncool kid in high school. No one want to be associated with you. No one will look at you or talk to you.
If you have a lifeless blog and a poor social presence, it will be hard to demand a high rate from some clients.
Clients want to know:
- You know how to write for an online audience
- You update your blog consistently
- You are on all the big social media profiles
- You update your social media profiles regularly
Having social proof you’re a marketer, blogger, or writer earns you credibility as a freelance writer who knows what they’re doing.
I received an email the other day from a pleased client, telling me he read a blog post where I talked about how long I’ve been writing, and was totally impressed. He thought I’d been writing for years.
In fact, he wants me to do a case study on how I achieved so much in such little time.
So, this goes to show, having social proof can really help bump your status as a freelance writer.
3. You’re a Slow Typer
Do you know how fast you type? No matter how efficient you research or how fast you can draw up an outline for your client’s post, if you can’t type fast, you’re essentially losing money.
Linda Formichelli on Copyblogger mentioned,
One time a writer friend watched, jaw hanging open, as I completed an 800-word article in 30 minutes. I was getting paid $400, and I had spent another 60 minutes on two interviews — so my hourly rate was $266.
She goes on to say this is her number one secret to earning more money as a freelance writer.
So, how fast can you type? I took a typing test and this is my score:
Not bad considering the average is around 60 wpm.
But, you get the picture – when you type fast, your hourly rate will be higher.
So if you charge $100 for around 800 words and you can type that in an hour or less, you are making at least $100 per hour.
So, take typing tests to improve your typing, practice more and learn not to look at your hands while you type (I had to break this habit early on).
Some bloggers and writers might find using a speech-to-text tool helpful in doubling their typing speed. A free tool to try is TypeTalker. I haven’t used it, so I don’t know how accurate it is.
A paid tool is Dragon Naturally Speaking. My husband actually had to use this tool when he developed repetitive strain injury (RSI) on his hands.
4. You Don’t Have a Project Management System
Raise your hand if you use notebooks for your client work?
It’s tough to ditch the old pen and paper, but as I’m growing and scaling my business, I’m finding it much more difficult keeping tabs on all my client work with pen and paper.
Even though I haven’t missed a deadline or forgot to invoice a client, I have come very close to that.
Currently I’m looking into a project management system. I’ve looked into Zoho but, I can’t break my projects up into smaller tasks – recurring tasks such as weekly blog posts – without shelling out some money.
I’m one to keep my expenses down, so at the moment I’m using an Excel sheet. I’ve given each client their own tab and I have one overview sheet of my monthly income and expenses.
Other tabs include:
- List of all my clients and content information such as, rate and frequency
- My pitches. I include where I pitch, the email and any important information from the job ad
- List of my sub-contract workers and their emails
I also have a Word document with my ongoing work for each client. I cross them off once I receive payment from the client.
But, I need a better system if I want to maximize my earnings and be able to scale my business even more.
So, if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments!
Earn More As a Freelance Writer (And Keep Your Clients Happy)
Every freelance writer will make a few blunders in their career.
Just remember to learn from them and use them to help make you a better freelance writer.
Learning to self-edit your work is an ongoing process. When you first start out as a freelance writer, you’re going to doubt your ability to write and be successful.
So, the faster you learn to write and type better, the more confidence you’ll have to charge more for your services.
And don’t forget to build a strong social media presence. The bigger the reach you have online, the more people will see your work and contact you. This has helped me land several clients, one being an influencer.
Now it’s your turn – what do you think the biggest mistakes freelance writers make?
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