How to Kill a Freelance Writing Gig (Before it Even Starts)

It’s your first real break into freelance writing.

You’ve spent countless days, weeks and even months learning the ins and outs of getting paid to write.

Every spare minute is devoted to getting your little blogger butt ready for writing gigs.

How to Kill a Freelance Writing Gig (Before it Even Starts)

From starting a blog and perfecting every post to being present on all the big social media platforms to having your own writer website – you are ready to open shop.

And then it finally happens – those guest posts you’ve been writing finally paid off. One of the blog owners wants to hire you for weekly content.

You’re ecstatic because this is your first paid writing gig and it’s with a popular blog that you already know and have written for.

You decide to give all your attention to this one client because after all, they are paying you and they want consistent content.

So, you stop pitching, no longer write posts for your own blog and even avoid updating your social media profiles.

Maybe your story is a little different.

Maybe you’ve been a freelance writer for a while now, and it’s going well. You only have one or two clients, but that’s okay because they require weekly content.

However, six months goes by and you haven’t sent out a pitch email. Next thing you know, one client decides to go a different way with their blog and you’re down a client.

You’re Killing Your Chance at a Freelance Writing Gig

If you don’t already know, freelance writing is a hustle game.

When you think you have enough clients and everything is running smoothly, something awful happens and half your clients let you go and you’re left scrambling to find more work.

When it’s good, you forget to keep up with marketing and promoting your content, pitching and updating your blog.

While this might hurt your chances at landing any new freelance writing gigs, keeping the ones you have or nurturing future prospects is equally important to do.

So, in an effort to help you not ruin your chance at landing your next big break, here are 3 ways you can kill your chance at a freelance writing gig before it even starts (I even provide real life examples).

1. You’re Too Pushy

You can’t help it, right?

You suddenly land your ideal client, and you’re ecstatic. You want to do everything possible to keep and retain this client.

But, you were too pushy and your gig went from 8 posts a months to 4 posts a month. Half your pay is gone and now you aren’t able to pay your bills.

How do you know if you’re too pushy?

One way is by asking too many questions.

It’s understandable – here’s a new client and you have a few questions to ask in order to understand their content needs.

After all, it’s up to us to represent our client’s voice and brand. That’s why they hired us, right?

Let’s look at a real life example.  I pitched to a client and after reviewing my samples, he was interested in collaborating with me.

At this time, this would have been my third client. I was excited and wanted to make sure I had all the information I needed to make my blog posts reflect his brand (click on the email to read it).

questionsemail

Now, these weren’t all the questions I had. My email indicated I had even more questions than the 4 questions I asked.

On the same night, I emailed him this long list of questions:

longques

Now, if you were a young lad with a  brand new start up looking to hire a blogger or two, how would you approach this conversation? Would you run for the hills?

Unfortunately, all these questions squashed my chances at working with this awesome start up company.

I didn’t hear from him for a few days after I sent that email. So, I sent a follow up email and this is what he told me:

a-nogoThis was a complete eye opener and I’m grateful for this person for giving me constructive feedback. I had no idea that my questions would be overwhelming. I figured businesses have worked with freelancers and know that questions will be asked.

But, because of this one incident, I no longer send emails with a million questions. I ask these questions when it’s relevant and only ask a few at a time.

2. You’re Presenting Yourself Like a “Know-It-All” (Rather Than Someone Who is Skilled at Their Job)

Don’t you hate people who tell you you’re wrong and they’re right?

It can be annoying and even frustrating.

They think they are helping you, but in all reality, you’re not listening to them and they start to dismiss what you are saying.

It’s the same with freelance writing clients. While it’s our job to know everything about SEO, lead geneartion, digital marketing, branding, blogger outreach, content marketing and all that information that’s in our industry, realize that many potential clients don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

And if you present it in a way that is demeaning or patronizing, you could be rubbing your client the wrong way.

Let’s take a real life example. I noticed on a client’s blog that many of the writers failed to include internal links in their blog posts.

So, I thought maybe I could mention this to the client and at the same time upsell my services. This is what I ended up saying in my email:

linkquestion

By casually mentioning an issue and saying that you can fix it is a great way to show your client you are knowledgeable and can provide lots of services.

I could’ve written this such that it might appear as uncalled for advice.

No one likes to be called out on their faults.

The client agreed, but because of their budgeting costs they decided not to hire me for my editing services.

3. You’re Making Too Many Assumptions

Everyone knows what happens when you make assumptions, correct?

I learned early on in my freelance writing career that I sucked at communicating. For some reason, I made a lot of assumptions.

One of my earlier clients had me edit a piece and gave me a short deadline.

I knew this client was in a different country and calculated when the absolute latest time I could hand in the piece (I know now that it’s better to exceed deadlines than to wait till the last minute to turn in your work).

The deadline was “end of day Tuesday.”

I received an email from the client saying that I passed the deadline. I was confused because it was 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning. My email clearly indicated my frantic-ness.

deadlineI obviously never worked with anyone outside North America, so my lack of experience clearly showed here.

The client was very understanding and I quickly learned that when writing emails to clients, make sure:

  • To be as clear as possible
  • To itemize my concerns or questions
  • To confirm any agreements made in previous correspondences

Freelance Writing Has a Learning Curve

When you begin your freelance writing journey, be prepared for multiple mistakes. Whether you fail to impress prospects with a pitch letter or your negotiation tactics are ineffective – learning the freelance writing ropes takes time.

I hope my real life examples will help any new freelance writers with navigating their road to success.

So, have you almost ruined a chance at a freelance writing gig? If so, tell me the story!

Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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26 Comments

Thanks for the helpful advice, Elna.Reply to Chris
What a great article, Elna! I just stumbled across it via the Write Your Way to 1k course. I’m definitely guilty of sometimes asking too many questions with clients — so thank you for all these tips 🙂Reply to Mercedes
Hi Mercedes! Yes! I know what you mean. With something new you just want to be absolutely correct before doing it! I had to learn the hard way and I’m glad my students wouldn’t have these mistakes!Reply to Elna
I have been writing for over 10 years, but really started stressing about freelance writing in the last 3, but I was not getting many gigs. I am starting to open up more about what I want in a freelance writing job, but I am also listening to what clients want as well.Reply to Patricia
Hi Patricia! That’s awesome! Yes, being open to receiving feedback brings more opportunities! Good luck!Reply to Elna
This blog post officially has me a little scared. I’m afraid I might end up asking too many questions at first because I’m still learning the ropes of freelance writing. I hope I don’t end up that way but you never know. Luckily, my first client is a very nice guy and I don’t have a million and one questions to ask him yet. I hope that doesn’t change anytime soon. (ha ha)Reply to Lisa
This piece of writing provides clear idea in favor of the new people of blogging, that actually how to do blogging.Reply to tiroid
There are lots of potentially potholes to avoid Elna! You certainly have made the case for getting yourself a qualified mentor/coach asap!LOL! Because no matter what, we’re all gonna have to get our feet wet in the real world, one way or the other. But at least whenever we can shave a few minor scrapes off our potential list of inevitable mishaps, it makes perfect sense to do so! Thank goodness there are experts out there, willing to point out where some of the potential landmines are!LOL! Thanks!Reply to Mark
Hi Elna, your examples are really helpful as I’m sure a lot of us would make the exact same mistakes if we’d not spotted this first. Thank you so much. I’ve just signed to your email course so look forward to learning all your tips.Reply to Mrs
Hi Mrs. P! Thanks for signing up to my course. I hope you like it and let me know how you liked it! As for my mistakes in this post, yes it’s something every freelance writer will face once or more in their career. But, the important lesson is how you recover! Thanks!Reply to Elna
Great post and extremely helpful. I signed up for your 6 day email course and am so thankful to have come across it. I just recently created my blog (in June) and my goal is to write full time, leaving my dreaded 9 to 5 job. Thank you so much again for providing this great content.Reply to Kathy
Hey Kathy! Rock on! Super pumped you signed up to my email course. Let me know what you think about it once you’re done and I might be able to use your testimonial on my site! I absolutely love your goal and it’s super possible! Let me know if you need more guidance to get you there!Reply to Elna
I am a blogger and freelance writer. Just started freelancing and I can relate. I have twin toddlers and I write when they nap. Many don’t understand how I juggle it all. I have been carefully not to overwhelm my clients with too many questions so far.Reply to Stella
That’s great Stella! Happy to meet another WAHM with twins! Let’s band together okay? ElnaReply to Elna
I love all your input!! How do you find the time??!! 🙂Reply to Crystal
Hey Crystal, I am one busy mama! I do all my client work with my twins sleep. So they have an afternoon nap for about an hour and a half and when they go to bed I work for about 2 hours. So my total is three and a half hours a day! Sometimes I can’t believe it! ElnaReply to Elna
These are great examples, Elna – I appreciate you showing your own experiences to help us out! I have the same issue with never knowing if I’m asking too many or not enough questions – but you get better at it the more you do.Reply to Kelly
Hi Kelly, Thanks so much. I always enjoy learning from others and seeing their mistakes so thought I’d share some of mine. I still make mistakes like negotiation mistakes or managing mistakes on my end, but I’m learning. Being a solopreneur is new for me so I’m bound to mess up here and there!Reply to Elna
Thank you for sharing from your own experiences!Reply to Ashley
Hi Ashley, Thanks for stopping by! I hope my experiences will help other freelancers and writers. It’s always best to learn from others, right? ElnaReply to Elna
Hi Elna, This is a great post – love the transparency of sharing real life examples! I’m still at the beginning of my freelance journey and have learned from experience that things can change very quickly! In terms of writing clients’ requirements though, so far I’ve had either skype calls or meetings to sort out these details, and I follow up with an email. And I also have my coaching clients for a real variety of work! 🙂Reply to Rachael
Hi Rachel Glad you liked my real life examples! It’s always great to learn from someone else’s mistakes right? Lol. Skype calls or meetings are great ways to sort things out if email just doesn’t cut it. It does take a fast learning curve, though, doesn’t it when you’re a freelance writer? Good luck on your freelance writing career! ElnaReply to Elna
Thanks for this! Very insightful, and also very brave of you to share those personal errors and learning curves with us. Those points are all noted! So far for me I have been very lucky to land 3 freelance clients all through friends (its all who you know right?) so my situation is a lot more casual, but I must make a note not to be complacent. I am literally brand spanking new so I’ll be sure checking back in with you for more advice! Thanks and keep it coming 🙂Reply to Mel
Hi Mel, Happy to hear you have three freelance writing clients! So good to hear you realize that even though you have these clients, you may not have them next month. Pitch and market and guest post is the key to growing your business and landing more clients! Good luck and thanks for stopping by. ElnaReply to Elna
Awesome post, Elna! I’m a fellow question-asker myself 🙂 I totally agree with your assessment of the situation – a few questions at a time when relevant is always a better way to approach things. By the way, an idea – if you’re sure you want to work with someone, get them on a call. You can ask all of these questions then and it would not bother them. It would feel as a conversation, not an interrogation, and might even impress them how you’ve thought about everything that you’d need to do a great job 🙂 If I may, I’d like to introduce another perspective, too – for the benefit of somewhat experienced freelancers who are too picky about their clients, looking for ways to shortlist them. I use a questionnaire to vet prospects. It consists of “a few” questions and I’m sure some clients are put off by it. but if a prospect isn’t willing to take the time to address them, it’s a clear signal for me we won’t work well together. If they are not invested to help me understand their needs by answering a few preliminary questions so I can decide if I can help and how much it would cost, how could I expect them to help me along the way to bring their business to the next level? It may be profession specific, too (I’m in marketing) but I never work with people who ignore my questions or insist on having calls before giving me any info about themselves and their business whatsoever. Too many times I have ended up wasting my time talking to people and calculating quotes for projects, on which I have absolutely no interest to work. Since I tightened up my vetting process, I don’t waste my time… I’m sure I’m losing business this way but I *choose* to do it so, at least for now 🙂 I hope this gives good food for thought – and thanks again for a great post! ~DianaReply to Diana
Hi Diana! Great points you made. Having a questionnaire either on your contact list or via email is a great way to quickly assess if this is the right client for you. At this point in my career, I welcome any new prospects that come my way. I enjoy learning about new companies and how I can help them out. It doesn’t take much time out of my schedule and in the process I’m learning how to negotiate and communicate with prospects. In regards to questions, I do ask preliminary questions, but it’s less formal and more conversational (in my email). I no longer give a 12 point questionnaire to prospects. It’s unnecessary – at least for me at this point in my profession. Most of my clients seek me out for blog writing, so I only need to ask about the target audience and frequency of posts. Other areas such as having a byline can be asked later. ElnaReply to Elna