4 Monumental Mistakes New Freelance Writers Make

I see it over and over again.

New freelance writers making the biggest mistakes and then wondering why they don’t have any clients, or the clients they do have, pay them pennies.

They don’t realize what they’re doing is holding them back from finding easy ways to make money online and from growing their business and make a living from writing.

4 Monumental Mistakes New Freelance Writers Make

I know, because every one of the mistakes I’m going to mention in this post I did when I first started.

Being a Freshman Freelance Writer

I just finished my freshman year as a freelance writer and I learned a lot. Starting off on your own is difficult. Especially, if this isn’t your full-time gig.

I’m a work-at-home-mom with twin toddlers and I had to learn the freelance writing ropes while having to juggle taking care of my children and running a household.

I knew nothing about WordPress, blogging and had no idea what Google Docs was. It’s an understatement when I say I was green starting out.

But, even though I made mistakes along the way, I was able to build my freelance writing business from starting at $1.62 a post (NEVER AGAIN)

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to now making, on average, hundreds of dollars a post. But, this didn’t come easy. I had to hustle, pitch, produce epic content and try hard to be available for my clients.

My story isn’t unusual; you can achieve this even if you make these four monumental mistakes.

1. Taking Any Work That Comes Your Way

It’s hard starting out. You have expenses to pay – like food and rent – and you’re scared you won’t be able to pay them. And it’s terrifying when you have children to support.

But, this doesn’t mean you should take or pitch to any work that comes your way. I mean look at me. I started on iWriter – a legit content mill – and I absolutely hated it.

I almost quit right then and there. I spent hours writing some dinky post (my first post ever) and all I got was enough money to buy a cup a coffee.

And all that time and energy I spent on iWriter, I never had the time to seek better jobs.

It’s okay to take a few jobs at a lower rate when you’re first starting out. That’s what I did; I moved out of the content mills and started finding work on job boards. My rate at that time was $.04/word.

But, the point is, only take a few jobs at the low end of your rate. Have a plan to move up the pay scale and find better clients.

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2. Not Asking Questions

You’ve landed your first client. High-five! But, then you start thinking, your client can see right through you. You’re worried they realize they’ve made a huge mistake in hiring you.

So, to cover it up, you don’t ask any questions about the project. You think, if you ask questions, it will definitely confirm you’re new to this and, well you don’t want your client knowing you’re new.

You’re supposed to just know everything because actual freelance writers know this stuff! Well, the truth is, you’re supposed to ask questions to your clients.

I mean, what if you hired a graphic designer to design your logo and they never asked you questions about what you want your logo to look like. Instead, they just did what they thought you would like.

See, professionals ask questions. They have to if they want to produce the best service or product. When you don’t ask any questions, you run the risk of submitting sub par work, or worse, not what the client wanted at all.

And that sucks because that can ruin your reputation as a professional writer.

Here are some questions I’ve asked my clients:

  • Do you want this post uploaded or formatted in the WP HTML format or is the MS doc fine?
  • Do you want this post closer to 500 or 800 as this makes a big difference in the detail I go into for each point.
  • I can pitch you some ideas or if you have some topics you think will do well, I would love to hear them!

So, don’t worry that if you ask a question to a client, they automatically think you’re not a freelance writer. Instead, it shows you know your craft and you want more information to better represent your client’s brand and position.

3. You Don’t Know How to Market Yourself

One of the things I hear from multiple writers is how to market yourself when there’s literally thousands of freelance writers out there.

Many haven’t a clue because their background is in journalism or they’re a mom (like me) with a non-writing background (like me). Marketing their freelance writing business just doesn’t come naturally for many talented writers.

And that’s okay! You don’t have to be a guru marketer to be a successful freelance writer. You just need to know how to market yourself to get maximum exposure.

Here are some ways to market yourself as a freelance writer:

  • Update your social profiles to say, “freelance writer for hire” or something similar.
  • If you don’t have any social media profiles, get some! I suggest opening a LinkedIn and Twitter profile to start. These two platforms have generated thousands of dollars for my freelance writing business.
  • Include links to your writer website and services page in your author bio.
  • Start guest posting like yesterday.

It just takes a little bit of getting out there to drum up some business.

4. Not Starting

So, remember how I just told you to go and “get out there?” Well, the biggest and most monumental mistake I see time and time again from new freelance writers is not starting.

They sit on the idea of wanting to start freelance writing for years, but they never find the right time to start. Life gets in the way and their fears can stop all ideas of quitting their day job to pursue freelancing.

All the other mistakes don’t matter if you never start. And don’t worry about making everything perfect.

When I started, my pitch sucked. My first website was way too wordy and didn’t sell my services. I undervalued myself on one gig because I couldn’t do the math. My project tracking sheet was abysmal and I’m pretty sure I forgot to invoice a client or two. And there are plenty of more mistakes I did along the way.

But, you see, I recovered. I learned how to do things the right way. I found a way to go from $1.62 to $350 a post. And that’s great because I’m out there doing it. You shouldn’t be thinking about freelance writing; you should be doing it.

Wipe Off the Dust

We all make mistakes at one time or another. You could be three days in as a freelance writer or have three years under your belt.

No matter how new you are as a freelance writer, know that if you make a mistake, learn from it and move on!

Now it’s your turn – tell me if you made any of these monumental mistakes or if you know of another one, I’d like to hear!

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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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32 Comments

Thanks, for the tips, Elna. Yes, I used to write on content mills and it really hurts working for low pay. I’m gradually building my portfolio and working toward mastering grammar, editing, and proofreading my articles. Although that was a project in itself, I had the nerve to want to try to become an author, and almost was driven to insanity. Thanks, for your tips and insights.Reply to Lorri
Hi Lori, Thanks for sharing your story! I’m glad you recognized you were on content mills and trying to get out and get better paying writing jobs!Reply to Elna
Amazing stuff, Elna and you make it sound soo easy! I’m sure it’s not but you’ve inspired me to give it a go :). Funnily enough I’ve a daughter who’s a psychologist in Oz. (I’m British.) Shall recommend you to her. Don’t think she’s ever thought of writing – except her diary! But reckon that proves she has a dormant interest! I have been a journalist and write the odd article (sometimes very odd :/) about arcane historical stuff – not to make money though. A lightbulb has not exactly exploded but is beginning to flicker a bit, anyway, lol. All the best.Reply to Simon
I really love your posts. I’ve always wished to be a good freelancer but doesn’t know how to start, but your posts are really a great support and encouragment to me.. Bravo Please I’ll like to know if you accept guest posting on your blogReply to Cherish
Hey Cherish, Glad you enjoyed this post. No, I don’t accept guest posting on this blog. But, I do on this blog: https://freelancerfaqs.comReply to Elna
Wow Elna! From such extremely humble beginnings! What an incredibly fast rise to becoming not only competent, but learning to really thrive in an industry you love! And on your own terms!Every body makes mistakes, but not every body recovers and eventually thrives!You have! Bravo! Thanks for being a beacon of some much needed inspiration!Reply to Mark
Hi Elna, you’re doing a nice job on this blog.Since i started reading your post’s,i fell eqiped to start freeance writing. There’s no amount of thanks that compensate what you’re doing here.More greese to your elbow.Reply to Emmanuel
Hi Emmanuel, That’s fantastic that you decided to take the leap into freelancing! It’s a wonderful choice and you won’t regret it. If you ever need any help navigating this, I also do coaching!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Well, Becoming a freelance writer is hell lot of difficult as clients demand different things, so it becomes very important for a newbie to work without asking nay questions and even take small works which can bring only a few dollars. All these things works well, but only with patience, so I must say it is not easy task to do.Reply to Atinder
Hi there, Ms. Cain: for me, reading your ‘4 Monumental Mistakes’ acted as an introduction to you and your writing. So, thank you. As a former newspaper reporter, proof-reader, TV commercial writer et al, of course my journalistic eyeballs immediately checked for spelling errors. Since I saw none in the finished product of the ‘Mistakes’ article [you’ll perhaps notice that my own ignorance of computer-tekkie lingo reveals something about my age…], you’ve shown what I believe to be of foremost importance when trying to sell your written efforts: your conversational style was a friendly welcome to a ‘new reader’ (i.e., me), and — well, I’d certainly be inclined to check your wares based on your proof-reading and presentation. Writers should be proud enough of their own opinions and skills as journalists that their final drafts of anything should not be proverbial fodder for editorial ink. P.S. Canadian writers should check with potential American markets re: policies concerning alternative spellings, and not rely on their computer’s ‘Spell-Check’ mechanism!Reply to Colleen
Colleen, I’m glad you found my post and enjoyed my conversational writing. This type of writing is favored online and many clients seek writers that not only write with ease for readers, but also have the knowledge and skill to write effectively for high-value impact. My course, Write Your Way to Your First $1k goes into detail about how to really write high-value content so that you can snag those high-paying clients. Feel free to check out my latest post on creating samples if you are a journalist!Reply to Elna
A very wonderful post Elna, As someone new in the freelance writing business and any other type of business for that matter, there are always lots of mistakes to be made at first but the most important thing is to always learn from them and to also learn from the mistakes of other people. All the things you listed here are the most common mistakes people usually make while starting as a freelance writer especially not asking questions because they assume that doing so will make them to look like novice in the job. But at the end of the day, you will find that not asking those questions will cost you a lot and its even the thing that will make you look stupid.Reply to Theodore
I have to say I’m pretty lucky, since my starting rate was around 10 cents per word. And I’m not even a native English speaker! Maybe it had to do something with my field of specialty. There’s always been a huge demand for freelance writers and copywriters specializing in technology and digital marketing. Here’s a golden rule: just start doing it. If you allow your fear to paralyze you, nothing else will matter.Reply to Ivan
Hi Ivan, Kudos for you for starting at such a good rate! I lucked out on mine too! (around $.12/word) I think it does have a lot to do with your specialization. If you can leverage your expertise in a certain niche, you can definitely ask for what you’re writing is worth.Reply to Elna
Excellent tips Elna! Thank you so much for sharing! Not starting is a weakness of mine.Reply to Jessie
Hey Jessie! Thanks. Yeah, not starting is a weakness for all of us. For me, it was more fear of being ousted, like I had no clue what I was doing! I think I felt I shouldn’t ask questions and just keep my mouth closed. Boy, was I wrong. Then I went the complete opposite direction and asked a ton of questions and lost a potential client because of that. I’ve learned!Reply to Elna
Wonderful tips. I especially like your one about “Taking any work that comes your way”. I think most newbies make this mistake when they first start in order to build up their portfolio. However, as soon as you can, start charging what you are worth! Not charging enough undercuts yourself and everyone else.Reply to Erica
Hi Erica, You’re right – when you’re new you take what you can. It’s okay to do this but you do need a plan to step it up and like you said, charge what you’re worth. For some, they get stuck at a low rate and can’t seem to move up. So, have a plan!Reply to Elna
Just stepped out of the postponing type person and just plunged into freelance writing.I appreciate the great information am getting to learn here.As a sure thing am signing up for the free course and will be here all the way till i make my first $350 post!Reply to Melchyy
Hey Melchyy, Happy to hear you signed up to my free course Get Paid to Write Online! Super excited you achieve your financial goal! Let me know if you need any help!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Thanks for sharing your experience to us. I am new and I definitely find it comforting to know that you also started out at iWriter. I’m so happy I’m no longer there and I continue to refer to your course and blog for guidance as I grow up and improve my self as a freelance writer. Thanks a lot for all the help and I know I will be “Elna Cain” someday. It’s not going to be easy but with dedication and rock star content like yours, I know it will happen. Take care and Happy Halloween to you and your family. Hope you have an awesome time, especially the twins! CharmaineReply to Charmaine
Hi Charmaine! I’m so happy to hear this. I decided I wanted help other struggling freelance writers and I’m glad I jumped board and actually did it! I started this blog and finally finished writing my course! So, now I’m excited to see what will come of it. I’m happy to hear you also moved out of iWriter. I hope you landed some consistent and great paying clients! Feel free to email me if you have any questions!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Great post and I fully support your ‘not starting’ point 4. It has taken me quite a lot of time to really get going because of…well any reason under the sun….and it is very scary but mistakes are there to be made. Start writing everyone, it is well worth it.Reply to Mariken
Hey Mariken, It’s true, quitting your stable job for freelancing and hustling is scary. If you don’t make it, you can’t pay your bills! But, when you do decide to start it’s such a wonderful and freeing feeling! So yeah, get out there write!Reply to Elna
Hey Elna, Another best post. If we don’t learn from mistakes, we can’t succeed in freelance writing business. Yes, hesitation to ask questions to clients is big mistake we do. Taking right action is 100 times better than only talking about doing in future. Any way, thank you for knowing mistakes we often do as freelance writers.Reply to Venkatesh
Hey Venkatesh, Yeah, not asking questions when your client gives you a project is a big no-no. Clients appreciate your questions! Glad you enjoyed my post and as always, I shed some of my mistakes so you don’t have to make your own!Reply to Elna