It’s easy to make mistakes as a beginner freelance writer. In fact, it’s pretty much necessary! We all make them, but it’s useful to be aware of some of the most common ones when you’re first starting out.
10 beginner freelance writing mistakes to avoid are:
- Undercharging or overcharging clients
- Failure to define your niche
- Lack of a professional website or portfolio
- Inadequate marketing and self-promotion
- Failure to set clear boundaries
- Ignoring contracts or written agreements
- Inadequate time management
- Inconsistent communication
- Not seeking feedback or learning opportunities
- Overcommitting and burning out
Below, I’ll go into more detail about each of these mistakes, why they’re important to avoid, and some tips to ensure you don’t make them when first starting out as a freelance writer.
10 Mistakes To Avoid As A Beginner Freelance Writer
1. Undercharging Or Overcharging Clients
Undercharging or overcharging clients is an easy mistake for beginner freelance writers to make. When you’re starting out, you may undervalue your skills and charge lower rates than you deserve, either out of fear of losing potential clients or due to a lack of confidence in your abilities (I made this mistake in the beginning!).
On the other hand, some writers may overestimate their worth and set prices that are much higher than what potential clients are willing to pay. Both of these scenarios can have significant consequences on your freelance writing career.
The consequence of undercharging clients is that it can lead to a cycle of low-paying gigs that undervalue your skills and time. Clients may come to expect lower rates from you, making it difficult to raise your prices in the future.
Undercharging can also lead to financial strain, as you may struggle to make a sustainable income. It can also affect your motivation and self-esteem, as you may feel undervalued and underappreciated for your work.
Overcharging clients, on the other hand, can result in the loss of potential business or limited job opportunities. If your rates are significantly higher than what other freelance writers in your niche are charging, clients may opt for more affordable options without even considering your services.
Overcharging can also damage your reputation, as clients may perceive you as greedy or unrealistic in your pricing, especially if they also know you’re just starting out (likely through a lack of testimonials in the beginning).
How To Avoid This Mistake
To avoid the mistake of undercharging or overcharging your freelance writing clients, it’s important to research industry standards and understand the value of your services. Take into account factors such as:
- Your level of expertise
- The complexity of the project
- The time required
- The effort requires
Conduct market research to see what other freelance writers are charging in your niche. By setting reasonable rates that align with your skills and the market demand, you can attract clients who are willing to pay fair prices.
Another helpful tip is to clearly communicate your rates to potential clients from the beginning. Include your pricing structure on your website or in your initial communications, so there are no surprises later on. Be confident in your abilities and the value you bring to the table, but also be open to negotiation if necessary.
Building a solid portfolio and gathering testimonials from satisfied clients can also strengthen your case for fair pricing. Finding the right balance between charging too little and charging too much is essential for establishing a successful freelance writing career, but a lot of it will just come from experience.
2. Failure To Define Your Niche
Many beginner freelance writers often feel the need to cast a wide net and accept any writing assignment that comes their way. However, by not defining a specific niche, you run the risk of diluting your expertise and becoming a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none.
The consequence of not defining a niche is that it becomes difficult to establish a strong professional identity and stand out in a crowded marketplace. Clients and potential employers often prefer to work with writers who specialize in a particular area or industry rather than a generalist, as they bring a deeper understanding and knowledge to the table.
Without a defined niche, writers may struggle to attract high-quality clients or secure high-paying assignments.
Lack Of Focus
Not having a niche can also lead to a lack of focus and direction in your writing career. It becomes challenging to develop a targeted marketing strategy or build a portfolio that showcases specialized expertise. This can result in wasted time and effort, as you may find yourself taking on projects that don’t align with your long-term goals or interests.
To avoid the mistake of failing to define a niche, it is crucial for beginner freelance writers to take time to assess their strengths, passions, and areas of expertise. Consider the types of writing you enjoy and excel at, as well as any specific industries or subjects you have knowledge in.
As with the price-related mistake I discussed above, you should conduct market research to identify which niches have a demand for writing services and present potential growth opportunities.
Once you identify your niche, focus on building your expertise and credibility in that area. Invest time in researching and staying up to date on industry trends, attending relevant conferences or webinars, and connecting with professionals in the space.
While it may feel counterintuitive to narrow your focus initially, defining a niche can actually lead to more opportunities and higher-quality clients in the long run. By positioning yourself as an expert in a specific field, you increase your chances of being sought after by clients who value specialized knowledge and are willing to pay a premium for it.
3. Lack Of A Professional Website Or Portfolio
In today’s digital age, potential clients often rely on websites and portfolios to assess a writer’s skills and professionalism before they consider hiring them. Not having a professional website or portfolio can lead to missed opportunities and limited credibility.
Without a central hub to display your writing samples, testimonials, and information about your services, it becomes harder for clients to assess your skills and make an informed decision about hiring you. This lack of credibility can result in missed opportunities for lucrative projects or collaborations.
Not having a professional website or portfolio can also make it difficult to establish a strong personal brand. A well-designed website allows you to present yourself as a professional and showcase your unique writing style, expertise, and personality. Without this online presence, you may struggle to differentiate yourself from other freelance writers and may be seen as less serious or committed to your craft.
How To Avoid This Mistake
Start by securing a domain name that aligns with your name or brand if you’re going the personal website route. Choose a clean and user-friendly website template that highlights your work and makes it easy for potential clients to navigate.
Create a portfolio section on your website where you can showcase your best writing samples. Include a diverse range of work that demonstrates your versatility and expertise in different topics or industries (ideally you’re niching down per the last mistake’s discussion!).
Regularly update your website with new content and testimonials from satisfied clients. Make sure that your contact information is easily accessible so that interested clients can reach out to you. Invest in professional design and copywriting to present yourself in the best possible light.
Alternatively, you could choose a portfolio maker, of which there are many free ones out there. One example is Contently.
Remember, a professional website or portfolio serves as a powerful marketing tool that can help you attract clients, establish credibility, and stand out from the competition.
4. Inadequate Marketing And Self-Promotion
Many new freelance writers focus solely on their writing skills and assume that their work will speak for itself. However, without effective marketing and self-promotion, it becomes challenging to attract clients and establish a steady stream of work. This mistake often stems from a fear of self-promotion or a lack of knowledge about marketing strategies.
The consequence of inadequate marketing and self-promotion is that it limits your visibility and makes it harder for potential clients to discover your services. Even if you are a talented writer, if you do not actively market yourself, you may struggle to find consistent work. Clients are unlikely to seek out your services if they are not aware of your existence or the value you can provide!
Developing A Marketing Strategy
It is important to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy as early as you can. Start by identifying your target audience and understanding their needs and preferences. Research where your potential clients are present online and focus your marketing efforts on those channels, whether it’s social media platforms, industry forums, or writing communities.
Create a strong online presence by regularly sharing valuable content, engaging with your audience, and showcasing your expertise. Leverage the power of social media platforms to build a following and establish yourself as an authority in your niche. Consider guest posting on relevant blogs or websites as an additional way to expand your reach and gain exposure.
Network, Network, Network
Networking is also crucial for effective self-promotion. You can attend industry events, join writing associations or groups, and connect with other professionals in your field to build new relationships with people in your space. Cultivate relationships with potential clients, fellow writers, and influencers who can help amplify your work and refer you to potential clients.
By actively promoting your services and establishing a strong online presence, you increase your chances of attracting clients, securing high-quality projects, and building a sustainable business.
5. Failure To Set Clear Boundaries
Not establishing clear boundaries can lead to a variety of negative consequences, including increased stress, compromised work-life balance, and decreased job satisfaction.
One reason it’s so easy to make this mistake as a beginner freelance writer is the fear of disappointing clients or losing potential projects. Freelancers often feel pressured to be available and accommodating at all times, leading to a blurred line between work and personal life. This can result in working long hours, accepting unrealistic deadlines, and sacrificing personal time and well-being.
The consequence of failing to set clear boundaries is burnout. Overworking and neglecting your personal needs can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, decreased productivity, and a decline in the quality of your work. Without proper boundaries, writers may find themselves constantly stressed and overwhelmed, which can ultimately affect their creativity and passion for writing.
Avoiding This Mistake
It’s therefore essential to establish guidelines and communicate them effectively to clients. Start by defining your working hours and availability, and make sure to communicate these boundaries clearly. Let clients know when you are available for communication and set realistic expectations for response times.
Learn to say no when a project or request doesn’t align with your boundaries or capacity. It’s important to prioritize your well-being and avoid overcommitting yourself. Be assertive in negotiating deadlines and project scopes that are manageable and realistic.
Create a schedule that includes dedicated time for work, rest, and personal activities. Stick to this schedule as much as possible, and resist the temptation to constantly be available for work. Remember that setting boundaries is not only important for your own well-being but also for maintaining a healthy and sustainable freelance career!
6. Ignoring Contracts Or Written Agreements
Beginner freelance writers may be eager to jump into projects and overlook the importance of formalizing agreements. They may assume that verbal agreements or informal discussions are sufficient, leading to a lack of clarity and potential conflicts down the line.
The consequence of ignoring contracts or written agreements is an increased risk of disputes, misunderstandings, and unpaid work. Without a formal agreement in place, both parties may have different expectations regarding project scope, deliverables, timelines, and payment terms. This can lead to disagreements, delays, and even non-payment for your work.
Not having a contract or written agreement also leaves writers vulnerable to exploitation or abuse by unscrupulous clients. In the absence of a formal agreement, clients may change project requirements, demand additional work without compensation, or fail to fulfill their payment obligations.
Without a legal document to reference, writers may find it challenging to protect their rights and seek recourse in case of a dispute.
Always Have A Contract
This is why it is crucial for freelance writers to formalize all of their client relationships. Whenever you take on a new project, insist on having a written contract or agreement that clearly outlines the terms and conditions of the engagement.
Include essential details such as project scope, deliverables, timelines, payment terms, and any other relevant terms specific to the project. Make sure both you and the client review and understand the contract before commencing work. If necessary, consult with a legal professional to ensure the contract covers all necessary aspects and provides adequate protection for your rights.
Be proactive in addressing any ambiguities or concerns before signing the contract. If certain terms are unacceptable or unreasonable, negotiate with the client to try and find a mutually agreeable solution.
7. Inadequate Time Management
When working independently and without strict schedules, it’s easy to fall into the trap of poor time management. Procrastination, distractions, and a lack of structure can lead to missed deadlines, decreased productivity, and added stress.
One reason why it’s so easy to make this mistake as a beginner is the freedom that comes with freelance writing. Without the traditional office environment and supervision, writers may find it challenging to establish a disciplined routine. Distractions such as social media, household chores, or personal commitments can easily derail your focus and productivity.
The consequence of inadequate time management is a negative impact on work quality and client relationships. Missing deadlines or delivering subpar work due to poor time management can damage your professional reputation and lead to a loss of clients. It can also result in added stress as writers rush to meet deadlines, sacrificing the time and attention needed to produce their best work.
How To Solve Your Time Management Crisis
To avoid this mistake, start by setting specific goals and deadlines for each project or assignment. Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Create a daily or weekly to-do list to keep track of your priorities.
Identify and eliminate or minimize distractions during your dedicated work hours. Set boundaries with friends and family and communicate your availability and need for uninterrupted focus. Utilize productivity tools such as timers, task management apps, or website blockers to stay focused and manage your time effectively.
It’s also important to allocate time for breaks and self-care. Taking regular breaks can help prevent burnout and improve your overall productivity. Prioritize activities that help you recharge, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, or hobbies.
By implementing effective time management strategies, freelance writers can improve productivity, meet deadlines consistently, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
8. Inconsistent Communication
With the freedom and flexibility of freelance work, it’s easy to overlook the importance of maintaining consistent and timely communication with clients. This can happen for various reasons, such as disorganization, lack of prioritization, or underestimating the significance of regular updates.
The consequence of inconsistent communication is a breakdown in client relationships and a loss of trust. Clients rely on regular communication to stay informed about project progress, address any concerns, and provide feedback. When you fail to communicate consistently, clients may feel neglected or uncertain about the status of their projects, which can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.
Inconsistent communication can also result in missed opportunities for further collaboration or referrals. Clients who have a positive experience with a writer are more likely to recommend them to others or hire them again for future projects. However, if the writer is consistently unresponsive or fails to provide regular updates about projects, clients may be hesitant to engage in future collaborations or recommend their services to others.
Set Expectations Early
To communicate with clients effectively, set expectations from the beginning by establishing preferred communication channels and response times. Ensure that you are readily available and responsive to client inquiries or requests for updates when you say you’ll be available.
Maintain a clear and open line of communication throughout the project’s lifecycle. Provide regular progress reports, seek feedback, and address any concerns or questions promptly. Proactively communicate any changes in timelines or deliverables to manage your clients’ expectations.
Establish a system for organizing and tracking client communications. Keep a record of conversations, project details, and client preferences to ensure that you can easily refer back to important information when you need to.
By maintaining consistent and effective communication, you can build strong client relationships, foster trust, and enhance your professional reputation as a freelance writer.
9. Not Seeking Feedback Or Learning Opportunities
Leading on from our discussion of effective communication, beginner freelance writers may also be hesitant to seek feedback due to a fear of criticism or a lack of confidence in their abilities. They may also overlook the importance of continuous learning and skill development.
However, failing to seek feedback or learning opportunities can hinder your professional growth and limit your potential improvement.
Writers may feel vulnerable when sharing their work for critique, and they may worry about damaging their self-esteem or reputation. This fear can prevent them from actively seeking feedback, missing out on valuable insights and opportunities for improvement.
The consequence of not seeking feedback or learning opportunities is stagnation in skills and limited professional development. Without receiving constructive criticism or guidance, writers may continue to make the same mistakes or fail to identify areas for improvement. This can hinder their ability to grow, expand their capabilities, and deliver higher quality work.
Embrace Feedback From The Start
It’s therefore important for freelance writers to cultivate a growth mindset and embrace constructive criticism from the beginning. Actively seek feedback from clients, colleagues, or mentors who can provide valuable insights into your work. Be open to receiving both positive and negative feedback, as both can contribute to your growth as a writer.
Participate in writing workshops, courses, or writing communities where you can receive feedback from experienced professionals or peers. Join writing groups or critique circles where you can exchange ideas and insights with other writers.
Regularly engage in self-reflection and self-assessment of your work. Take the time to review your past projects and identify areas for improvement, and also to see how much you’ve improved already! Set goals for yourself and actively seek resources and learning opportunities that can help you achieve those goals.
By actively seeking feedback and learning opportunities, freelance writers can continuously improve their skills, refine their craft, and stay ahead in the competitive writing industry.
10. Overcommitting And Burning Out
When you first start out as a freelancer, whether that’s as a writer or in another industry, there is often a strong desire to take on as many projects as possible to build a reputation and secure income. I fell victim to this one myself.
However, this eagerness can lead to overcommitment and an unsustainable workload. Without proper time management and self-care, writers can quickly become overwhelmed and experience burnout.
One reason why it’s all too easy to make this mistake is the fear of missing out on opportunities or not having enough work. Freelance writers may feel pressure to say yes to every project that comes their way, fearing that turning down work could lead to a decline in income or a missed chance for career advancement.
But the consequences of overcommitting and burning out include:
- A decline in productivity
- Poor quality of work
- Your well-being takes a hit
- Excessive stress and fatigue
Overcommitting can also negatively impact your personal relationships and work-life balance. Writers may sacrifice time with family and friends, neglect self-care, and experience a lack of fulfilment or satisfaction in their work. The constant pressure to meet numerous deadlines and manage multiple projects can erode the joy and passion that initially drew them to freelance writing.
How To Avoid Making This Mistake
To avoid the mistake of overcommitting and burning out, it’s crucial for freelance writers to set realistic expectations and boundaries. Assess your available time, energy levels, and capacity before accepting new projects. Consider your existing workload and commitments and ensure that you have enough bandwidth to deliver high-quality work on time.
Also learn to say no when necessary. Understand that it’s better to decline a project than to deliver subpar work or miss deadlines due to an overloaded schedule. Prioritize quality over quantity and focus on building strong relationships with a manageable number of clients rather than taking on an excessive number of projects.
Implement effective time management strategies to ensure that you can meet deadlines and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Set clear boundaries around your working hours and stick to them. Finally, also allow yourself breaks and time for self-care to recharge and avoid burnout.
By managing your workload effectively and prioritizing self-care, you can establish a sustainable freelance writing career that allows for both professional success and personal well-being. It’s essential to find a balance that allows you to deliver your best work without sacrificing your mental, physical, and emotional health.
Avoid These Mistakes & You’ll Be Set Up For Freelance Writing Success!
While you’ll definitely make some mistakes as a freelance writer, if you can avoid even just a few of the ones I’ve discussed above, you’ll be well-positioned to have a successful and sustainable freelance writing career!
Check out our guide for more freelance writing tips.