You can learn a lot from other people's mistakes - so here are 5 dumb freelance writing mistakes I've made (and that I'll never make again) that I hope will help others. There are also some dumb freelance writing mistakes I haven't made because they went against my common sense, and hopefully you can avoid those, too.
Dumb freelance writing mistake #1: Prioritizing the wrong way.
Early in my freelance writing career, I had no idea how to prioritize. I sometimes forgot that marketing - even when I was "too busy" with paying projects - needed to be done constantly. After you're established (and have integrated marketing into your routine), the bulk of your business may come from referrals... but you can NEVER stop marketing yourself.
Dumb freelance writing mistake #2: Writing for friends.
It's tempting. I know. You want to be nice and help someone out - and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, writing for friends is okay - but you have to write for them with a strategy in mind and with a writing contract in place. I've written for friends with a strategy in mind (like when it'll boost your business and establish your authority)... but I've also written for friends without a strategy or contract. It can easily burn you; your friend may not understand that hiring a writer is just like hiring a roofer to get a house ready for sale - you pay the roofer when he's done, not when you sell the house.
Dumb freelance writing mistake #3: Letting a client overstay his/her welcome.
Sometimes you really like a client, but what she's asking for is unreasonable... but you try to do it anyway. I learned the hard way that some people can't be pleased - especially those who don't know what they want. Sometimes you've got to walk away, and if that means refunding a client's deposit (hopefully you've got a freelance writing contract with a kill fee clearly outlined so you don't have to), so be it. Interestingly enough, my biggest headaches with freelance writing clients come from those who are in the IT field. Consequently, I turn down IT clients now - they may be offering a boatload of money, but I've learned the hard way that IT clients make me take much more Advil than I'm comfortable taking.
Dumb freelance writing mistake #4: Settling for less.
Sometimes you know you're worth more than what a client wants to pay you - and in the beginning, it's tempting to take assignments you know are low-paying. Listen: this is your business, and you should run it how you see fit. Don't let anyone tell you that you have to take low-paying jobs when you're first starting out, and don't bother arguing about it. If a potential client says, "Look, this is going to be really easy for you to do, and I think that $XX is a fair rate for what I need you to do," then think about it for a moment. If you need to make more than $XX to make it worth your while, tell them no. If $XX is acceptable because you're getting a byline or it's going to increase your business, then tell them yes. However - and I've done this a couple times - you don't have to take any assignment you don't want to take.
Dumb freelance writing mistake #5: Balling up the towel so you can throw it in.
Even when you're an established freelance writer with clients out the yin-yang, it gets frustrating. A couple of weeks ago, I had so much money in other peoples' bank accounts (and no one was putting it in mine, where it belonged) that I was tempted to fire off some angry emails and get a cubicle job somewhere. I had my towel all balled up and I was going to throw it in full-force. But you know what? My brilliant sister gave me a telephone-smack that I really needed, and I didn't throw in the towel... and now I'm so glad. It's okay to come close, to admit your frustrations and even to call an Army recruiter to see about getting back in (yes, I did that, and I've been an official veteran for two months) - but it's not okay to give up on your dream because people tick you off.
Have you made dumb freelance writing mistakes? What were they, and how did you overcome them?
© Angie Papple Johnston, 2010; if you are reading this anywhere but on FreeFreelanceWritingTips.Blogspot.com, it's stolen.