Link to this page

Avoid 5 of the Biggest Freelance Writer Mistakes 

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

You're a freelancer - or want to be one. So far, you’ve avoided the usual freelance writer mistakes by getting plenty of advice and reading the plethora of how-to’s that are available. And you haven’t simply accumulated information. You’ve taken appropriate actions to get started.

  • You’ve kept your day job until you’ve got an established clientele.
  • You’ve focused on a specific niche or two. 
  • You’ve got a stable of clips .
  • You’re not charging too little or too much.
  • You’re writing at night and on weekends.

Good job! But now that you’ve dipped your toe into the writing waters, what’s next? One of the biggest freelance writer mistakes is on the horizon. The mistake creeps into a freelancer’s radar in a subtle way.

It is the danger of thinking that all you need to do to succeed as a freelance writer is to write.

Don’t get me wrong. Successful freelancing, of course, involves writing.

But don’t make the mistake of putting all your proverbial eggs in one basket — the writing basket. Successful freelance writers invest in plenty of other activities, like getting clients and time management and marketing their services, to name a few. It’s tempting to give lip service to those non-billable tasks.

If you have doubts about your ability to succeed, please understand you’re not alone. The truth is that successful freelance writers spend up to 50% of their time in non-writing activities. Don’t sabotage yourself. Instead of cowering in your writing corner, you can take a proactive stance to face your doubts and build a solid, healthy writing business by avoiding these freelance writer mistakes.

5 of the biggest #freelancewriter mistakes with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #FreelanceWriting

Mistake #1: One source of leads

Maybe until this point, you’ve acquired your clients through a good friend or another sole source. In other words, you have just a single funnel for referrals. But a well can dry up. One source of leads is one of the biggest freelance writer mistakes you can make, especially when you're starting out.

You need a more comprehensive client acquisition strategy in order to build a healthy, thriving freelance business. Try to …

  • Create a hard copy prospecting package and mail it to a specific number of potential clients every week.
  • Ditto for email — create a prospecting email and send it to a specific number of prospects every week.
  • Start an email newsletter to stay in front of prospects regularly.
  • Build a writer’s website.
  • Use an opt-in lead magnet on your website to capture leads.
  • Promote your services on social media.
  • Ask current clients for referrals.

Mistake #2: One online home

At the latest count, two-thirds of small businesses have a website. But more than half of consumers learn about new brands (like you) from social media. Don't make one of the biggest freelance writer mistakes -- limiting your online exposure. If you want to build a strong freelance writing business, then you need to have more than one online home.

By all means, let your website be the hub of your online wheel. But go further.

You can post on social media and link to helpful content on your site. A social media account (or two or three) allows you to reach all kinds of users in your niche.

  • Your Facebook account draws in those who stay away from Twitter.
  • Your Pinterest board pulls in those readers who avoid YouTube videos.
  • LinkedIn reaches prospects who are not active on the other sites.

Mistake #3: One work in progress at a time

One of the biggest freelance writer mistakes: just one writing project in process. Do that and you leave opportunities on the table.

By “in process,” I mean various stages of writing, from getting ideas to creating a rough draft to editing and submission. And not every project needs to be one for which you’re getting paid by a client.

Yes, there are occasions when a deadline looms and you much focus on finishing an assignment. But I’ve found the best way to feed my writer’s spirit (and feed my bottom line) is to have several projects going at once. Maybe you have Client #1’s website content due next week. You also have a grant application for Client #2 in the works … plus your own blog post … plus an outline for your next book … plus a query out to a magazine editor. Many projects mean many opportunities for your creativity to flourish and for checks to roll in.

Mistake #4: One client

Just one client? Danger! Your writing eggs are most certainly in one basket. Don't make this freelance writer mistake.

What if the client hires a full-time writer? Or maybe your main contact leaves the business … or the client closes his doors and no longer needs your services … or the client simply chooses to move in another direction. In any of those scenarios, your main source of work (and income) goes kaput. “Many freelancers fail because when work comes in, they do not look for more,” says experienced content creator Susan Guillory. “The problem is, when those projects wrap up, these freelancers are left with nothing to do.”

The only time you should have just one client is when you get your first client.

And the same goes for having just one anchor client — a repeat customer that uses your services long-term. An anchor client provides steady, predictable work. Regular assignments mean stability to a freelancer. When you accumulate a handful of anchor clients, you have plenty of work … and plenty of paychecks.

Find ways to convert one-off clients into anchor clients. When you finish a project and the client is happy with your work, pose this question: “What else can I help you with?” You can even add, “I notice you haven’t updated your website (or posted on your blog) in a while. Is that something you’d like help with?” Keep in front of them via your newsletter, and they’ll remember you when another project pops up. You can also reach out to past clients and ask if they need help with any projects.

Mistake #5: One income stream

In your efforts to specialize, you may be making one of the biggest freelance writing mistakes. Don’t let all your writing income flow from just client work or from just one type of writing project. Doing so can lead to burnout.

For instance, when you churn out email campaigns day in, day out, you get really good at writing emails … but your content can become formulaic.

Please understand — work-for-hire is a wonderful thing. You produce content for a client and get paid. But if you diversify your income streams, then when you have an off month for client work, you can still see deposits into your bank account. Try adding different types of writing income to your mix, like …

Magazine articles and blog posts

If you’re a content writer in a particular niche, then consider dipping your toe into a different area — just for variety. Online publications, consumer magazines, trade publications, local periodicals, websites, newspapers, blogs, and journals need to fill their pages on regular publication schedules.

Someone needs to write all those articles for them. Why not you? You can delve into a topic that interests you, write about it, and get paid.

Affiliate fees

Build a niche website. As an online publisher, you choose a topic and write plenty of content about it. Soon, you own a nice piece of cyber real estate and create a following with readers in your niche.

That means other merchants that sell products and services in your niche want to piggyback on your traffic. That can be very good for both you and for the other merchant. Your site acts as a middleman between your specific group of readers and merchants who want to sell products to those particular readers. As such, you can become an affiliate marketer. Sell a merchant’s products on your site and each month, a bit of passive income flows into your bank account.

Advertiser’s fees

A niche website offers another income stream. You can sell advertising on your site directly to a merchant, rather than working through an affiliate network. If you have a niche audience, this can be a worthwhile option.

Book royalties

Whether you choose the traditional or self-publishing routes, you can earn a nice stream of income each month from your books — both print and electronic.

Speaking fees

Teach a course. Provide a keynote address. Make a presentation at a gathering that is specific to your niche. Or, once you have a bit of writing experience, offer your services as a writing coach in your niche.

Editing fees

A client approached me about a writing project and sent me his draft. Once I reviewed his initial work, I picked up the phone and called. “You’ve got a good start here,” I explained. “I won’t need to invent the wheel. How about I rework what you’ve written?” That project — and subsequently others — allowed me to earn fees for editing the client’s original content.

Digital products

Checklists, cheat sheets, templates, online courses — make and sell digital products as an extra income stream.

Don’t make the granddaddy of all freelance writer mistakes

Among the biggest freelance writer mistakes you can make? Focusing on one activity only — writing. Or focusing on just one way to capture leads … one way for prospects to find you … one project in your pipeline … one client … one income stream.

The answer is more eggs and more baskets. Purposefully schedule time for other non-billable activities that build your writing business. Your creativity will flourish.

And so will your bottom line.

More Freelance Writing Tips

5 Tips to Make Money Writing ...

Make Sense of Marketing: The 4 Ps of Marketing for Writers ...

Where to Find Freelance Writing Jobs With Nonprofits ...

How To Write A Pitch Email That Gets a Yes: 5 Tips ...

How To Make Money From Blogging: A Quick Tutorial ...

3 Ways You Can Make Money Writing Content on Your Own Site ...

Freelance Writing FAQs ...

More tips for freelance writers on our Pinterest board ...

Return from The Biggest Freelance Writer Mistakes to Nonprofit Copywriter home

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Powered by SBI! Learn more here.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Search This Site

Share This Page


Named to 2022 Writer's Digest list

Get Free Writing Tips

Stop Wasting Time!

Grab your exclusive FREE guide, "5 Simple Writing Tips You Can Put to Use in 10 Minutes or Less"

XML RSSSubscribe To This Site
  • follow us in feedly
  • Add to My Yahoo!