What does a freelance writer want? A stable monthly income of a few thousand dollars (or more), a booked calendar, and happy clients who leave stellar testimonials. The only problem – all this is much easier to dream about than achieve.
Freelance writers often have difficulty earning a sustainable income or producing work that attracts clients. Why? That’s exactly what we intend to answer in this post. Be ready to debunk some myths along the way.
Hint: If you expect this list to be about reasons like “AI eating the writing jobs” or “lack of marketing,” you’re mistaken.
1. Not paying attention to feedback
Good or bad – feedback tells others’ opinions about you as a writer. Any client that hires you would expect you to listen to their feedback. It could be about something as basic as “line spacing” or something specific as “avoiding banned words.”
Let’s look at a few reasons why some writers tend to neglect feedback:
Difficulty handling criticism: Some writers struggle with feedback as they’re not used to working in a team or with a manager, leading to difficulties in accepting constructive criticism.
Misunderstandings: Unclear or unspecific feedback can cause misunderstandings and lead to a disconnect between what the client wants and what the writer delivers. This is especially true for those who excel in writing but struggle with spoken language due to potential language barriers.
Overconfidence: Overestimating their writing abilities can cause some writers to dismiss feedback as unnecessary or misguided.
Resistance to change: People, in general, resist change, and writers are no different. This is why some writers may resist change, even if it would improve their work or better align with the client’s needs.
Unwillingness to put in extra effort: Revising and reworking content based on feedback can take time and require additional effort. Therefore, the writers might be unwilling to invest this additional time, especially if they juggle multiple projects or work under tight deadlines.
Financial considerations: If a freelancer is paid a flat fee for a project, they may feel it’s not worth their time or effort to make revisions based on feedback, particularly if the changes requested are extensive.
Whatever the reason, ignoring feedback isn’t growth-friendly. Failing to implement feedback results in repeated mistakes and multiple revisions before approval. And it’s no fun for anyone involved – you, the client, or their editor. It could easily make the client not want to work with you again.
To improve as a freelance writer, you have to be willing to listen when people tell you what they don’t like about your work. Even if you think they’re wrong. It’s especially important when the clients don’t like your work at all.
When you consider feedback and take rectification steps accordingly, you will notice a significant improvement in your writing. Eventually, your work will get approved after a single or no round of editing. This is what makes you eligible for higher pay and will allow you to consider taking better-paying projects. Remember this – clients are not only paying you for writing but also to save themselves time and hassle.
2. Not following the simplest instructions
For each freelance writing job or a freelance job in general, hundreds of people compete with you. Imagine yourself in a reviewer’s position, where you have to screen that many applications to shortlist the best few.
Would you want to read the submissions that scream – “The applicant didn’t follow even the basic instructions like using the title case for headings and subheadings?” You won’t.
If you repeat your mistakes, expect your growth to stagnate. Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
It’s not just the writing that you’re supposed to excel at, but also taking care of other details to complete a task. No matter what type of clients you work with—an agency or a direct employer, most of the time, they won’t have time (or willingness) to teach you how to follow instructions. So if you want to improve, you must start figuring out that first.
How to do that?
Acknowledge that your working method might have this problem.
Assess and understand the reasons. Maybe it’s because you’re juggling between projects, which weakens your focus, or something else that you need to figure out.
Implement a solution.
A suggested method to ensure you follow instructions properly is to convert them into a checklist. Once you’re done with a project/assignment, use the checklist to ensure you didn’t skip any instructions.
Here’s a partial checklist to give you an idea of what it looks like:
3. Not practicing self-editing
Do you know what could protect your writing career from AI? The ability to edit a piece of content so well that it hardly needs any revision.
Let’s understand how. Anyone can use ChatGPT or several other AI tools that generate content on almost any topic quickly. However, not everyone can identify the problematic areas, as the text produced is usually coherent and grammatically correct. What it lacks most of the time is valuable insights. And here’s where good human editors have the edge.
There’s a myth that some writers can’t be (or don’t need to be) good editors and vice versa. But in fact, the more you practice both, the quicker you grow as a writer.
And what’s a better way to practice editing than on your own content? The more you do it the right way, the faster you become at delivering Ready-To-Publish content because you know how to cut out redundancies, reorganize sentences and paragraphs, and turn it from generic to unique.
A key point to remember is that any client or editor cares most about the final submission, not the first one. They are often pressed for time and want publish-ready content with minimal additional work required. By mastering the self-editing skill, you can ensure that your work requires minimal revisions, making you a more attractive option for clients and editors.
4. Not mastering the basics of good writing
Content writing standards have risen more than ever, and readers now have plenty of choices online. Several well-written articles can give them the clarity they need on a particular topic.
Without proper flow, grammar, punctuation, and syntax, your writing may be difficult for readers to understand, no matter how brilliant your ideas are. Remember that your readers cannot read your mind, and it’s your job to guide them through your writing to ensure they receive your intended message.
Even as an unpolished writer, you can find some small writing gigs here and there, but if you want to increase your earning potential and become a better writer, you must master the basics of writing.
5. Having unreasonable expectations
Aspiring writers often set their goals too high or expect immediate success without putting in the required effort and time. These unrealistic expectations usually lead to frustration and disappointment, causing the writers to lose motivation and eventually transition to a different career. If you ever read about goal setting, you’d know that most of them need to be realistic. Our advice to you is to set realistic expectations and be prepared to put in both hard work and intelligent effort. This will allow you to reap the rewards of your efforts in due time.
Assume you’re a writer who can write decent articles on beginner-level or generic topics that don’t require extensive research. You may be really good at that and provide exceptional results. However, if you expect clients to pay you a few hundred dollars to write an article like that, you will be disappointed. It’s not worth competing for those rare clients who would pay that much.
Let’s compare two pieces of writing: an article that shares ten generic tips on weight loss and an article that explores the same topic, but delves into the mechanisms of weight loss, offers data-based advice from actual experts, and provides practical guidance for different age groups and body types while presenting it all in an engaging, easy-to-read way.
Compared to the first article, the latter takes much more time, effort, and research to complete. So it doesn’t make sense to expect the same pay for both types of articles.
6. Not investing time in reading and learning from good writers’ work
Successful writers understand the importance of continuous improvement. Reading the work of other skilled writers is a great way to learn new techniques, styles, and perspectives.
What do you do when you try to learn a new skill? You research into it, ask for suggestions from experienced professionals, take a course to learn it, and sometimes even read posts like this. The same applies to writing. To keep growing as a writer, it’s crucial to invest time into reading high-quality work.
Recall a blog or even one post you remember for a long while. Now think about what made you like it, what was different or better. See how you can incorporate those “wow” elements into your writing. This is what many freelance writers fail to understand. The consumption of content will be worthwhile when it’s analyzed and used to improve the quality (and sometimes pace) of their own writing.
7. Not knowing how to add value to a piece of writing
In the last couple of years, you might have seen a tremendous rise in the content creation industry. Have you ever wondered what causes content to gain traction without the use of paid advertisements? It either entertains (makes you feel good, even momentarily) or solves a problem.
Why do creators follow a Tik-Tok trend? Because the viewers find it entertaining. Why does a weight loss video get hundreds of positive comments? Because it’s solving a specific problem several people might be going through.
All of this boils down to one thing – delivering value. For some, this value lies in entertainment, and for others, in finding an actionable solution to their problems.
Writing is no different. To capture your readers’ attention and retain their interest, providing value through your writing is essential. This means going beyond merely sharing information and delivering unique insights, perspectives, and experiences that resonate with the reader and help them take immediate action if required.
Doing so establishes your clients (and yourself) as credible authorities in their respective fields. You win the readers’ trust – an ability that sets you apart and makes your content memorable.
8. Taking too many writing projects at once
When you take on too many projects, this leads to missed deadlines and rushed work that does not meet the quality benchmarks your clients want you to meet.
Let’s first understand why freelance writers do this. One possibility is that a freelance writer is just starting and needs quick money to make ends meet (or they believe in fast cash rather than long-term investment). What they don’t realize is that as tempting as it is, it doesn’t work well unless they’re an exceptional writer with unusual writing speed.
You could lose money for dissatisfactory work and be easily replaced by other writers who will set the bar higher through their work.
Our advice? Don’t rush. Focus on delivering content your clients and their audiences will want more of. Content that makes a difference. Even if it’s a filler article that your clients need to populate their website. In addition to improving every day, you will also build a portfolio you can use to impress prospective clients.
Wondering which mistakes to start rectifying first?
We recommend taking these steps first:
Accept projects wisely – don’t sacrifice quality to maximize quantity
Follow instructions properly
Learn how to add value to content
By focusing on these, you will also improve tremendously in the rest of the areas. For example, to learn how to add value, you will need to read and analyze good work and implement those learnings in your writing. So you’re reaping double the benefits.
Do it, and we promise you’ll make a considerable improvement as a content writer.