Freelance Writers: Are Any of These 6 Mistakes Costing You Money?

The following is a guest post by Tiffany Howard.

Though tempting, there are some things you would never do on the job. This probably includes showing up late every day, only doing half your work, and toilet papering your boss’ office (though I’m sure someone out there has at least contemplated it).

Just like there are no-no’s in the 9-to-5 world, there are no-no’s when it comes to freelance writing as well. Any of these mistakes could result in the loss of client, a tarnished reputation, and even the loss of a paycheck. Avoid making them to save yourself the undue trouble.

6 Common & Not-So-Common Freelance Writer Mistakes

1. Biting off more than you can chew: This no-no never occurs to most freelance writers, especially early in their careers. But, there are times when you should absolutely turn down work. Following is how many of us end up in this situation . . .

You usually write blog posts about horse training, but you manage to convince a professor that his 50,000 word ebook on nuclear fusion applications will be no problem. The only trouble is, you know zilch about nuclear fusion, and you’ve never written an ebook in your life.

While it may be tempting to go after a gig because of the good pay, you need to consider if said gig matches your skills and experience (especially when it comes to highly specialized topics).

Taking on a project that is bigger than you can handle will likely cause you more anxiety than you’re willing to put up with. And, you usually don’t turn in your best work under these conditions; you may even miss a promised deadline.

This leaves you with an unhappy client; one who is highly unlikely to give you writing jobs in the future.

2. Turning in invoices late. Most companies have a set date on which they pay contractors, so that means you have to have your invoice in by a certain time. Turn it in late and not only do you risk late payment, but you’re also throwing off the client’s payment schedule. This also goes for cashing checks late.

I’ve heard more than one business owner complain about a writer who just holds onto a check for weeks or even months without cashing it. Overall, do what you can to help your client’s financials in order.

Freelance Writers: 2 TFreelance Writing Tipshings Turning in Invoices Late Signals

While many clients pay by PayPal nowadays and pay pretty quickly, if you’re turning in your invoices late, this can signal a couple of things:

(i) That you have lousy bookkeeping habits; or (ii) that you’re growing and it’s time to look for help – whether it’s on the admin end to help you handle these types of tasks, or outsourcing work to other freelance writers to free up your time to handle your admin duties.

If it’s the former, stop it! You’re costing yourself money. If it’s the latter, get on finding the help you need so you can continue to grow your freelance writing business.

3. Missing deadlines. This should be a no-brainer. Missing a deadline not only makes you look bad, but it also throws schedules off of balance. Not just for you, but for everyone.

If you write with the aim of helping a company’s marketing efforts, then the materials that you write are a part of a bigger effort. Imagine yourself as one person of several on a marketing strategy assembly line. Then imagine what would happen if one person in that assembly line stopped doing their job.

Don’t be that person!

4. Complaining about revisions. If a client sends something back for revisions, then make the changes they ask of you. It’s as simple as that.

Don’t be so ego-driven as to argue or complain about revisions. Remember that you’re in business to please your clients. And if there is something your client doesn’t like, then just change it. Sure you can make suggestions on how to make the content work better for them, but your customer should always have the final say.

Note: Make sure you and the client are on the same page up front about how many rounds of revisions to expect. This should be spelled out in your freelance writing contract / terms of agreement. This way, you avoid hard feelings all around.

5. Not marketing. Alright, I am definitely guilty of this one. But I am well aware that I could have more work than I currently do if only I would take the time to market myself regularly.

It’s so tempting to just send a few emails here and there, but the truth is that freelancers put themselves in a precarious situation when they don’t market. There will be times when a client goes silent for weeks at a time, or God forbid, the owner turns out to be a flake who doesn’t pay his writers. Safeguard yourself by having multiple irons in the fire.

6. Badmouthing clients. If a business has stiffed you out of a hefty sum of money, or if working with them feels like daily torture, it can be tempting to vent your frustrations on a public forum. However, this might reflect badly on you.

Should another business owner see your venting, they’re not going to risk becoming the next target in your crosshairs. Should you absolutely feel the need to warn another writer about a nightmare client, do so in private. Even then, do so sparingly.

When you’re a freelance writer, your reputation is your calling card. It’s important to operate with a certain level of integrity and competency. Avoid compromising yourself and your career by avoiding these freelancing mistakes.

Trust me. Experience is not always the best teacher!

Share Your Thoughts

Have you made (are making) any of these mistakes? What happened? How did you rectify them? Please share in the comments section below.
About the Author: Tiffany Howard is a freelance writer whose work includes articles, press releases, blog posts, eBooks, white papers, special reports, and sales copy, and her concentrations include science and nature, real estate, travel, and nutrition and wellness. When she is not at the beach or playing tag with her little one, she can be found blogging about online marketing and social media. She can be found on Twitter @THowardWriter.


I’ve had three or four freelancers that I’ve been corresponding with a while now contact me over the last couple of weeks saying they’re ready to make the leap into “infopreneurship;” primarily writing and self-publishing ebooks. I’ve been selling information online in one form or another (eg, ebooks / e-classes) since 2002.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share the ups and downs of what you can really expect when you start to create and sell your own information products online. I hope you’ll come back!

Legitimate Work from Home Job OpportunityP.S.: Learn everything you need to know to start a successful online writing business from the comfort of your home — and take up to 6 months to pay.

Unsolicited Testimonial

You referred on your site to people who need some hand holding with all this. That’s me. The fact that you review my work and marketing plan is what had me sold on your course. That and how impressed I am with the ebooks that I’ve bought from you. It’s not fluff, it’s useable information. I know I can do this, but I definitely need some guidance. I’m so looking forward to getting my SEO writing plans off the ground.~MH

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    1. Tiffany, this is great information. I’ve been guilty of number one and as you mention, it’s not usually a good thing to do. I love your example!
      Karen Cioffi recently posted…Author Dorit Sasson Talks About WritingMy Profile

      • Karen, like you, I’ve done this too. To be totally honest, I think I’ve committed all of these mistakes at one time or another in my freelance writing career.

        These days though, Number 2 is the thing I find I’m doing from time to time. And it’s b/c I’m so darned busy! Note to self — get on hiring a social media assistant. 🙂

      • yes I’m guilty of number one as well. 🙂 I’m glad you found this helpful Karen!
        Tiffany recently posted…Facebook’s New Page InsightsMy Profile

    2. I think with the whole rise of social media, people are too quick to say what’s on their mind – which can frequently get them in trouble!

      As easy as it is to use social media to vent, personal information is best kept that – personal.
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