Freelance Writing – Please Learn from my Mistakes!

When I retired, I knew that I would have to supplement my retirement income with some part-time work.  At first I considered consulting, as I had spent 35 years in my profession, but soon learned that marketing myself was a lot harder than first envisioned.  And so I turned to freelance writing – what could be better?  I loved to write, had taught writing, and the world of social media, directories, blogs, etc. was growing exponentially!  Without the advice of those who had gone before me, however, I had to pass through several “rings of fire” on my own.  I write this post so that others will have the benefit of my experiences and avoid the common pitfalls of freelancing.


  1. Competition is Huge:  The pool of creative and accomplished writers is huge, so do not expect to be a top-rate earner immediately.  I made the mistake of turning down projects because the pay was “too low.”  What I did not realize is that “newbies” in this business have to start at the bottom.  A reputation must be built, and only proven writers will ultimately get the larger payouts!  Take anything, so that you can build up a portfolio and the goodwill of clients who will refer you to others.  I wasted months of bidding on projects with no results!
  2. Signing up with writing services is a “mixed bag.”  Many charge a monthly membership fee, and the potential “assignments” they then send are not in areas that you have designated.  Further, most potential projects still require a bidding process, and, as a newcomer, I was woefully naïve about pricing.
  3. The temptation is always there to take on any project, even if your knowledge of the content area is minimal.  You can find yourself spending hours researching a topic for a 500-word article or blog post that pays $8.00 – not a wise use of your time, but you are already committed, and the worst thing you can do is “bow out” after you have accepted an assignment!
  4. Deadlines are Deadlines!  When a client states a deadline, and you commit to it, you CANNOT renege and submit something late.  You have now lost that client and anyone else to whom that client might have referred you.
  5. Know the Audience.  Usually, you will be able to discern your audience from the assignment title or content area.  There are all levels of writing, from very informal to the most formal, and “one size does not fit all.”  I was thrilled to receive a large project writing articles about online casino gambling.  With great gusto, I attacked the first article and submitted it within a few hours.  I received a rapid response that there would be no more need for any additional articles.  My mistake?  I used a language style, syntax, and vocabulary that was far too formal for the typical online gambler.  If you can’t change your style based upon audience, you don’t belong in this business.
  6. Follow instructions and be certain that you understand the instructions.  Nothing is more frustrating for a client than to have to return your writing for revisions, because you missed details of the assignment.  If you don’t understand something, get your clarification up-front!

I love my freelance work.  I know my limits, and I have built a loyal clientele, mostly by referrals.  During slow periods, I can always search for new clients; I can take on as much or as little as I wish, dependent upon my other activities and obligations.  Best of all, I have achieved my goal – supplementary income doing something I’m good at!