We all make mistakes. Some of our mistakes can be chalked up to “lesson learned”, while others can have a detrimental effect on our lives, but the goal is to never make those serious mistakes at all. As a freelance writer, you’ve opened yourself up to many potential mistakes that can mean loss of income or even legal problems, so try not to commit these eight major mistakes that freelance writers commonly make.
1. Forgetting that writing is a business.
When writing becomes a career rather than a hobby, it must always be treated as such. You don’t have friends, you have clients, and your ultimate goal is to make a living. Approach every decision in your freelance writing career from the perspective that you own a business, and go from there.
2. Breaking your own rules.
Once you make a rule for your business, you must keep it no matter what. If you decide that customers must pay 50% of their fee up front, require that every customer make that down payment. When you start to relax your rules, you open yourself up to all kinds of legal and professional problems.
3. Getting too friendly with customers.
As mentioned above, your clients are not your friends; they are your customers. When you bridge that gap between customer and friend, you set yourself up to fail. You have to remember that no matter how smart, funny, kind and sensitive you are, there are people who don’t mind taking advantage of a friend.
4. Keeping poor records.
As a writer, you should know how important words can be, so save everything. Your records are your insurance in case of a problem or dispute, so keep all invoices, e-mails, receipts, payment records, project drafts and contracts on file for future reference. As soon as you lose an important piece of paper, you’ll need it.
5. Negotiating prices.
I have only been a freelance writer for six months, and already I’ve had at least three clients attempt to negotiate my prices down to peanuts. If you don’t stick to your guns where pricing is concerned, you’ll wind up working for nothing. Not only that, but it’s the clients who try to negotiate who always want another project in the future. Don’t start that vicious cycle.
6. Giving time to pay.
When someone hires you to write for them, they enter to a work-for-hire contract. You write their article, newsletter, story or whatever, and they in turn pay you for your time and effort. I’ve heard every sob story in the book from clients who have sudden expenses or who just don’t “have it right now”, and no excuse is acceptable. If your clients can’t pay, tack on the late fee until they do. Why should their bills and obligations supersede your own?
7. Failing to put money away for taxes.
If you’ve never been self-employed before, then tax time can come as a terrible shock. Rather than having taxes withheld from each of your paychecks, you must pay your taxes either quarterly or yearly, depending on how much you earn. In order to prepare for this, put 15-30% of everything you earn into a separate bank account for taxes.
8. Taking on too many projects at once.
You are the only one who can judge your threshold, so make sure you don’t take on too many projects. As dollar signs flash in your eyes, think about the hours each week that you’d like to spend sleeping, eating and spending time with your family. Start a waiting list if necessary or simply turn down projects when you’re overloaded.
If you’ve found that you’re falling prey to any of these mistakes, step back and examine your career closely. Find ways in which you can get back on track and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.