You’ve been freelance writing for several months now, but don’t seem to be advancing.
You’re still stuck working for low-paying clients and trying to make ends meet. Sometimes you question whether you chose the right career path or maybe this hyped freelance writing thing doesn’t work.
But, have you considered whether your bad writing habits are the real cause of your misery?
Could your bad habits be chasing away potential customers, making your work harder and making life generally unbearable?
Never bite more than you can chew.
If you take on too much work, you’ll either fail to deliver or dilute the quality while rushing to deliver. That’s one of the bad freelancing habits that can ruin your career.
Taking on too few jobs is just as bad.
Since your income depends on the amount of work you have, you’re sure to have financial problems if you don’t get enough jobs. Therefore, don’t be lazy. Push yourself to take on as many assignments as you can handle, especially when there’s an influx of writing jobs.
Scientific research also shows that you need a medium level of arousal for optimal task performance. Such an arousal means having freelance work that’s not too much or too little. This is the simplified definition of the Yerkes-Dodson Law.
Remember, you have to create great articles that your customers will truly appreciate.
As a freelancer, you can lie in bed and work in your pajamas.
Unfortunately, such a casual atmosphere can make you disorganized.
For instance, you might find yourself constantly logging into your social platform accounts. You’ll interrupt your writing assignment to watch a YouTube video and end up binge watching an entire TV series.
You don’t have a clear plan – with timelines – on how you’ll complete that e-book.
Well, it’s about time you get organized.
To break such types of bad freelancing habits, start by drafting a clear plan for all the tasks you have. Indicate what times and dates you’ll focus on your clients’ assignments. You can even allocate a specific room or area in your house where you’ll be working from. Clear all distractions from that area, to avoid any lingering temptations.
Based on a study by the Project Management Institute, Inc., 1 out of 5 projects is unsuccessful due to ineffective communications.
If you worked in an office, employers wouldn’t need any assurance that you’re doing your job. They can easily see you working.
However, working online with customers halfway across the world, you need to update them on your progress regularly. Don’t remain silent from the time you get the job until the day you deliver it, especially if it’s a bulk project.
Never assume your client knows what you’re doing – inform them.
Most importantly, don’t send ambiguous messages to customers and be sure to clarify what the client wants. If not, you might end up producing a 5,000-word brochure on sports drink brands, yet your client intended it to be about just one sports drink brand.
This makes you feel outraged, and you go on a rampage disparaging the client on all social media sites. You use all manner of expletives and even add many other false accusations.
When you’re done, you realize that you’ve not just ruined the client’s image, but yours too. Other clients are scared of working with you for acting so unprofessionally.
That’s how bad freelancing habits can ruin your career.
Be careful about your social media posts. It might come back to haunt you. Just like one employee who was fired for this rant on Facebook.
You should never lose your professional demeanor even when you’re wronged. In fact, how you act when you’ve been wronged will prove how professional you are.
Here are several other situations when you should act professionally:
This is one of the bad freelancing habits that newbies often make.
They often focus on writing assignments and put little effort into finding out about their clients.
The problem with not understanding your client is your content will never meet all the needs of that client.
You’ll often get many re-write requests since your content won’t suit the client’s needs. Yes, you might do everything required in the customer’s brief, but sometimes you have to read in-between the lines to truly understand what the client needs. If you know your client, you can quickly figure out what your content must have.
At times, the high-paying client you’re searching for might be the client you’re already working with.
Some freelance customers run multiple projects simultaneously. They might be a mix of high-value and low-value projects. You’ll only discover this if you take time to find out a bit more about the client.
Before you read on, stand up, stretch your body, and walk around for a few minutes.
You’ve felt a sense of relief, and a bit energized, right?
That’s what you’ve been missing by sitting on that chair from morning to evening. It’s not healthy, plus it’s counterproductive.
For your health, always get off your seat from time to time and do some physical activity. Better still, set up an exercise program throughout the week. Get the blood pumping in your body and your muscles moving. You certainly don’t want to grow fat and develop health problems from a sedentary lifestyle.
Even when you sit, you must always adopt a proper posture.
The University of Washington gives the following guidelines on proper sitting posture:
You might need to replace your chair with an ergonomic one. And if you’re seriously health conscious, go for a standing desk.
By maintaining a great sitting posture, you’ll also find yourself working longer without tiring.
Copy-pasted proposals are a huge turn-off to potential customers.
Sending duplicate proposals to multiple clients is a sign that you have nothing unique to offer any of the clients. You certainly can’t convince high-value clients of your expertise in this manner. You would rather spend 1 hour writing 4 great proposals with the potential of landing clients, than sending 50 duplicate proposals which won’t attract any client’s attention.
Can clients notice that you’ve sent a copy-pasted proposal?
Yes, they can.
If your proposal contains very little or nothing concerning the client’s specific project, it’s a generic proposal.
For instance, if the client gave the following job offer, which of the two proposals looks generic?
Client’s job offer: I have a blog about gardening and need 5 blog posts. The blog is #####.com
Proposal 1: I’m an expert writer with 5 years of blogging experience. I’ve written hundreds of captivating blog posts for high authority sites. Therefore, I can produce great content for your website.
Proposal 2: Hi, I’ve reviewed your site, and it looks great. Gardening has been my lifetime passion. I would love to share the insights I’ve learned with your audience. I noticed the topic on natural pesticides received the highest engagement on your site. I think that’s a great topic to focus on more, especially since many people are looking for natural alternatives.
Every client wants a customized solution to their problems.
Make sure your proposal shows that you have a solution that applies to no other client. It should focus on the client’s specific industry and even the client’s particular website.
That’s how you get clients to pay you top rates.
Have you ever worked on an assignment and, midway through, realized that the job would cost more than your quote to the client?
Did you then ask for extra payment?
That’s one of the bad freelancing habits you should stop instantly. The client will consider you a scammer and likely never entrust you with any other project.
The only time you should ever ask for extra payment is if the client gives you more work beyond the initially agreed job description.
If you ever underbid on any writing job, handle the assignment to completion. Then give the client a higher quote for any future projects.
That’s’ what a professional writer does.
Perhaps, you’re one of those writers who was fortunate enough to get a consistent flow of writing jobs from when you started freelancing. Probably, you always had a whole bunch of spin tag articles to work on every day, throughout the year.
Then, Google updated its algorithm, and that type of content disappeared.
You’re left stranded, with little skill or experience in writing long-form, in-depth content, which is now in high demand.
That’s the real danger of never improving your writing skills.
If you have only one marketable skill, you’re in trouble. Research shows that single-skillset jobs are declining. But demand is increasing for a combination of two primary skills: mathematical ability and soft skills.
A simple step to take is networking more with people in your industry (you’ll never lack a job if you know the right people). Also take time to study something new, like graphic design, data analysis, and coding.
“Who would want to hack my computer? I’m not doing anything particularly sensitive or holding any valuable data.”
Well, you’ll be surprised at just how valuable your computer is.
First, you might have sensitive business information from your client on your computer, making you a target for unscrupulous competitors. Also, your computer might be hijacked as part of a broader network to carry out more sinister attacks on businesses or organizations. And if that still doesn’t get your attention, hackers can steal the money you get paid by clients through online payment platforms.
Security is especially important when you sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement).
An NDA may limit the amount of client information you can share with others. Therefore, you must avoid legal liability from breaking the NDA agreement when someone accesses client information through your unsecured computer.
Always secure your computer.
Installing an updated antivirus is just the first step. Much of your security depends on personal vigilance:
While at it, regularly backup your data, maybe in an external hard drive or an online cloud storage system. If anything happens to your computer, a backup will save you from the hassle of re-working on an entire 20,000-word whitepaper.
I know the reason why you love freelancing is the freedom you get. That’s probably why you cringe at the word ‘schedule’.
The reality is you can only enjoy that freelancing freedom if you have a schedule. Without such a schedule, your work hours will always extend into your resting time, to the point that you’ll never have any time to relax.
That’s why you always seem to be working 24 hours a day.
Having a work schedule means dedicating specific hours for work, so you can spend the rest of the time resting.
If you usually get writing jobs at night, schedule night hours for work and daytime for rest. If you work during the day, be strict about not taking writing assignments at night. Remember, if you don’t get enough sleep it will affect your ability to work (that’s probably why you often experience writer’s block).
In fact, sleep deprivation can cause multiple health problems as illustrated here.
As you can see, eliminating all those bad writing habits will not only help you get and retain clients but also save you from an early grave. As you eliminate those bad habits, you’ll realize that the world wasn’t set against you after all – all along, your destiny was in your hands.
Hi, I’m Mercy Mmbone. My mission is to help beginner freelance writers find success online. Even if you don’t have a degree, becoming a successful freelance writer is not as difficult as you’d think. The most important thing you’ll need to get started is self-motivation.
I’m honored to have worked with many popular companies including Ring Central and Freelancer FAQs.