You’ve made the decision to be a freelance writer. You know you enjoy writing, so let’s face it, what else could you possibly need?
A computer? Check!
An internet connection? Check!
Knowledge in your niche? Check! Check! Check!
The first stage is to apply for a few jobs and then…tumbleweed.
You don’t hear back from anyone. You don’t know what you did wrong. And worst of all you get disheartened.
Did they pass over you because you aren’t good enough? Or because you haven’t had lots of experience? Or something else? And that’s when imposter syndrome gets its claws into you.
The Nightmare that is Imposter Syndrome
Everyone else seems to be confident and getting jobs. What’s wrong with you?
Let me tell you the secret answer.
Absolutely nothing!! (OK, so it wasn’t that secret.)
Seriously, you’re fine, and you can do this. There might be a few things you aren’t doing that you should be, that’s all. Imposter syndrome looms big in this industry. When you’re working on your own at home, it’s really easy to second-guess everything you do and assume you’re not as good as everyone else.
We’ve all done it, and there’s nothing for it but to ‘gird your loins’ as my Granddad used to say (no idea how to gird loins or anything else for that matter but hey, ho).
Basically, it’s totally acceptable to fake it ’til you make it.
Put on a professional demeanor and go get those jobs — in the right way, of course.
Mistake #1 Not having a kickass portfolio.
Have you written articles that showcase how good you are and had them posted online? If not, you’re missing a great opportunity. It’s all very well sending shareable Google Docs or PDFs when you apply for jobs, but potential clients will be far more impressed if you can send them links to works you’ve already had posted.
Ideally, you’ll have your own website where you can post clips and have a blog that will be evidence that you can do the work you say you can. But I realize when you start your career, you may not have the money or time to set this up. I definitely recommend it as an important part of your professional persona, but there are things you can do in the meantime before you get to that stage.
In the interim, the easiest place to put your article is on Medium. Then all you need to do when looking for jobs, is to add the link to your application.
Click here if you’d like easy, step-by-step help to start your new freelance writing career, including setting up your best portfolio.
Mistake #2 Not following up.
Once you’ve applied for jobs, you can’t just cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Put yourself in the shoes of the client who advertised the job. There are a lot of freelance writers out there and if you saw the job ad, the chances are other people did too. There may have been far more than the poor client expected, and they’re going to have to go through all of them to weed out unsuitable writers and get a shortlist. Just dropping a short email again a week or so later, can help to get your name to the top of the pile. It shows you’re keen and may just persuade them to use you.
Do the same again if you still haven’t heard anything after another 5-7 days.
The same theory applies once you’ve had a few jobs. It can be tempting to just move onto the next thing when a writing contract ends, but remember you’ve done the hard work already, so don’t waste it. You’ve already persuaded these clients that you’re up to the job, and you’ve written articles that they’re pleased with (hopefully!). Just asking if they’re looking for more help with their content marketing, reiterating what it is you do and how you can help them is ideal. You’d be surprised how much this can nudge them into action including getting back to you.
And as an extra tip, I’ve often found that finishing the email with a question means you’re more likely to get a reply. Even if it’s as simple and vague as ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’
Human nature is such that it’s almost impossible to ignore a question specifically asked of you. Particularly if they actually are thinking of using the services of a freelance writer anyway. As you know the client, a more tailored question would be better though. You can mention the project you worked on last time, or something else you know they were working on, and ask if they need help with that instead.
Mistake #3 Not having any project management.
Juggling is an important part of a freelance writing career.
Not that sort of juggling, although it can be useful as a relaxing pastime, so why not I guess.
But that’s not really what I meant. The chances are you’ll be writing different things for more than one client at a time. And at times it may be a number of clients.
You need to have everything very organized so that you don’t drop the ball (see what I did there!).
You’ll be at different stages with each of your clients.
- Still be in the agreement/contract stages.
- Actually writing your articles.
- Have sent your articles but waiting for potential edits or agreement.
- Have had your article accepted and need to send an invoice.
- Be waiting for your invoice to be paid.
- Additionally, bearing in mind the second mistake above, you may have completed work with a client, but need to keep them in mind so you can follow up with them at a later date.
You need to be on top of each stage and all the deadlines. You don’t want to let anything slip and disappoint (or worse, anger) your clients.
I was dreadful at this when I started, as I found it difficult to keep on top of it all. But then I found Trello and I swear by it.
It’s a free tool that allows you to put your tasks and due dates on your own private board as little sticky notes. You can break your tasks down as small as you like, and I like being able to keep all my projects in one place with a visual representation of what’s going on.
But however you organize your work, you have to know what’s due each day and what you need to chase up. It makes for far fewer sleepless nights!
As a new freelance writer, it’s very easy to find yourself making these mistakes. Don’t worry if you have, you’re not alone. I’ve done all of these (and more) in the past, but the trick is not to repeat the problems once you’ve discovered them.
Don’t let these mistakes hurt your profits. Brush up your portfolio by posting something amazing on Medium. Follow up with all the jobs you haven’t heard from, as well as any past clients. And finally, organize your projects.
You’ll be amazed at how these simple tips can make massive changes to your daily life and career.