The 10 mistakes your clients don’t want you to make as a freelance writer
Unlike the yesteryears, freelance writing seems to be the “in thing”. Every person who has the time to write or thinks he or she can write has turned into a freelancer. And there is a reason for it. The market is awash with content work – and every brand (big or small) wants to get content marketing done. Content is the buzzword today and understandably content writers are the bees buzzing around that content hive.
In 2017, the benefits of having a career as a freelance content writer seem more lucrative than ever.
More and more marketers have created a structured content strategy for their brand and are looking for torchbearers who can lead them to get more conversions and sales. More and more websites have mushroomed with the offer of closing the gap between people who want content and people who write content.
But how is that working for the companies, brand and agencies who have started employing this large pool of freelancing talent? What are the things they felt should improve among freelancers? What are the things that would push them to outsource more jobs to freelancers?
As an agency, we often work with freelancers when there is work overload or when a client wants a particular industry specialist. So I had a chat with my content manager on her experience in handling freelancers and the things that she expected from her freelance content writers. I posted the same question to my editorial team, a couple of my entrepreneur friends, and another content writing agency who I knew worked with freelancers.
This is what they had to say –
Advantages of hiring a freelance content resource
i) Cut Costs
Every business house wants to maximise output and minimise costs. Freelancers are sometimes the best fit to an already existing team, bringing in new skill sets at lower costs.
ii) Get the best of content experts
In today’s world, you need a large variety of content to make your marketing work. From blog posts to white papers, to case studies to videos and infographics, it might not possible to get everything done in-house. The best thing to do here, if you have costs to think of, is to hire freelance industry experts to do the job. That way you get to publish authoritative content without burning your pocket.
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iii) Meet deadlines and be regular
One thing about content marketing that everyone needs to know is that it needs regularity. This means that you need the appropriate amount of content at the appropriate time. And that is where the problem arises. Between looking after various priorities, content can get bunted out of the list of priorities. To prevent that from happening, small companies/business can take the freelancer route to content creation.
We didn’t want to talk about the disadvantages here. So my next set of question to my peers and colleagues was this –
– What do you want from freelancers?
– What mistakes do you not want them to make?
– What are the things they felt should improve among freelancers?
– What are the things that would push them to outsource more jobs to freelancers?
So, freelancers, this one is for you. To ensure those paychecks keep flowing, here are the mistakes you need to avoid. Read, listen, understand, implement.
1. Not having an outstanding pitch
Let’s take it from the top. The moment you see a freelance writer job ad that seems to offer decent
pay, it seems like an absolute cake-walk that you’ll get it. After all, you have the relevant knowledge, skills and are willing to take up the pay. Guess what, so are a hundred others who applied just before you.
Think of the person on the other end of the laptop staring at the 101st application. Will he even get there? And if he does, what reason are you giving him to read it the second time? Being a writer, you have the best arsenal in the world to create an outstanding pitch. But the opening line needs to give enough reason to read what you have to say.
Here are some interesting examples: 31 Attention-Grabbing Cover Letter Examples
2. Not following up
Did you think that a job application is going to get you the job? Probably. Probably not. With the deluge of applicants, some tend to fall off the cracks. And it just may be your unlucky day if the fresher HR executive or overworked startup entrepreneur doesn’t get back to you. To avoid this, a follow-up email after a week works like a charm. It shows that you are diligent, can self-manage and are willing to work around your client’s schedule to get the job done. If not, at least you get some answers, which don’t leave you hanging.
3. Not asking the right questions
If the client decides to try you out, you’ll have the first opportunity to prove your worth. Asking the right questions can be a great way to find out their expectations. Keep it simple. Get your target persona for whom you will write this article. “A climb to Kilimanjaro” article can be written in many different ways depending on whom you are addressing. It can be a solo woman traveller, a young trekker, an amateur adventure group or just a travel enthusiast. Knowing an expected word count, the frequency of work coming your way and the speed at which you will need to deliver are all very important questions. Also understanding the CTA (Call to Action) for the article and adding it in strategically can be something that your client will thank you for.
4. Not finding stabilizers
In the course of a few months of being a freelance writer, you’ll come to understand the reality behind the term ‘freelance’. It does mean that you can choose some of the work you do. But it also means that you’ll have only as much work as your client can offer. There will be days when there is so much work that you’ll wonder if your fingers can’t type any faster. Then there will be days when you won’t have a new assignment waiting in your inbox. To avoid this, it is best to look out for stable opportunities like monthly blog writing which ensures you have some constant workflow and some seasonal ones.
5. Not having a schedule
There have been times when I’ve simultaneously handled 6 client accounts with various content requirements. When working rains it may just turn out to be a torrential downpour. At times like this, many freelancers looking to lap up the opportunity by committing to take on more than their capacity. This ultimately leads to poorly researched, half-baked articles that look like glue on a fracture. It sometimes also results in unintentional plagiarism. Unfortunately, it does more than temporary damage to your reputation too.
To avoid this, you’ll need two things. First, you need a detailed and realistic scheduling sheet that factors in time for writing an article and doing at least one round of edits. Second, you need some really neat management tools. Here are some of them –
Google Calendar for scheduling
Use a Google calendar to keep track of deadlines for your writing work. It’ll allow you to prioritize and think twice before committing to work you may not be able to deliver on time.
Track time with Toggl
In freelance writing, the input is not necessarily equal to output. A well-paying writing job may take several hours of research and revisions while a low wage one may get done in a jiffy. At the end of the week, you may put 60 hours but end up getting paid more or less depending on the project you chose. Track your time using the free version of Toggl to know your time/output comparison to know which projects you should pick up in the future.
Never lose an idea with Evernote
Ideas have an uncanny knack of popping up at odd times. Whether you are travelling or snacking, you can now use Evernote to capture your idea on your laptop or mobile and sync it centrally.
Gmail for business mail
Don’t go on an excavating expedition to track client emails and follow-ups. Instead, tag all your emails so that you can retrieve them with ease. Better yet, use a separate email for business and personal purposes.
Track your expenses
Good old Excel is still one of the best tools to keep track of articles you’ve been paid for, monthly and annual income. You can also use Google spreadsheets if you want easy tracking across devices.
7. Not adhering to deadlines
The biggest important you could make to annoy your client is to mess around with deadlines. You need to keep in mind that clients give deadlines keeping many things in mind. They’ll need time to read the article, provide feedback, leave room for edits and re-writing and then a complete check on images and links before publishing. If you push the deadline by a couple of days, their entire schedule may go for a toss. You need to understand that delay in deadlines damages brand value and the client is never likely to forget who is responsible for it.
Sticking to deadlines shows that you are dedicated, vested in their success and committed to providing quality service. It also helps build trust over time so that the client can even share one-off requests with you and know that you’ll deliver on time.
On the same note, it always makes sense to tell a client that you are stuck and will not be able to meet the deadline. They may not be happy about it, but they will know you are dependable and responsible.
REMEMBER: Do not call right before the deadline and drop the “delay” bomb! Always give the client time to work around a solution for the delay.
8. Making the really silly mistakes (not proofreading)
One of the things I have heard my editorial team complain about is how many of the writers do not bother to run a basic grammar check or a proofread check. No matter how well the article is written, small errors are always annoying and irritating. It means that you have not done your job as a writer. It also leaves a bad impression about the writer, which means you are not likely to be considered for the next project very soon.
While you have your friendly neighborhood free tool in Grammarly (you can even get the free Chrome extension which works great for your emails), my advice is always double proofread your work before you submit. I personally reverse read each article from the last word to the first to catch on the unusual mistakes. When the whole article is really good, the client may not crucify you for making a mistake here or they won’t be eager to classify it as a masterpiece anytime soon.
9.Not making your copy original
Plagiarism is a complete spoiler. It’s the biggest put-off for any client and it definitely shuts doors. If there is one thing you should never do is lifting stuff from the internet and writing it as your own. Please know that every client who knows her content will scan your content for plagiarism by running it through software like Copyscape. Any line that has been copied off another article does get picked up instantly. So make sure that your copy is always original. If you have doubts run it through a paid software like Copyscape or a free anti-plagiarism tool like smallseotools.com. It’s always better to check than feel sorry later.
10.) Not working on your own goals
Do you see yourself working as a freelance content writer 5 years from now? Are you OK with the ambiguity around your monthly income? Are you sure you will be able to upgrade your skills constantly? These are questions that most working professionals can answer easily. They have a set path and know which way to go. But as a freelancer, you’ll have to set your own long-term goals – for your work and your income. You’ll have to go back to the drawing board time and again to see how many hits and misses you are having and then realign your strategy. It has taken several years for those ‘successful’ bloggers to start gaining steady traffic and income. Create a goal to get there and only then you will.
So there you go – the 10 mistakes that your client does not want in your content. Let’s hope that you have taken a good look at this article and never repeat the errors.
Being a freelance writer may not be as amazing as it sounds. You will be faced with writer’s blocks, write about topics that you don’t enjoy too much, work all day all night to meet deadlines and still be faced with an occasional month when you don’t know if you will make rent. However, avoiding the silly mistakes along the way is a great way of ensuring that your client will always come back to you.
If you love to write and can write to sell, drop us an email today.
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