The Seven Deadly Sins of Freelance Writing

Guest Post by Francesca StaAna

Image of a woman sitting a a table with a pencil and a book, and several crumpled pieces of paper, about to toss a crumpled up paper over her shoulderWondering why your articles aren’t getting a lot of views or clicks? Stressing about the fact that you’re not getting enough repeat clients?  You might be committing these deadly freelance writing mistakes:

Silence (Not following up)

Contrary to what some might think, just because a prospect doesn’t immediately respond to your first call or email, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not interested. Yes, most of them probably don’t need your services, but there ARE some potential clients who are simply too busy to respond. This is especially true when it comes to sending emails. People are bombarded with emails on a daily basis, so you can’t really blame them if they overlook yours.

Always follow up. Don’t let fear, pride, or laziness stop you from doing it. Whether you’re cold-emailing a potential customer or reaching out to blogs to see if they’re willing to publish your guest post, make it a point to reach out in about a  week or so after you’ve first made contact to see if they’re interested.

Ignorance (Not reading enough)

Reading should be a necessity for writers. Reading on a regular basis allows you to appreciate the beauty of the written word, gives you inspiration, and more importantly, makes you a better writer. It opens you up to different styles of writing and helps you develop your own.

On a more pragmatic level, reading can give you new material to write about. Can’t think of anything new to jot down on your blog? Pick up a recent issue of an industry magazine and see what’s happening in the world. Check out the latest posts on your favorite websites and get different points of view on issues. I guarantee you’ll find something to write about.

Carelessness (Failing to catch typographical and grammatical errors)

Committing typos is unavoidable. Publishing them on the other hand, is a different story.

Typographical and grammatical errors are embarrassing at best, and misleading at worst. One misplaced letter or punctuation mark can shift the meaning of a statement, so make sure that you thoroughly proofread your writing especially when it’s supposed to go out to the public.

Have a second set of eyes read through your work before sending it in. If you’re on your own, step out of the room for a few minutes or do something else for a while then go back and re-read what you’ve written. Personally, I’ve found that changing the font and color of the text, as well as reading aloud makes proofreading so much easier.

Self-Absorption (Focusing on yourself rather than the audience)

Whether you’re pitching to clients or writing a blog post, always remember one thing: It’s about THEM, not you. Think about it. When you’re out on a date, wouldn’t you be turned off by someone who only talks about himself or herself without bothering to ask you about your life?

Similarly, one of the quickest ways to get readers to lose interest is by failing to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” (Trust me, they’re all asking that question.)

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]In most cases, writing isn’t about sounding intelligent. It’s about getting your message across in the most effective way possible.[/perfectpullquote]

Unoriginality (Failing to use your own unique voice)

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a writer (and as a person in general) is trying to be someone you’re not. While it’s perfectly acceptable to admire and be inspired by other people’s writing styles, it’s another thing to try and copy them. Instead, study the writing styles of others to develop your own unique flavor. You’ll be a much better writer and have more fun while you’re at it.

Also avoid using words or phrases that are not “you” in an effort to sound smart and important. In most cases, writing isn’t about sounding intelligent. It’s about getting your message across in the most effective way possible.

Close Mindedness (Refusing to try other things)

So you’re set in your ways. I get it. I can be the same way too. However, not going out there to try new things can seriously hinder your growth.

For instance, I know some writers who were reluctant to market using Pinterest because it was too “image based” and they assumed that it wouldn’t be an effective medium to promote their work. I paid no attention to those claims and tried it anyway. I used tools such as  PicMonkey and  Share As Image to make my words “pinnable,” and guess what? The Pinterest community took notice. My site got more clicks and I even got a few client calls because of it.

The takeaway? Don’t automatically turn your back on ideas or tools just because you’re not familiar with them. Keep an open mind at all times and try new things—even if you’re not used to them. After all, you never know how effective (or ineffective) something is until you try it out for yourself.

Social Aversion (Refusing to network or collaborate with others)

Don’t treat all your fellow writers as the competition. Instead, see them as teachers, peers, or even friends. Similar to being closed minded, not opening up your professional circle can stop you from growing and learning new things.

You can pick up a lot of new ideas and connections by attending conferences and networking mixers, so try to be present at these events whenever you can. If you’re more of an introvert, start by networking online. Comment on blogs and connect with people via social media

Your Turn

Are you guilty of any of these sins? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.


Francesca is the founder of Credible Copywriting and specializes in writing blog posts, web content and press releases for startups, Internet companies, and mobile app developers. She’s currently developing Copywriting 2.0, an online course that teaches aspiring copywriters the ins and outs of the biz. Sign up here and get notified when the course launches.

12 thoughts on “The Seven Deadly Sins of Freelance Writing”

  1. I’m an editor and client, and I promise you that I have never turned anybody away because they didn’t use Pinterest. What ensures you’ll never work for me again, or never get a chance in the first place, is if you promise things you can’t deliver; fail to respect the deadline and word count; and submit work to me that you’ve already published elsewhere. One of the worst sins is length – if I commission a blog post and ask for 300 words, I don’t want 1,100 words with a note telling me I can “cut it any way” I feel like it, as though the writer is doing me a big favour. Another thing that really annoys me is if writers try and market themselves within their piece – that’s fine if you’re working for free, but if you’re being paid for it, I don’t want to hear about you, or your services, unless it’s extremely relevant to the piece. Even then, it can’t be marketing for you.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Chloe! It’s great to read about deadly writer sins from a client/editor’s perspective. You actually gave me some ideas for a post, and I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’re open to it.

    Just to clarify, I’m not saying that all writers should use Pinterest. I was just using it as an example to illustrate that good things can come out of trying something new. 🙂

  3. Hello Francesca,

    I want say you have a great article right there and I am very glad I came across to it.

    Chloe’s got a big point on that. I have never seen a writer who writes more words than he/she is being paid for. Excuses can be very annoying indeed.

    Glenn Trufman

  4. Thank you for your useful advice. One of the areas in which I fail miserably as a freelancer is networking. I have to admit to some social anxiety, and so I don’t get out there and meet people nearly as much as I should. I’m trying to take my freelance copy editing business to the next level, and I know I can’t do that without networking.

  5. Great article. Gives me a lot of important tips to consider as I begin my journey of being a writer. Thanks for the great advice.

  6. Glenn, I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for the comment! 🙂

    Linda, believe me I’ve been there. I’m an introvert myself and since I can express myself better using the written word rather than speaking, I still get pretty anxious during networking events.

    Cheryl, you’re welcome! Good luck with you writing career and if you have any questions feel free to let me know.

    Jessica, thanks for the comment! I think a lot of us have been guilty of not following up. Overtime, I made it a habit to schedule follow-up messages on my calendar so I won’t forget. Let those positive results motivate you to continue doing it!

  7. I just wanted to thank you for the suggestion of changing the font and color of text before proofreading. I have never thought of that but ensuring I have no typos and grammatical errors is something I struggle with. I’m learning, but I often find when I read my work soon after writing it I overlook the common typos because I know what I “meant” to say.

    In a perfect world, what I prefer to do with proofing something is wait several days after writing it. This helps me forget some of the details and makes it a little easier to catch mistakes.

    Nonetheless, I realize I still have a long way to go but that is just part of the fun of the journey.

    And I second your call that we need to read more. From personal experience I can attest to the fact that it does help your writing. It will also help you evolve your own style. I think it is also another way to help pick up a few subtle character points you can use when creating a character.

    One last note, the point about not seeing other writers as the competition is something we (not just writers) need to start practicing in our everyday lives. We need to start seeing other people less as competition we need to fight agains and more as people who can help us and who we can help.

    Professionally, I’m a hotelier. And it has always been much more helpful when I have gotten together with a group of other hoteliers to see how we could work “together” in increasing business as opposed to just looking at the other hotels and competition we must try to bury and/or steal from. This was not an easy lesson to learn.

  8. Thanks for the comment, Mark. I’m glad that some of my points resonated with you.

    About proofreading — Yes, it would certainly be ideal if we had ample time to let our work sit for a while so we can get back to it with fresh eyes. But deadlines really are a part of reality and when we’re pressed for time, we have to use some proofreading techniques like the ones I mentioned above.

    Another tip I’d like to add is to read the text backwards. Start with the last sentence, then the second to the last, and so on. This prevents you from getting too caught up with the content and helps you catch mistakes.

    And right on about not competing with each other. The world would be a much better place if people would learn to work together instead of trying to one-up each other.

  9. I had severe social aversion for the first few years. It’s not because I view others as my competition, I just get fatigued by interacting with other people all the time. However, I’m having to learn to overcome that now as I market my ebook “Make Freelancing REALLY Pay”. Ironically, the time I spent on LinkedIn helped me make the book even better than it would have been otherwise. Discussing my ideas with other freelancers forced me to clarify my thoughts. It’s been invaluable!


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