You do everything right – follow guidelines, edit well, promote yourself – so why doesn’t your bank account reflect writing success? Many freelance writers make multiple unwitting mistakes that jeopardize their productivity and their paychecks.
1. Working In Pajamas
Can’t you write just as well in your sweats and robe? But the more casually you dress, the more casually you are likely to treat your work. Instead, dress casually as you wake up, check email, and get started on your day, but then get dressed appropriately and you’ll find your energy levels up and your productivity increasing – if only so you can soon kick off the shoes again!
2. Not Investing In Yourself
Freelance writers need more than paper to perfect their craft. While you may invest in yourself with good technology, there are many other supplies you may be lacking. A comfortable chair with the right lumbar support can keep you in your office longer, and a well-organized desk will keep all the pens, paper, and notes you need at your fingertips for a productive day. Invest in your off time as well with a relaxing massage or nice dinner out to recharge your batteries, and you’ll be ready for another work day.
3. Not Using Family
“Write what you know” is a key lesson freelance writers learn, but don’t forget to write what others know as well. Family members, friends, and neighbors can all be good resources for a wider range of expertise that can lead to more articles to write, boosting your paycheck.
4. Too Many Projects
More work means more money, right? Not always! A writer overburdened with extra projects and tight deadlines may be able to complete them all, but none will be done well. Instead, focus on a lower number of better paying projects, and complete them well – doing so will impress editors and lead to higher pay rates and additional assignments.
5. Being a Perfectionist
Editing your work is essential, but editing a dozen times and questioning the placement of every period will slow down how much you actually write. Instead, minimize your editing to be sure all obvious errors are corrected, but don’t edit for so long that you miss deadlines or fail to send your work out at all. Editors appreciate a piece that is as correct as possible, but if one mistake slips by your eagle eye, don’t stress over the consequences.
A blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, or other social site is essential to keep in touch with your readers and promote your work, but promotion can quickly use up hours of writing time without earning a penny. To take advantage of these tools without excess, use a timer to ensure you’re not socializing too long, or opt to work on only one or two of the tools, rotating so each gets attention every few days.
7. Not Checking Spam
A spam filter is useful for blocking nonsense emails or eliminating junk, but it’s important to regularly check your spam for the occasional missed message. An editor’s response to your query, an invoice request, or a contract confirmation could all accidentally end up somewhere other than your inbox, and if you don’t find those messages, you’re missing important income.
8. Not Taking Days Off
The more you work, the more you earn – but work too much and your earnings will go down. Exhaustion, poor health, and stress will take their toll on your creative juices and sap your productivity. Plan a full day each week to take completely off – no research, no editing, no perusing new markets. Instead, try something new or enjoy a hobby and you’ll not only come back to your office refreshed, but with new inspiration for even more writing.
Every freelance writer makes mistakes, but if you can avoid these errors even while you do everything else right, you’ll soon see your writing problems fall and your profits rise.
Melissa Mayntz is a Utah-based freelance writer and manuscript editor. Her work has appeared in Byline Magazine, Senior Living, and Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, as well as on About.com and in numerous writing newsletters and other websites. Learn more at www.MelissaMayntz.com.