When you are a new freelancer, you can make a lot of mistakes unintentionally. I started freelance writing shortly after graduating from college. It was something I did to make extra money while I looked for a job. Obviously, like with most first-time freelancers, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. In fact, I only made five bucks my first month (and it was the automatic sign up bonus).
Nearly seven years down the road and I have learned some valuable lessons along the way. Lessons that I hope many of you won’t have to learn the hard way. Here are four rookie mistakes to avoid as a new freelancer.
Forget Content Mills
When I first became a new freelancer, I thought everyone started on content mills. As a result, I found myself spending a lot of time slaving away writing articles for very little pay.
While I did make some money, it was rather insulting in comparison to what people will actually pay you for your skills. Moral of the story? Avoid content mills. If you need something to put in your portfolio you are way better off starting a niche blog. That way, you can have a few articles under your belt, and you will seem more credible when you start pitching to people directly.
Moral of the story? Avoid content mills. If you need something to put in your portfolio you are way better off starting a niche blog. That way, you can have a few articles under your belt, and you will seem more credible when you start pitching to people directly.
(P.S. Click here for my free tutorial on how to start a blog for $4.)
There’s an art to job boards.
For the most part, massive freelancing job boards rarely ever get you anything good – and you can forget about Craigslist!
Most of the writing gigs on these boards require a ridiculous amount of work for very little pay. Or, the ads are posted by shady start-up companies that may not even pay you – one time I was even told I wouldn’t get paid with money, but with a tree planted in my name.
Even as a new freelancer, I knew that wasn’t right. It was at that moment I realized I needed to change my strategy if I ever wanted to make any real money.
Credible publications and businesses rarely put ads on these boards. Instead, they seek out their writers or freelancers by pitching to them directly. As a result, marketing, blogging, and having a professional website is very important.
With that being said, I can’t completely knock job boards because one of my longest-standing and highest-paying clients came from the ProBlogger job board. What started as a writing gig has turned into lucrative video projects and travel. Some job boards that require payment are also pretty good.
So rather than avoiding job boards altogether, it’s more about figuring out which ones are good and creating a system so you’re not wasting your time on crappy postings.
If you’d like to find good paying writing gigs that make you more money check out Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den which has a pretty good job board or my Make Money Your Honey With Freelance Writing course.
Never Work Without a Contract
This is a big one. A written agreement between two parties not only makes you look more professional, it also draws the lines between you and the client. It dictates how much you will get paid, when you will get paid and what each party is allowed to do.
I never work without a contract anymore simply because of two very important things. First, I would run the risk of not getting paid and not having anything in writing to back up my right to the money. Second, I may find myself doing a million revisions for a difficult client without being able to charge anything extra.
In other words, a contract ensures I get paid for my time and services. It doesn’t have to be anything really fancy either. I share some sample contracts with my students in the Make Money Your Honey With Freelance Writing Course.
Don’t Start Working on a Big Project Without a Down Payment
This is another big mistake that freelancing newbies make. Learn this now: don’t work without a down payment. It shows you that your client is serious about paying you for your time. Simply put, you have bills to pay so you need to make sure your clients will actually pay you.
If someone isn’t willing to put down a down payment, then that may mean they aren’t serious about your working relationship. At the very least, make sure you have all of their contact information, including their address. This will ensure that you could track them down if need be.
Where To Learn More About Freelancing As a Business
By following the aforementioned steps you’ll avoid a lot of freelancing heartache. However, this post only mentioned some of the most common mistakes I made on my journey. There are many others, but you can avoid them, even as a new freelancer!
If you’d like to start your own career as a freelance writer, feel free to enroll in the Make Money Your Honey With Freelance Writing Course. I teach students how to price their services, how to pitch corporate writing clients, how to find the good gigs on job boards, how to brand themselves through blogging, and much more. Click here to learn more about the course.
I’ll also be on a panel later this month for the local art institute in Miami which will cover a ton of topics about freelancing as a business. Make sure to sign up for the email list below to be notified when tickets are made available.