What I’m listening to: Christine’s Tune by The Flying Burrito Brothers
I finished last week in an unusual position — I had no projects to work on. Given the huge amount of work I had to get done in March, I was actually happy about that. I had time to work on a website migration, taxes, and some personal writing projects.
I had time too to visit some blogs and forums. It’s almost as depressing as cruising job boards. Why am I not surprised by the “writing is dead” or the “I tried that and it didn’t work” statements? Oh, I know why —
Because they’ve been proclaimed for decades.
For freelance writers who are rarely without work, these kinds of declarations have no basis in reality. More likely, the writers who are saying such things are busy killing their careers rather than looking for ways to test such statements out.
Are you killing your freelance writing career? You are if you:
Copy instead of innovate. Isn’t it easy to see someone having success at something and want to try it their way? Oh wait, this guy knows something, too. And hey, how about I try her method for a week? There is no magic bullet to freelance writing success. None. There is, however, a way to really grow a strong business — build it your way. Take ideas, sure, but not every idea. How about just the ones that fit? And stick with them for longer than a minute. What worked for someone else most likely took a few months to really start working.
Never try anything new. Ah, but then there are freelance writers who will stick with the same plan no matter how dated and tired it is. Outdated marketing tactics, overused phrasing, the same tired website design and images just make you look out of touch. How can clients trust someone not working in the same century?
Think proofreading doesn’t matter. I saw a post recently by a self-professed expert that was littered with spelling errors and sentences that made no damn sense. Not the first one like that I’ve seen from this particular writer, either. If you’re taking shortcuts, it will show. Slow down. Proofread. Your clients are watching.
Never act on advice you sought. Time and again I saw the same writers asking the same questions over the span of a year or so. Those writers disappeared. Why? Because they weren’t willing to put the work into it.
Have no plan. When you first start out freelancing, it’s easy to just take the fingers-crossed approach to querying and contacting potential clients. But pretty soon, you’re just tossing darts into a cavern — nothing is landing anywhere. It takes writing down what you want to achieve and what you want to try to make it happen. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown plan. Even bullet points are better than no plan at all.
Promote only yourself. What a narcissistic existence it is when you don’t go beyond your own four cyber walls. Do you comment on other blogs? Share on social media? Make an effort to be part of any community beyond your own small universe? One of the fastest ways to befriend anyone is to help them promote their work or their ideas. It shows you’re human and you give a damn about someone beyond yourself.
Follow every fool who claims to be expert. There are a good number of excellent courses, webinars, books and seminars out there for freelance writers. There are even more people overselling the same recirculated schlock you can get for free with a simple web search. Worse, there are newcomers claiming to be marketing and writing experts when they’ve barely earned a paycheck. Study the people with whom you’re placing your trust — and more importantly, your money. Is their content really that innovative or are they wrapping urgent language around old ideas (clue — more than one exclamation point in any post or ad is a sign of someone polishing a turd). Does that person really have a strong background in what they’re claiming, or have they embellished their resume? Use your common sense — it’s your best business tool.
Writers, how do you see other writers killing their careers?
Was there ever anything you once believed that threatened your career?
What advice would you give to writers who are well on their way to career suicide?