What I’m listening to: Under Pressure by Queen & David Bowie
Wow. Friday already?
It went by a bit quickly. I have projects in the works, but until I get some interviews completed, I have some free time. I spent it working on two personal projects and trying to learn a new bit of Windows 10 functionality. No sense having technology if you don’t know how to use it, I say.
I had time too to visit some forums, answer some emails, and have conversations with writers of various career levels. It’s always refreshing to talk with successful freelancers — these are people anyone can and should learn from. I know I do.
See, they get it. They’ve figured out that being a freelance writer is so much more than merely writing for clients. The attention they give to their entire business shows in the results they get. There are no shortcuts, but plenty of work, research, and learning to make a successful business grow.
That’s why I was disturbed when I saw a course that promised to fast track writers into careers, skipping over the “unnecessary” stuff, and by interviewing successful writers and copying what they do. While I’m not exactly sure what these organizers consider to be unnecessary, there’s an undercurrent to that message that I just don’t like. It’s this: You too can just ride the coattails of those before you.
Can that method work? For a while, yes. And maybe that’s the point of this course — to jump-start flagging careers and give these freelancers something on which to build. But to skip over stuff? I don’t see that method sustaining any writer in the long term.
Yet there are freelance writers who need the guidance, particularly when it comes to running a business. They make mistakes — non-writing mistakes — that kill their chances before they get going. Here are some of the more recent issues I’ve encountered that can bring down your freelance writing business:
Using blanket queries. You know those form letters you get that you hate so much? Why would you think sending them to your prospective clients will net you any different reaction than your own? People do business with people. If all you’re doing is filling in a new name and email address, you’ve failed to understand how to really connect with your prospective clients.
Putting that blasé attitude front and center. Plenty of freelancers would be surprised by how their actions are interpreted by others. Little things can wave big flags — expecting your sources to contact you, missing deadlines, missing phone calls, making piss-poor excuses (any excuse is piss poor), not focusing on the task, putting other things in front of that thing you’re not doing, even not taking seriously your next conversation. Any one of these can raise a flag. Any two or more can have that client running the other way.
Forgetting the business side. If you began your freelance writing career thinking you’d be doing mostly writing, you’re going nowhere fast. You are a small business owner. You can’t dabble in writing if you intend to make a living at it. That means you have to run your business wisely. Act professionally with clients and colleagues, form connections, nurture client relationships, focus on pleasing them and not your wallet, and doing the damn legwork it takes to be successful.
Looking for shortcuts. Seriously, don’t you think if there were such a thing as a shortcut, we’d all have taken it by now? Here’s a fact about freelance writing that will not change: It takes hard work to create a successful freelance writing business. So suck it up, buttercup. Time to work your ass off.
Writers, what were some of your early business mistakes that you’ve overcome?
What other mistakes have you seen freelance writers make?
How would you advise a new writer who’s wanting to grow his or her career potential?