Writing Advice That’s Killing Your Career

What I’m reading: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

What I’m listening to: Collide by James Bay

that-s-lame-bad-and-or-stupi-1537799-1599x1196Oh, the joys of a short week. Naturally, I have big projects due next week, so I’m working full out. I have to stop briefly today for an article interview, a client call, and lunch with my aunt (our annual get-together). Somehow, I have to get a market report completed and two articles in just a few hours. One I can manage. All three? Not a chance.

I had five minutes between projects yesterday to cruise the blogs and forums. Oh, my goodness. The advice I saw, while well-intentioned, was pretty bad. Let me rephrase — it was advice that, if taken, could both waste your time and stall your career. In nearly every case, there was blanket advice that doled out plenty of “no effort” promises.

Because all things worth having are worth taking a passive approach. Right.

Why is it I feel like I write this post every week? Because these instances of crappy advice seem to occur regularly. What sucks is that the bad advice is coming from all over — from beginners who think they know to veteran writers who don’t think before they type. And other writers are listening and believing everything as fact.

I’m not one to tell people they must do or must not do anything. I hate absolutes absolutely. However, here are some examples of the bad advice that’s circulating these days. Whether you follow it or not is up to you:

You can attract clients without trying. Come on, seriously? Putting your name on job boards among thousands of other writers isn’t going to cut it, nor is merely tweaking your website. You may get a client by chance, but the heavy hitters — the clients who pay real money — are the ones you market to directly and build a relationship with. Forget easy anything. Nothing about running a business comes easily. Instead, commit to the work and stick with it.

You can make a ton of money on a job site. Please. It’s like those “experts” claiming to have made $100K in one year, then qualifying it with “Well, it wasn’t all in freelancing.” Too many claims of making money sitting by the pool or working just 4 hours a day — on a job site or content mill site that pays crap. And you believe that? No, you’re a smart freelance writer. These places source the work, you get to bid, and once every blue moon, you get work. They keep a portion of your cash as compensation. But why do you need them? If you have an active marketing approach, you get better clients, and you get to keep the entire portion of your fee. Oh, and you’re able to negotiate that fee. Plus, your client now sees you as a go-to source instead of a one-off contractor who put in the lowest bid.

You should never give new clients a price break. While I will agree that new clients should work to earn your loyalty (as much as you should do the same), it’s called negotiating. If they have a budget and you have a fee, they’re not always going to match. It’s okay to have a bottom-line number in mind and work with a new client to negotiate a fair rate for both of you. In two recent cases, I’ve secured ongoing work with clients by negotiating a rate slightly lower than I’m used to getting. Will I do that in every case? No. In most cases, I stick with my rate. But it’s okay to compromise as long as the compromise doesn’t hurt you. And don’t undersell yourself — instead, offer a one-time discount in exchange for ongoing work.

Writers, what kind of lousy advice are you seeing these days?

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  • Anne Wayman July 9, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve missed some of those, but I really like the way your blog is looking! Good job.

  • lwidmer July 11, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks, Anne! It was a long time in coming, but I’m glad it’s finally on WP. Much better control over format and comment moderation.