5 mistakes I made as a freelance writer

successful content writers

A disclaimer– My post is not about tips to earn 6-7 figure incomes or get 50k viewers to their website in a month. The day I start earning it or I get that kind of traffic I will write about it. It is for all the freelance writers who want to become successful freelance writers and  earn a tidy sum from their writing.

As a freelance writer the struggle of getting paid gigs is real. The new found enthusiasm can quickly wane off and it’s easy to get dejected. Lack of income is a strong deterrent and passion to write alone cannot sustain the momentum of writing. On top of that if you are someone like me who has just a few 100 views, the joy of writing can be short lived. 

Then how does one become a successful freelance writer who earns a tidy sum. 

First, let’s begin with the 5 mistakes I committed as a freelance writer which you can easily avoid-

  1. Overnight success as a freelance writer– get out of this thought immediately. It is a mood as well as writing dampener. Lucky are those, whose posts went viral and garnered traffic in thousands in the first attempt.  Rest of us are like the tortoises in the tortoise and hare story where slow and steady wins the race. Be consistent, write quality and original articles and you will succeed. Be prepared for the long haul. 

2. Apply, apply apply– the cardinal mistake I committed as a content writer. I would look at the word,’ wanted content writer’, and I would shoot my portfolio and CV, only to realize most of them were neither in my niche area or matched my style of writing. The requirements demanded knowledge of certain tools, or coding experience or something similar, but all I looked at was the words content writer needed. So most of the time it was apply, apply but no reply. That can make you feel either as a loser or you are not a good writer because people did not get back. But it is not true, it was just a demand and supply mismatch.

3. Freelance writer or a job– decide how you want to pitch yourself. Are you looking to earn through freelance assignments or get a job as an inhouse content writer in an organization or with a brand. Both are different and you should know it. As a freelancer you have the choice of accepting projects that interest you  but as an inhouse content writer you meet the organization requirements. I made this mistake of forgetting it, and in my 4th interview I realized it. Either I would refuse the job or the job would refuse me. I had my limitations as I could only WFH and was ok with traveling to work one odd day based on the requirement. I also realized my limitations as a content writer. I am not adept at all kinds of writing. Technical writing is not one of my strengths and brands sometimes expect their inhouse writers to do that. Decide whether to work as a freelancer or an inhouse content writer on a payroll and proceed accordingly.

4. Copywriting and content writing roles are different.

successful freelance writers

I wrote an article on that and still made the mistake of pitching in for gigs that needed only copywriters. Result- an email that said you do not meet our requirements. Ideas are good but we expect more. I took it personally and thought I am not good enough as a content writer. But I wasn’t  a failure, only that I was in the wrong lane. 

So if that happens, take the first detour that is available and get onto the correct path to become either a successful paid content writer or copy writer or both if you have the skill.

5. Writing for passion and not compulsion. I wanted big money real quick so I pitched in for every freelancing gig that paid well. What I ended with was writing because I had to and not because I wanted to. Why is that important? Because it decides whether you are in for the short term or long term. Avoid this mistake. Choose your niche and if it is taking time let it be. You will figure it out eventually. You will enjoy writing articles and they have a stamp of authority because they come from a subject that is close to your heart and you resonate with it. You never know, one day you might be the top freelance content writer in that niche. Aim for it. 

choose your niche

An extra tip– do not undersell yourself. Comes from writing for passion and not compulsion. Charge what you think is due for the effort you would put in for the ideas, research, organizing, keyword search, jazzy headlines, flow, effectiveness and engagement and quote your price. And before I conclude one last tip. Certification does not guarantee paid assignments. It doesn’t matter what they told you in your content writing course. It takes time to establish oneself as a credible freelance writer. 

So what are the key takeaways in terms of mistakes that you can avoid as a freelance content writer

  • There is a difference in freelance writing and an inhouse writer for a brand or organization
  • Copywriting and content writing skills are different
  • Be prepared for the long haul and not overnight success
  • Discover your niche so that writing is  a passion and not compulsion
  • Avoid applying right after a certification course. Take time to build your portfolio. Find guest posting opportunities. Write on platforms like medium, LinkedIn, to understand how will you approach writing

Last but not the least- 

charge what you think you deserve in terms of your writing skills. Avoid writing tests that ask for 1000-1500 word articles. Write it but provide only a 500 word outline to them and tell them this how you propose to cover the topic.

I forgot to tell you the most important thing, I learned from the mistakes I committed. Today I earn a decent income from my freelancing gigs. I reject some and some reject me. That has not stopped. 

For every test that asks me to write 1000-1200 words I provide the first 500 words to them followed by a link to my website where I publish the article. I ask them to check it out and get back to me if they liked it. 7 out of 10 times they say I did not meet the grammar guidelines and so I am rejected.

 I send them my Grammarly score.


But I am thankful to them because they provide me ideas for my articles so I win anyway. The other 30% respond positively and we take it forward from there..r

5 thoughts on “5 mistakes I made as a freelance writer”

  1. A very insightful article. Thanks for writing such a nice post that is a great help to freelancers like me. I would like to guest post on your site. Is the offer still open?

  2. Hi Radhika, thanks for your feedback. Yes the guest posting opportunity is available for another one month. You can submit your ideas through the contact form on the guest posting page and we will take it forward from there.

  3. Hi Kalyani, I am just starting out as a freelance writer and this post is a perfect guide to how should I approach it.

  4. Pingback: How to become a ghostwriter

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