4 common freelance mistakes I saw when HIRING writersSep 30, 2021
The freelance world is different than traditional employment; there is no one looking over our shoulders. Mentorship and guidance are almost non-existent unless you pay for coaches or courses. That's why so many of us make the same mistakes early in our freelance careers.
If you’ve stumbled upon this article or were routed here from my weekly email, that means you’ll AVOID these mistakes, helping you find freelance success faster. As someone who built their freelance business from scratch and then went on to hire teams of writers for my clients, I get a behind-the-scenes view of what makes freelancers successful.
Here are the top four mistakes (that I see ALL the time!) holding freelance writers back from making a full-time living and reaching their income goals—and of course, how to avoid them!
1. Not setting a yearly income goal
The most overlooked step in a freelancer’s journey is setting an income goal. It may seem silly to do this because you’re just not sure of how much you’ll make. Freelancing (especially in the beginning) comes with a ton of unknowns.
Think of it this way: the IRS will require you to estimate your earnings so that you can pay your quarterly taxes, so this is something you need to do for your business anyway. It is impossible to achieve our income goals if we don't set them.
If you have no idea, make your income goal $5,000 per month. That was my goal when I started and I’ve seen many other writers start with this goal as well. While it will require you to stretch beyond your comfort zone, it’s also highly attainable.
Do this: set your yearly income goal and work backward. See how many clients you’d have to take per month to make 5k per month. This will help you set your rates, avoid low-paying clients, and structure retainers that ensure you reach your financial goal.
2. Trying to get clients without first creating a plan
If you already have a consistent client base and are happy with your income, you can probably get away with inconsistent cold pitching- in fact, it’s what I do now in my own business.
However, when you’re just starting out and need to land your steady, long-term clients, it’s going to take a lot of cold pitching. As I always say, it’s a numbers game. Here’s how you form a consistent plan, something I teach in my online course:
Step 1: You need to know who you’re going to reach out to (this starts with knowing their industry and job title)
Step 2: You need to set a goal of how many cold pitches you’re going to send per week.
Step 3: Stick to your goal no matter what.
Remember, Without consistency, you won’t get results
3. Calling yourself a CONTENT writer instead of a copywriter
The big “copy” versus “content” debate. I find that writers (especially when they’re first starting out) feel confused and insecure about labeling themselves "copywriters.” This is a big mistake because copywriters can command higher rates. The best part? Calling yourself a content writer or a copywriter is entirely up to you.
You may be thinking to yourself "Yeah, but I only write content." Well, let’s discuss…
- What matters most when it comes to copywriting is making clients happy and getting them results. As copywriters, we play a key role in a company’s overall marketing strategy, which is writing their marketing and brand messaging.
- When people think of “copy” they think of the messaging that converts someone into a paying customer. So “copy” tends to be thought of as the words on ads, sales page, and email marketing campaigns. People tend to think of “content” as just a blog post, or some other informational piece of content that doesn’t try to outright sell the product.
But here’s why content is just as important as copy, and in my opinion, considered practically the same thing:
Content gets a lead 80% of the way there so that the sales letter can do its job of converting someone into a customer. (Quote from AWAI attributed to Brian Clark from Copyblogger.) AND content marketing generates three times more leads than paid search advertising!!!!!! This stat is from 2019 and could be even higher now.
So let's get this straight, the "content" you write will do 80% of the heavy lifting during the buyer's journey, yet you don't think you have the right to charge the same rates as a copywriter?
If the content writer does their job properly, it makes the job of the "copywriter" much easier. These roles are so interchangeable, which is why I suggest writers call themselves "copywriters" off the bat instead of waiting to one day feeling worthy enough for the title copywriter (hint: it's never coming, you have to claim the title yourself!)
4. Not picking a niche
I see many copywriters saying they don’t have a niche and they did just fine. But when it comes to building a freelance business from scratch as quickly as possible, you need a niche.
Choosing a niche (also known as a specialty) makes you highly discoverable. Your copywriting niche simply means the area of expertise you write about.
I'm talking about an industry niche here, as opposed to the type of copy you write (i.e. blogs, case studies, emails). I consider my niche to be the technology industry, not blog post writing.
Think of basic SEO practices. When someone is looking for a writer, they want someone who specializes in their industry, so that’s what they’ll be typing into search engines.
Here are the top 2 reasons for choosing a niche:
- Proper marketing and positioning
For clients to find you, you must correctly position yourself. Marketing expert Amy Porterfield says that if you’re speaking to everyone, you’re talking to no one. When you label yourself as a generalist copywriter, you risk getting lost in the crowd.
Niching doesn’t limit your reach—it helps you stand out in a sea of other writers, increasing your odds of being chosen.
- You become the expert
Think about it like this. Let’s say a veterinarian wants to hire someone to write a monthly newsletter.
By choosing a niche, you become the expert in your field. Serious problems usually require working with specialists, and people with specialized knowledge tend to be more expensive.
When we go to professionals who specialize in one area, we conclude they’re the most knowledgeable in that field. Those are the people we trust immediately.
One of the fastest ways to gain their confidence is by telling them you’ve helped clients just like them.
Want a step-by-step framework for landing freelance clients and setting up your online presence? How about weekly coaching calls to get feedback in real-time?