10 Common Mistakes Freelance Writers Should Avoid
( My freelance writer friends are launching their first How to Jumpstart Your Freelance Writing Career Workshop this coming Saturday, April 24. They are among the best Freelance Writers in the country today. I've asked them to share some of their learnings with OAP readers. Enjoy! )
Like any other business, you need to organize a working system to manage your own freelance career – all three of us found that out the hard way. We want to share with you what we have learned from our personal experiences, so you’ll know what mistakes to steer clear of and what to do about it. Here are 10 tips to help you become more successful as a freelance writer.
1. Never take contracts for granted. As a freelancer, the only person who can ensure your financial and professional security is yourself. Pay special attention to contracts and terms of reference, and don't be satisfied with simple verbal agreements. Learn to operate like a small business and keep yourself protected from abusive colleagues or from lawsuits from clients.
2. Be clear about the scope of work. It's easy to assume your scope of work when you're simply writing an article for a publication. However, the minute you start taking on larger projects with more tasks and more coordination work (managing a publication, for example), be clear about your scope of work and expectations from both your clients and team mates. Never assume anything and always put terms, conditions, and payment agreements in black-and-white.
3. Even when dealing with friends, be professional. It's easy to cross professional boundaries when dealing with friends whom you've known for a long time and whom you trust. However, when it comes to freelancing and managing your own micro-enterprise, you need to draw professional lines. Let friends sign contracts and agreements, prepare payment vouchers, mind your paperwork, do everything professionally.
4. Know your limits. As a freelancer, it's tempting to take on more projects than you can handle because it will bring in more cash. DON'T. Know your limits and respect your own boundaries. Remember that when you spread yourself too thinly, your productivity will suffer as well. Avoid getting to the point where you will disappoint your clients, your editors, and yourself. Learn how to manage priorities and decline projects politely. If you turn in consistently good work every time, you will never run out of projects and clients.
5. Take note of your deadlines. You are your own boss so you have to manage all your projects and list down your deadlines so you can easily keep track of them. It would be bad for your reputation if you don't submit your assignments on schedule.
6. Know your value. When accepting assignments from magazines or other publications, there's usually a fixed rate. But when you're getting corporate accounts, you must know how much your services are worth. Don't undervalue your skills, but don't overprice it as well. Tip: Ask around to get a reference value for a particular project.
7. Projects don't come on a silver platter. You won't survive in this business if you just wait for the projects to come to you. You have to regularly ask around for available assignments, or pitch to several editors, so you'll have a continuous flow of work.
8. Research is not = copy paste. A seasoned journalist once said that the difference between the veteran journalists and the newbie ones is that the seasoned journalists were used to hunting for facts and really sniffing out the news by going out into field, etc. vs looking things up on the Internet and copy pasting. Internet (news and info) sources are often reliable, but they should be used only as reference and not copied. (Remember the whole Manny Pangilinan graduating speech fiasco? That was a case of irresponsible copying + pasting.)
9. Make the initiative to be thoughtful and considerate. When interviewing someone, especially one who is not used to being interviewed, they may often go overboard with the information that they share with you. As juicy as it may seem to put such personal things in your piece to increase its appeal, always remember to check with your subject if they would like to make such things public.
10. Take care of your byline - being a writer comes with great power and responsibility. It's not just a byline, it's your name and it represents you so you have to take extra care of it. Choose which projects you want your name to be associated with. A lot of doors will be opened for you when you tell someone that you want to feature them in a magazine or write about them. Perks and freebies are often part of the job and can be addicting. Don't let this upside of the job push you to make false representations about the publication and amount of space given. Neither should you take advantage of this.
You really have to think of freelance writing as a career on its own. It’s like having your own business that you have to handle all by yourself – from the assignments to the deadlines, dealing with clients, and everything in between. And as with other business ventures, it’s normal to make mistakes along the way. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes. Just be patient and you’ll be a success in no time.
Live an Awesome Life,
P.S. The pretty gals from Writer's Block Philippines will have their inaugural workshop this coming Saturday. This is highly recommended for those who want to start a Freelance Writing Career.
How to Jumpstart Your Freelance Writing Career Workshop
The workshop will focus on finding your own voice and discussing practical information on how to go about freelance writing. See the detailed course outline and registration details.
When: April 24, Saturday, 10am-6pm and April 25, Sunday, 1-6pm
Where: Powerbooks, Greenbelt 4
Fee: P3,000, inclusive of handouts, snacks and certificates