None of us were born knowing how to write or how to run a writing business. Before the internet we relied on books and magazines to tell us about the freelance writing business.
Today there is almost too much information out there. Those of us who write successful and helpful freelance writing sites look good on screen, and we are.
But we make mistakes. A few days ago, successful writer Cathy Miller wrote a great article called What Does Your Freelance Writing Business Want To Be.
There were many good comments, but John Soares of Productive Writers said, “Not everyone is brave enough to say what they did wrong and what they subsequently did to reach success.”
He’s right. You see us on the web in a polished presentation. What you don’t see is the jagged path we all took to get here or the mistakes we made. Here are eight mistakes I remember making. I know there were more, in fact I started this article with only three… which tells you something I’m sure.
- Not returning phone calls in a timely manner. It’s been a long time since I’ve done this one, but early on I was afraid a client who called might be unhappy with me so I’d ignore them. That resulted in who knows how much lost business.
- Losing a potential writing client in email. This happens today – not often, but enough so it’s a concern. Although I work to reduce spam and to unsubscribe from unread ezines, I still get a ton of email and people can get lost. When I find them, and I usually do all I can do is apologize. Usually it’s okay, but I wish I had a better system.
- Not following up on a potential writing contact. I rarely do this today, but in the beginning I’d either lose the contact or be afraid to contact them for fear of rejection.
- Not following up on a writing referral. This doesn’t happen today, but when I started I was so afraid of rejection I’d often let a referral drop. This meant I risked offending the person who had made the referral as well as lost potential business.
- Not realizing I actually had a business. I didn’t take myself and my writing seriously in the beginning. The result was what you’d expect – sporadic success followed by long dry periods.
- Thinking I wasn’t good enough or my writing wasn’t good enough to submit. Again, when I first started trying to write professionally, I often hesitated, unable to see that my writing was truly ‘good enough.’ My first magazine editing job showed me just how mistaken I’d been.
- Taking rejection of a writing piece personally. Okay, in truth this happens today, but briefly. In fact a client emailed me this morning to tell me he’s unhappy with a draft I’d given him. Yes, I felt that sinking in my belly and I started an email that I quickly put away. He and I have been struggling with what might be called the tone for awhile now and I’m not sure we’ll get it together. But it’s the writing he doesn’t like, not me, which he makes clear. I will soon send a responsive rather than reactionary email.
- Taking on a project I know I shouldn’t. Sometimes I’ve taken on projects I know deep down I shouldn’t. (No, not number 7.) I think I’ve always done this out of some version of stinkin’ thinkin’ around money. You know, I’ve felt broke so grabbed at something that wasn’t right or thought something might have a huge payoff. More and more I listen to that still small voice.
- Setting my writing prices way too low. Ah that was so true in the beginning. I could hardly believe people would pay me to do what I love to do and I also thought that because it’s easy for me, it was easy for others. I was undervaluing both my skill and myself. This is obviously a self-worth issue.
- Not tracking my business expenses. Part of this error was simply not knowing how to run a business, which fortunately is a learnable skill. In my case, however, it also had to do with my self worth and my fear of money. Both of those are solvable too, but it wasn’t pretty.
It’s really true that writing and running a writing business does get easier with practice.
What mistakes have you made?