The 7 Deadly Sins Of Penniless Freelance Writers (Hilariously Illustrated)

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You know that anyone can write, but not everyone gets paid for it — and even worse, only a small group of writers gets paid really well. Why? If you’re dealing with the ongoing frustration of trying to get good freelance writing jobs and nothing’s working, then you need to find new ways to step up your game. As a copy editor who helps to evaluate hundreds of online applications from new writers on a weekly basis, I know the online-writing market. I’d like to share with you the top seven deadly sins that I see new freelance writers make online every day. By following this checklist, you’ll quickly discover the weak points you need to improve in order to save yourself at least a year’s worth of rejections. 1. Don’t think you write like Shakespeare without getting real feedback. Now, what is “real” feedback? Any feedback is technically real if it comes from someone who doesn’t know you. You know, someone who can actually tell you what they really think because it has no consequences for them. Many “type A” writers like the introverted life where you can quietly believe that your ideas are fantastic, and maybe your cat will agree with you. However, if you’re afraid to ask a stranger for a real opinion of your work, then you won’t go far as a writer. The opposite “type B” writers don’t do much better though. You need some confidence, of course, but over-confidence to the point of thinking you’re so good that you don’t need anyone’s approval is also a big problem. Both type A and B writers ending up producing the same kind of writing: a rambling pile of nothing special. It doesn’t start anywhere, and it doesn’t go anywhere. What’s the solution? Take a deep breath and ask someone to read your work! Reach out to other established writers through social-media websites. Offer to share your work and even write a review for their new e-book in exchange for thorough feedback about your writing. Also, consider writing for a custom-content website that points out your mistakes if possible to get more honest comments. 2. Don’t think you know what the client wants better than they do. Sure, you have some great ideas for this new writing project. Before you jump off the deep end into a typing frenzy though, ask yourself: Is this really what my client wants? I’ll give you a tell-tale hint: If you’re writing and writing after you only read the instructions one time — which means you thought about the guidelines for a total of around five minutes before starting — then you need to stop. Chances are that you’ve probably written something that has very little to do with what they actually paid you to write. The client’s instructions are your Bible for every project - treat them as such. Study every word and re-read them to make sure that what you’re writing is exactly what they actually asked for. Otherwise, they’ll ask for you to rewrite the whole thing several times. Worse, they could refuse to pay if you didn’t follow a critical instruction. Don’t write about something that you have absolutely zero experience with — even if you’re desperate for cash. Even the best writer cannot fake their way through a writing assignment when they don’t know anything about the topic. Google can only take you so far, people — seriously. It becomes obvious really quickly when you don’t know the industry lingo or proper phrasing that you have no idea what you’re talking about. Here’s a hint: Ask yourself if the writing project that you want to accept requires you to research for three times the amount of time you’ll spend actually writing. If so, then just say, “No.” You’re way out of your league. What’s the solution? Focus more on writing what you really know and developing experience in your favorite field. 3. Learn the difference between a style choice and a grammatical error. While the above image is a font fail, many writers can make similar mistakes by confusing “creative grammar” with “style.” One quirky trait you may like to imitate is throwing out capitalization rules in order to imitate the great “e.e. cummings.” You may also feel tempted to start every other sentence with a conjunction such as “And,” “But,” etc. Nevertheless, you must understand that you’ve only made a style choice if you’re creating a pattern that’s consistent throughout your piece. In other words, you know all the grammar rules, and you’re intentionally breaking them — once in a while — to make a clear point. If your whole piece is full of grammar mistakes that makes Word go crazy with green and red squiggly lines, then you’re not just making a few trendy “style choices.” Your grammar needs serious work. What’s the solution? Yes, you must study. Pick up a copy of the Associated Press Style Guide and review its punctuation guide daily until it’s stuck in your head. Also consider the Chicago Manual of Style or some “grammar devotionals” from expert authors. 4. Avoid starting sentences with “There is” or “There are many” — They BORE readers to death!! Seriously, any sentence beginning with “There is” tranquilizes readers. Don’t become like every other new writer who uses these phrases all over their pieces. These sentences are more boring than your last calculus class before Spring Break! Think about it - rather than giving your reader something interesting to hold onto like a subject, an object or an action, a “There is..” sentence gives them: … absolutely nothing. You’ve just started your sentence with the most empty, meaningless adverb possible. This example is the epitome of lazy writing ...


Sarah N.

Sarah N.

Boulder, Colorado, United States

I studied at a private, liberal-arts college in Santa Fe before traveling and studying abroad in Europe and Asia. With a major in theatre and a minor in philosophy, I have experience in writing and editing in Australian, Canadian and British English. My freelance writing beg...

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