Why Great Writers Fail At Freelancing


I am a good writer – not a great writer, but a good writer. I’ve actually hired some ‘great’ writers to write for me, and they have been happy to take the low paying work. Why is that? Why have I, a ‘good’ writer been successful at building a freelance writing business where some writers, who are better at writing than I am, have failed? Obviously, there will be a variety of reasons, but my clients have given me some clues and so have the writers who have worked for me. Here’s what I’ve discovered:

  1. Meeting Deadlines. My clients are always thrilled when I have my work done when I say I will or before. I get very high marks from them for that. I found their extreme excitement at having me deliver on time a bit strange at first. Why would you praise me for doing what was agreed upon in our contract? From what they tell me, the reason is that locating writers who actually deliver when they say they will is a rare find. Having subcontracted work out to a number of different writers over the last year, (unfortunately) I can attest to the accuracy of their experience. Many times there are legitimate reasons for the delays, but often times, it is a matter of the writer taking on more than they could handle or not making it the priority that it should be.

  2. Following Direction. Some writers seem to have a hard time writing in a requested format or taking time to review the client’s directions about what needs to be included in an article. Other times, writers actually think they are providing a better piece than what was requested, but most times it is just a failure to review the samples or instructions provided regarding what the client is looking for. You may love to write about sports, but your business finance client may not feel that beginning all their articles with an illustration from current sports’ headlines is the right approach for their audience.

  3. Looking for Work. After over a year of consistent delivery of quality work to my clients, I often have new clients coming to me and requesting a bid on their projects, but it wasn’t that way in the beginning. The first thing I do each morning when I start ‘work’ has been to browse through the listing of new jobs on the freelance sites I frequent. If I find something that is of interest to me, I write up a proposal and get my bid in the ring right away. I’m always bidding on jobs, even when I have a full plate of work.

  4. Lack of Confidence. This is actually a much bigger factor than you might expect. Many writers, even really great writers, lack confidence in their own writing abilities and have a great fear of rejection. This strongly affects their efforts in looking for work and bidding on projects. They’ll bid on several projects and not get any response. Instead of continuing to bid, they give up, with the assumption that the clients didn’t like their writing samples or aren’t willing to pay a reasonable rate.

If you’re struggling to make it in the freelance writing world, you might want to take a look at these four areas and see if any of them apply. They aren’t the only reasons, certainly, but they are common enough that they should be given some serious consideration if you’re attempting to begin a freelance writing career.

What other reasons would you add to the list?

2 Comments Why Great Writers Fail At Freelancing

  1. Jennie Dugan

    Good post. You’re so right about the confidence, too. It’s my biggest problem as a writer. I’ve never figured out how you know whether you lack confidence, or you’re really not that talented. Hmm.


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