"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Friday, January 10, 2020

7 Freelancing Mistakes to Avoid in 2020 For Success

Whether you're a newbie or a veteran scribe, periodic errors are sometimes inevitable. The key to longevity here is to learn the lesson and move forward.

Listed below are some common mistakes to avoid for optimal success in your career.

Not establishing structure
When I first worked as a freelancer, I’d often stay up all night finishing a piece, then get up in the afternoon. I’d keep irregular hours and sometimes not leave the house for days on end. Eventually, as you can imagine, I started to go a bit crazy…

REMEDY: Just because you are free to set your own schedule, that doesn’t mean you’ll work most effectively with no routine at all. Treat your freelancing career like any other job, with a start and finish time you stick to. As with any writing activity, boundaries and routines are your friend.

Giving up on an idea prematurely
You come up with a story idea you really like, you pitch it to a couple of your regular outlets – but no dice. It’s tempting to become disheartened, especially when it was something you were really excited about.

REMEDY: Remember a good idea can be rejected for many reasons, many unrelated to its quality: perhaps it’s too similar to something already planned. Editors judge ideas on their own merits, even if they’re from their very favorite writers. So persist – I once got a piece accepted at the 27th attempt!

Not following up
You send off a batch of ideas and you hear nothing. You wait and wait, not wanting to seem too pushy, but still nothing. So you leave it.

REMEDY: Follow up! Editors are busy, and often grateful for a nudge; they certainly won’t mind you making a status inquiry. No news is often good news too: ideas that are definite Nos often get rejected very quickly.

Taking rejections personally
You’ve had a couple of rejections recently and it’s knocked your confidence. You feel like you’ve lost your mojo and you just can’t get down to work...

REMEDY: Remember you’re in business here, and there isn’t a business in the world where every pitch results in a sale. And the more you submit – and the more you get rejected – the thicker your skin gets. So get back on that horse, and send your idea elsewhere.

Batching and blasting
You find subbing and querying time-consuming and draining, so you draft a templated message and blast it out to a load of titles. Then you sit and weep as the rejections come rolling in…

REMEDY: By not looking at each market individually, you’re sure to miss the mark. It may take longer, but carefully tailoring each submission to title and editor is sure to pay off in a higher acceptance rate.

Putting too many eggs in one basket
So you have a couple of editors that really like your stuff. But then one is replaced by a new editor – with their own stable of fave freelancers – and the other has their freelance budget slashed. Suddenly your main revenue sources are gone…

REMEDY: Always be networking, sending out material to new markets and building relationships both within and beyond titles you work for. Editors and titles come and go, so you need to keep filling your pipeline with new contacts and opportunities.

Not pursuing payments 
Your piece was published months ago but you still haven’t been paid. But you don’t want  to chase – you worry it might irritate your editor, maybe you’re just not sure if you’re good enough…

REMEDY: If your piece has been accepted you have a right to be paid, and to follow up if payment is late. Period. Remember: it’s just business!

Dan Brotzel (@brotzel_fiction) is co-author of a new comic novel, Kitten on a Fatberg (Unbound). As a reader of this blog, you can pre-order Kitten on a Fatberg for a 10% discount – quote KITTEN10

Thoughts? Which are you guilty of?

Image credits: Pixabay.com


  1. Thanks so much for the advice, Dan! One thing I've been hesitant to do in the past is pursue payment. Getting better at that, and plan to continue.

    Jen, thanks for hosting. Have a great weekend! :)

    1. Thanks so much Karen! I know what you mean - you don't want to upset someone who may give you more work in the future. But as long as you stay calm and professional, it's only right to ask for what's owed you...

  2. Karen,

    I must admit that I have struggled in the same area. But collections are crucial to survival. Thanks for stopping by and starting us off here.