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23 Ways to Destroy Your Freelance Writing Career Before You Begin

Carol Tice

By Uttoran Sen

The U.S. Small Business Administration says that half of all new businesses fail in the first five years.

Freelance businesses can fall apart even faster without careful planning, because there are no bank loans or investors to back you up – it’s just you and your business.

Are you going to make your business a true success? Or kill it before it gets off the ground?

To be successful, you’ll be off to a good start if you can skip these business-killing moves.

1. Sell yourself short

There are plenty of easy writing jobs that pay pennies. If you’re content with making half of minimum wage, there’s no reason for you not to snatch up as many of these cheap writing jobs as you can find.

2. Forgo the business plan

If you were going to start a big business with millions of dollars from investors, you’d have a plan. But don’t bother having one – it’s only all of your own hard-earned money at stake.

3. Pander to clients

You’re a freelancer – that’s just another glorified term for cubicle jockey, right? Suck up to the clients – once they know you have no confidence, they’ll pay you squat.

4. Put your eggs in one basket

If you’re looking for almost immediate failure, go ahead and put all of your proverbial eggs in one basket. Then, when the client disappears without bothering to pay, you’ll be dead in the water.

5. Stop selling yourself

Once you have the first clients, why bother getting more? These first few will surely pay your bills forever. Besides, good marketing never really pays off.

6. Make a nasty name for yourself

Hey – you’re a freelancer, now. You’re wearing your big kid pants and the whole world should bow down and respect you. So treat everyone else like jerks.

7. Beg, borrow and steal

Only don’t bother with the borrowing. Just beg other writers for help all of the time until you drive them nuts.

Then steal concepts, articles, and ideas from their websites. That’ll really build your network.

8. Blow your deadlines

Big party tonight? Maybe Pinterest called to you for four hours straight?

Forget those deadlines and projects – just take the money and run. Surely the client saw that coming.

9. Ignore your real earning potential

It’s much easier to find bad-paying gigs that take advantage of good writers. So don’t bother exerting yourself – just take the cheap gigs and then complain endlessly about how nobody pays you enough.

10. Let others be the boss

Not sure how much to charge a client? Just take whatever the client offers.

Isn’t that easier than making your own decisions?

11. Write like a child

So you wrote a paper in the third grade that won a big smiley sticker? Great!

Clients pay a lot of money for people who keep writing just like that. Spell-check be damned.

12. Be ignorant

Nothing is more career-killing than pure ignorance. Maybe you should slander others online. Or perhaps call potential clients racist names.

They’ll think it was a funny joke, too.

13. Ignore sick days

You never get sick, right? The kids will always be healthy, too.

Schedule work for every free moment – you’ll never need a sick day.

14. Give the IRS nothing

Hey — this is your hard-earned money. You don’t own the government a dime! (Just tell the IRS that when they ask.)

15. Run a scam

Suck them in, spit them out. Who needs repeat business anyhow?

16. Pretend to be an expert

“Fake it ’til you make it” is sound advice for those looking to sound professional. Pretend you’re a retired surgeon looking for extra income in the medical writing field, for instance.

17. Spread yourself thin

It’s important to be everyone at once if you’re really trying to fail quickly. Be sure to stay up 24 hours a day, wear yourself to the bone and not do anything very well.

18. Never learn anything new

Knowledge? We don’t need no stinkin’ knowledge. Obviously your way is the best way – others just need to wise up.

19. Get defensive

So your client dared ask for revisions on your written perfection? Why don’t you tell him to stick those revision requests where the sun don’t shine?

20. Start a corrupt business

Who doesn’t love a good content mill? They pay you $5. You pay him $1.

He eats caterpillars for a living and writes in crayon. Great plan!

21. Pick fights

Online fights are fun. Come out swinging on everything – especially issues you know very little about.

22. Complain to clients

Clients are like friends – you can tell them anything. They like to listen to you complain about your terrible life, your drug addiction, and your hate of people who undermine your pricing. That’ll keep them coming back for more.

23. Make excuses

Things not going your way? Why not crawl in bed with a box of tissues and a barrel full of excuses.


All sarcasm aside, freelance writing is an outstanding career if you’re willing to invest time, energy and resources in building the sort of career that you can be proud of.

It takes time, patience and diligence, but with careful handling you’ll avoid the pitfalls of freelance work and enjoy a thriving new business.

What freelance pitfalls have you fallen into? Leave a comment and add to this list.

Uttoran Sen has been a freelance writer since 2004. He likes to travel around the world and write about it on his travel blog. Connect with him on Twitter.