Avoid Bad Freelance Advice With These Simple-But-Important Questions

Carol Tice

Avoid bad freelance advice. Makealivingwriting.comHave you noticed that many people online would like you to pay them to teach you how to freelance — even though they just started doing it themselves? Yes, it’s spring, and bad freelance advice is in the air.

Maybe it’s because I recently hit 15 years as a freelancer (and about 10 years as a coach), but this is a trend that worries me. If you read a lot of new bloggers’ About pages, they often gush that they’re excited to be starting a freelance business…but 10 minutes later, they switch to teaching you how to do it. Before they really have time to succeed at freelancing.

Do you smell a rat? I do, too.

What raises my hackles here, as an advocate for fair writer treatment and pay, is that I’ve had a chance to check out a lot of the advice offered by newbies — and the quality of it ranges from marginally useful to wretchedly wrong-headed.

‘Follow along’ vs experienced expert

I recently heard newbie experts called “follow along with me” bloggers. As in, “Hey, I just started doing this, and you can watch and learn from my mistakes.”

There’s clearly something appealing about hearing from someone who’s essentially in your shoes. They’re so relatable!

It sounds innocuous — until you meet all the bankrupt people whose lives have been ruined by taking disastrously uninformed advice online.

I find myself regularly picking people up off the sidewalk who ended up living out of their car after they took some of this perky newbie advice (“Just get on UpWork!” is one of my favorite gems, from a ‘coach’ who began selling a course on freelancing the month she quit her day job).

For instance, I recently learned a writer-friend had hired a business coach — one who’d quit her own day job less than a year ago. How much does she really know about product launches, or running a successful online business? I’m betting it fits in a thimble.

Don’t know what you don’t know?

I think maybe some freelancers hire inexperienced coaches because they don’t realize how much these instant experts don’t know. Freelancing is a complex undertaking, and there’s a lot to know.

What might you miss if you’re ‘following along’ with a writer at your same level? Here’s a list of things I only learned after a decade of freelancing:

How to survive a downturn.

If you haven’t freelanced through at least one major economic recession, you are blissfully ignorant of what it really takes to maintain a freelance career — and unqualified to help others survive economic uncertainty.

Consider that most newbie ‘experts’ who started anytime in the past 4 years have probably never had to suddenly replace most of their clients, change their niche, improve their skills, or otherwise turn on a dime to stay afloat.

These instant authorities may be coasting along, because they’ve never had to weather hard times. That means they can’t help you build a freelance business that will survive economic shocks.

How to move up to the big time.

I’ve heard bogus advice from some ‘experts’  that you need scores of local clips before you move up to writing for national publications. Scratch the surface, and you may discover they hand out that advice because they’ve never written for a national publication.

They never had the chops to write at an elite level, so they avoid having to admit they can’t answer your move-up questions by squelching your dreams.

How to handle crazies.

Ever had thousands of billable writing work on the line, while slowly realizing your client is a nut job? The art of managing difficult clients is one that’s usually learned over the long haul.

For instance, I had one who was like a Jekyll/Hyde personality, and you never knew who you’d get. Another only wanted to give me assignments while walking on his treadmill, shouting over the Fox News pundits. A third fired me because my scanner at home was broken.

How to subcontract.

When you’re truly successful at freelancing, you have more work than you can handle. That’s when it’s time to start subcontracting and taking a project-management fee for overseeing others’ work. Newbies have likely never done this, and can’t teach you how to negotiate this kind of more complex contract.

How to juggle multiple deadlines.

How busy has your expert ever been, as a freelancer? It’s a good question to ask, because if they’ve never been overbooked, they probably don’t have much insight into the productivity hacks that allow you to produce seemingly impossible volumes of top-notch work in no time flat.

How to upsell or get a raise.

Newbie ‘experts’ may not have had client relationships long enough to deepen them with a higher rate or more lucrative assignments they negotiated.

How to win a government contract.

Most freelancers have never ventured into this lucrative area — and if you’ve chosen a newbie ‘guru’ to follow, you might never realize there are massive opportunities in this enormous sector. They also won’t be able to walk you through the process and paperwork needed to get into this game.

How to succeed at cold pitching.

Has your ‘expert’ simply stumbled upon a few lucky gigs? Then they probably can’t coach you on how to write a query letter so compelling it gets a green light, even if the editor is a complete stranger.

How to recover from a disaster.

If you freelance long enough, something will go terribly wrong. You’ll mouth off to an editor and get fired, have an article killed, or lose a $2500-a-month client without warning. When that happens, you’ll want a coach who’s been there, and can talk you through how to move forward and keep a positive attitude.

3 Ripoff prevention tips

My take on the recent crop of newbie ‘experts’? There’s really no such thing as an instant expert. It’s an oxymoron.

If you’re ‘following along’ with a newbie, remember that what you’re reading is not expert advice. The acquisition of expertise takes time.

But there’s plenty of online fraud. So watch out.

Here are three basic questions to ask that will help you avoid being ripped off by newly minted, self-proclaimed ‘experts’:

  1. How do they know it? If you’re thinking about taking a course, or hiring a freelance coach, ask how they come by their philosophy or methods. Watch out for people who’ve thrown together a program or offer with a little online research, rather than out of real experience.
  2. Have they ever actually done it? If you’re thinking about taking a course, or hiring a freelance or writing coach, ask if that coach has ever actually done the specific thing you want help with. You’d be surprised how often the answer is no. If they have actually done it, ask how long they’ve been doing it, or how many times they’ve done it. Ask to see their portfolio. Their hands-on experience may be thin — I found one recently who’d only written for starter-market websites, but was putting himself out as a freelance writing ‘expert’.
  3. Can they share testimonials? If not, run. Better yet, ask to talk to past students. Don’t just drink the Kool-Aid — cut through the spin and talk to someone who’s taken the course or coaching program. They can tell you whether it’s really valuable.

There’s a reason they call experienced freelancers ‘seasoned.’ It’s because you’ve been beaten up more over time, like a hammer tenderizing meat. You’ve taken your licks and grown stronger for it. Experienced pros have got a sweet amount of real knowledge to share.

Remember that anyone can say anything online. Probe a little deeper, ask a few questions, and find out how ‘expert’ your expert really is, before you plunk down your money.

What do you look for in a freelance coach? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

Freelance Writers Den 2X Income Accelerator


  1. Sharon Hurley Hall

    Great advice, Carol. People who really know their stuff are usually happy to let you know what they don’t know, and they don’t often wave the “expert” flag either.

    • Carol Tice

      I agree Sharon — I think you point up another great issue to ask about when you’re considering a coach.

      Do they accept EVERYBODY who wants to work with them? If so, that’s a red flag.

      I was recently thrilled to see it mentioned in an Amazon Review of my new Small Blog, Big Income e-book the fact that I have an application process, and often tell people they’re not a fit for one of my programs.

      Good coaches are in it for the win — they want to find students they can really help, so that buzz continues to build about their services, and they can document that success with great testimonials. They’re not just looking to take anybody’s money. Look for coaches who are results-hungry, rather than money-hungry.

  2. Mike

    I’ve only taken one of your courses so far (Escape Content Mills beta), but I loved the way it was run. There was none of the “do what I say and be rich like me” snake oil. Instead, it was entirely “do your homework and we’ll guide you.” Which is, I suspect, the reason you and Linda are so successful in the long game.

    • Carol Tice

      So glad ECM helped you, Mike!

      Maybe I could make more money short-term with the whole “It’s easy and magical to do this!” approach. I was actually on a site just yesterday where he had 8 steps to earning from your blog, none of which were — “Do market research and figure out the opportunity, and figure out your passions and where those intersect.”

      It was just — install WordPress, and presto! You can slap up AdSense and start earning. OMG! That works for NO ONE. I was seriously non-shocked to see zero testimonials for this program…one of my red flags listed above.

      I would hope I earn more in the long run by operating in an ethical way and being real with people about what it takes to be a well-paid freelance writer — and even if I don’t, it’s the way I want to run my business. I make enough!

      It stems from my belief that what I do is truly holy work. Moises Maimonides’s levels of charitable giving says the highest level of giving is to provide them with employment. I stay focused on that goal, of helping writers find right livelihood.

      I got into this never thinking I’d earn anything — I just wanted to help writers avoid scams! So that also feeds into presenting the reality and not spinning up a bunch of bull about how easy this is. We DO make you work in our classes, but we don’t get any complaints when folks start earning WAY more after they learn how to do freelance marketing right. 😉

  3. Amy Hardison

    Such a timely post, Carol. I have been planning to start a blog, and I’d like to write about my freelance experiences. This really validates my plan to write about what’s happened to me – good and bad – rather than trying to tell other people what to do.

    • Carol

      Well…just writing about yourself doesn’t tend to attract any readers — you need to find a way to help readers…but hopefully not by pretending to know things you don’t.

      • Amy Hardison

        True. I am thinking of writing about successes and failures in freelancing, with the hope of helping others.

  4. Troy Lambert

    Great job on this post and others. Your advice is invaluable, over and over again.

  5. Candace Brown

    Keep fighting the good fight and doing your good works, Carol! I’m so grateful for the day I met you at a Society of Professional Journalists event and learned about Freelance Writers Den.

    To anyone reading this who is not already a member, give it a try. When you discover the overwhelming value you get for a small amount of money, you will realize it can only be proof of Carol’s sincere wish (make that passion) to help writers “Make a Living,” as she says. I can’t even imagine how many hours of her life she devotes to this cause each week while remaining accessible and on top of everything.

    I love the boot camps, forums, job listings, vast resources, and weekly den meetings with interesting guest speakers.

    Now I just need to finish construction of my new and improved website. Freelance Writers Den keeps me inspired! Thank you, Carol Tice!

    • Carol Tice

      OMG, do we go back to that SPJ meeting? What a memory!

      So glad the Den is helping you. 😉

  6. Todd

    Honestly, I just stalk the expert writers like you Carol! I’ve learned so much from you and others like Kristi Hines. I find when you are engaging, not overly obnoxious, and help as much as you can, people are pretty accessible. I appreciate you more than you know.


    • Carol Tice

      Thanks, Todd! And I think your approach of just finding a few folks with a ton of experience is a great one.

      I meet a lot of writers who seem to be subscribed to 100 different newsletters…and that’s a recipe for paralysis. Find the people you’ve vetted, who have real experience in the thing you want to learn…and then just stick with them. Otherwise, it’s info overload.

  7. Tom Bentley

    Carol, I hope you’ll sign up for my yoga class—after all, I have seen many people wearing yoga clothes in grocery stores, and by watching their movements, I’ve become an expert.

    Just yesterday I was thinking that there’s a flood of online experts and coaches across so many disciplines these days, and writing counsel is central to the deluge. Thanks for providing clarity on the substance and background of what a credible coach should offer.

    (Oh, by the way, your “Yes, it’s spring, and bad freelance advice is in the air.” did crack me up.)

    • Katherine Swarts

      The sad part is, most of them aren’t deliberately trying to con anyone: like many a “writer” who has a great idea for a novel, they genuinely believe they’re natural geniuses, that this stuff is easy, and that lack of response isn’t their fault because they’re fighting an establishment that’s prejudiced in favor of nepotism and big names. In the end, they hurt themselves the most.

      Carol, great points on all the hard things we can expect to learn in the course of a career!

    • Carol Tice

      ROFL — thanks for a great analogy there. 😉

  8. Angela Brown

    Sigh. It’s unfortunate that I’ve experienced the “slowly realizing my client was a nut job” scenario on multiple occasions…

    • Carol Tice

      If you do this long enough, it WILL happen…and if your ‘guru’ has been doing this for 3 months, they may not be able to coach you through this.

  9. Elizabeth Xu

    I’ve seen freelancing “experts” popping up everywhere recently, so this is a much-needed post for our industry. Thanks for explaining the issue so well, Carol.

  10. Rohi

    Very helpful, Carol. I’m sharing it far and wide.
    My favorite: “There’s really no such thing as an instant expert. It’s an oxymoron.”

    • Carol Tice

      Well…there isn’t! Expertise implies you’ve done something over and over and longer than most.

  11. Gary Govanus

    Carol, one of the things I learned the hard way is the person who is busy telling you what an “expert” they are should be avoided at all costs. It is the person who sits back in the weeds with a knowing smile on their face that you need to find. Chances are THEY know what is going on, they have been there, done that, got the tee shirt and lived to tell about it. I am not looking for the expert. I am looking for the person who is smart enough to know what they don’t know.

    • Carol Tice

      Love it, Gary — and that’s the problem, instant ‘experts’ don’t even know what they don’t know. There’s a vacuum of ignorance, and if you’re new too, you may not realize how you’re getting shafted with bad advice.

      The whole, “I know one thing more than my readers, and have been at this 5 minutes longer” — I guess there are ‘experts’ out there telling people that’s OK. I may piss some people off, but I’m here to say I’m finding many cases where I think it’s NOT OK…and where I come from, they call it charlatanism, or outright fraud.

  12. Bryony Angell

    Your timing is so right on! I’ve been following one of these newbie gurus and taken two of her free webinars. I’m confident enough in my freelance writing career to resist the upsale at the end of these webinars, and to her credit she is providing info about social media that I find helpful. But it is astonishing to me in reading the conversations on her FB page, the amount of naivete out there among hungry bloggers who want followers but have nothing new to say. She is scooping up that gullibility rather than screening for true promise. Thank you for the trusted service you provide and for calling out these newbie “experts.”

    • Carol Tice

      My pleasure, Bryony! Don’t know if you say this the other day, but I thought it beautifully summed up the epidemic of people who are money focused and have nothing truly valuable to offer readers, rather than passion- and service-focused, with their blog: http://josidenise.com/dear-mommy-blogger/

      • Bryony Angell

        Carol–I had not seen that post but it rocks! I freelance write (for money, thank you very much) for parenting publications and then have a blog about being an urban gal birder, which is my passion project I am willing to do on my own time and think might be of interest to other women in my demographic.

        I DO NOT bring my kid into it, mommy blogs are a total cliche. That blogger told it like it is. Thank you thank you for sharing it!

        • Carol Tice

          I totally agree with her rule that more squeaky-perfect you make your kids and family out to be on that mommy blog, the more likely it’s a cover for utter chaos.

  13. Abby

    I’ve been full-time freelance since college graduation. Once I was able to quit my sustenance job because I was earning on par with my peers, suddenly all my friends from college wanted my advice on how to be a successful freelancer. Of course I don’t really know — I only quit my barista job last November! I think it’s a feature of the market, since freelancing is considered preferable or even glamorous to some people, so even people without much to offer in terms of advice can attract an audience.

    • Carol Tice

      I think you’re onto something, Abby — there are so many people who’d love to have this lifestyle, that I think we’re a ripe market for fraudsters.

  14. Joan

    I’m just starting out as a freelance writer but thankfully I have life experience. It’s easy to see through the mighty wave of empty “experts” flooding the Web.

    Recently I was approached to write a course, not hired, about my favorite Website software WordPress. I accepted the “job” because of the valuable experience I will gain working at it.

    I won’t beg and grovel for a job on Upwork, Fiverr, or any other site that asks me to pay them to get me a job. I’m going to network the old fashioned way and talk to people in my local community and do online marketing as best as I can while I continue to learn.

    Carol’s book Small Blog, Big Income is an eye-opener. It is full of quality information from a genuine expert. I read it daily.

    I feel it is time for the experienced online freelance community to get behind Carol and also write about the bad advice given. Publish opinions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Medium and wherever else you can.

    The voice of experienced people in the industry can make a difference. I cannot speak out as I am not an experienced freelancer but I’m fed up with the junk quantity and the scarce quality.

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, glad you’re finding Small Blog, Big Income so useful, Joan! And glad you’re keeping a critical eye on vetting the online info you see about freelancing. That will serve you well! I think a lot of aspiring freelancers forget to bring their filter…and forget that anyone can claim anything online.

  15. Riannon Westall

    I can tell this annoys you and it annoys me too!
    As a new freelancer, I’ve read some fairly bad advice from “freelance experts.” I’ve seen these “experts” trying to teach writers how to earn $50 a post as if that’s the highest they can aim for. It’s discouraging. I’ll also see them screencap their cold pitches to use as an example, but it will have tons of grammar mistakes. I guess that’s the thing with the internet: There’s tons of information, but we have to decipher what is credible.

    • Carol Tice

      EXACTLY. YES. Folks need to use some discernment about who they’re listening to.

  16. Michelle

    Oh man. I’ve been pounding at professional writing since 2008, and I still don’t consider myself an expert. Maybe in 10 years. 🙂

    But yeah, that’s been fun over these years, trying to weed through the people who are more interested in selling informational products than buckling down and doing the real work of freelancing.

    And you can tell who they are: usually in their 20s, graduated college not too long ago (or just quit a job), talk more about “freedom” and “fighting the man” and “taking control of your life through freelancing” than actionable advice, usually have an “about me” page that talks about how free-spirited and quirky and anti-corproate they are. Some of these blogs have been great fun to read, but they have their place as light internet entertainment reading. Not the “quit your current life and be that person” reading that I think they want it to be.

    • Carol Tice

      Michelle, I feel like I was recently asked to contribute at a site exactly like that recently! I checked out his ‘About’ page, and it was just a series of photos of him and his girlfriend with captions like, “Hooray, we move to our dream city and begin freelancing.” And that was like 3 months ago! But his positioning was, “Learn about freelancing from me.”

      I’m making a point of vetting the sites that ask me to participate in roundup posts and avoiding ones where I think they don’t really know anything. I don’t want to contribute in any way to building up instant ‘experts’ credibility.

      I made a couple mistakes like that early on, accepting a few guest posters here on the blog who turned out to be in this vein. I’ve regretted it ever since, so I try to be wary if anyone who pitches me seems to be trying to set themselves up as an expert. I prefer posts from people who are simply focused on their freelance writing careers here and have no secret agenda.

      And sometimes, it’s not even so secret — I’ve had ones where the link they want in their byline goes straight to some blind, forced opt-in page to buy some THING from them. And I’m like, just no.

  17. Steve Szubert

    This reminds me of a recent webinar about self-publishing ebooks. In the live Q&A someone asked, “Will this work with .MOBI files?” To which the supposed expert replied, “What’s .MOBI?” Well, it’s only a very common format that everyone who knows even a little about Amazon Kindle will have heard of. But that “expert” was not a newbie. It was someone claiming many years of experience.

    So, many of these red flags apply to some established “gurus” as well as to some newbies. And perhaps it’s they – the “experts” who sell their courses on the basis of “anyone can become expert in this in just 30 days (if you pay me thousands of dollars) who are responsible for the flood of inexperienced people repeating bad advice?

    But I’ve noticed a number of excellent articles, like this one of yours Carol, starting to appear. So hopefully, the tide is starting to turn.

    • Katherine Swarts

      Good point; a lot of people approach “becoming a trainer” like high school students writing a research paper, skimming through a half-dozen library books on their topic and cobbling together their notes as something new.

    • Carol Tice

      LOL…yeah, anytime your ‘expert’ doesn’t even know the jargon of their chosen industry, you know to run.

      I wish I thought the tide was turning, but I’m seeing the opposite. A new faux expert seems to pop up every day of the week…so writers, beware.

  18. Elena


    Great article. Professional experience and quantifiable results are qualities I’d look for in a freelance coach. As someone who has only been in the freelance field for 2 years, I am still swimming around and figuring things out. There’s no way that I would consider myself as an expert. There’s so much to learn (and experience).

    Thank you for outlining the qualities of a freelance coach! They were helpful.


  19. Cherese Cobb

    Great advice, Carol. You’ve got to vet your sources, clients, and your gurus.

    Love this: don’t just drink the Kool-Aid. It’s full of sugar and artificial colors. Make sure that your teacher is providing powerade. 😉

    • Carol Tice

      Ha! I think they should be providing a green smoothie. Look for high nutrition content!

  20. Vicky Cox

    I think I might have to disagree, but only a little. I hired a coach last year who was super helpful to me and had just started coaching. One of the reasons I went with her was I could afford her as she was just starting it her business, but also, she brought many years of experience in the business world.

    Bloggers are often told to get out there and do it without worrying about being an expert – you only have to know more than your audience. I think the “learn from my mistakes” can be refreshingly helpful, more so than those who pompously act like they know it all.

    Everyone has to start somewhere and the only way to get experience is by doing it. Many of these “newbies” have a hustle I’m ashamed to say I cannot seem to muster up.

    Where I do agree with you is those who got lucky mostly and charge outrageous fees for webinars that spout stuff you’ve already heard or courses that “guarantee” you will make money. I know of someone with no business experience who did work hard to get a following. But it’s beyond me how companies will pay him thousands to speak when he has never worked a day in as a corporate “expert”.

    • Carol Tice

      Well…new to coaching is different than inexperienced in the topic they’re coaching on. All coaches have to start somewhere…my point is, they should have a TON of experience in their topic. I’m encountering person after person who’d like to coach you on how to launch an online business…the week they launch THEIR online business.

      You point up something important though — if you’re following someone who launched their blog in 2005 or something, they had a much more wide-open field than we do now, it was easier to get a big audience…and the techniques that worked for that guru, that they want to teach you, won’t work NOW…and won’t work for bloggers who don’t yet have big traffic.

      If I see one more ‘earn from your blog’ expert whose entire spiel is, “Get AdSense,” I’m gonna scream. THAT DOES NOT WORK for anyone except high-traffic bloggers…which most of us will never be. But this is the whole reason I wrote Small Blog, Big Income. To provide insight into other paths to earning, that you can actually do, today, in 2016, as a low-traffic blogger.

  21. Jade Miller

    Carol – a great article.

    I always am reminded of the the guru from “Yes Man” – spouting something that seems catchy, has a cartload of energy, and his quotes resonate like a gong with the (poor/innocent/gullible) audience…

    But you wake up suddenly and realise its all a farce.

    And all the air dribbles out of your balloon.

    I’m glad I had the opportunity to squeeze into the Den when I had a chance – saving me from the clutches of inexperienced “experts”!

    • Carol Tice

      Glad to have you, Jade! One of the great things about the Den is you can just concentrate on the vetted resources in there and not waste time wandering around the Internet, trying to sort the snake oil from the valuable tips.

  22. Dennis Hammer

    I couldn’t agree more. The number of people who start marketing, writing, blogging, or SEO blogs without ever working in those industries is astounding. I include the passive income blogs in there too (ironically, those guys seem to be working the hardest).

    • Carol Tice

      OMG, I totally agree! Passive income, my eye. Everyone I know who has a blog-based business works like a DOG — but they’d like to promise you it’s a snap. So you’ll buy their course.

  23. Miriam C. Davis

    Just the other week I was musing to myself that there seemed to be a lot of coaches out there who hadn’t themselves been freelancers for very long. And it did occur to me to wonder if many of them saw it as an easy way to supplement their income. I’ll be looking for a freelance writing coach in the next six (or so) months, and I’ll be looking for those who promise that it’s “easy.” Because those are the ones I’ll avoid.

    • Carol Tice

      Yes, it’s amazing, isn’t it? I think many are hearing the “diversify your income” mantra, and deciding they should just pump something out, even if it’s uninformed, created with no reader input, and doesn’t actually contain proven, useful tips.

      I recently had someone tell me flat-out they were launching their first course now, even though they knew little, because “I need an income stream.”

      Well, bulletin — when you cold-launch something without reader involvement, it’s NOT going to create an income stream anyway!

      And what I really want to ask is…don’t you have a conscience?

      Anybody who’s selling because “I want money” rather than “because I realized my readers desperately need help with X” tends to have poor-quality advice. Because they haven’t created their offer with an ethic of service. It’s just greed.

  24. Maddy

    Good points, Carol. I’d consider myself an “intermediate” freelancer after about 6 years of doing it on the side (7 months of doing it full time). But I’m definitely not at a high enough level of awareness to give complete advice new freelancers need!

    • Carol Tice

      It’s refreshing to see many longtime writers feel like they’re not yet in a position to school others. Refreshing in light of the number of people who seem to think a month or two qualifies them.

  25. Nina Chordas

    Thank you for another great, informative post, Carol! I’d like to add one more thing to watch out for when considering signing up for a course or otherwise following a would-be teacher: the quality of their writing.

    I recently subscribed to a blog by a freelancer who seems to have some years of experience writing in the business world. She was ardently pitching a course she wanted her readers to sign up for. However, after reading a few of her posts I was decidedly underwhelmed by the quality of her writing. In fact, I found it hard to believe she had actually worked for the businesses she claimed to have worked for, given that her writing was full of sloppy errors. Perhaps she didn’t lavish as much attention on her blog as she did on her paying clients. If so, I consider that attitude as much a red flag as the sub-par writing. I unsubscribed from her blog.

    So, do ask yourself if your would-be teacher’s writing is something you would care to emulate. Pay attention to the packaging as well as the content!

    • Carol Tice

      Seems like you’re not the only one who’s seen the writing problem — read through these comments!

      You do need to read the fine print, Nina. I know one ‘expert’ who talks about the big magazines she’s been in…read further and you’ll find out it’s only the foreign-language/country editions of those magazines.

  26. Ravi M.

    Hi Carol

    Maybe it’s not the right place to ask about JSchool. But I didn’t find a place to ask so I am asking here.

    After your suggestion, I took your advice in positive sense and tried to write good English. Now I can say that I improved my English and I can find mistakes in my writing if I read my writing after completing it. Of course, my English would not equal to the level of the native-English writer, but I can write plain English.

    I saw that the course JScool is being sold at your site Usefulwritingcourses.com. Am I eligible to join the course? As a completely newbie to the English writing, will this course help me to establish my writitng career?

    I am curious to know your opinion about my eligibility. Please reply me back.


    • Carol Tice

      Ravi, there’s no eligibility test for J-School — and the reporting basics it teaches are relevant to writing articles in any language or country. If you want to learn how to report a story and interview experts, and what journalism ethics are so you avoid getting into trouble, this course can help you.

      You definitely seem like your English is improving — but there are still errors in what you wrote above.

  27. Monica Leftwich

    Great piece Carol! I am considering the move of being a writing coach…a few years from now. Even with publications on very high-traffic sites, I know I cannot charge premium prices if my advice is not premium. That will be sudden death to my business (and my integrity!). I love the “experts” who say they’ve been mentioned on or wrote for X high-traffic site, but when you do a Google search of their names on that publication, you find crickets.

    • Carol Tice

      I like the ones who think they’re big-time because they’ve appeared on the Huffington Post. Hello…it’s free and pretty wide-open to post there! I just think that place conveys zero authority.

      • Monica Leftwich

        You know Carol, I was so excited when one of my posts went viral on HuffPo. But the excitement died quickly. Just because millions of people go there, doesn’t mean your work is stellar. I learned the hard way lol. And sometimes I feel like some of the editors don’t bother to even review some articles. It can be a great tool if you’re an established professional; if not, you may end up disappointed.

        • Carol Tice

          Exactly…their allure really eludes me, because we all know it’s casually edited and most of what’s on there is self-promotional junk from CEOs and others looking to shill their businesses.

  28. Jeffrey Hill

    It’s so true. Sadly, anyone can pop up a website and try to portray themselves as an expert. But the proof is in the pudding. And that’s really the thing to look out for: Proof. I bet you thought I was going to say pudding. I kind of wish I did. Mmm.

    It’s why sites like this are golden and many others are fools gold. But the keen observer can tell the difference. Its just too bad many people aren’t such keen observers.

    • Carol Tice

      I just feel sad when I have to sort of rehab people who’ve been hanging around the websites of charlatans who started freelancing 5 minutes ago who have neat tips like the one in the graphic of this post…and now they’re broke.

      But honestly, folks — read their About page! Go to their writer site and read their portfolio. Are they having the career you want to have (or did they have it, and now they’re coaching), or are they really just trying to make a career of selling you the idea that they know about freelancing? And the whole thing is a castle built in the air?

      • Monica Leftwich

        I’d take it a step further and research the publications they claimed to have written for or were published in. Call these companies and ask (I’ve done it!)

        Additionally, read their material about their earnings. Rarely do freelancers like Carol break down their actual writing earnings. In fact, she’s only one of two I know that have actually done that!

        Next, make sure they have a track record of impressive publications with recurring articles. (Check one for Carol! Not so much with other freelance writers offering “services.”)

        Lastly, are these freelancers that are offering “courses” humble? I immediately back peddle when when someone is offering courses and can’t stop talking about grand and great their product is with very, very little track record. All bark and no bite…that’s a no for me.

        • Carol Tice

          I try not to talk about my classes AT ALL — in fact, we’ve got something really special planned for this Pitch Clinic coming up (see freebie in the sidebar at the moment!). We’re going to be giving out students’ contacts and letting prospects talk to them directly. I love that — so excited to make that happen!

          Wouldn’t you so much rather just hear from someone who’s actually been through the course about what it did for their skills? I know I would. So we’re going BEYOND print testimonials this time. And of course, we have a free ebook on that freebie page as well with 11 full-on case studies, too. I think students deserve a lot of intel on what grads experienced and the results they got!

          Folks, FYI Jedha is in Australia…so sometime this afternoon (Pacific), she’ll wake up and start responding to comments! Give her a few hours, and she’ll be here.

  29. heri penuliscvpro

    yes this article is really important for me who wanna be freelance writer…
    thank you for the tips..

    • Carol Tice

      Heri, FYI you have a misspelling in your URL — “Professional” has two ‘s’s. If you want to earn in English, you’re going to want to fix that…

      • heri

        Thanks for the correction… by the way, do you have any suggestion for non native English writer who wants to be profesional freelance writer?

        And if you don’t mind is there any site / blog which will accept contribution for newbie like me who still learn writing in English better?
        .. for this time i just want to build my portfolio as i realize that making money from writing in English is my next obsession..


  30. Ohita Afeisume

    Thanks for your sincerity. Information over load is certainly not something I need. So I will have to unsubscribe from several blogs especially of those “experts.

    In only a few weeks I have received so much valuable education from Carol.

    • Carol Tice

      Glad I could help, Ohita!

  31. Nicole Y. Adams

    Great post and oh so true – not just in the writing industry! The same is happening in the translation profession – it’s like a disease! It’s scary when self-proclaimed coaches pop up here, there and everywhere and want to teach things in which they have no demonstrable first-hand experience. I do feel for our younger colleagues who are looking for some genuine advice to find their feet in the profession. If someone is as successful in their day job as they claim, then surely there’d be no need for setting up multiple passive income streams. In some cases I suppose those who can’t, teach…

    • Carol Tice

      Yes. I actually just heard in the past week or so from someone who told me she’s just booked her first $5,000 revenue month as a writer, so she wanted to start coaching around how to do that. Not kidding!

      Now, I just send these people over to read this post. 😉

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