Two Easy Strategies That Eliminate Your Freelance Writing Mistakes

Carol Tice

I get a lot of questions about how to break into freelance writing. And I can answer them all with two words.


If you do these two things, it will keep you out of a lot of trouble as a new writer.

You’ll move forward faster and probably earn a lot more.

Can it really be that simple? Two words?

I think so.

Ready? Here we go.

1. Experiment.

A lot of new writers are mystified on how to move forward with their careers. I get questions like:

Should I send a query or a letter of introduction?

Should I pitch more than one idea at once?

What is the one easiest, low-cost way for me to market my writing?

Is it OK to reach out to editors on LinkedIn?

Which is the best writing niche for me?

Take a listen here and you can hear what Laura Spencer from WritingThoughts and I had to say about that last one (plus describing the easiest way to market yourself) at yesterday’s Webinar:

[hana-flv-player video=”″ width=”175″ height=”100″ description=”” player=”2″ autoload=”true” autoplay=”false” loop=”false” autorewind=”false” /]


To sum it up, the answer to all of your questions along these lines is: You’ll have to experiment and see what works for you. Every writer is different.

I can tell you what worked for me, and it might work for you.

But there’s only one way to find out for sure.

You can get advice all day long, but if you never go out there and start trying it and see what gets results in your case, you’re not going to have any concrete data on how to move forward.

Once you start experimenting, you’ll learn fast. Or at least faster than you will sitting alone in your home, trying to guess at what might work.

Is following up on query letters a waste of time?

Will my healthcare writing pay better than writing about pets?

There’s only one way to find out. Start doing it and see.

Here’s the other big thing you can do to avoid mistakes:

2. Ask.

Often, new writers realize they don’t quite know what to do. You get yourself into a situation where you’re worried you’re about to screw up.

I’m not sure if the editor wants a sidebar with this story.

They told me to send an invoice but I’m not sure what they pay.

I want to use my best friend as a source in my story — is that OK?

When you have these sorts of questions, you can twist your worry beads, vent on writer forums, take anxiety medication — or do the one thing sure to resolve your uncertainties: you can ask your editor.

Barring that, you can ask a freelance writing pro for advice. We’ve been there and can give you some guidance based on our experience.

We’ve already experimented a lot. And asked a lot of questions. That’s how we got here.

Have you experimented in your freelance writing career? Tell us in the comments below.


  1. Glori Surban

    Experiment and ask. I’ve not been doing a lot of this.

    I think I’ve often made the “Ivory tower” mistake you talked about.

    I tend to go after writing jobs that I’m comfortable in and never really taught of testing the market like you said.

    Although there are topics like I’m drawn to like health, personal development, and even fiction writing, I don’t think I’ll make money on those.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about.

    • Carol Tice

      Hm? Health and personal development are both huge niches that have many lucrative areas. You could write for hospitals, life coaches…tons of possibilities.

  2. Samar

    I’m a big believer in asking. I know it’s scary in the beginning. New freelancers are terrified of bugging their client and feel they should get it right in the first go – which is hard to do if you have questions about the project.

    One thing that helps me with clients are questionnaires. It minimizes the questions I need to ask if I know a client is particularly busy or if he’s usually late responding to emails.

    I also always let my clients know to expect lots of questions in the beginning. Explaining how it will benefit them always goes down well and I’ve never had a single client complain about the number of questions I ask.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Samar —

      I have a questionnaire as well — definitely helps move the process along. I also think sending one communicates, “I do this a lot. I’m a pro. This is what I’ve figured out we need to learn about each other for this relationship to go smoothly.” So I think it has sort of subliminal advantages as well.

  3. Carolyn

    Life is all about experiments and trail and error. It’s what creates our experiences, which in turn can be inspiration for what we write about. As for asking, if we don’t ask, how can others know what we want? I know it’s because we’re afraid of rejection but hey, doesn’t that come back down to experiments and trial and error again?

    • Carol Tice

      Well…yes it does! Thanks for pointing out how my two points relate to each other. Experiment until you’re baffled and then…ask.

  4. J. Delancy

    Considering the amount of stuff that needs to be written for television, magazines and the internet there is no shortage of places to test ideas and pitch methods. Self-doubt is the reason that writers like me to spend days worrying about some of the questions in this article.

    Please keep the confidence boosters coming, Carol.

  5. Tom Bentley

    Thanks Carol. I just received a magazine assignment for a piece with a certain slant. But I had some personal info on the topic that changed the assigned slant a fair amount, while still covering the general topic. I considered not asking the editor if I could rework the angle, but when I did, she was happy to oblige. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

    • Carol Tice

      YES! YES! YES! Amazing how easy that was, hmmm? Asking. It’s magical. So much anxiety relief. Just speak up.

      Thanks for sharing that, Tom!

  6. Susanna Perkins

    Carol, you have a wonderful knack for reducing all sorts of hair pulling to very simple terms. Experiment. . . Ask. . .

    Duh. . .


  7. David Shallcross

    One of the very few honest blogs i have read in a long time! I cannot agree more on the second point of asking. I dont know why people are not open and ask if they are stuck somewhere. I am part of a startup and i must say it is not easy. Keeping all the ego aside you open your heart and ask! Thats the work culture i am trying to promote at Towoglo. If you need help, just ask!!

    A Big shout to all the freelancers out there.

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