How Freelance Writers Can Tell If They’re Doing It Right

Carol Tice

Freelance writer feels confident he's on the right trackWriters are a persnickety group, I’ve learned in my five years writing this blog.

I can tell from all the writers who email me if I have a typo in one of my posts. (And no, I don’t care about the typos.)

But seriously…writers like to do things by the book. We don’t like mistakes.

Writer’s guidelines make us happy. It’s comforting to us to know the proper procedure.

Which is why being a freelance writer can be so stressful. There’s so much gray area!

It’s easy to get bogged down worrying about whether you’re making a mistake in how you’re pitching that editor, or asking about that late payment.

Writers want to avoid embarrassment

Of the thousands of questions writers have asked me over the years, I had the thought recently that they all boil down to one question:

“Am I doing this right?”

Many writers feel there must be a secret playbook out there that reveals the one, right way to pursue freelance writing. And that I’m hiding it somewhere. Would I please share it?

The thing is, there is no one right way. Any time I think I’ve discovered a great a system for querying or doing marketing on LinkedIn that works great, I meet someone else who does the opposite — or thinks my marketing method is bad.

But screwups are inevitable

If you are out there shaking your tail feather marketing your writing a lot, you are bound to screw up. You’ll end up spilling your drink all over your jacket at that networking event, or forgetting the name of someone you met last week and looking like a fool.

You’ll send your query letter to an editor who it turns out got fired that week.

When you try social media, the opportunities for social gaffes are numerous. For instance, at one point I tried to get serious about promoting my blog posts on Reddit.

I kept posting links and being ignored or left weird, rude comments, until one kind Reddit user finally enlightened me that it’s not cool to post your own stuff on Reddit. It’s only for posting other peoples’ stuff you want to share.

Whoops! Oh well.

I went back to using social-media platforms I understand. I was not blackballed by the High Court of Social Media Wizards. I now chat happily with my 9,000 Twitter followers and make friends and find new readers there.

My Google Analytics tells me some wonderful people do share my stuff on Reddit and StumbleUpon, as I get some traffic from those places. I’m grateful they do. Still don’t really get how those sites work.

Luckily, you don’t have to ace everything to find freelance clients.

How you’ll know if you’ve got it

Here’s the basic rule for freelance writers. Ask yourself: Are you doing it?

If you are steadily marketing your services in some way, and learning from your mistakes, and getting better at marketing as you go…then you’re doing it right.

Stop obsessing about whether you know the “etiquette” of how to do everything perfectly and just do.

Trust me, it’ll work out a lot better than sitting biting your nails and not taking action because you’re worried you don’t know the right way to go about it.

Are you doing it right? Leave a comment and tell us the actions you’re taking to move your freelancing forward.



  1. Holly

    Just this past week I met another writer who immediately asked me “how you do become a freelance writer?” when I told her what I do.

    Doh! I really didn’t know where to start. You are right there is no perfect formula.

  2. Marie

    This post was exactly what I was hoping to hear! Confirmation to a freelancer’s insanity. Ever since I found your site a couple days ago my bookmark bar has seen an increase in attention! Thank you Carol!

    • Carol Tice

      Cool Marie — but don’t bookmark. Read, then do. Then read next one.

    • Marie

      You got it! I’d rather work 80 hours a week being a freelancer instead of 40 hours a week working for someone else. If that’s what it takes then bring in on! Away with the bookmark it is! I just hope I don’t forget the URLs. 😉

  3. Megan

    Dang, I really needed to read this today (and yesterday, and probably tomorrow, too.) I keep making excuses for myself as to why I’m not ready to get out there and market myself, mostly relating to a lack of clips or feeling like I don’t have enough experience. But, I sure don’t feel like returning to office life, and I’m certainly not going to get any of that experience by browsing BuzzFeed all day. Time to hustle!

    • Carol Tice

      I think you can only get more experience…by getting out there. 😉

      Writers get stuck in these negative cycles of “no experience so too scared to do anything…and now longer of no experience and more scared to do anything…” and so on. Instead of act, see what happens, learn, do more, keep perfecting, get it done. Which is the only way to be.

  4. Jennifer Gregory

    Great post. I used to worry about the same thing. ALOT. But then I am a worrier by nature. The first thing I did was that instead of worrying about results, I would set goals that were in my control instead of goals that depended on other people. So instead of saying I would get 4 assignments this month, I make a goal based on my actions such as I will send out 50 LOI’s this month and reconnect with 10 editors. It almost never fails that if I do my part then the work will come. But setting my goals based on other peoples actions just set me up for disappointment and frustration which result in not doing anything.

    I totally agree that marketing takes time and writers should not expect overnight results. But if you are consistently marketing yourself and not getting results then you probably need to make some changes. Either in your letter, your approach or you need to be targeting different markets or you need some more clips in to get the work you want.

    For example, I was sending out lots of LOIs and getting no response. So after a few months I started tweaking my LOI and sought out some markets that I thought would help me break into the markets that I really wanted. It worked. I would say evaluate your marketing strategy every 3 months or so. If you aren’t getting any traction then you need to make some tweaks. That doesn’t mean totally abandoning what you are doing, but making small changes that will make it more effective.

    • Carol Tice

      I totally agree. One of the most overlooked areas of marketing is analysis. Is it getting a result? That is how I stopped looking at Craigslist ads – my analysis showed I had never gotten a quality client that way, only crummy ones.

      And you know I LOVE goals you can control. Totally the way to go.

Related Posts

WordGigs Review — Is It Worth It? (2022)

When it comes to finding writing gigs, there are a million places to choose from. You might be looking for a WordGigs review and trying to figure out whether you should go through the application process to become a freelance writer for their site. This WordGigs...

How to Get Into Gonzo Journalism

If you wanted to learn about how to get into gonzo journalism or the history behind it, you've come to the right place. Originally credited to Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalism is the style of writing where you're covering a topic or event, but you're mixing your...