How Young Freelance Writers Are Killing Their Chances

Carol Tice

Frustrated writer textingWhen you write an article, I bet you spend some time polishing it up.

But what about when you’re sending a reach-out to a mentor, or a query letter to an editor?

Some writers seem to think the same standards don’t apply there.

For instance, there’s this message I received on LinkedIn recently. Note the subject line:

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 10.24.00 AM

If this was a fluke situation, I wouldn’t be writing this post. But I get these sort of messages — on email, on LinkedIn, on the comments of this blog — on a fairly regular basis.

Bridging writing’s generation gap

So here’s the thing — if you are in your twenties or younger, you probably text a lot with your friends.

Texting with your friends is different from marketing your freelance writing services.

While ripping off a quick text full of misspellings and lacking proper capitalization works fine for deciding where you and your peeps/homies/BFFs/whoever are going to meetup for drinks, it is a quick ticket to nowhere when it comes to pursuing a freelance writing career.

Realize that if you’re pitching an editor at a publication, or a marketing manager at a business, or a mentor you’d like to help you with your career, they are probably not in their twenties.

And those of us who started out before the Internet was born, much less smartphones, do not respond well to your dashing off a quick text that’s full of misspellings and grammar errors.

When I get a message like this, I can only feel you don’t care much about your writing. You can’t even take the time to capitalize your pronouns or the first letters of your sentences!

You are apparently too busy and on-the-go to wait until you’re at home or at a library computer even, to send a carefully wrought paragraph.

What quality of writing work could I possibly expect from you?

To sum up, texting puts your worst foot forward.

I don’t know if this came out so wretched because it’s a text, or because you don’t know how to compose an English sentence. And I’m not going to take the time to find out.

The secret to newbie freelance writing success

Here’s what you need to know to market your services, find clients, and get paid: Everything you write is your audition for writing gigs.

Every marketing email. Every LinkedIn message. Every tweet. Every blog post. The content of your writer website.

When you are trying to make a living as a writer, every word you write anywhere in the universe is part of your portfolio. Not just your published articles.

With great writing, you can make a terrific impression with a query letter and get an assignment at $1 a word, from an editor you’ve never met.

But when you send sloppy writing out like this writer did above, you slam a door in your own face.

Freelance writers always need to think before they hit ‘send.’ If you do, you’ll see your career move forward a lot faster.

Ever texted a writing contact? Leave a comment and tell us whether you think texting is OK for freelancers or not.




  1. Nate

    I’m a 25 year old, smart phone wielding, socialite and I have found that I often either impress, or frustrate most of the contacts that I trade text messages with. I will always reply to anything that involves written or typed or thumbed-out communication with full words, proper spelling and punctuation (liek omfg r u srs?!?). There are many, many times in my experience when the simple act of inserting a comma would have been useful to grasp the idea(s) presented in a text message. If I can take the the care to compose properly spelled, punctuated and capitalized text messages when attempting to discern the location of the night’s libation, then there is absolutely no excuse at all, whatsoever, in any way, shape or form to fail to abide by the bare minimum of Standard Academic English (SAE) when composing anything that may ever be presented to a professional. There is absolutely no happy medium. I loathe “textspk” and feel as though it has no value at all. There is no reason why a person should send anyone something that looks like this: “hey nate were @ franks pub 4 sum beers hmu”. While I can decode the gibberish above, I cannot tolerate it. the letter “r” is a building block of a word, not a suitable stand in. The word were has an entirely different meaning than the word we’re. The commonly used text message based language is utterly useless, lazy and stupid; it portrays nothing but the uselessness, laziness and stupidity of the user. I have a black tee shirt with white text that says: “Their. There. They’re not the same.” I was wearing the aforementioned shirt while at a grocery store one day and i was approached by a woman who was likely 10 or more years older than me who had the audacity to call me an “elitist prick” because of my attire. The texting language paradigm is closely related to the “anti grammar-nazi” paradigm and neither will lead our society anywhere but down. If we as a society start accepting the “txtspk” and start falling for the advice: “nobody likes a grammar-nazi” on a wide scale we will doubtless be a third-world pit of slovenly, poor communicators with no value and a huige carbon footprint.

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve been heartened to learn how many 20-somethings were as offended by that post! But I can tell you it’s common. Got another one just like the one in this post today. Lots of them seem to come on LinkedIn now, which I think is funny since it’s the most serious BIZness of all the social media platforms!

  2. Susan

    As a 26-year-old, I’ve been TOTES seeing the decline of our written language first-hand. Thanks, Carol; this post is a great wake-up call for many in my generation!

  3. Lauryn Doll

    I’m close to this writer’s age. With that said, there’s a time and a place for LOL Speak, and this writer’s message has more problems than LOL Speak. It’s just poorly conceived and has no breath in its composition. And I’ve seen this with writers of all ages.

  4. Hermine


    I can’t believe people do this and expect to be taken seriously! I’ve never texted a potential client… heck, I’ve never texted a paying client. To me, that’s just bad manners and to be honest, if you don’t have the time to sit down at your computer and at least make an effort at crafting a halfway decent letter with correct spelling and grammar then how would you have time to actually write anything?

    I’m in my early 30’s and even though I’m pretty tech savvy, I would never dream of doing this… It just doesn’t make sense. I want to make a great impression, not come off looking like I don’t know how to put together a sentence.

    Maybe they’ll either figure it out when they realize why nobody’s responding…


  1. Off The Wire: News for the Canadian media freelancer July 3-8 - [...] How Young Freelance Writers Are Killing Their Chances [Make a Living Writing] (via @freelancersu) [...]

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