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Five Bad Habits of Freelance Writers

07/25/2013 05:15 pm 17:15:40 | Updated Sep 24, 2013

Working under the stress of deadlines, from the comfort of your own home, as a struggling freelance writer might cause you to develop a lot of bad habits that are likely to hurt your freelance career. Here are five bad habits freelance writers often let themselves slip into. Avoid these as best as you can.

Bad Habit #1: Saying Yes to Everything

Can you actually deliver something worthwhile with a 2-hour turnaround? If so, that's great. If not, what are your alternatives? Also, do you really have time to write a 1000-word article on a topic you know nothing about? You should learn how to say no.

Yes, it is important for freelancers to spread their wings, but it's also important to manage your clients' expectations in these situations. If you can't do something, it's okay to say no and provide other options or look for other work. This is normally better than providing work that is below your capabilities.

If you've got the financial ability to turn projects down, you should. You will hate your life as a freelancer if you only write about tedious topics under stressful conditions, and your motivation will quickly peter out.

Bad Habit #2: Giving Clients a Break

It's important to show clients, right from the beginning, that you are a professional, and you must be treated as such. There are a lot of horror stories about late payments, or completely stiffed payments, and there isn't a whole lot you can do about it. If you present yourself as a professional, they're more likely to keep their end of the bargain. Use a reliable invoice platform like Ballpark, and consider starting a small Wordpress website with writing samples to add a little more credibility to your work.

Clients are more likely to stay professional and follow through with payments if you treat them the way any major corporation would treat an outstanding bill, rather than treating them the way a struggling individual might treat a friend who owes them $20.

Bad Habit #3: Confusing "Expert" and "Expert Researcher"

Just because you do a lot of research does not mean you're a bad writer. It might, however, mean that you're not an expert in that topic. Sure, if you need statistics and references, that's understandable, but being an expert is knowing the field inside and out. And if you have to start with research, not just supplement with dates and numbers, you can't possibly be an expert. You can be a fanatic, or a lover, or have a passion, but you really shouldn't claim an "expert" or "guru" title when more than 10% of your information comes from online research and Wikipedia.

Clients expect Grade A material from experts, and no amount of research can substitute real-life knowledge of the material. Don't lie to yourself, and don't lie to your clients.

Bad Habit #4: Believing Too Many Comments

You're not sure if you're happy with a post or not, so as soon as it goes live, you begin refreshing the page every 2 minutes to check if there are comments.

While constructive criticism is always a good thing, don't get too caught up in the comment trolls who are hiding somewhere behind a computer screen, just ruining people's days. Inevitably, there will be some negativity, especially if you're writing on a controversial topic. People ignore mistakes when you're writing about Ways To Better Enjoy Your Vacation, but if you write about GMOs or Obama, you're guaranteed to have every single sentence analyzed by supporters and critics. Don't stress about it. It might make you angry, but you don't improve your writing by talking about frou-frou topics, so you have to use the criticism to your advantage.

Ask an honest friend or family member to read it over and talk about some of the negative comments. They might have been incredibly rude in their delivery, but many will have a grain of truth, which you can use to facilitate your own success in future writing projects.

Bad Habit #5: Working From Your Bedroom

Most freelance writers do this, but it is not a good habit. As soon as you have the ability to get out of your bedroom to work, you should.

Working in your bedroom is only one step away from doing the laundry, two steps away from taking a nap, and three steps away from cooking in the kitchen.

We don't all have the option to rent out a co-working space, and it's not always financially smart to buy a $4 coffee at Starbucks just to have a place to work; however, you should leave your home at least once a week to work elsewhere. Yes, that means you have to put on some pants, but it will be worth it for your productivity.

Don't let the safe haven of your bedroom become a prison to your freelance work. Studies also show that working from your bedroom can cause you to have problems sleeping and resting when you're not working.