Freelance Writing Mistakes: 5 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Clients

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 07/03/23 •  9 min read

So you want to be a freelance writer.

But you’re struggling. It’s been harder than you thought it would be to find good clients and make real money.

Don’t get down on yourself. It’s more common than you think. And it’s probably because you’re making some common freelance writing mistakes that tons of newbies do.

These are the mistakes we see over and over again, especially for people new to the whole freelance writing thing.

If you’ve been feeling stuck, you’re in the right place.

Ready to start making moves?

Check out this video and keep reading.

#1) You’re Not Marketing Enough

This is THE biggest mistake we see from people who are struggling.

And that counts for the people who are both brand new to freelancing and those who are trying to level up to higher-paying work.

The problem:

Marketing is scary.

Let’s face it, that’s a big issue for a lot of people, especially starting out.

It’s also time-consuming.

The fastest way to market (sending mass form pitches) also tends to have the lowest success rate. But in order to grow your business, you have to market yourself constantly. It’s time to get used to it!

How to fix it:

Set aside time every week that’s just devoted to marketing.

Set up a spreadsheet or doc where you can have a big list of all your dream clients and brands that are a good fit. Here’s a sample Airtable template you can use.

Use the same doc to track ideas or topics you want to write about. Then when it comes time to contact them, you’re not starting from scratch.

It’s also key to have plenty of lines in the water. Here are a few places to look for work:

#2) You’re Not Thinking Like a Business

A lot of freelance writers don’t think of their business as a business. They are ‘just’ bloggers or copywriters and not a brand.

That attitude is going to set you back. You have to approach your path as a real business and take it seriously. That means following the money.

The problem:

A lot of freelancers spend too much time thinking in the abstract and not doing enough of the boring unsexy tasks that actually lead to you getting better clients.

Stop worrying about the small stuff that doesn’t matter in the big picture, like tweaking your website color or reading your 10th copywriting book.

Success means taking action, and your time is limited.

Don’t spend your valuable time on stuff that won’t land you high-paying writing work.

How to fix it:

Potential clients don’t care about the color scheme of your website. They do care about your copy and portfolio samples.

Don’t waste your time on things that ‘seem’ important but make your primary goals around doing tasks that are going to directly get you better clients and your name out there.

What you need to start are a couple of good portfolio samples and lots of marketing. Everything else, and that even includes a website can come second.

Once you start marketing,  track your progress and successes. Know what works for you when it comes to landing work and repeat the process.

Don’t just hope someone will want to hire you. Make your case and show them why they should. Once you get your freelance writing website up and running, it’s a great place to show you understand your potential client’s problems and know how to solve them.

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#3) You’re Sending Bad Pitches and Letters of Introduction (LOI)

Yup, we’re back to marketing. But this is important.

A huge part of marketing is sending out cold emails — letters of introduction and pitches. So you need to nail down how to improve these. Otherwise, you’re going to get discouraged and disappointed.

The problem:

You’ve sent out dozens of emails, LOIs, and pitches, and you’ve gotten zero responses. You can’t get anyone to respond to any of your emails, so you just start sending mass emails and crossing your fingers.

You feel like you’re just spinning your wheels and wasting your time; maybe freelance writing was a bad idea.

How to fix it:

Do some prep work first.

A good alternative to pitches is to send out letters of introduction. These are short — the keyword here is short — emails that introduce yourself and your niche (if you have one, and it’s ok if you don’t) and ask if people are interested in learning more.

These should literally be about 6 sentences or less and focus on what you can do for the potential client — not your life story. The goal of an LOI is to get the reader to take some action and in this case, it’s to reply and ask more about your work or get on a call.

That’s it, very simple. You can send out tons of these to agencies, websites, and potential clients.

For cold emails, you want to make sure you’ve done your research so your ideas are on-topic and include something personalized, so it’s clear you do not just copy and paste.

Check out this post for more on sending out cold emails.

#4) You’re Not following up (or your follow-ups are annoying)

Being good at email is one skill that a lot of people haven’t mastered yet. Ask anyone who is in a position to get email requests in their inbox, and they will tell you 90% of them are absolutely terrible.

That’s one big reason why if you spend just a little bit of time working on your approach, it’s not that hard to stand out from the crowd.

The problem:

There are two common problems most people encounter after they send off that first email.

Scenario one: You send off your email, and then you never think to get back in touch with the person again.

Scenario two: You send off your email, and then you contact them again three more times in the next week.

Both of those are less than ideal. In the first scenario, you’re potentially missing out on a client. In the second, you’re likely annoying the $#*& out of the person you want to give you a job.

At the end of the day, you always want to follow up, but also respect the inbox too.

How to fix it:

First, track every single pitch and LOI you send and all the jobs you apply to in one doc or sheet. You can use the template shared above.

Then set a follow-up schedule.

You want to follow up multiple times. Until you hear a no or the person tells you to go away. I’ve gotten clients after 4-5 follow-ups years after I sent the first email.

Set a time each week to go through your list and send a follow-up to everyone who you haven’t heard from more than a week ago. Then keep preparing a follow-up schedule. The next one may be a month, then two months, and so on.

Don’t harass people, so strike a balance. Make the first follow-up relatively soon after your first contact, and then space out the rest.

So much of getting a job is timing. And spacing out those follow-ups makes it easier for you to land in a window where the timing is right.

Take a look at this cold email checklist to pick up a few tips.

#5) You’re Not Strategic About Your Writing Samples

Having good writing samples is a huge portion of getting your foot in the door when it comes to finding freelance writing clients.

So you have to be strategic about how you approach your writing. That way, you can get the right samples up, start catching the eye of potential clients, and not feel like you’re wasting your time.

The problem:

Writing those first few samples can be a huge mental block for a lot of people. It’s why we tend to suggest trying to think about a few niches to start. That can help you get focused on getting a few sample pieces written.

This is important because it’s hard to break into some niches without being able to show that you understand and can write about the topic, which can leave you stuck in one place.

How to fix it:

First, try focusing on a niche. Then pick one or two topics within that niche and write some samples. Use those samples when you’re applying for jobs or sending out LOIs.

If you want to break into a niche but don’t have anything in that topic, it’s simple, write. Create a few blog posts or LinkedIn posts about those topics and use them as a base. The good thing about being a freelance writer is you can be strategic about what you write to land better gigs.

Take a look at this post to learn how to become a better writer.

Ready to Fix These Freelance Writing Mistakes?


Start looking at these mistakes and make some changes. Improving any one of these can help make a massive difference and allow you to start seeing the clients and pay rates you deserve.

Sign up for our free 6 day course all about how to start a freelance writing business.

This post has been updated for accuracy as of June 2023.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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