12 Common Freelance Writer Mistakes

you can do it

Illustration by Ramiro Roman, Jr.

Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t have to make the same dumb mistakes everyone else does.

As a freelance writer, you will make dozens of mistakes throughout your career; however, here are the twelve mistakes you might be making right off the bat:

1. Limiting Yourself

Just because you’ve chosen a niche for yourself doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself. You can still write for other sub-niches under the umbrella of your main niche.

For example, if you’ve chosen parenting as your main focal point, there’s no need for you to forget about your love for fashion, pets, or fitness. You can write articles like:

  • “Get Glam! 15 Make-up Tips for Moms on the Go!” (Parenting/Fashion)
  • “10 Ways Dogs Help Our Children Become Better Human Beings” (Parenting/Pets)
  • “How Having Two Under Two Helped Me Lose 20 Pounds!” (Parenting/Fitness)

Even if you’ve chosen a particular niche, you can still put all of your writing expertise to use! Don’t limit yourself.

2. Disliking Other Writers

Other writers are your friends, yo! In fact: About 60% of my current business comes from fellow writers. Other writers are not “the competition.”

There’s plenty of writing to go around! Read more ›

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People I Know: Bree Brouwer

Bree Brouwer is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in digital media, online videos, and pop culture geekdom. Find out how Bree got her start, her favorite part of what she does, and how you can follow in her footsteps.

Bree Brouwer

Bree Brouwer

How I Know Bree

Bree Brouwer was one of the first guest bloggers over at Be A Freelance Blogger. She wrote for BAFB before I was brought on as the Associate Editor! Her post, “The Jedi’s Guide to Conquering Your Freelance Blogging Fears,” was one of the first I read. And I loved it.

I also dug her second contribution, “5 Blog Post Elements You Sure As Hell Deserve to Get Paid For,” and was happy that I got to be the Editor in charge of accepting the post and making it look nice.

And now, Bree has become a colleague of mine at BAFB — working with me behind-the-scenes as a forum moderator.

Bree Brouwer is as bright as her smile (look at that smile!), fun, helpful, and a fantastic writer. Check out my e-mail interview with her. Read more ›

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How to Leave a Guest Post Trail to Get More Clients

Do what you do best and lead clients directly to you…

pied piper

Illustrated by Ramiro Roman, Jr.

Blogging is often a confusing medium. The fact that what was once a collection of online diaries maintained by angsty teenagers is now a professional business tool and potential career option is baffling — but also pretty darn cool.

However, one of the best ways to earn money as a professional blogger is often overlooked: Guest posting.

As a freelance writer, writing you get published on someone else’s website means far more than writing you publish yourself. Because of this, guest posts have more value as clips and are far more respected than blog posts you publish on your own blog.

In addition to the respect and clips you’ll acquire from guest posting, there’s also the potential to gain freelance writing clients through your  published posts. Here’s how:

Have A Website… And Link Back to It

If you have a bylined guest post on a blog, there’s also a good chance you’ll get a short author bio. If said author bio allows you to include hyperlinks, link back to your freelance writer website.

You can even go so far as to create a customized landing page for the visitors who come to you from a particular blog. So if you wrote a guest post for, say, Be A Freelance Blogger, you could link to a page on your site that says “Welcome, Be A Freelance Blogger Reader!” and has information specifically tailored for that audience.

Because if someone reads your guest post and likes it, there’s a good chance they’ll check out your author bio and click on your site’s link. And since they’re already conditioned to like your writing, there’s a good chance they’ll hire you if they’re in the market for a freelance writer.

This is why it’s a good idea to…

Write for Publications (and on Topics) You Like

Whatever you end up writing about or using as clips is often what potential clients will hire you to do more of. So if you write articles about dogs, clients will ask you to write more dog articles. Or, if you tend to write about parenting issues, you’ll likely get called upon for more parenting advice.

Therefore, it’s important that you write for publications you feel good about, and topics that you wouldn’t mind repeating.

Keep on Pitching

Finally, don’t guest post just once. Keep on pitching. Keep on getting published!

Think of each guest post you get published like buying a lottery ticket. There’s no guarantee that you’ll “win” (though your chances of “winning” through guest posting are far higher than playing the actual lottery!), but you need to buy a ticket in order to play. You know what I mean? The more tickets you buy — the more guest posts you get published — the more chances you’ll have of making it big.

Your Turn!

Have you ever written a guest post for someone before? Did you get clients from it? Let me know about your experience in the comments’ section! :)

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5 Tips to Increase Your Productivity as a Freelancer

on the clock

Illustration by Ramiro Roman, Jr.

As a freelancer, it’s up to you to manage your own productivity levels. Time to get good!

You don many hats when you become a freelancer. But the biggest, most important, hat is your “boss” hat.

Although you’re technically working for yourself, you still have to produce good work or you won’t get paid. That means keeping on top of your productivity levels.

Here are five of my favorite techniques to increase productivity. They’ve helped me over the years, and I hope they help you as well.

1. Put Yourself on the Clock

Whether you choose to work in the daytime or at night doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you have a steady work schedule set up for yourself.

Even though freelance writing (or freelance illustration or freelance web design or whatever it is you do) isn’t a “traditional” job, it’s of extreme importance to have personal discipline.

Personally, I like to set up a work schedule for myself. I work from around 7:00pm until 3:00am five days per week. The days vary depending on what other adventures I’m having that particular week, but I always make sure to clock in for work.

But sometimes simply having a schedule isn’t enough. Sometimes, during particularly grueling projects, it’s good to literally put yourself “on the clock.” (And I mean that in the clocking-into-work sense, not sitting on your alarm clock!).

Try getting yourself a time-tracker app.

I like to use Toggl. It’s basically a stopwatch, but there’s something about it that makes me “feel” like I have to be productive.

I set a task, start the clock running, and I keep working on that task — and nothing else — until it’s finished. If I get tempted to procrastinate/stray from my task, I know that I’ll have to face the shame of turning off the clock. And I friggin’ hate doing that. It makes me feel like a failure. Whereas, if I keep going, I feel like a boss (in more ways than one).

In addition to time-trackers giving you a motivational boost to keep going, even when you don’t particularly feel like it, they can also help you gauge how long certain tasks take — giving you an inside scoop on how to better price similar services in the future.

2. Take Control of Your Social Media Updates

Social media can be a huge time suck. And it can even be extremely stressful, if you’re not prone to socializing on a massive level. Or if you’re easily overwhelmed by the idea of scrolling through everyone else’s updates — and how many of those are there each day? Hundreds? Thousands? My palms are sweating just thinking about it!

That’s why I recommend scheduling your social media updates in advance.

I use Hootsuite. It’s free!

I log into Hootsuite once, sometimes twice, a week and schedule all of my social media updates for that week. It takes me about an hour — and then my social media “work” is done for the week. No more time suck.

By using this “set it and forget it” method, I can get myself “out there” and interact with others (mainly by tagging them in posts related to them!) without letting it control my life. I know only log into my accounts if/when someone interacts with me directly.

Scheduled updates. Live replies. It’s the perfect balance.

3. Stay Organized

I’ve written about organization before, but I don’t think I’ve ever properly stressed how effective staying organized — both in the real world and the digital one — is for productivity.

Basically, by staying organized, you waste a lot less time trying to look for things you need.

Really. It’s that stupidly simple. Rather than letting your workspace get out of control to the point where you can’t find anything when you actually need it: Make the effort to keep it tidy. Decide where something belongs and then put it there. And return it to that spot whenever you’re not actively using it.

Whether it’s your literal desk top or your computer desktop, keep it sorted.

4. Eat and Sleep

It sounds ridiculous, but freelancers often get so involved in their work that they don’t want to stop — not even to take care of the basics.

Unfortunately, eating, sleeping, and basic hygiene are an important part of staying alive.

And you need to stay alive to keep working!

That’s science.

5. Take Breaks and Days Off

Okay, check out this quote I gave in this interview for Time Management Chef — it pretty much says it all:

“What’s my best productivity tip? This might sound like I’m dishing out advice on Opposite Day, but I’ve honestly found that the best thing I’ve ever done for my productivity is taking days off. Each week, I try to take at least one full day off. And it’s done wonders for my productivity, and my health in general.

As a freelancer, it can be all too easy to fall into a pattern of non-stop work. After all, when we don’t work, we don’t get paid – so why wouldn’t we work as much as possible? And, believe me, I’ve been there! I’ve gone up to three months without a single day off several times. And, in 2013, I went the full year without socializing with anyone offline!

For a while, it’s pretty awesome. You feel productive and like you’re really making strides forward in your career. But, you will get burned out. It took me a long time to reach that point, but, when I did, I realized that not only was I feeling terrible (mentally and physically), the quality of my work had also taken a hit.

Starting in September 2014, I made it a mandatory part of my workweek to take a day off. And you know what? I’m more productive than ever! I get more done for more money with less actual work and way less stress. And if that’s not living the freelance dream, I don’t know what is!”

In short: Burnout is the bane of the freelancer — do everything you possibly can to prevent it.

By taking breaks, you’ll actually be more productive. Trust me on this. It’s something I believe in so strongly that I stated it publicly in an interview (see above!).

Take care of yourself. That’s my best productivity tip by far, but also the hardest to accomplish. It takes practice. It took me years to get “right” and I still have to actively remind myself to do so. I have to schedule in days off, or I don’t take them.

Do what you have to do. I believe in you.

Good luck out there!

Oh, and if you have a productivity tip you’d like to share with the world, feel free to leave it in the comments’ section! :)

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People I Know: Brian Danger

I love back-to-school season! I always try to make sure the September PIK interviewee is someone fun — and it doesn’t get much more fun than Brian Danger!

Brian Danger

Brian Danger

How I Know Brian

Like a lot of the interviewees I’ve featured in the PIK series, Brian Danger started out as a Canada-based super fan of LittleZotz Writing’s resident illustrator: Ramiro Roman.

I love meeting Ramiro’s fans because I know that we’ll instantly already have something in common. It’s a great ice-breaker! It’s sort of like pre-qualifying a client — except you’re pre-qualifying a potential friend. ;)

Brian turned out to be really sweet and we ended up having a lot more in common than just our enjoyment of Ramiro’s amazing art. We also dig a lot of the same TV shows, video games, and humor.

Mr. Danger is a part-time freelance illustrator, and I think you’ll really enjoy this e-mail interview with him. Read more ›

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Shady Writing Tactics: Why I WON’T Place Your Articles


Illustration by Ramiro Roman, Jr.

I’d like to thank freelance writer Alicia Rades for inspiring me to write this post. You can see her own version of this topic here.

Hey there!

I’m writing this post because a link to it is going to end up on my FAQ page. Because I get asked about this a lot, and I’m tired of having to explain it to each person individually.

There’s a trend lately among “potential clients” wherein they want an article written (good!)…about their product (okay under the right circumstances)…and then pitched/”placed” for them at a particular publication. It’s that last part that’s the problem.

I don’t place articles.

Here’s why:

I’d Be Taking Advantage of Fellow Editors/Blog Owners

I’m a writer and an editor, and I love both of my jobs equally. And I have a great respect for my fellow writers and editors.

As an editor, in particular, I know how hard it is to make the tough decisions needed to keep a publication running. And how much trust has to be put in writers.

I would be betraying that trust if I approached an editor with a “placed” pitch, especially if I didn’t disclose what I was doing.

Not to mention it might not even be possible! Just because I pitch a post doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to get published. Which brings me to my next point…

I’m a Writer, Not a Wizard

Don’t ask a writer to do a head editor’s job.

The only person who can really “place” an article — “guaranteed” — is the head editor or the site/blog/publication owner. Freelance writers can try to get an article placed, but they don’t have any real control over the final results.

But freelance writers shouldn’t be trying to get anyone’s articles placed but their own because…

It’s Unethical on Many Levels

Getting an article placed under false pretenses is unethical. Not only would I be lying to the editors, I’d also be lying to the readers. And if I chose to promote the article after getting it miraculously placed, then I’d lying to my readers. That’s not cool.

Doing something like this could hurt my reputation. Badly. And it could end up hurting yours too, if you’re the person who hired me to engage in said shadiness.

There’s also the potential that I’d be getting paid multiple times for the same article, which is super shady. I’d be getting paid once by the “client,” once by the publication, and possibly a third time if there were hidden affiliate links. Oh, and that third item? Definitely illegal. Which brings me to my final point…

It’s Potentially Illegal

Most of the people who ask me about placing articles also want hidden affiliate links added into the post. But guess what! That’s illegal.

Since I’m based in Los Angeles, that means I’m within the FTC’s jurisdiction. Endorsing a client’s site/link without disclosing that I was paid to do so goes against FTC’s endorsement guidelines since this link to the client’s site would be considered an advertisement.


I’m primarily a ghostwriter. I have no problem writing a blog post as you, provided that it’s under legal circumstances (for instance, I wouldn’t be able to write any educational essays or term papers).

After I wrote the post for you, it would be up to you to get it placed. It’s your article.

Hopefully this is the last I’ll have to say on this subject.

Thanks for reading!


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People I Know: Amy Harrison

Amy Harrison is a brilliant copywriter, consultant, and entrepreneur. Amy is one of my mentors and LittleZotz Writing’s Ms. August 2015!

Amy Harrison

Amy Harrison

How I Know Amy

This August marks the fifth anniversary of when LittleZotz Writing opened its doors. And I don’t think I ever would have lasted this long if it weren’t for Amy Harrison — which is why I asked her to be Ms. August 2015!

I first stumbled across Amy very early on in my writing career and became an instant fan of her work. Her useful information — infused with loads of humor — taught me nearly everything I know about copywriting. And I even won a session with her in which she evaluated a long-form sales page I had written. (Her answer as to why it wasn’t working? Even my top-notch writing couldn’t sell psychic water filters — especially when the graphics the client had chosen made no sense).

Amy has always been a bright spot in my inbox with her weekly e-mails. And, whether she realizes it or not, one of my best mentors.

I think you’re going to love this e-mail interview with her. Read more ›

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Writers VS. Editors: We’re All Winners Here!

star wars writer editor

Illustration by Ramiro Roman, Jr.

Without writers, there would be no editing; but without editors, there would be no good writing. 

I’m a freelance writer. I’m also an editor. This has put me in the unique position of being on both sides of the pitching, drafting, and publication process.

I consider myself primarily a writer for now (after all, my business is called LittleZotz Writing, not LittleZotz Editing); however, I have a passion for both fields and feel myself more and more divided as time goes on. (LittleZotz Editing may become a real thing at some point!).

Both freelance writing and editing are pretty darn great. There are a lot of pros to both!

There are also a lot of cons though…

Let’s take a look at some of the basic “pros and cons” for each, shall we?

The Pros and Cons of Freelance Writing

Pro: You Get to Write.

There’s nothing quite like creating something from nothing. You go from staring at a blank page to a page filled with words that originated from your head. Look at this blog post, for example! A second ago there was nothing on it and now there are just about 200 words. How amazing is that? And to get paid to do that? Even more amazing!

Con: You Don’t Always Get to Write What You Want

As a freelance writer, you don’t always get to choose what you write — even if you choose who you write for. And even topics that you enjoy can become boring when they’re being written for someone else, or under strict creative restrictions. Read more ›

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People I Know: Karen Marston

Karen Marston is a freelance copywriter and the owner of Untamed Writing. Karen’s personality-filled copy has put her at the center of attention lately as a “blogger to watch.” And, yes; that super cool streak in her hair is totally natural!

Karen Marston

Karen Marston

How I Met Karen

On April 29, 2014,Karen Marston wrote to me with a pitch for Be A Freelance Blogger. After weeks of nothing but terrible pitches (it was a particularly bad month!), Karen wrote in with a pitch that was dead-on for our niche and ended like so:

“…there will be an intro and a conclusion to go along with this one, and the bullet points will be padded out more where necessary.

So, them’s my pitches! I guess a little intro would go down well too, eh? I’m Karen, and I run Untamed Writing, where I do freelance writing for my own clients, while also teaching a course to help complete newbies get their own freelance writing businesses off the ground in 4 weeks. I’ve been running my biz since September 2012, mostly through outbound marketing methods. I’ve finally decided to switch to inbound, hence the guest posting :) So far I’ve only had one guest post published, over at Location 180, so you can check that out if you want to see evidence of my guest posting ability. I’ve also had an idea approved by Tom Ewer, for when he launches his Paid to Blog blog :)

I was so delighted by her spectacular pitch that I asked her to send a draft immediately. And I was so charmed by her personality that I sought her out to be my new friend. And we’ve been chatting ever since.
I think you’ll love this e-mail interview with her. (Just don’t let the UK spellings throw you off!).

My Interview with Karen Marston

What do you do?

I’m a copywriter specialising in writing with personality, and I also teach people how to become freelance writers from scratch. I blog twice a week over at Untamed Writing, where I dish out bullshit-free advice on getting paid to write and the lifestyle that comes with it.

How did you start?

I started out writing simple SEO articles, which paid around £15-25 for 500 words. In fact, one of my first ever clients paid me less than £5 for 500 words, but I was just so excited that somebody was willing to pay me to write for them! Read more ›

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Blogging VS. Freelance Blogging

freelance blogging hobby

Illustration by Ramiro Roman, Jr.

There’s only a one-word difference between the two, but it makes all the difference…

In my time as the Associate Editor and Community Manager over at Be A Freelance Blogger, I’ve noticed that a great many people don’t know the difference between “blogging” and “freelance blogging.” This has caused some issues behind-the-scenes seeing as bloggers who pitch to us at Be A Freelance Blogger need to send in topics related to how to be a freelance blogger. If you pitch to BAFB, your post idea has to cover both freelancing and blogging. It can lean more in one direction than the other (heavy on blogging, light on freelancing; heavy on freelancing, light on blogging), but both elements need to be present in order for your submission to be considered a serious contender.

So what is the difference anyway?

My Thoughts: Freelance Bloggers VS. Hobbyists

Anyone can start up a blog. Starting a blog is easy. Even writing on a blog is fairly easy. Literally anyone can produce content on a blog and call themselves a blogger. However, these “bloggers” are not freelancers. They’re hobbyists.

And that’s fine! Having a hobby blog is fun. I have one myself. It’s filled with self-indulgent posts about my life. (I’ve made two posts about the press-on nails I wear! And even posts that are really important to me still include pictures of my cats).

Hobby bloggers may be very good at what they do — they may be brilliant writers who are well-aware of “proper” blog formatting — but being able to produce fantastic content doesn’t mean they’ve successfully turned their blogging into a career. They may not even want to! Which is where the “freelance” aspect of “freelance blogging” comes in… Read more ›

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