7 Reasons Freelance Writing Clients Aren’t Hiring You

Red flags for freelance writing clientsGetting a freelance writing job is nice. Know what’s better? Getting a freelance writing client – and therefore consistent, regular work.

If you feel you’re a good writer who’s doing everything right, but you’re just not getting quality freelance writing clients, this post is for you.

Backed by research

Research conducted by the marketing arm of Software Advice recently revealed exactly what sends off red signals when companies look to hire freelance writers for their online content.

The Managing Editor of the B2B Marketing Mentor blog at Software Advice told me:

“Many marketers are looking for quality freelance writers to help expand their content. However, finding a freelance writer who can match [their] content marketing needs can be challenging, so we decided to come up with a checklist that marketers can use to make sure they hire the right candidate the first time around.”

The research was designed as a checklist for marketing companies so they know what to look for when hiring freelance writers.

I’ve turned it into a checklist to ensure that you’re one of the writers who gets hired.

You’re welcome.

The 7 reasons writing clients aren’t hiring you:

1.) You don’t know what you’re talking about

OK, so this isn’t exactly how Software Advice worded it, but it amounts to the same.

The experts consulted in their research revealed it’s important that freelance writers online can write authoritatively. Because conveying brand authority is an important part of content marketing, companies are looking to hire freelance writers who are either experts in the field they’re writing about, or at least willing to research and learn.

That’s why it’s important to have a niche (or two) that you focus on, and perhaps even start a blog of your own if you haven’t already. This conveys authority and expertise.

(I cover how to go about establishing both a niche and a blogging strategy in the Complete Freelance Writing Online Course: Beginner to Pro.)

2.) You’re so focused on a particular niche you’re not adaptable

I know, I know – in one breath I’m telling you to be an authority and have a niche, and in the next I’m warning not to focus too much in one area. It’s just one of those things in the freelance writing world that seems to contradict itself – yet is essentially true.

Software Advice’s research indicated that while hiring writers with subject-matter expertise is helpful, it’s not an absolute requirement. Some companies are even seeking out writers who are ‘generalists’ – those who write well about a variety of topics.

Their ability to be adaptable gets them the gig.

Being adaptable also spills over to being able to adopt different writing tones. One manager from an internet marketing company said that adaptability in writing style is a crucial trait when they look to hire freelance writers:

“We… review different writing samples for variance in tone based on the publication or client the writer is representing to make sure they can adapt to fit the style we need.”

So while it’s good to have a niche and be an expert, don’t become so focused on it that you can’t write about anything else… or in any other style or tone.

3. You don’t have a social media following

Yes, this is the sort of thing potential freelance writing clients are looking for these days. If you don’t have much of a following – or at least a presence – on social media and/or your own blog, you may well be overlooked as the best freelance writer for the job.

Writing social media posts is often an integral part of a freelance writer’s content marketing duties. One participant in the research said that she specifically looks for writers who have Google+ profiles and who are members of industry-relevant social media communities.

(I reveal how freelance writers can use Google+ effectively in the freelance writing course too.)

Like it or not, the more shares, Likes, Tweets and +1s you can create, the more likely you’ll be hired as a freelance writer online.

4.) You’re unfamiliar with business and marketing concepts

The analyst who conducted all this research said that the experts she spoke to all agreed that “it’s helpful to hire freelancers who know how to put the ‘marketing’ into content marketing, and who possess some degree of business acumen.”

Which makes sense if you think about it. If you’re writing online content, you’re involved with online marketing essentially.

“A truly professional content marketing freelancer will concern themselves with not only writing a strong piece, but also [with] the promotion of the piece,” one participant said. “[They will] come to the table with ideas to make it perform better, and think through things like formatting, [keyword] optimization and even image selection. Needless to say, it’s much harder to find a content marketing freelancer… than it is to find a great freelance writer.”

Something to think about.

MAJOR RED FLAGS:

5.) You can’t write an email

Shockingly, writers who can’t even write an email pitch are an apparently all-too-common phenomenon. One company that hires freelance writers on a regular basis said this of the emails they receive from writers: “a shocking number of them have egregious spelling and grammar errors. Many others adopt a strange tone, or read like templates.”

Who’d have thought that something this rudimentary – your first ever contact with a potential new freelance writing client – could be where you stumble and fall.

You may have even conceived a well-written email, proofread it and ensured it’s free of grammatical and spelling errors, but the tone of it just reads like you’re crazy, uninterested – or worse – a robot.

(Yep, I cover exactly what to say in your email pitches to clients in my freelance writing course too. Who’d have thought it, right?)

6.) You’re unresponsive

Before you skim over this one because it’s not relevant to you – you’re always on your email, right? – it may be worth reading a little further…

Apparently there are three red flag tell-tale signs that suggest to potential new clients you may become unresponsive later. These include an initial lack of communication on a project, an unwillingness to receive feedback and suggestions, as well as committing the cardinal sin of actually missing a deadline.

“I’ve had people simply drop off the map for days or weeks at a time, with not a single word of explanation,” said Software Advice’s own Victoria Garment. “There are[…]signs to gauge how reliable someone will be from the start, [such as]: Do they sign the contract and send it back within hours? Do they proactively email you updates?”

Poor communication indicates a lack of engagement. This is a huge red flag you’re sending out because most people know that those who aren’t fully engaged will usually be unreliable and go on to let you down.

7.) Your work is unoriginal and inaccurate

I sincerely hope that this isn’t a problem for you, but in the event you start working for a client and fall into this trap, here’s the low-down from their perspective.

A marketing manager at a UK agency says he can usually get a sense for whether a writer is going to work out from the very beginning. Some of the red flags he commonly encounters include an inability to follow project instructions and inaccuracies in areas writers have claimed to be subject-matter experts.

Another problem some companies are apparently facing with writers relates to blatant plagiarism. One company said: “Some of the biggest challenges I’ve faced are writers copying portions of other works. So I’ll often Google some of the more detailed or technical sections to see if any of the content was pulled from other articles.”

Remember, these cautions and observations didn’t begin life as a checklist for you as a freelance writer. This checklist has been sent out to marketing companies and others so that they are aware of what to look out for when hiring freelance writers online.

Please feel free to share this with other freelance writers and get the word out there, and be sure not to raise any of these red flags yourself as you pitch and win new freelance writing clients.

>> Get all your pitching templates, plus step-by-step instructions on how to earn a living from freelance writing online, in the Complete Freelance Writing Online Course: Beginner to Pro.

photo credit: las – initially via Flickr.

9 Comments

  • Chris

    Reply Reply April 15, 2014

    Great post, Kirsty.

    I was actually looking to source some work recently on PPH and you’d be amazed at how bad a few of the responses I received were. Some contained broken English which is obviously an immediate red flag but others were just bizarre. I remember I got a response from one person that just read ‘I look forward to working with you. Let’s do this’.

    Because I know what it’s like to be on both ends, I always make an effort to create a rapport with potential clients when I’m pitching for work. I think it’s every bit as important as actually showing that you’re capable of doing the work.

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply April 15, 2014

      Absolutely agree Chris. It’s great to have both perspectives. I’ve actually hired writers via PPH myself and had a few responses that were clearly blanket emails they send out to everyone. It doesn’t give off a good impression that’s for sure!

  • Bea

    Reply Reply April 18, 2014

    Great post and informative. I’m just getting started in the “online writing” biz so these tips are helpful. The biggest hurdle for me is just getting started as I’m great at writing what I want, I’m just not sure how writing for a client will be and that’s the thing that worries me.

    P.S. the word [their] is incorrectly spelled on the opening quote.

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply April 19, 2014

      Hi Bea! Glad you found these tips helpful. The best thing you can do now is to just get started. Once you’ve completed your first piece of work for a client you’d be surprised at how quickly things can snowball if you stick at it.

      If I’m looking in the right place, ‘their’ in brackets in the first quote is spelled correctly in this context. It’s in reference to ‘their’ content marketing needs so it’s correctly spelled to indicate possession.

      All the best with everything and hope you come back and let us know how you get on!

      • Cindi Acker-Hein

        Reply Reply April 29, 2014

        Hi Kirsty,

        Loved the post, thanks for sharing.

        I believe Bea is referring to the actual spelling of the word “their” vs. the usage. You have spelled it “t-h-i-e-r” instead of “t-h-e-i-r.” It’s funny how the mind sometimes doesn’t see those things. Been there/done that, lol.

        Best wishes and thanks again for the post.

        • Kirsty Stuart

          Reply Reply April 30, 2014

          Ah, got it! Thanks so much both Bea and Cindi. I must have read that sentence a thousand times and not spotted it. It’s glaringly obvious now of course! It just goes to show doesn’t it?! All corrected now.

          Glad you enjoyed the post Cindi and thanks for your comments.

  • Dorothy Bryant

    Reply Reply April 7, 2015

    Helpful hints and tips, amazing! Hope these all could be applied to all aspiriing and professional writers who look for clients then and now. Thanks for sharing this! Keep it up, guys!

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