The Top 7 Ways to Screw Yourself Out of a Writing Gig

by Alicia Sparks on January 4, 2010

Because I'm so creative with my images.

On Friday, I sort of joked about writing a post titled “The Top 7 Ways to Screw Yourself Out of a Writing Gig,” but over the weekend I thought, “You know what? I really could write that post. I really could list seven ways for a writer to shoot herself in the foot. Whether I’ve witnessed fellow writers make these mistakes, or I’ve made them myself.”

Of course, that last part doesn’t really sound like something to be proud of, I know…

…but, it means my writing career has survived some growing pains, right?


So, on to the top seven ways to screw yourself out of a writing gig, in no particular order.

#1: Lack Confidence.

This probably sounds like a no-brainer – and applies mostly to new writers – but if you lack the confidence in yourself, your work, and your abilities it takes to apply for a writing job, you’re most likely not going to apply for the job. If you don’t apply for the job, you’re not even giving the advertiser a chance to say no; you’re already telling yourself no.

While this might make sense if you’re looking at a job advertisement for a new Content Director at some high-powered, well-established blogging network and you yourself have only been blogging for a couple of weeks, it’s just not good business if the advertisement you’re looking at calls for press release writer and you have indeed written a handful of press releases in your career.

Of course, you can’t stop at having just enough confidence to apply for the job; you also have to make sure that confidence shines through during your application process. For example, if you receive a followup phone call from the potential client looking for a press release writer and said potential client says, “Tell me a bit more about your experiences with press releases,” replying with “The last press release I wrote was for a South Texas company ready to announce the launch of its new website” sounds far better than “Um, well…I’ve really only written a few.”

#2: Be a Know-It-All.

And by “know-it-all,” I don’t mean a person who knows it all; rather, I mean a person who knows it all (or, knows a hell of a lot about it) and is obnoxious about it.

Look, chances are the potential client already knows he needs help – that’s why he wants to hire someone. The last thing he wants is for someone to point out everything he did wrong until you came along, and everything he’s going to keep doing wrong unless he listens to you.

Which brings us too…

#3: Insult Your Client.

Maybe you think his company logo is tacky, or perhaps you’ve noticed several flaws with the layout of his website. Unless he specifically asks you for your opinion on these things, stick to the job you were hired for. For all you know, his wife designed the logo and his son built the website and his cousin is going to be writing the content if you can’t deal with it.

#4: Refuse to Budge.

At some point in your writing career, there will come a time when a client asks you to write something you’re not entirely comfortable writing. Maybe he manages an online store and has decided to add leather jackets to the inventory and you, as a vegan, aren’t comfortable writing the product descriptions. Or, perhaps he owns a political blog and wants you to cover a few weeks worth of posts about policies you don’t agree with.

Here’s the deal: Sometimes, refusing to budge is okay – as long as you handle it professionally. If writing about these things would bother you, then by all means, bow out. Politely declining a job because of your own beliefs, values, and morals doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve screwed yourself out of a job; however, becoming defensive and trying to change your client’s outlook, picking a fight and potentially burning your bridges (nice transition, there), can mean just that.

#5: Burn Your Bridges.

As described above, situations (unrelated to the completion of a project) might pop up when you and a client part ways. And, also as described above, sometimes these situations are unavoidable.

Regardless of why you need to part ways, the best way to handle it is politely and professionally. Just because the two of you came to a point where you don’t see eye-to-eye and shouldn’t work together anymore doesn’t mean you should end your last call by screaming insults and slamming down the phone.

After all, just because you couldn’t continue working together one one project doesn’t mean another one won’t come along in the future the client would think you were perfect for.

#6: Lack an Online Presence.

These days, many writers and editors turn to the Web for work. Why shouldn’t we? The Internet allows us to easily connect with potential clients and other writers from all over the world and we can, after all, do this from just about anywhere.

It only makes sense then to have an online presence – a “home base,” if you will, that introduces people to who you are and what you do. Some of us go all out with a website, blog, or both, and some of us keep things simple with just a Facebook account.

Whatever you choose to do, do something. Give your potential clients a way to get to know you and your work, and give yourself a chance to connect with your co-workers.

#7: Ignore Social Media.

It’s 2010, and if you’re not involved in some kind of social website – whether it’s a networking site like Twitter, Facebook, or yes, even MySpace, or simply a news-oriented site like Digg, Reddit, or Stumble – you’re pretty much asking the world to overlook you.

Social media sites are powerful tools for connecting with potential clients and fellow writers, as well as checking out the work of others and promoting your own.

Plus, freelancing can get lonely at times and these kinds of sites are nice “water coolers” you can swing by whenever you want and chat up your friends!

Do any of these sound familiar to you? I know I can raise my hand for numbers one and five, and in the past, six and seven, too. Or, have you done something else that’s voided your shot at a writing job?


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kat January 4, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Hey, hon! I’m glad to see your writing stuff up! I’ll link to you on the NDB blog. Anyway, this is an article to print and put in the “Stuff to read frequently” file.

Alicia January 6, 2010 at 10:23 am

Thanks Kat! I just checked out the blog (I’ve been so out of the loop for so long) – it looks great! So does the website. I’ve just linked it!

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