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10 Stupid Business Mistakes Smart Writers Make

Are you struggling in your freelance writing business and you don’t know why?

There’s nothing worse than working your butt off and feeling tired, burned out and poor at the end of the day. If you’re churning through clients and feeling like you’re making less than minimum wage, you know you have a problem.

Good news, if you’re in this position, you can easily fix it. Bad news, it may mean changing your process, how you spend your time – even how you communicate with clients.

Once you overcome what’s holding you back, you’ll be able to transform a business #FAIL into a fantastic (and profitable) way of life.

And that’s pretty cool.

Here are the ten most common business mistakes I see smart writers make:

Missing deadlines

Never, ever miss a deadline. Period. It makes you look flaky and puts your client in a very bad position. If you know up front that you can’t make a deadline, express your concern or don’t take the gig. I’ve seen writers get fired after missing one deadline. Don’t let this happen to you.

Forgetting to invoice clients

How much would your cash flow improve if you collected everything that was owed you? It’s amazing how many solopreneurs forget to invoice their clients and end up in a cash crunch at the end of the month. Services like Paymo and FreshBooks can help, and they’re easy to use. If you need additional help (or you hate billing,) find a VA who can invoice for you. It’s that important.

P.S. Clients hate it when you send one invoice for three months of work and say, “Oops, I’m a bit behind. Please pay this immediately.” Doing this once could cause you to lose the client forever.

Asking if an invoice has been paid three days after sending it

Your personal finances are not your client’s problem. If you want your invoices to be paid up front or net 15, put that condition in your contract. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for payment like everyone else.

Besides, if you do send a “please pay me” email, it screams “I’m desperate” – and you’ll turn off your client. Certainly, you should check in if it’s been over 30 days or if the check is late. Otherwise, makes sure you always have enough money in your account to help float any receivables.

Dropping the communication ball

Your clients will love you if you send them quick status report emails and answer their emails quickly. Good customer service is so rare that this one little thing will make your service shine. Waiting days to email because “You don’t know anything yet,” will drive your client nuts and cause them to think about you in cranky ways.

Talking about leads/clients on social networking sites

One of the best business pieces of advice my father gave me was, “Keep your mouth shut.” Congratulate yourself if a big fish comes your way, but don’t talk about it on Twitter or Facebook. I have seen writers kicked out of the running (or fired) because they said a little too much. If you treat everything as confidential, you never have to worry about saying the wrong thing. :)

Not having a well-optimized, compelling site

How can clients trust you to do a good job with their site if your is poorly designed, you aren’t positioning for anything, and the writing looks like an afterthought? Richard Hostler, Senior SEO copywriter from Brookstone, recommends new copywriters optimize their site for their name, as well as their other top keyphrases. When clients type your name into Google – voila – your name will pop up in the top spot, and they can read all about you.

Being afraid to speak up

I’ve chatted with scads of copywriters who say, “The agency gave me a list of bad keyphrases, but I’m afraid to say anything to the client.” You know what happens after that – the page doesn’t position, and the writer gets blamed for sub-par work.

If something doesn’t work, speak your mind! Tell your client why. Back up what you say with data. Your client may choose to ignore you, and that’s their choice. If they come back to complain about their poorly performing page, you can remind them of your recommendations and see if you can steer them in the right direction.

Not keeping up-to-date with the latest SEO news because you “don’t have time.”

There is nothing more embarrassing than an informed client asking a question about the latest Google update – and you having no idea what they mean. Make sure that at least 10 percent of your day is spent educating yourself on the latest and greatest. Yes, it sounds like a lot of time. Yes, it’s that important.

Holding yourself back

Expanding your business is scary. So is taking on larger clients, asking for more money per page or taking a vacation when you know you really need it. Plan out what you want to do and do it. If you “fail” – so what? Pick yourself up and try again. This goes along with…

Not taking care of you

I’ve said it before – if you don’t take care of yourself, you put your entire business at risk. Play with different work/play schedules and see what works for your lifestyle. Laugh with your friends. Eat well. Exercise. Your energy levels will skyrocket if you do. Trust me.

What about you? What stupid business mistakes do you see new and established SEO writers make?