Freelancers: Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes That Kill Your Credibility

5 Don'ts for Freelancers

The life of a freelancer can be exhilarating and full of surprises.

But this career path is not without challenges.

It’s important to be aware and prepared once these challenges present themselves.

I’ve been a freelancer, and I’ve managed freelancers. Having experience on both ends of the spectrum, I know the mistakes freelancers should avoid.

Here are five credibility killers, and the steps you should take to tackle them.

1. Don’t be unprepared.

There’s more to preparation than showing up with a pen and notepad.

Before covering an event, it’s ideal to have a story structure laid out. In many cases, you can have most of your story written prior to covering an event and just add details and quotes afterward.

During the event, it’s important to reach out to event organizers. This person can be a great resource for quotes and give you a rundown of what to expect.

To cover your bases with quotes and more information, be sure to line up your sources. A handful is a good number to go by, especially if one of them suddenly becomes unavailable. You also may not end up quoting every person, so it’s a good practice to have multiple options and candidates.

And this doesn’t really need to be said, but arrive early. Factor in the time to get through traffic and park.

2. Don’t make it complicated.

As a freelancer, you want your work to stand out.

But don’t go out of your way to include a $100 word when a $1 word will do. Stop yourself if you reach for a thesaurus to find the perfect adjective.

According to the Clear Language Group, the average reading level of American adults is somewhere between the seventh and eighth grades.

Using simple words helps with fluidity and prevents readers from giving up on a story because it’s too difficult or cumbersome to read.

The best way to stay original as a journalist is to find your own voice and way of telling a story. This often is influenced by your favorite journalists and authors.

3. Don’t stay in your comfort zone.

A common freelancer mistake is getting too comfortable with a beat to the point of routine stories.

Mix it up. There are several ways to structure a story.

If you’re covering a beat, the odds are you’re going to have a lot of interaction with the same contacts.

Don’t use these individuals as a crutch for information or quotes. Branch out and find new sources for information. Get a different perspective for all sides of a story.

Your audience wants to hear from different people.

4. Don’t work for free. 

Take pride in your work.

Don’t let clients take advantage of you or lure you into working for free because it’s “for a good cause” or “may lead to paid work.”

It may be tempting to take on free gigs when you’re building up a resume, but know your time is worth it.

You should be fairly compensated for your skills.

5. Don’t take on jobs that are not aligned with your interests.

At some point, an opportunity will present itself for a job that will not align with your goals, interests, or expertise.

From my experience, a lack of passion and interest in a topic often results in a dull and uninspired story. Freelancing should be more than just a way to make money. It should be a way to creatively express yourself.

When it becomes just a job or you’ve lost interest, it may be time to move on.

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Anthony Vence is a Customer Content Specialist at PR Newswire. He contributes to @PRNmedia and previously worked in the newspaper industry as a news and sports editor.

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