Late on a Sunday night you look through your writing assignments and realize that you’ve completely forgotten about an article that you need to have delivered to a client by midnight. Panicking, you quickly skim the style guide and throw together a piece and submit it at 11:59 pm -just before the deadline. Feeling pretty proud of yourself you head to bed; only to wake up hours later to a very angry email from your client.
He’s completely taken aback by the lack of quality and direction of your article, and is insulted by your carelessness. He has rejected your article, your payment request was denied, and now he is taking his business elsewhere.
If you can relate to this scenario, then you are probably guilty of at least one of the 6 most common and detrimental mistakes made by writers.
Procrastination is the Achilles’ heel of many writers. As writers our “gift” is being able to write on demand naturally and quickly without getting stuck. But this very gift can also become your curse.
Don’t Be Cocky
When you receive assignments write down all of your deadlines in a calendar and approach each assignment by level of priority. Complete the assignments that are due first and work on the ones that will require the most effort. Plan your writing schedule in advance and give yourself plenty of wiggle room, just in case anything comes up at the last minute.
2. Unrealistic Goals
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Jumping into every assignment headfirst is a sure way to shoot yourself in the foot, and potentially lose your client. Be realistic about what you can achieve and what you can’t. For instance, let’s say you’ve been assigned to write three sharebait articles, six product descriptions, and a case study; all of which are due in two weeks.
Your first priority should be the case study, as this is going to require the most research labor and the most writing. Set up your schedule in a way so that you’re chipping away at that assignment little by little every day.
The sharebait articles would be your next priority. These will require you to get your creative juices flowing and think outside the box. While you may not need to research quite as heavily, you will need to be in the correct frame of mind, and be prepared to think beyond traditional writing. How can you write this piece so that it incites readers to want to share, like, and comment on it?
Your third priority is the product descriptions. These will be fairly short and simple and can all be completed within a day or two, depending on your personal speed and quality as a writer.
3. Research Cramming
Cramming in research at the last minute is writing suicide. Being pressed for time will only cloud your judgment and prevent the necessary step od conducting thorough and accurate research . If you’ve managed your time wisely, research should only take you 1-3 hours, depending on the nature of the assignment and how much research is needed to fully cover the topic.
Organize Your Resources
Don’t just accept the first fact or statistic that pops up in your search engine. Research your topic thoroughly and wisely. Utilize several different resources and compare your findings to one another.
4. Missing the Details
Although it’s a huge contradiction, many writers actually hate reading. This issue tends to hinder your ability to follow directions and execute assignments properly. When you receive a new assignment, take the time to read through all of the client’s specifications. Make note of the emphasized statements and highlight the sections that you feel require the most focus. Even though many clients tend to have long, endless style guides, by not reading it thoroughly it will come back to bite you in the end. It can even lead to you missing out on future writing offers. You must read well to be a successful writer.
5. Rushing the Process
Just like procrastinating, rushing through writing can be detrimental to your stance with a particular client. Rushed content is easily spotted by readers. People can tell when you’ve hurried through an article because your thoughts will be incomplete and your article will leave a lot of unanswered questions.
If you’re on a time crunch and you know will not meet your deadline without rushing, consider contacting your client and request a small deadline extension. It’s better to send your client high-quality content on a permitted extended deadline, rather than delivering half-assed work on time.
6. Biting Off More Than You Can Chew
The writing industry is super tough right now and extremely competitive. So, it’s natural to want to say, “Yes” to everything you can get your hands on, without taking into account your existing workload.
Gauge Your Writing Capacity
If you can only handle about 3,000 words per day, that’s probably an average of 5 to 6 assignments each day. Underestimate your capacity and only accept 2 to 3 assignments per day so you have plenty of time to plan, research, and write all of them.
The quality of your writing is what will keep you employed. If you crush your quality by taking on too many assignments, the chances that you will be offered work in the future are slim.
It’s easy to fall victim to these bad habits as your demand for work as a writer increases. But remember that your writing is part of your self-brand, and your biggest goal as a writer should be to protect that image and constantly strive to improve it. Don’t get sucked into factory writing. Hold true to your art and be smart about your proficiencies.