Five Pitfalls of Writing for Pay and How to Avoid Them

Writing For Pay

Posted by on July 15, 2020

I’ve been writing for pay for over two decades now. I haven’t always made a living from it, but I’ve made some money, every year, for over 20 years. These days I’m writing for pay full-time, although as I’ve explained before, writing definitely isn’t the only thing I do. I spend a lot of time encouraging new writers, via my blog, books and other online work, and I’m generally fairly positive about the freelance writing life. However, writing for pay isn’t without its drawbacks. Many writers find that there are pitfalls and challenges. If you know what to expect, you can adapt.

Writing For Pay

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Here are five pitfalls of writing for pay and how to avoid them:

Deadline Stress

Too often a writer doesn’t budget enough time for a project. The result is a too-tight deadline, rushed project, and a stressed out writer. When you have to rush a project, it’s tough to do your best work. This can cost you a client, and a bad review from that client can cost you future clients, too.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. - Douglas Adams Share on X

The solution? Always budget in an extra day or three. If you think a project will take you a week to complete, ask for two weeks. And get started on the project as soon as you can. Stuff happens. The internet goes down. People get sick. If you finish the project early, great! Clients love it when you over-deliver.

Quoting Too Low

Setting rates is hard. Sometimes a project is more work than you expected it to be. This happens to everyone. When it happens to you, there are two choices. Learn from the mistake. Or ask the client for more money. Asking for more money after you’ve already agreed on a fee is a tough sell, and can look really unprofessional. You may end up losing the client.

There is a way around this. First, take your time assessing the project before you quote. If you’re unsure, then err on the side of caution and over quote rather than under quote. Additionally, you can include a paragraph in your quote that essentially says if the project requires more work than originally anticipated there will be additional fees. Always discuss the fees before continuing with the project of course. No one wants an expensive surprise.

Losing Work

Back up your work, and back up your back up. There are few things more frustrating than pouring your time and energy into a project only to have it disappear from this world. Yet it happens. You must have a backup system and use it consistently. Make it a habit. I use a combination of Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive. If nothing else, simply email your saved work to yourself. You can also store it on a flash drive or an external hard drive. But storing it in the cloud gives you the added flexibility of being able to access it any time, from any device.


Writing for eight hours a day, five or six days a week sounds like fun, right? It can be. However, it can also quickly lead to burnout. Make sure you take time off to have fun. Take a break from writing. Get outside and get some fresh air every day. Do some exercise. Practice some self-care. And join an online writing group or two, so you have someone to rant to.

Difficult customers

One of the biggest challenges to writing for pay will be your customers. You’ll have some truly wonderful customers. You’ll also have a few you don’t like. Ultimately the choice is yours. If your business is solid and you have plenty of work then you certainly don’t have to work with the more difficult customers again.

However, if you need the work then it may pay to put on a smile and appease them. Setting the groundwork up front with policies, procedures and an effective communication system can alleviate a lot of hassle. When customers know exactly what to expect, they tend to be more accommodating. I have adapted the set of forms in this new client kit that I got free from Coachglue, so my clients know what my procedures are and what to expect. The forms are aimed at coaches, but as I say, I adapted them (very carefully) to be relevant to freelance writing work.

Writing for pay is a great lifestyle for many. However, it’s not without its challenges. Learn from them. Plan for them. And enjoy your chosen profession.


Struggling to make your first $1000 from freelance writing? Check out the Write Your Way To  Your First 1K course.

While you’re here, feel free to check out lay the useful writing tools I use every day to run my successful freelance writing business, or download my FREE list of freelance markets that pay writers. Or you might like the writing section over at my Amazon store.


Posted in: Writing


  1. Leave a Reply

    Rebecca @ Boss Single Mama
    July 16, 2020

    As a freelance writer this is all spot on. The worst for me is probably difficult clients. Luckily I’m in a place with my business now where I can discontinue client relationships without worrying about it tanking my income.

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