Monday, August 16, 2010

The taxonomy of bad freelancers

Reading "Freelance Screw-offs" this morning at Lori Widmer's Words on the Page blog, I was reminded of one of the reasons I got into freelancing in the first place: As an editor, I knew quite a few freelancers who weren't particularly skilled writers or adequately responsive to my needs. Missed deadlines, botched assignments, and a bucketful of excuses is no way to go through life, son.

Yet, they seemed to make enough money to survive. I figured I could do better, simply by operating as a business rather than someone who took assignments for granted and expected a dollar a word for a mail-it-in effort.

In any case, I highly recommend a click over to Lori's blog, whether to make yourself feel better (you'd never make any of those mistakes, right?) or to remind yourself to hew to a higher standard -- and avoid a place in the taxonomy of bad freelancers.


  1. I've often thought that former editors have an advantage at freelancing, since they know what the pet peeves are.

  2. I used to think the same way. I would either read some abominable piece of copy or meet a thriving freelancer who was a mediocre writer at best. I thought, "How hard could this be if these idiots are so successful?"

    With so many people getting into the trade now (maybe I just know a lot of laid-off people who think they write well), I imagine the bar has lifted a bit. I've also realized that being good at marketing is just as important as other talents for a freelancer/small biz owner. I've seen more than a few people of middling talents go far just because they had tenacity and a knack for self-promotion.

    God knows there are still lousy freelancers out there!

  3. @Anon, I totally agree. I think we also, in most cases if not all, do a better job of working with graphic designers, because we've worked side-by-side and know *their* pet peeves.

    @Valerie, it will be an interesting couple of years, because a lot of the papers and magazines going under aren't going to be replaced. (And content mills are filling the void.) So the mediocre will muddle through as starving writers or need to find something else to do. The barriers to entry are negligible, but the barriers to success are tall and steep.