It’s no longer any secret. If you can write in English, you can earn a handsome income online. There are literally thousands of websites and online portals willing to pay for articles.
That said, few “writers” actually earn decent income. Even if they manage to secure jobs or submissions, the payments are far too little to justify further involvement. That is, if they even manage to get any jobs at all.
Poor command of language aside, these writers are usually side-lined because of professional concerns. As in, they are deemed by editors and clients as inappropriate, tedious, or even dangerous to work with.
The following are five mistakes to avoid if you do not wish to be labelled as such when applying for writing gigs or when submitting articles to portals. Before I begin, do note that in the online realm, everyone is too busy to give you a second chance. If you project the wrong impression at the first step, you will instantly be disregarded i.e. out of the game.
1. A Terrible Biography
A biography is usually necessary when applying for writing gigs or when submitting articles to popular websites. Sadly, an awful bio is correspondingly the first fatal mistake many aspiring writers make.
Way too many flood their bios with rambling sentences full of bombastic words and meaningless claims. Sentences to the likes of “I am a thoughtful individual with a determined passion for sharing my life experiences through the power of my crafted words.”
As dreamily attractive as such claims might be for personal blogs, do they carry any worth in commercial writing where brevity and clarity of information are paramount? In the end, do such statements even convey any real information about you?
Take note too, using colorful words in your bio does not demonstrate your vocabulary. If anything, it shows an appalling weakness. As in you are unable to describe something without a mouthful of big words.
In short, your bio must be terse, frank, and to the point. If you have any, highlight relevant commercial experience that might be beneficial to you getting the job.
Ambiguous personality statements, as few as possible, please.
Naturally, be honest with your claims too. Nothing is as immediate a turn-off, when you claim you have written for many publications, but can’t even name one.
2. Not Doing Homework Beforehand
Even the most informal publications have some sort of style guide. This being a list of editorial rules regarding formats, headlines, spelling, grammar, etc.
In newsrooms, this style guide could be as thick as a dictionary.
Similarly, all publications adhere to a specific style of writing. Some prefer a more casual approach. Others emphasize quotes and testimonies.
News-related publications inevitably look for writers capable of the Inverted Pyramid writing style. Given the benefits in brevity this style brings, major corporations might prefer this approach too.
Long story short, you are not going to impress anyone if you submit a writing sample in a style that’s starkly different from what is sought after.
Likewise, if your sample submission indicates an awareness of style, down to header formats, you demonstrate a strong advantage right away.
Both areas require you to thoroughly do research i.e. homework beforehand.
3. Not Respecting Copyright I.E. Intellectual Property
Copyright infringement is the biggest bane in the online publishing world.
Plagiarists openly steal entire articles to pass off as their own. Fake w;riters use article spinners to create thinly reworded essays to fill up their portfolios.
As for photographers, ensuring their works are not stolen for unlawful uses remains a major concern.
For any aspiring writer, the crucial thing to know is this. It is extremely unlikely that you get away with plagiarism when submitting writing samples or when doing an actual job.
Even if you succeed, with so many free plagiarism checks available online, you aren’t going to stay lucky for long.
Know this too. Most editors, if not all, will have the sense to check submitted articles for plagiarism. It is practically a must for major publications.
If you are caught infringing on copyright, you will immediately be blacklisted. Worse, the editor might know the parties being stolen from. I am talking about the possibility of hefty fines and lawsuits here.
4. Not Knowing the Basics of SEO
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and is the equivalent of gold in the online world.
Wait, not gold. Diamonds.
It’s a much-debated discipline, though, with even renowned experts often openly disagreeing on certain issues. As far as applying for writing gigs is concerned, what’s important is that you should at least know the basics.
Basics such as proper title writing, keyword research, header and paragraphing, and so on.
Vice versa, it is equally important to know the things NEVER to do. For example, keyword stuffing.
Chances are, when applying for truly profitable gigs, you will be asked to submit writing samples. You can be sure your writing will be assessed for SEO quality.
Having some knowledge wouldn’t assure you the job too, to be clear. However, a clear lack of understanding will definitely banish you to the back of the queue.
5. Telling An Editor That You Are Writing to Learn
This isn’t necessarily a mistake. After all, it is an expression of humility.
On the other hand, most editors and content leads are too busy with their workloads to be excited by the prospect of mentoring a new writer. What they want is someone who can get the job done quickly and professionally. If there are things to learn, the writer is expected to do so quietly and without help.
In some cases, an editor might even immediately assume you are a nuisance to work with, because you don’t already “know the ropes.”
In a nutshell, always project the impression that you’re up to the job, no more and no less. Back up your claims with an appropriate portfolio too. Naturally, don’t forget to do your background research on what skills are necessary.
Lastly, telling a potential client or employer that you are there to “learn” could instantly brands you as a novice too. You might still get the job but you are not going to command any attractive rates. With unscrupulous setups, you might even be badly exploited.