3 Ways You’re Probably Sabotaging Your Freelance Writing Business

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In freelancing, all your fears come true.

Afraid you won’t be able to command high rates for your work? You’re right. Worried that you won’t get paid on time (or ever)? Right again. Think there’s a shortage of good clients? Correct-a-mundo.

But… none of this happens for the reasons you think.

Actually, your brain causes these challenges.

No, I’m not talking about some mysterious, law-of-attraction-type power. I’m talking about the old self-fulfilling prophecy. That dang connection between our beliefs, our behavior, and the results we get in life and business.

Let me reiterate: There is nothing mystical about this. Nothing whatsoever.

Quite the opposite, actually. It’s just plain logic.

Here are three huge self-fulfilling prophecies that can hold you back from freelance financial success and professional growth.

Self-fulfilling prophecy 1: “Clients want low prices”

You become doggedly convinced (often through peer pressure) that all clients are actually Terminator-style cyborgs on a mission to grind your freelance rates into post-apocalyptic dust.

To compensate for this perceived threat, you quote (and even brag about) “competitive” prices in an effort to avoid scaring anyone off.

This approach repels the best clients, who are as attracted to low prices as vegans are to steakhouses. Ironically, it does succeed in reeling in budget-conscious clients in droves.

Result: You end up with nothing but low-paying clients, and a reinforced belief that there’s nothing you can do about it.

The fix

Realize that clients do not all own the cheapest computers, desks, or chairs. In fact, if they really wanted to save money at all costs, why even have a desk at all, when they could just work on the floor instead?

People are willing to pay for things they value. Period.

Self-fulfilling prophecy 2: “Clients won’t pay me on time (or at all)”

You suspect that most clients will happily take advantage of you, if given the chance.

To counter this dark human tendency, you concoct complicated and draconian payment terms, including contracts, fine print, and strict penalties. And you make sure to dangle these in front of prospective clients right up front to “weed out the deadbeats.”

Unfortunately, the best clients (who pay all of their bills promptly anyway) routinely respond to complexity, red tape and paranoia with “No, thank you.”

Result: Once again, you’ve managed to screen out the exact type of client you want most, while drawing in the hard-payers, who are used to this sort of treatment.

The fix

Understand that you can cover yourself without putting up a wall between you and potential clients.

Simple payment terms can be just as effective as complex ones. And in any case, they should be the last thing you discuss with prospects, not the first.

Self-fulfilling prophecy 3: “There aren’t enough good clients”

You worry all the good clients in the world will get snatched up by your competitors.

To combat this misguided scarcity, you take any job that comes your way because “it’s a paycheck.” You also cling to each client for dear life, willing to drop your prices at any hint of resistance.

Result: You end up mired in unrewarding work that doesn’t pay well, which holds you back from professional growth. In other words, you do indeed experience a shortage of good clients — but, yet again, it’s a self-imposed shortage as a result of your own limited beliefs.

The fix

Think bigger. There are literally tens of millions of businesses in the U.S. alone. In 2014, I worked with 20 clients who were all happy to pay upwards of $100 per hour. I promise you these were not the only 20 “good clients” on earth.

Are you ready to charge what you’re worth?

If you’re new to freelancing, awareness of these limiting beliefs will help you avoid some of the biggest traps that keep writers from breaking through to the next level.

And if you’ve been freelancing for a while, it’s never too late to break free of these (and other) self-fulfilling prophecies and start earning what you want and deserve.

Have you been held back by self-limiting beliefs like the ones I’ve just described? What are you going to do to break the cycle going forward?

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Danny Margulies is a copywriter, online freelancing expert, and creator of freelancetowin.com. Get his top 5 hacks for making money on Upwork here.... .

Freelance To Win | @OmahaCopywriter


  1. Oh my. This is so true in my case. I have been writing for the last 3 years, and all three prophecies apply in my case….

  2. Oh my. The demons were knocking whilst reading this post.

    Thanks Danny, for reminding me to bash these unfriendly thoughts. I have clients who pay top dollar and have clients who are always looking to push my envelope of giving – more words with my amazing quality for less pay.

    Cheers to those amazing clients!

    • Thanks for sharing this Sherry. If you have a “giving” nature then it’s important to surround yourself with clients who will respect that and not take advantage of it. Fortunately as you know there are tons of them out there.

      • Oh, yes, I definitely have the “giving” nature accompanied by a need for perfectionism. Writing and editing are ingrained in me, and many feel because they are so easy for me to accomplish, my time isn’t as valuable.

        I thank my amazing clients everyday for being respectful of my time and expertise.

        Thanks again for the reminder to stand my ground.

  3. Digvijaya says:

    Thanks for these insights, Danny. They do lie somewhere in the subconscious reaches of the minds of many freelancers, but thanks for bringing them out so cogently.

    • Happy to know it helps. The fact that we don’t know these voices are even there makes them particularly insidious. As freelancers we need to be especially vigilant since we’re often operating in “solitary” and need to watch our own backs.

  4. This is a wonderful post! I hope to read more of your post which is very informative and useful to all the readers.

  5. Hello Danny,
    This is really motivating. A lot of people usually create road blocks for themselves in life without knowing.

    The truth is that often time in life, most of the things you fear will certainly happen to you and that’s why its always advisable to formulate positive thoughts in your mind.

    Yes, if you think you can then….. you will.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hi Theodore — the key words you used are “without knowing.” Once you can step outside of yourself and see the self-limiting behavior, you are halfway home. Thanks for posting!

  7. Hi Danny

    I love this: “People are willing to pay for things they value. Period.”

    It’s easy for freelancers to get swept up in thinking that no one can afford to pay what we’re worth. But the reality is, do we want to be stuck with clients who don’t want to pay more than the bare minimum? The answer, of course, is hell no!

    The more we value our services, and price them accordingly, the better clients we attract.

    Thanks for the solid tips.


  8. Great tips dan. Thanks.

  9. Elli Mihalopoulou says:

    This was definitely the best way my day could have started. I became inspired and motivated. Thank you for the inspiration!

  10. Awesome insight as always Danny! I know that I have fallen into some of these same traps myself before and your insight is greatly appreciated. Thanks for sharing!

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