Ask a Freelancer

Ask a Freelancer: What’s the Worst Advice You Can Give Me?

By Nicole Dieker April 1st, 2015

Hi! I am new to freelancing and I want to know: What’s the worst advice you could give someone like me?

—April Fool

Hi, April Fool! What a coincidence that I’m answering your letter on April 1. I’m so glad to hear that you’re starting a freelance career because you are guaranteed to make at least a million dollars during your first year as a freelancer.

As long as you follow these steps:

1. Quit your job and start living like a real writer.

I have never heard of a writer who also has a day job, so if you want to write, you’re going to have to kick that job of yours to the curb. (Oooh, a cliché! Those are going to help you when you start writing your own pieces.)

Once you quit your job, make sure you start living like a “real writer.” This means sleeping as late as you want and spending your afternoons waiting for inspiration to strike. Also, you should totally get a beret. All real writers have one.

2. Go to marketplaces and try to be the lowest bidder.

Now that you’re living the writer’s life, it’s time to head over to the public job marketplaces to get some work. Make sure your profile clearly states your qualifications and experience, and only offer the lowest possible bids.

That 5,000-word white paper gig? Bid $5. You’ll be sure to beat out all competitors, and eventually all of those white papers will add up to… $25! Or $30!

3. Send simultaneous submissions to every publication you know.

I know you’ve got a heartfelt personal essay about your childhood somewhere in your drafts folder. It’s time to polish it off and send it to every publication you’ve ever heard of. Esquire, The New YorkerMcSweeney’s, Cat Fancy—send it everywhere, because the more simultaneous submissions you send out, the more likely you’ll get that piece published. It’s a numbers game, after all.

So drop that entire essay into the body of an email, put every editor’s email address you know into the CC field, and send away. Maybe, if you’re lucky, two publications will want to run the piece, and you’ll get paid twice!

4. Ignore deadlines.

Everyone knows that deadlines are arbitrary, right? Editors just make them up. So take all the time you need. Your editor will appreciate the extra time you put into the piece.

5. Start becoming friends with your favorite writers on Twitter.

Twitter is great because it lets us communicate directly with our favorite writers. Here’s how to become friends:

-Figure out your favorite writer’s Twitter handle.

-Follow the writer.

-Start sending the writer daily links to your personal website along with the text, “Hey! Check me out! Can I get a retweet?”

Once your favorite writer retweets you—and it may take you 100 tweets before that happens—you’ll be famous too. Keep badgering your favorite writer to visit your website and promote your work until they either retweet or block you.

6. Work for exposure.

Any time someone asks you to work for free, say yes. After all, you’re not working for free—you’re working for exposure. Exposure is great! Once you have exposure, other people will be able to contact you and offer you more free gigs! Then you’ll get even more exposure!

7. Don’t bother learning AP style.

Seriously, if your editors are that picky about whether you capitalize “Internet” or whether you use serial commas, they can just edit your work and make those changes. That’s their job, right? Why should they expect you to learn all those nitpicky grammar and style rules when they’re the editors?

Don’t waste time learning AP style. Tell your editors that you write in your own style.

8. Don’t worry about taxes.

April 15 is coming up soon, but don’t you worry—freelancers are immune to taxes. You certainly don’t have to keep track of your freelance income and expenses throughout the year and file quarterly estimated taxes. Every penny you earn is yours to keep—forever.

I hope that this advice is helpful as you begin your freelance career, April Fool. If you follow these rules to the letter, you are guaranteed to become a superstar essayist! Why don’t you write back a year from now and tell me how you did?

Nicole Dieker hopes none of you follow this terrible advice. Instead, send your Ask a Freelancer questions to, and look forward to better advice next week when it isn’t April Fools’ Day.

Image by Stephen Coburn
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