Freelance writing is an exciting adventure. But just like being on an African safari, there are dangers. Here’s how to make sure you don’t get bitten by a cobra or worse, a lion, on your journey.


By now, you’ve probably searched for tips, tricks and advice on how to become a successful freelance writer. The internet is exploding with ideas on what to do, but it’s just as important to know about the bad habits you should avoid as a writer.

The six naughty habits of unsuccessful writers

  • 1. Unsuccessful freelance writers love to take lots of breaks. Coffee breaks, dog-walking breaks, selfies with the cat breaks, finding the softest towels at the homeware store breaks, etc. These breaks can and will take up most of their time.

  • 2. These writers will frequently visit watering holes. This will include checking in at local restaurants, cafes and bars on a regular basis. In most cases, there will be no laptop or notepad in sight – no surprise there! They’re just taking another ‘break’.

  • 3. Unsuccessful writers love perfectionism. Their writing always includes a great first draft, and it must be perfect! No grammar or spelling errors first time around, or else they’re out of the game. The pressure is on!

Marian Keyes, a prominent Irish author, has some guiding advice on overcoming perfectionism:

‘Don’t be surprised if your first efforts are shockingly bad – indeed, expect to marvel at the gap between what you want to say in your head and how it appears on the page. But persevere: chances are it will improve.’

  • 4. They do all their research on social media. There is nothing like wasting a few hours online to drum up ideas for their freelance writing – and this naturally becomes a whole night of stalking their ex from high school. They obviously must follow this up by fact-checking all status updates with their old school friends.

  • 5. Freelancers often stay up too late and oversleep. Being nocturnal can be a trait of successful writers. However, if they aren’t typing away on a laptop and are instead watching endless ‘cats scared of cucumbers’ videos online, then they’re not likely to succeed.

  • 6. Lastly, watching TV is one of the worst habits of freelancers. Unsuccessful writers can usually be found camped out in front of a large flat-screen. And no, we’re not talking about a computer screen.

Bestselling author Stephen King suggests in his book On Writing that ‘turning off that endlessly quacking box is apt to improve the quality of your life, as well as the quality of your writing.’

Point well made, Steve!

If you want to become the king or queen of the writing jungle, then ditching the bad habits listed above will lead you back to where you want to be on your writing journey.


Heather Crowe is a writer raised in South Taranaki, currently living in the Marlborough region with her young child. She previously worked as a content and copywriter in the Resources industry. When Heather isn’t at her desk writing, you can find her walking the Wither Hills, exploring the beautiful Marlborough Sounds, or planning her next overseas adventure.

Heather graduated from the Freelance Journalism Course for Magazines and Webzines at NZ Writers College.