However, it’s not always easy to get started—or to keep going once you’ve started. You want to be a professional storyteller. You want to get paid to do what you love. But you’re not quite there yet. In the meantime, you’re doing whatever it takes to get your foot in the door—even if it means working for free.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for working for free. But there are certain things you should never do as a storyteller, no matter how desperate you are to get your work out there. That’s why I want to share with you twelve things you should never do as a storyteller. If you can avoid these pitfalls, you’ll be well on your way to crafting captivating stories that engage and inspire your audience.
12 Things You Should Never Do as a Freelance Writer
Don’t Try to Please Everyone
When you’re starting out, it’s tempting to want to write stories that will appeal to the widest possible audience. But the truth is, that’s not always possible—or even desirable. It’s far better to write for a specific audience and craft your stories accordingly than to try to be everything to everyone.
The best advice here is to be your unique self and focus on sharing your stories in a way that will resonate with your true audience. Don’t be the Jack (or Jill) of all trades, be the master of one, and you’ll soon see your story resonate with the people who truly care about it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment and Fail
One of the best things about being a storyteller is that there are no rules. You can experiment with different styles and formats until you find what works best for you and your audience. So don’t be afraid to try something new—you never know where it might lead.
Like any creative endeavor, storytelling comes with its fair share of risks. You might pour your heart and soul into a story only to have it fall flat with your audience. But don’t let that deter you—every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow as a storyteller. So take risks, experiment with new styles and formats, and above all, don’t be afraid to fail. The more you put yourself out there, the better your stories will become.
Don’t Forget the Basics
Talking about rules might seem like I’m contradicting myself, but there are certain basics that all storytellers should keep in mind. For example, you need to learn the fundamentals of writing quality content that engages and inspires your audience. You need to focus on building an authentic voice and cultivating a strong online presence. And you need to be willing to invest in yourself and your craft.
Even if you’re shaking things up and trying new things, it’s important not to forget the basics of storytelling: structure, conflict, and resolution. A great story needs all three of these elements in order to be truly captivating. So don’t neglect the fundamentals, no matter how much you want to experiment with new ideas.
Don’t Neglect Your Research
If you’re telling a true story, it’s important to do your research and make sure all the details are accurate. Even if you’re telling a fictional story, though, research can be helpful in making sure your world is believable and realistic. Either way, don’t skip this important step.
Doing your homework is essential for any writer, but it’s especially important when your stories are true. If you’re telling a real-life event or experience in your life, make sure to verify all the details before sharing it with your audience. And if you need some tips on how to do research for storytelling, check out this article: How to Research for Storytelling: Tips and Techniques.
Don’t Be Afraid to Share Your Stories
One of the best ways to improve as a storyteller is to share your stories with other people—in person, online, or anywhere in between. So don’t be afraid to reach out and inspire others with your work. The more you share, the better your stories will become.
Whenever you create a new story, make it a habit to share it with others. Whether you’re sharing on social media or telling it in person to friends and family, talking about your work is an essential step for any aspiring storyteller. Not only does this help you hone your craft, but it also helps you grow your audience and build a loyal community. So don’t be afraid to share, and you’ll see your storytelling skills improve in no time.
Don’t Get Too Attached to Your Words
As a storyteller, part of your job is to be open to feedback and critiques. Be willing to listen to what others have to say, and don’t get too attached to your words will help you improve as a storyteller.
When you write or tell a story, it’s natural to become attached to your words and the way they make you feel. But remember that this is your work—and it should be open for feedback and critique from others. Instead of getting defensive, listen with an open mind to what others have to say. You might be surprised at how much you can learn from the insights of others.
Don’t Use Recycled Content
It’s one thing to retell a traditional folktale or fairy tale that’s in the public domain. But it’s entirely another thing to recycle content that you’ve already published elsewhere and call it a day. If an editor or publisher sees that you’re recycling your content, they’re not going to be very impressed. In fact, they may decide not to work with you at all.
Instead of recycling old content, focus on creating new stories and ideas or repurposing your content in new ways. This will help you maintain a fresh voice and show that you’re serious about your work. And who knows—you may even come up with something new and exciting along the way.
Plagiarism is a serious offense in the world of writing and storytelling. If you’re caught plagiarizing someone else’s work, you could ruin your reputation—and your career—forever. So always make sure that any ideas or phrases that aren’t your own are properly credited to their source.
Don’t Steal Ideas
Ideas are worth their weight in gold—particularly in the world of storytelling. So if someone shares an idea with you in confidence, don’t go and use it without their permission. Not only is it illegal, but it’s also just plain rude! Moreover, your reputation will take a serious hit once it’s out in the open that you’ve stolen someone else’s ideas.
So always respect the creative work of others, and make sure to give credit where credit is due. And if an idea is too good not to share, then ask for permission before including it in your work. You’ll build your relationship with that person and stay out of legal trouble at the same time.
Don’t Work With Non-Professional Clients
Just because you’re new to storytelling doesn’t mean that you should work for inexperienced clients. If a client is paying you for your services, then it’s your duty to deliver high-quality work as promised. And if someone wants you to take on a project without any prior experience in the field, don’t feel pressured into saying yes.
There are some organizations that expect storytellers to work for free. They may not pay you in money, but they’ll promise to pay you in exposure. And while exposure is important, it’s not going to pay the bills. So don’t waste your time working with non-professional organizations that can’t or won’t pay you for your work.
When working with new clients or organizations, remember to set clear boundaries upfront. This will help you protect your own interests and ensure that you get the monetary compensation that you deserve for your work.
Don’t Tell Your Stories for Free
No matter how much you want to be a professional storyteller, you should never tell your stories for free. Why? Because once you start telling your stories for free, it’s hard to stop. And before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’re expected to work for free all the time. And that’s not a sustainable way to make a living.
So, create your prices and stick to them. If someone can’t afford your services, it might be time to look for other clients or projects. At the end of the day, you have to watch out for yourself first and foremost.
Don’t Forget to Promote Yourself
Promoting yourself may not come naturally as a storyteller since most of us prefer staying behind the scenes making up stories rather than being in them but self-promotion is crucial if want people to know about your work and hire/pay YOU for IT!
Make sure part of your regular routine includes promoting yourself through social media platforms and other means so people know about the great work YOU do!
Think of it like salesmanship: You’re selling your services, and if you don’t tell people about what you have to offer, no one will know that they need it. Being a freelancer means you’re your own marketer slash salesperson—so don’t neglect this part of the job!
As an aspiring freelance writer, it’s important to understand the ins and outs of plagiarism, working with non-professional clients, and self-promotion. By following these tips, you can avoid any pitfalls that can damage your reputation or make it harder to create a sustainable career as an artist.
How about you? What are some other tips that can help aspiring freelance writers succeed? Let us know in the comments below!