5 ways Sri Lankan freelance writers can be successful

5 ways Sri Lankan freelance writers can be successful

July 15, 2022 Uncategorized 0
5 ways Sri Lankan freelance writers can be successful

Written by Kasun Pathirage and Edited by Nadeesha Paulis

The horror stories we hear in the Sri Lankan Writers Facebook group never end. Writers complain of clients not paying on time, never paying, and being disrespectful. Writers new and old alike seem to be facing this issue.

I wrote this short guide to show support and solidarity. Following these steps should minimize your chance of getting hurt.

However, it’s more than a set of rules to keep yourself safe. It also contains ideas to get your freelance writing to the next level— by improving your process and offering a quality service to clients.

How to avoid common pitfalls as a freelance writer in Sri Lanka

Research your prospects

Vetting and qualifying prospects should be the first thing writers do – before ever doing any work. 

It takes only a little time and effort but will save you a lot of pain. Also, don’t think or talk of people who are just interested in your services as clients. They are simply prospects – who you need to decide whether to turn into clients. 

  1. Look up the LinkedIn profile of the person who contacted you. Most professionals maintain one – even if they are not very active on the platform.
  2. Once you find out where the person works, look up the company website and company LinkedIn page. The information you find can give you a good idea if this is a business that can pay professional rates.
  3. If a person or a business has no online presence at all, I’d consider it a red flag. (Unless they want you to do the initial branding for the company of course)
  4. Before you get on a call, ask a few initial screening questions.
    1. Have you worked with freelancers before? How did it go?
    2. What’s your timeline for this project? 
    3. What does your payment schedule look like?

If a company has never worked with freelancers before, expect to do some handholding and maybe even friction. If someone has no idea when a project is supposed to finish, it might drag on forever. If a company pays only net 15 or 30 (i.e. they pay within 15 days or 30 days), we should know this in advance. . 

Remember, you also want to give the best writing service to your client and contribute to their brand. So your intention should be to make this a working relationship with them, and not just a constant worry of “Will this be a bad client? 

Get an advance payment

Always get an advance payment – a 50% advance usually. This makes sure you’d at least cover your cost, in case the other half of the payment never arrives. It also helps with your cash flow. 

If it’s a set amount of work per month, you can get negotiate a retainer – always charge these at the beginning of the month, not the end.

It is a standard practice to pay contractors an advance payment. If someone refuses, I’d pass.

Sign a contract

Having a contract won’t help you recover unpaid money in most cases. Unless it’s a payment of several million, it’s best to write off your loss (and never work for them again). The legal fees and the hassle is not worth it.

Regardless, you should always have a contract for all work you do. If a project is not worth the hassle of signing some written agreement, it’s probably not worth doing anyway.

A contract should include: 

  • Scope of work: what is included in your services and what is not. This helps combat scope creep 
  • Deadlines: for you as a writer and for the client (filling briefs, sharing information)
  • Payment: how much, when, and by which method 

For smaller projects, a simple email agreement will do. For larger projects and recurring work, draft a contract and sign it with electronic signature software. Check these templates by Wise and Bonsai to get an idea.

Fire bad clients 

I’ve seen too many of our writers getting into toxic work relationships with clients who don’t pay on time, violate boundaries, and are abusive. It can feel scary to let go of the work, but such clients often cost more to keep.

Signs you should let them go

  • Not paying on time 
  • Costs more to keep than what they’re paying you
  • Not respecting your boundaries – messaging you at all hours, trying to get work that’s out of scope for free, yelling, etc.
  • Not knowing what they want (endless revisions, no clear scope)

How do you fire a client? Simply let them know you’re not working with them anymore. You don’t have to give a reason – the point is that you’re not available. 

Work on your skills and marketing 

This ties in with the previous point. Keep improving your skills and keep marketing (in the right channels, to the right prospects). It is a matter of time to get good clients who respect you and pay well.

Succeeding as a freelance writer is more than being good at writing. Some skills to develop are:

  • Search Engine Optimization 
  • An understanding of content strategy. Having the big picture in mind will make you a better writer. 
  • Some knowledge of UI and UX
  • A working knowledge of the niches/industries you write for. Be up to date with industry news and dynamics. Be capable of conversing with Subject Matter Experts and members of the client team when you write. 
  • Some design and coding skills can be handy
  • Negotiation 
  • Sales
  • Communication

You can start improving your skills for free. Some good resources to start with are

Marketing on a regular basis should be a priority if you want to succeed – even when you have enough work. If you don’t do this, here are some ways to get started.

  • Build an online presence – your website or an updated LinkedIn profile 
  • Do some outbound marketing – cold emails, cold DMs
  • Become active where you’re likely to find clients – niche Facebook/Slack groups

Invest in yourself and make it happen

Our past does not determine our future. If you have been burned, please realise it’s possible to succeed – if you learn from your mistakes and put in the time and effort necessary. 

Be gentle with yourself too. We’re all learning even clients. So trust your gut, be honest and transparent, and go with the flow. 

Image courtsey: Freelancing Females

Invest in your skills and improve your processes. Start today with baby steps. It only gets easier though it might look scary now. 

Kasun Pathirage is a freelance B2B writer for fintech and SaaS brands.

You can find out more about him on his website.

Say hello on LinkedIn or Twitter


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