So you want to be a freelance writer? Or maybe you already took the plunge and you’re struggling to get your business off the ground.

We’ve all been there.

And whether you’re struggling to find clients or you’ve hit the big time, there are a few things you need to know if you’re new to the world of freelance writing.

Here are the top five mistakes freelance writers make when they first get started.

#1 Treating revenue like profit.

As a regular employee, you had the benefit of having your employer withhold taxes on your behalf. They even paid a good portion for you!

But when working for yourself, it’s your responsibility to pay those taxes. And when Uncle Sam comes knocking, you’d better have a good portion of your revenue set aside to pay. You’re going to want to look into estimated quarterly tax payments and even talk to a good accountant about your options.

In addition to taxes, it’s a good idea to set aside funds to reinvest in your business. You never know when times are going to be lean and you’ll have to dip into savings to keep your business running.

#2 Marketing to Everyone

I know you’re the epitome of a “starving writer.” But you can’t take any and every writing job that comes your way.

Narrowing down your target audience will go a long way in providing a focus for your advertising and marketing attempts. It will also set you up as an expert in that area and that makes you even more desirable to potential clients.

Plus, it’s tough to create a generic marketing plan. People want results and if your message is too broad, you’ll likely end up attracting no one.

#3 Working Without a Contract

It might make you nervous to ask for a signed contract from your client. But don’t be.

Change your mindset from employee to business owner. And, as a business owner, it’s your job to secure a contract that outlines your work product and the payment terms in writing.

Asking for a formal, written commitment from your client will also legitimize your position as a freelance writer in their eyes, and build trust in your business relationship.

#4 Not Taking Yourself Seriously

This is one of the biggest setbacks for new freelance writers.

Even if you haven’t had a “real” paying client yet, if you write, you’re a writer. And if you haven’t published anything that you’ve written – then set up your own blog, type it out, and hit publish!

Building a good reputation within the writing community and with clients is important. And if you take yourself seriously as a writer, your clients and colleagues will, too.

#5 Not Having Regular Hours

It’s tough to find time to devote to freelance writing, especially if you’re building it on the side while keeping your day job.

Developing a regular schedule to work on your writing is important. Even if you don’t have many clients or deadlines, it will teach you how to focus on the task at hand and go a long way to developing self-discipline.

It’s better to practice now when your project list is light than miss a deadline when business really heats up.

Now it’s your turn – what are some mistakes you made early on that you wish someone would have warned you about?