Friday, June 13, 2008

Five Ways You Sell Yourself Short

"Fake it til you make it." I hate that advice. I hate the idea of being fake, first of all; I may be an actress in my second life, but there is a big difference between acting and being fake. But perhaps even more importantly, I don't think anyone ever feels like they've "made it." I found this post over on the Well Fed Writer blog the other day on how even old pros get nervous turning in first drafts. If Peter Bowerman still gets nervous sometimes, there's really no hope for me.

But even so, a lack of confidence can and will hold you back from reaching your potential as a freelance writer. I struggle with doubt all the time--and as I've grown and handled more types of projects successfully, I've learned that many of the things that have held me back have been all in my head. Here are five ways you may be selling yourself short--and earning less as a result.

You think you can't do it. Doubt has kept me from pursuing all kinds of projects in the past--from lucrative landing page gigs to simple press releases. You name it, and at one time I probably thought I couldn't do it. Of course, eventually a long-term client would come to me asking for help on the very thing I thought I couldn't do, and of course I said yes anyway, since I knew these businesses so well by then...and I did a fine job each time. Believe me, as long as you know how to educate yourself on how to do new types of writing, you'll be fine.

You think you need a certain type of experience. In the beginning, I was very nervous about talking to clients because I had never worked at an on-site agency before. While that kind of experience is great to showcase if you have it, you don't need it. My nervousness over my lack of on-site experience held me back from putting myself up for all kinds of jobs that I probably would have handled just fine.

You think you're not "professional" enough. I didn't have loads of experience in the corporate world when I started out. Because of this, I doubted what I saw as my professionalism. I thought I didn't look like a businessperson--let's face it; I still look like a college student--and I thought I wasn't sales-and-business-savvy enough to be able to present myself professionally to professional people. Today my idea of professionalism has evolved a lot--and even though I know it's still evolving, I also know I'm darn good at what I do and I treat my clients very well--and that's enough for success.

You need an attitude adjustment. Sales used to freak me out. You can imagine the damage that caused my business. Sometimes our preconceived attitudes about something like sales, math, or website design--i.e. that you can't do it, shouldn't have to do it, and refuse to learn--can keep you from running your business and promoting yourself effectively. This is something you grow out of pretty quickly if you want to succeed.

You don't consider what your writing is worth to your clients. One of my clients just emailed me to let me know he landed a huge contract the day his new website copy went up. Another client has seen his traffic skyrocket because the articles I write for his site go viral all the time. How much is that traffic and business worth to your clients? A lot. And there are plenty of other businesses out there that want your skills. You have to know the value you bring to businesses if you want to set prices that are fair to you.

Your success is all in your head. It's definitely important to stretch outside your comfort zone every so often--especially when you're first getting started. If you do, you may find you can do more than you thought.


Anonymous said...

I often pitch for gigs in areas in which I have no experience, but which interest me. Then, I proceed to tell the client why the client can't live without me. Usually, I get the job, and then I get to learn something new.

Last year, I had two weeks to learn enough about sailing to cover the America's Cup. I can't even swim, but I went up to Newport and got my hands on some previous boats and talked to people and participated in activities and all of that, so I actually had enough knowledge to write competently about the event.

I love stuff like that.

If I'm interested in it, I can learn it.

I think, in general, it's really important to take on what scares us and triumph.

Anonymous said...

I advise--just do it. Stay one step ahead of the class. Asked to write an HTML email, for instance? Look it up on google, ask for a sample...just try it. I am not a fan of people going on lists and saying, "How do you do direct mail?" and open-ended stuff like that. I would not help these people. Ask for an example, talk to other writers, figure it out. We all started someplace. I never wrote a case study until Apple asked for 100 of them.

Anonymous said...

Of these five points, professionalism is the easiest for the new writer to conquer. Invest in a logo, a website, and some business cards. Answer all emails and phone calls promptly. Read and follow submission rules when sending in a project proposal. Use a professional tone in your email, phone calls, and any other communications.

If you don't have a portfolio, telling them you can do it is sometimes enough. And your level of professionalism might just be the evidence they need to believe you.