Search the Archives

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Writers Worth: Everything's Relative

Cathy Miller is one of my closest friends. I've never met her, but it's hard not to like a successful, hard-working freelance writer who's going about her business quietly while totally owning her space.

In this her third post for this Writers Worth Month (it's a record -- thank you, Cathy!), Cathy reiterates the idea of $100K earnings and how that relates (or doesn't) to your individual worth in a way only Cathy can present it.

Writers Worth: Everything's Relative

by Cathy Miller

My dad was the quintessential southern gentleman. I love sharing what I call his “southernisms”. Those sometimes quirky − often hilarious − southern sayings that define a situation.

One we heard often growing up was – everything’s relative. I think of that particular southernism whenever I read “must” edicts on freelancing advice blogs.
  • Must earn $100,000 to be successful
  • Must be on Facebook (Pinterest, Amazon, what-have-you)
  • Must post to your blog three times a week (twice a week, once a week, what-have-you)

Must be a Maybe

What do I mean by that? Let’s use the examples above.

  • What if your situation doesn’t require $100,000? Maybe you had a successful corporate career and success to you means more time with your kids (or grandkids). Maybe your less than 6-figure salary is more than adequate for your current needs. Does that make you a less successful writer?
  • What if the platform you choose is NOT Facebook? Or any of the other “must be on” platforms. What if the one where you hang out happens to be the same one used by your target market? Does that make you a less successful writer?
  • What if you don’t post three times a week? What if your blog community prefers once a month? Or enjoy your posts no matter how frequently (or not) you post? Does that make you a less successful writer? 


Individual Worth

Perhaps the hang-up is mine. I hate being told I must do something. I blame it on my middle-child-of-seven syndrome. I seek recognition as an individual and avoid doing something simply because everyone else is.

You measure writers worth by what’s important to you. There’s nothing wrong with setting a six-figure goal if that’s your goal. I remember the feeling when I hit that target in my corporate days. I also remember the years after as some of the unhappiest in my life.

Identify what’s important to you. Sounds simple but that’s not always true. Plenty of people want to tell you how you define success. Distractions are all around you. Discover your worth and go after it.

Henry David Thoreau (a pretty decent writer) said:

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
Words are a gift. Writers worth is the vessel that shares them with the world.


Cathy Miller has a business writing blog at Simply stated business. Her blog, Why 60 Miles, is in the early stages and inspired by her passion for walking 60 miles in 3 days to support research for finding a cure for cancer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writers Worth: Changing the Writing Conversation

I remember the first time I connected with Sharon Hurley Hall. It was on social media, and it was one of those moments I'd waited for. I'd noticed Sharon before, found her blog, and loved the work she put out. I wanted to know her. Thanks to social media, it happened.

I'm happy to consider Sharon a friend. She's also an incredible business person, and her freelance writing business is based on solid experience and knowledge. This is Sharon's second post for this Writers Worth Month, her first being about her core business -- writing online content. Here, Sharon gives us an education in how to build the confidence (and knowledge) about your rate that helps you nail it in negotiations.

How to Change the Conversation about What Your Writing is Worth
by Sharon Hurley Hall

Whether you're new to freelancing or an experienced freelancer planning to cover something new, negotiating can be a minefield. If you're not sure of your ground, it can be difficult to ask for - and get what you're worth.

There might be other reasons why you can't make the mental leap. I remember being new to freelancing. Many times, the client was in the driving seat because I was a terrible negotiator and felt pretty unsure about whether any client would really pay what I felt my experience was worth. (When I started freelancing, I'd already been a professional writer for quite a while, but my experience was offline in trade magazines, so it felt like starting from scratch.)

Working for copywriting agencies didn't help much, because in order for them to make money, they didn't pay writers very well. I got valuable online writing experience, but I wasn't going to get rich any time soon. Something had to change - and that something was me. I set out to put myself in a better negotiating position.

Finding Out about the "Going Rate"
The first step was to get informed, so that I had a baseline for charging for writing jobs. Since I was mostly working for US clients, I used the Writer's Market rates guide as one starting point but I also looked at:
      NUJ Rate for the Job - a database of what publications have actually paid (Contently now has something similar)
      NUJ Freelance Fees Guide - recommended rates for different types of writing.

I found the Writer's Market rates useful in one way because it provided a low, middle and high rate. I usually aimed to quote somewhere north of the middle rate, unless I had clips to support charging the top rate. (By the way, take the "going rate" with a pinch of salt; the important thing is whether you feel you are earning what you're worth.)

Website Assessment
Next, it was time to look at my website. It's been through many incarnations. I designed the first one myself, but it wasn't doing a great job of promoting my writing services and social media was still in its infancy. I switched to WordPress, bought a professional theme, and tweaked the copy to reflect the skills I could offer. (Looking back, even that iteration needed some work after a while. Keeping your website fresh and effective is an ongoing task and I've had to update the look and the copy at regular intervals.)

As part of the process, I managed to get a couple of external website assessments. This told me how people who might hire me saw the site. That's a useful exercise, and if you're on a budget,  you can usually find someone willing to do an initial assessment in exchange for your email.

Free Marketing
The third step was to take some unpaid gigs with an eye to their marketing potential so I could balance my ghostwriting with work I could take credit for. It's something I still do. I may not always get money, but posts that people read, comment on and share multiple times do more to promote my writing than 100 pitches. Writing high quality guest articles proves to prospective clients that I can deliver value - and I don't have to sell my services. Jenn Mattern would be proud, as she advocates query free freelancing.

Those three steps helped put me in a much stronger negotiating position, and a while back, I did one more thing. I put some guideline rates on my site. I don't mind telling you that for some items, I wondered whether I had gone too far. But I had a look at the rates charged by writers of similar experience and went for it.

I'm glad I did.

Now, when clients approach me, they already have a good idea what I'm going to quote. And the content on my site and online portfolios tells them what they will get for each service I offer.  When they come to me, I don't have to argue about rates  - and neither do they. The conversation is all about what I can deliver for their budget, rather than whether I'm charging too much.  (After 28 years of writing, I'm tired of that conversation. I'm sure most of you are too).

My point: even if you're not a good negotiator and even if you're not confident about what to charge, you can put yourself in a position where you don't have to talk about it. And then you earn your worth, every time. 

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 20 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Writers Worth: A Defining Moment in A Freelance Career

Friendship is a wonderful thing, especially when it's given freely and appreciated fully. Such is the friendship between Cathy Miller and me.

Cathy notices things. When she saw I was writing a good bit more this Writers Worth Month than usual, she sent me a note asking if I needed more content. Now any time Cathy Miller offers you free content, take it. Cathy has a way of showing us gently the harshest moments. Through her filter, everything is a wonderful lesson we can use right now.

This post by my friend is no different. Thank you, Cathy. I appreciate you fully.

Writers Worth: A Defining Moment
by Cathy Miller

Writers love words. We love to play with their meaning and use. And many of us love to learn their origin. A dictionary is like a well-read novel to writers.
So I pulled out my trusty Merriam-Webster (although these days, she lives online). I looked up the word worth.

1. a) monetary value; b) the equivalent of a specified amount or figure
2. a) the value of something measured by its qualities or by the esteem in which it is held
3. a) moral or personal value; b) merit, excellence
4. a) wealth, riches

Isn’t it amazing how often the definition ties money into the equation? Isn’t that where we stumble? However, what I have discovered is it’s not the definition of worth we struggle with. It’s the definition of self-worth.

A feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect.

Corporate Chaos
In my thirty-plus years of corporate life, I often said the one area I felt confident in was my job. I was good at it. Then a funny thing happened. Toward the end of my corporate career, my confidence disappeared.

Like a boxer who had gone one too many rounds, I felt beaten up. What served me all my adult life was standing on wobbling legs, ready to pitch forward in defeat.  So I quit. 

I entered the world of freelance writing. Now there’s a confidence-builder.

Writers Worth
Like most new freelance writers, I felt overwhelmed by the business side of the dream. I had always written. I loved writing. But could I make a living at it? Could I handle the daily decision-making that stems from owning your own business?

I had to rebuild my self-worth before I could even begin to determine my writers worth. Because whether you are self-employed or employed by others, your self-worth spells your success.

After a painful first year of healing, I stepped back and took inventory. I listed what I had to offer.

·         30-plus years of experience in the healthcare and insurance industry
  •          20-plus years of management
  •          A corporate career filled with Fortune 500 companies as clients
  •          Unique combination of technical and creative skills

That was just the start.

I can hear the newbies. “But I don’t have 30-plus years of experience.” Or, “I’m a stay-at-home mom.”

Something brought you to this place.

  •         Your love of writing?
  •          Your desire to be your own boss?

Start with that. Be confident in your writing. If you’re not, practice. Take classes. Build your confidence. Then take inventory of what you have to offer.

Tell me a stay-at-home mom doesn’t know about daily decision-making. Tell me you have no experience at all – like traveling, managing a home, taking care of a loved one or a pet or a knack for numbers.

Tell me you don’t deserve to be treated with respect.

Know your self-worth. Your writers worth will follow.

Cathy Miller has a business writing blog at Simply stated business. Her blog, Why 60 Miles, is in the early stages and inspired by her passion for walking 60 miles in 3 days to support research for finding a cure for cancer.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Writers Worth: Realign Your Values

Once upon a time, I had a client who worked hard. She juggled multiple projects within her department. One of those projects was a document I was tapped to help with. Every year, we worked together to get this document ready. Time wasn't a factor -- this was a paper version of an online document. It would be seen by shareholders and investors only, and that the information was nearly outdated as we started didn't matter. So every year, we assembled and formatted and edited.

And every year, she asked if I worked a particular holiday weekend.

It wasn't a request or anywhere near a demand -- it was just a question asked every year for four years. "Do you ever work holiday weekends?"

The guilty writer in me wanted to say yes. 

The smart business person in me said no.

Why I said no:
  • The deadline wasn't urgent
  • My family was together only on weekends
  • I needed a break from the intensity of that project and others
  • I didn't want to
I'll admit that first time I said no to her question, I held my breath. I thought she'd drop me from the project (sometimes, corporate people aren't as flexible as they pretend to be). I wanted -- needed -- that project. I prepared for what would happen next.

Nothing happened. She said "Okay, no problem."

That was my first lesson in putting boundaries on my time. Had I said yes to her request, I would have worked four holiday weekends for no additional pay and the project wouldn't have been but a few hours closer to being finished. Plus, I'd have resented both my client and myself.

No thanks.

So today, on this holiday, I suggest you realign your values, too. Shut off the computer. Switch off your cell phone. Go out and enjoy Memorial Day in the way it was intended. Spend time with the people who love you best, and create memories instead of invoices and resentments.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.

Writers, have you ever worked during your scheduled time off?
Have you collected a higher rate as a result?
Do you have clearly established boundaries around your time? If so, when do you allow for exceptions?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Writers Worth: Freelance Writing Career Do's and Don'ts

When I asked my writer friends for guest posts, Ashley Festa was not only the first one to volunteer, but also the first one to offer two posts. That's why I love her -- she's eager to give back to the profession and help beginning writers get a good start. What follows is a fantastic post that should be a freelance writer's mantra. She's learned a lot in her few years of freelancing, and it shows.

Ashley apologized for the length of this post, but there's no need. Every point is worth committing to memory. Thank you, Ashley. Your insights are great, and much appreciated.

Dos and Don’ts of a Successful Freelance Writing Career

By Ashley Festa

Everyone has to begin somewhere. Without taking the first step—whether it’s a success or a failure—you’ll never achieve any goal you set for yourself.

My first step was fearful and cautious, but unstoppable. There were also many missteps before I found a solid foothold. When I made a mistake, I backtracked a bit to catch my balance. Then I stepped out again, sometimes in a new direction, sometimes in the same direction but on a different route.

That path has led me here, to this blog, to Writers Worth Month, to being able to say that I’m more successful today than I ever thought would be possible working for myself.

That’s because I learned to value myself, value my business and value my work as a service to help clients achieve their goals. If I didn’t realize my worth, I would have quit after the first mistake I made. There have been lots of mistakes since then, but I still move forward, learning lessons as I go.

That’s what I want to share with you—things I’ve (mostly) learned not to do, and what to do instead. Hopefully you can benefit from my trials and errors.

So, let’s get started.

Making the Leap

Don't be afraid to ask questions
When I first started, I asked So. Many. Questions. I could string some sentences together well enough, but otherwise knew nothing. At all. Running a business, setting rates, finding clients, marketing—it was all new to me. I found a trustworthy group of writers right here at Words on the Page, who were kind enough to take me under their wings. (And I still ask lots of questions.)

Do research for yourself
Once, while working full-time in public relations, I received a phone call from someone who had just seen the business’s commercial on television. We were promoting an event and provided a number to call “for more information.” Would you believe that someone called me and said, “Can I have more information?” I had no idea what to say to her. Moral of the story: While it’s perfectly OK to ask questions, make sure you have something specific in mind that you want to know. A little background research will let the other person know you’re willing to work and don’t just expect everything to be handed to you.

Don’t automatically choose the easy route
Sure, go after the low-hanging fruit if you don’t have published clips or if you’re just learning the basics of writing. But make sure it’s still fruit, not compost. Content-mill-type work that’s handed to you, along with the $1 paycheck, is not fruit.

Do spend time and effort to find the best markets for you
Researching markets is harder than signing up for some bidding site or content mill, but you’ll benefit in the long run. And you can still pick the low-hanging fruit like nonprofits or charities in the beginning. They might not pay well, but they’ll provide professional clips you can use to break into bigger markets later.

Don’t spread yourself too thin
When I first started, I had WAY too many marketing ideas bouncing around in my head. I wanted to try this, then that, now this other thing. I didn’t devote enough resources to any one marketing tactic to see whether it would work.

Do make a plan and stick with it
Focus on one thing. Do that thing enthusiastically for a month to see whether it will work. If it doesn’t, move to your next idea. But choose one, and work it until you’re certain it doesn’t work for you. When I finally chose one tactic and stuck with it, I finally started seeing results.

Don’t twiddle your thumbs waiting for replies
So you shared your business card at a networking event and sent an email introduction to an editor. Great! Now do it again. And again. And again. You could be waiting a long time to hear back from that potential client. Don’t let your work schedule hang in the balance.

Do remember to market regularly
To keep your schedule full and avoid the feast-or-famine cycle, set aside time for marketing. Keep plugging away at your favorite marketing tactic every day to keep the projects rolling in.

Knowing Your Worth

Don’t underestimate yourself
We’re always our own worst critics. If you feel insecure, get an honest appraisal of your writing ability. Ask a client for feedback, or get a coach to evaluate your work. You’ll discover you aren’t as bad as you thought.

Do charge what you’re worth
Writing well takes practice and work. Make sure you’re compensated accordingly. Not sure what to charge? Try this handy dandy freelance project rate calculator to figure it out.

Don’t miss deadlines or turn in shoddy work
Not much to elaborate here. Just don’t do it. Even if it’s not a great paying client, you still accepted the assignment, so it’s your responsibility to do your best.

Do respect yourself and your clients
Submitting your best work not only reflects well on you and your business, it shows your clients that they’re important to you. That keeps them coming back.

Don’t take it personally
You won’t always see eye-to-eye with your clients. They might even disagree enough to fire you. Remember: It’s not you—it’s business. You aren’t a bad writer just because you weren’t a fit for that client.

Do learn from your mistakes
When (not if) you screw up, forgive yourself first, and then examine your error. Figure out what you did wrong, and resolve not to do it again. It’s not you, it’s business, so learn how to improve your business.

Learning and Growing

Don't stagnate
No matter how much you know, you can always learn more.

Do grow professionally
To flourish as a writer, you must keep cultivating your craft. Whether you branch out into new areas or plant deeper roots in your own field of expertise, you have countless avenues for growth. (For a popular and free option, try Massive Open Online Courses aka MOOCs.)

Don't believe everything you read
Bloggers and “gurus” have flooded the internet with advice about how to be a successful freelance writer. Some of it rocks—for every writer. Some of it works in particular situations. And some is flat-out bad advice. Learn to sort out what works in your situation.

Do follow the leaders
You can rely on some bloggers (including my Writers Worth Month host!) to provide excellent tips, lessons and guidance in every post. Find them, and follow them. And don’t just read these blogs—put the advice into action.

Don't think sole proprietor has to mean “solo”
Even if you enjoy working alone, everyone needs to bounce ideas off others from time to time.

Do find a community
Whether you head to your local coffee shop, join a forum or seek out a writers group, find a place that feels right to you.

Running a Business

Don't waste your entire day with time sucks
First word: Facebook. It’s a black hole that drags me in doing “Which Disney Character Are You?” quizzes and other nonsense. Second word: Wikipedia. Once when I started doing “research” for a story about space physicists, I resurfaced an hour later with a migraine somewhere on the hypothetical dark matter/string theory/dark energy bunny trail.

Do know where your time goes
Use a time tracker. I log interviews, email writing, brainstorming sessions, even invoice writing—every working minute—to the appropriate project, even if it’s not billable time. This method gives me a good sense of how I’m spending my working hours.

Don’t forget you’re an independent contractor
You aren’t an employee, so don’t act like one. As a contractor, you set your own hours, routines and working location. If you’re required to be available during business hours or work on-site, you lose the “independent” nature of being a contractor.

Do take advantage of your flexible work schedule as much as you’d like
You need to meet your deadlines with quality work. That’s your job. When and how you do it is up to you. If you like working within the buzz of a coffee shop, snag a seat by an electrical outlet. If you need inspiration from your cat, grab Fluffy and some kitty treats. If you work best in the wee hours of the morning, burn that midnight oil. 

Don’t be shortsighted
Sometimes we get caught up in the thrill of a new client. Don’t let a prospect make you forget about your future, and don’t take on a crummy gig for a quick buck.

Do plan for the future
Remember that question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” from your corporate days? That still applies now. You need to know where you want to go so you can figure out a plan to get there. You also must consider insurance, self-employment taxes, investments, retirement and more. Think beyond your next invoice.

Moving Forward

Don’t be too hard on yourself
Everyone makes mistakes. Some people (like me) even occasionally make the same mistake many, many times before getting it right. But 99.99999 percent of the time, your mistake isn’t going to destroy your business. Acknowledge the mistake, figure out how you can do better next time, and then next time, do better.

Do congratulate yourself on a job well done
Writers, like many artists, often struggle with perfectionism. We focus on failures, not feats. We brush off our byline and move on to the next thing. Instead, soak up your achievements. Relish praise from your clients. Name yourself Employee of the Month. Whatever it takes, remember to celebrate your successes.

What have you learned from your trials, errors and missteps throughout your freelance writing career?

 Ashley Festa is a higher education freelance writer based in San Antonio, Texas. Visit her online  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Writers Worth: The $100K Myth

I was cruising a LinkedIn forum the other day when I happened upon a link to an article that made me so upset I wanted to scream at the author. The subject?

How she made $100K in her fledgling years of writing without breaking a sweat.

Bully for her, right? Only as I read through the article and through the writer's website, I realized the claims didn't match the rates or the hours she said she works. I'm talking a top rate of $50 an hour working half days.

By my calculator, that's about $52K annually if she works every single day of the year. Not a bad haul, but not exactly $100K. So where's the rest of it coming from? One can only speculate.

The problem with that article and claims like it is the authors make it sound ridiculously simple to earn that kind of money. They also frame that magical six-figure number as your Valhalla, the summit at which you can define yourself as a real writing success.

Such hogwash.

Here's the truth about a six-figure income:

Making big money takes big work.

There is no magic bullet or easy path to your financial success no matter what number you're setting as your goal. It takes studying how to do it and actually applying what you've learned consistently. Anything less than that isn't going to net you much more than frustration and an empty bank account.

Why the claims the $100K authors make really bother me, though, is the self-promotion of it. They tell you "Look how much I've made!" and then give you something for free. Ah, but then they have your email, don't they? And pretty soon, the pitch comes in -- wouldn't you like to learn from me how to earn this much money, too? So tempting because they've made it sound so darned easy....

I'll save you the $200-500 it takes to get the answers -- they made that money by charging people like you for their "secret." Lots of people. Interestingly, the few $100K claims I've seen personally that have been tied to products or services have also been given with caveats -- we made the money, but not all of it in the course of freelance writing.

Here's the secret to making $100K -- a solid business plan, a consistent marketing plan, and an ongoing dedication to connecting with clients and delivering the best you can deliver at a price that is right for you.

I remember one guy in particular about six years back touting the $120K annual income he'd made... at a content mill. He went on and on about how much he made and how he had ample time off. And he'd claimed to write some ridiculous number of "articles" every month.

Only, his numbers didn't mesh. When I pressed him for an explanation, his math was suddenly a moving target. In order to "prove" his income, he replaced the $120K with a different number and suddenly his per-article rate had increased....further questioning resulted in more convoluted addition and multiplication from him and a giant headache for me.

That's proof that while there are a few people out there who are delivering serious value based on actual experience -- Peter Bowerman and Ed Gandia come to mind -- there are far too many people over-promising and under-delivering.

How do you know the difference? Here are some ways to weed out the bad offers:

Insert skepticism. Maybe I'm a cynic at heart, but when I read the article in question, the self-promotion of it was so blatantly obvious. Even if this writer did earn that much, the freebie attached is what I call "bait." You give up your email address for the freebie, and then the pitches start coming in. And these people are good at it -- how else would they have gotten your email address out of you? Examine these "articles" and freebies carefully. Does it sound easy? Do the numbers given add up? Is there any signs of "I struggled like hell" truth in it? If not, run the other way.

Whip out the calculator. I did. The second the claim sounds a little off is when you should start paying closer attention to what's being presented. First, is it even possible to earn that kind of money given the facts presented? Second, how much per hour would it take? Do the math. Sometimes, it's the simplest BS litmus test available.

Ask the person directly. I say call them on their claims. You may be pleasantly surprised if they give you the missing details and it then adds up. Or you may uncover something that doesn't sound right. How many hours did you work every day? What was the average price you charged per hour? Did you do other work on top of writing that may have contributed to your six-figure income?

Get feedback from other writers. Maybe someone knows this writer or has some other connection (they were coached by them or attended a class of theirs). Those are the people you want to ask questions of. Ask your fellow freelance writers if they know this person and what they make of the claims.

Be aware of paid testimonials. It's a pathetic practice (and could be illegal, too), but there are people out there who have tons of testimonials, and most of them are paid. Get in touch with a number of the people offering the testimonial. Ask them if they were giving it freely or if there was some incentive offered in exchange for their endorsement.

Know that $100K isn't everyone's benchmark. There is no reason why you have to kill yourself (or pay someone to give you information) just to reach this arbitrary benchmark. That dollar amount does not define your success. If you're making $20K, $40K, or any other amount and you're running a business and paying your bills, you're a successful writer. Stop worrying about what other people make and focus on your business. Do you ask your doctors how much they earn (and does that even matter if you trust them enough to care for you)? Do other professionals shout from the rooftops about their income levels? If they do, they're selling you something, right?

Writers, how do you respond to freelance writers who openly proclaim their income?
How often have you seen books or courses linked to these claims?
What advice can you give other writers on how to separate fact from fiction?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writers Worth: Showing Confidence to Clients

When I started seeing this one particular writer around the Internet, it was because she was saying some pretty smart things. In fact, it was one of those smart things -- you're worth more than a few pennies -- compelled me to write to her.

Alicia Rades is making some great progress in her career, and she's doing it by making intelligent choices. She's the perfect person to tell us about building confidence -- she's confident.

Thank you, Alicia. Your voice is always welcome here.

Show Clients You’re Confident (Even When You’re Doubting Yourself)

by Alicia Rades

If you’re like every other writer on the planet, you’re plagued by doubt.

Am I quoting too low, or am I scaring off clients with too-high rates?

Are my skills really worth what I’m charging?

Is my blog doing anything for my business?

Will I ever see this client again?

Is the deadline I just agreed upon realistic?

Am I doing enough to push my business forward?

Are these the types of questions that go through your head? They’re the ones that I frequently ask myself, but until now that I’m admitting it, my clients and fellow writers would never know it.

Why? Because even when I’m doubting myself, I’m letting my confidence show through.

Why Does Showing Confidence Work?
New writers are always unsure of themselves. It’s just something we all have to face. (And let’s be honest, even some of us who have been at it for years are still unsure at times.)

While it’s true that you may doubt yourself, there’s no rule that says you have to let clients know that. Unfortunately, I’ve seen writers explicitly state on their website that they don’t know what they’re doing, that they’re total newbies, or that they’ve never had a writing client before.

Woah. Hold it right there.

How is that going to convince anyone to hire you? If you’re not confident in your own work, why would a potential client be confident hiring you?

Another area where confidence kills writers is in quoting rates. If you quote a rate of $100 per piece but mention that, “I can go lower if it doesn’t fit your budget,” then why wouldn’t a client take advantage of that? Right there you’re showing that 1) you’re willing to work for lower rates and 2) you’re not completely confident in the rate you’ve quoted.

I get it. You don’t want to lose a client by quoting too high, but how do you know if they’re willing to pay your ideal rates if you’re letting them choose lower ones?

Confidence Breeds Success
Showing your confidence, on the other hand, helps prospects put that same confidence in your service and rates.

Beth Monaghan, the co-founder of InkHouse Media and Marketing, points out in her Forbes article that confidence breeds success. And you know what? It can be taught by, as Monaghan puts it, “faking it ‘til you make it.”

This can work in a couple of different ways.
  1. If you show confidence, people are more likely to share that confidence.
  2. If you practice confidence, you’re going to start believing it. 
How to Bring Your Confidence to Life
Not sure how to show your confidence when you’re starting out? Here are just a few tips:

1. Stop focusing on your weaknesses.
A new writer recently asked me to look over her pitch. While her idea was solid and she had some writing samples on her personal blog, she added the phrase, “I do not currently have anything else published, though.” That right there tells me she’s insecure about her experience.

Instead of focusing how much writing experience she doesn’t have, she could be focusing on her strengths in the topic she’s pitching about. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t have published samples because her non-writing experience makes her the perfect person to tell the story she was pitching.

2. Take a firm stance with your rates.
Admittedly, I had no idea what I was doing when I first starting quoting project rates to clients. Negotiating is a scary thing, but if you let clients know you’re unsure about your rates, why would they be confident in them?

You can spend hours contemplating over what rate to quote, but there’s no reason to tell clients you spent that long thinking about it. When you think you’ve got it, send the rate over, but avoid saying anything like, “I’m not sure this is fair…” or “If this is too much…” or “This is my first time sending a quote…” Yes, your client may come back with a different rate, but it’s less likely when you sound confident in your quote.

3. Avoid “I Think” Language
I’ll admit it: I still use the phrase “I think” from time to time, but it’s time for me to stop. It immediately shows that I’m not sure if my idea is a good one.

Instead of: I think $100 sounds fair, don’t you?

Say: This project will cost $100.

Instead of: I think topic X would work well on the blog next week.

Say: For next week’s blog post, I’d like to write about topic X.

Any “I’m unsure of myself” language should be avoided. The cool thing about writing—especially if you communicate with clients via email—is that you have time to refine your message. So don’t just look at the words you’re writing; really consider what type of message you’re sending about your confidence.

The One Problem With Your Confidence
Before you leave here thinking you have to portray yourself as confident in every situation that comes your way, let me leave you with a word of warning.

Don’t let your confidence keep you from asking questions.

You might feel like asking questions is a sign of weakness. It shows you don’t know what you’re doing. But the reality is that if you don’t ask questions, you’ll never get the answers. Questions are valuable tools that can push your business forward. Whether it’s asking a fellow writer how to make a tweak on your website or it’s asking a client for clarification on an assignment, you’re likely to come out ahead by posing the question.

Remember: Even when you’re doubting yourself, there’s still a glimmer of confidence there. After all, you wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t think you could. Use that confidence to your advantage. Do you ever doubt yourself as a writer? How will you make your confidence show through the next time?

Alicia Rades is a freelance writer, blogger, editor, and author. When she isn’t writing for clients, you can find her helping new writers at the Be a Freelance Blogger forums. Learn more about Alicia at

Words on the Page