Search the Archives

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Writers Worth: Losing Doubt

What's on the iPod: Nothing Like You by Frightened Rabbit

Just a few more days to enter: comment on any one of the Writers Worth posts, and you could win one of these prizes: An Amazon gift card worth $25 or a copy of my ebook Marketing 365! Just leave your comment to enter the random drawing. Winner to be announced June 2nd!

Finally. I'm back in my office at my desk typing on my regular keyboard. The floors are finished and life is returning to normal. While I love my MS Surface and got plenty done on it, I'm a creature of habit. I missed my mouse (how weird is that?).

It's been a good month of worth-inducing guest posts from some of my favorite freelancers. I hope you're getting some inspiration and motivation from it all. I am. No matter how long you've been at it, you can always learn something new.

One of the toughest lessons we learn as freelance writers is how to prevent doubt from creeping in to our psyches. We get the gig and we doubt our ability to finish. We get lukewarm feedback from a client and we doubt our skills. We get nasty letters from strangers and we doubt our own attention to detail. 

My friend Lisa Gates calls it a harpy on your shoulder. You let doubt run through your mind. That client didn't respond to your email and now you think you suck. Show of hands -- how many have entertained the same thought? My hand went up. I've done that in the past. I came close a few months ago to thinking it again, but I let reason rule.

It's kind of a big deal to overcome the doubt. If you doubt your abilities, you're likely to:

  1. Take a lot of flak that doesn't belong to you
  2. Accept lousy working conditions
  3. Bend over backwards to please someone whose intention is to get free or reduced pricing
  4. Accept lower rates just to get the job
  5. Etc.

How do you lose that doubt that plagues you? 

Remind yourself of your accomplishments. So someone accused you of not understanding how to write a brochure. Why believe them when you've written 20 of them already and all those clients loved the work you did? 

Remember that not all clients fit. It could be that brochure client had something completely different in mind, or that they weren't able to convey to you exactly what they wanted. You're not going to be everyone's ideal writer, nor will all clients be your ideal client. It's usually no one's fault -- just a mismatch of personalities and communication styles.

Give yourself a reality check. If your client is saying you're too expensive, remind yourself that five other clients pay that rate without complaint. If you botch one project out of 50, remind yourself that you rocked 49 projects. One screw-up is expected. Fix it where you can and move on.

Don't overlook hidden agendas. When that client complains about the project after you've sent a third and final invoice, there's a strong chance the complaint is an attempt to avoid payment. In fact, if I were a betting person, I'd put my money on it. If someone slams you for your latest article and resorts to childish name-calling tactics, is it that your research didn't mesh with their opinion? Not everyone is operating from a base of fairness and/or adult behavior.

Revisit project successes. I keep a folder in Outlook with notes from happy clients and editors. Whenever someone bashes me or attempts to belittle my abilities, I refer to that file. Past successes and kind words can be a balm to bruised sensitivities.

Writers, how do you shake off doubt? What's your greatest challenge when it comes to removing doubt?

7 comments:

Jennifer Mattern said...

Great tips Lori. As writers we have to keep doubt and bay and keep confidence high. If we don't value and respect ourselves, realizing we deserve to be treated as professionals, we have no right to expect the same of anyone else.

Lori Widmer said...

Exactly. Value starts with that person in the mirror.

Paula said...

First: What on earth is the photo of? It looks like an oddly shaped biscuit with curlicue skewers stuck through it.

I have to admit to a twinge of doubt. It's brought on by two things: 1) today is the first day pretty much all year that I haven't had any active assignments. And 2) Favorite Editor started assigning for the August issue on Friday - she passed on one of my ideas because the show's air date was moved back and it won't fit the issue, but has yet to assign anything. The assistant editor told me they're still assigning,so I know there's hope, but I've seen a lot of new bylines in the magazine lately and worry they've already snagged all the stories. (It is one of the thinnest issues of the year.)

Adding to the anxiety? They pay fast and property taxes are due in a couple weeks so I reallllllllly want an assignment or two from them so I won't have to siphon property taxes out of savings if one very large check I'm waiting for from another client doesn't arrive in time.

Lori Widmer said...

That's what it looks like to me too, Paula. It has a sad face on it. I would too if I were that biscuit!

#1 is a biggie, I agree. Still creates that feeling of angst in me, as well.

#2 is a matter of findiing the right fit at the right time. You're good -- they're going to keep assigning to you because you're a known, trusted commodity.

Angela Booth said...

Great advice, Lori. I read some research years ago on creative people; apparently they're prone to anxiety. Something about how the creative mind works.

I have an acronym: DDT. "Do, Don't Think."

I remind myself of that whenever I start doubting myself.

As for nasty clients etc, writers attract them when they lack clear processes for their business.

For example, they fail to give an accurate quote, fully describing the work that they're doing for the client, with when and how they'll be paid.

They fail to send a Terms of Service document, with number of revisions offered, and when, plus other details.

I suggest to my students that they always:

* Rewrite the brief in their own words to create a quote;

* Always send their TOS for their client's agreement;

* Invoice for a retainer and wait for the money before they start working;

* Act calmly and professionally at all times; and most importantly perhaps...

* ASK questions. :-)

Angela Booth said...

Great advice, Lori. I read some research years ago on creative people; apparently they're prone to anxiety. Something about how the creative mind works.

I have an acronym: DDT. "Do, Don't Think."

I remind myself of that whenever I start doubting myself.

As for nasty clients etc, writers attract them when they lack clear processes for their business.

For example, they fail to give an accurate quote, fully describing the work that they're doing for the client, with when and how they'll be paid.

They fail to send a Terms of Service document, with number of revisions offered, and when, plus other details.

I suggest to my students that they always:

* Rewrite the brief in their own words to create a quote;

* Always send their TOS for their client's agreement;

* Invoice for a retainer and wait for the money before they start working;

* Act calmly and professionally at all times; and most importantly perhaps...

* ASK questions. :-)

Ashley said...

LOVE your last tip, Lori. That's a great idea. It's so easy to forget all the compliments when you hear one negative comment.

Angela, I'm so stealing "DDT" next time I'm in doubt!

Words on the Page