What’s Your Value?

What’s the worst sin you can commit as a writer? Splitting an infinitive? Dangling a modifier? Using bad sentence structure? While all of those are of concern, especially if you call yourself a professional writer, the worst sin of them all is to devalue yourself.

And you do, you know. You look at those ads promising $100 for your articles, and you don’t even care that it’s $100 for 50 or more articles. You don’t care that you’re giving away your time, your talent and your soul for a mere 2 cents or less a word. You figure that a working writer will soon see more rewards.

Guess what? You figure wrong. If I had that same 2 cents a word for every writer who ever took that free job or allowed himself or herself to be paid less than a livable wage in order to “break in”, well, I’d never have to work again.

Why do you do it? My best guess is you still haven’t separated your self-worth from your craft. That’s a very dangerous affliction, dear reader. If someone insults your writing, you are crushed. If someone suggests changes, you are hurt and indignant. Your fear of those very things happening is so real that you settle for smaller, lesser known jobs. It seems less likely to scar you irreparably.

I’m here to say stop it. Stop it right now. Start standing up for yourself professionally. Dust those footprints off your back and start treating your writing like a business. It is a business. You are an entrepreneur. You’re selling a product. You’re not selling your soul. You’re selling words — words on a page, not words that define who you are.

Let me tell you something else; the more you devalue yourself professionally, the more that hurts the entire profession. You hurt those of us who face new clients weekly and have to justify our fees to clients who point to other writers who have put in insanely low bids. (By the way, clients who argue your price too strongly are not a good match, anyway,)

I’m not saying I don’t sympathize with you. I do. I also was a young, insecure writer at one point in my life. I worked for cheap rates. I made the same mistakes. I understand very much how torn one can be when one’s reputation (and ego) dangles in front of a tough client. But I learned long ago that ego doesn’t belong in business. Ego is sure to kill nearly every business deal you allow it to enter into.

So, dear reader, I beg you to start today with your new attitude. Repeat after me: I’m a professional and I’m worth more than that. Repeat that phrase every time a potential client has a problem with paying you what you’re worth. Stick to it. In no time, you’ll begin to see the wisdom of your words.

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  • Devon Ellington March 20, 2006 at 9:18 pm

    So very, very true.