Boosting Your Professional Writer Persona

What’s on the iPod: Glory Bound by Martin Sexton

Wow, that was a long break. From December 6th until today, I was somewhere else. I stopped in here occasionally and I worked a little, but from the road. December is notoriously slow, so I was free to take off. It seems like forever since we arrived back from our drive south, but it was only two weeks ago.

Today, back to work.

I was noticing a few conversations on social media about finding work. I love when people share advice and links, but I wonder about how those are translating to clients. Private notes are better, and I did get one or two over the last month from helpful, nice freelancers. But there are so many more freelance writers putting links up on social media sites — in full view of potential clients — pointing their fellow freelancers to lower-paying work opportunities.

What’s that doing to one’s reputation?

Yes, we all take work that pays a little less than our ideal rate (and sometimes a lot less if the other terms are right). Advertising that, I believe, makes a dent in our professional appearance. Let’s look at it from the prospective client’s perspective. If you’re looking to hire a writer for specialized work and you see them on Twitter sharing links to bidding sites, does that make you think this is someone who’s in demand for his/her skills?

Probably not.

There are some pretty simple things we can do that help boost our professional writer persona and give clients the impression that yes, we are worth what we charge. Here are some things to try:

Filter your social media conversations. Not just posting links, but posting what you charge can give you a bad reputation. I’ve seen a few writers — ones I thought were at the top of their game — revealing they charge 50 cents a word or rant on about how freelancing is dead (which it isn’t — their approach may be dead). Pretend every post or comment you leave is going in front of that client who would pay you top dollar — in essence, it is.

Don’t argue with difficult clients. It’s so tempting to tell off someone who’s calling you names or who is being a total jerk. Don’t. They know people. Even if they’d never give you a reference, they’d sure bad-mouth you if you give them reason. Don’t give them ammunition to help bring down your career. When they act like jerks, don’t defend and don’t argue back. Silence is often the best solution.

Be seen in the industry. Go to conferences if you can. If you can’t, share links to industry news and trends. Share them one-on-one with clients or in groups where potential clients hang out. Make good use of hash tags to show them you’re watching the industry and know what’s important.

Announce your successes. The ones that matter, at least. If you just wrote 20 articles for a content mill and earned pennies for it, that’s not going to impress anyone (and it might give you the reputation of being cheap or out-of-tune with your own career). If you just finished a website project or you’re currently working on a case study, mention it. “Finishing an industry case study this morning. What’s on your desk?” is a good one because it draws people into conversation if you use the right hash tags.

Offer something of value for free. Newsletters, tip sheets, or even discounts for your services are good things to send to clients either by email or snail mail. Give them news they want to read — not a laundry list of how fabulous you are (unless you’re showing how that fabulousness helped your customer increase revenue).

Writers, how do you build and maintain your professional writing persona?

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  • Paula January 5, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Happy New Year, Lori.

    Quite recently I was taken aback when a writer I follow on social media mentioned working a shift at a minimum wage job. Maybe it was research for a book or for an article on the minimum wage debate, but it read more like, "Time to stop writing and go earn money to pay the bills." I'd previously read some clips, and assumed the writer was a full-time pro. Suddenly I found myself questioning how much stock I put into that person's comments about the writing life.

    Maybe that says more about my own prejudices (I know you don't have to write full time to be good), but I can't help wonder what that writer's clients – and potential clients – thought about seeing that.

    I took quite a bit of December off, too, Lori. Most of my editors were out of the office, and I only had one hard deadline, so I used the time to clean, decorate and prep for a great family Christmas – and a little end-of-the-year relaxation.

  • Lori Widmer January 5, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    That's exactly what I'm talking about, Paula. There's this persona that tends to build around a person. If they would just clam up, we'd continue thinking they're terrific. LOL

    Happy 2015 to you too, Paula. 🙂

  • Paula January 5, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    At times I cringe to wonder what persona people associate with me. This weekend a relative I haven't seen in years said something I hope she didn't mean the way it sounded…implying that I have time to knit because I have nothing else to do with my time.

    Um, what? It's called a hobby. Almost everyone has a hobby or two. Since when does having a hobby that you're really good at mean you're merely filling empty hours. (And it's not as if I knit every single day.)

    She didn't comment about others' hobbies, and a couple cousins are seriously into training and showing dogs, which take far more time and dedication than knitting. (The funny thing is she didn't realize my sister-in-law, who was standing next to her at the time, is a knitter, too.)

  • Lori Widmer January 6, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Paula, maybe she doesn't realize that work and play can be separate? Or maybe — and this is how I'd love to interpret it — she thinks freelancing is so exquisite that we can find time to do what we love?

    I bet if you were reading books instead she'd find nothing wrong with that. I mean, who can't knit or crochet while watching tv? It was a strange comment, I agree.

  • Paula January 6, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Especially strange? We were among a group of people who train and show dogs. That hobby requires far more dedication, time and money than knitting, yet I didn't hear any criticisms of how those people choose to spend their free time.

    Later I remember the person who lashed out grew up as the daughter of a prolific knitter, so maybe as a child she felt her mom spent too much time knitting and not enough with her? Or maybe she didn't get the knitting gene and is a bit jealous that I did, when my genes came from a different family tree?

    I'm trying not to let it get to me, since it really is ridiculous, but it always stings when you're the chosen target in a room full of possible candidates.

    If only she knew how hard it actually is for me to find quality knitting time! (There may be a blog post in this somewhere.)

  • Lori Widmer January 6, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Did she say it like "I wish I had free time like you do!" If so, read it like she's envious of your ability to earn a living and find time to have hobbies.

    Otherwise, don't let it get to you. Some people don't get it and won't ever get it.