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 aliciaradeswriter.com.

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  • Cathy Miller May 20, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Great tips, Alicia. It all starts with us. With so much beyond our control, it's comforting to know that what we think about ourselves is totally in our control.

    I've been impressed with your efforts. 🙂

  • Alicia Rades May 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you, Cathy!

  • Sharon Hurley Hall May 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Great advice, Alicia. I've found that when you approach clients confidently, you don't get pushback. Even if you don't get the gig because of their budget, they accept the rate you quote as a fair one.

  • Lori Widmer May 20, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Super post, Alicia. Thank you again!

    One thing I can add is writers need to remove the word "sorry" from their vocabulary. Only if you've screwed up should you use it. Instead, don't we say "Sorry, I can't do it for that rate" or "I'm sorry — that's not how I work." How about this — "I can't do it for that rate."

    How much better does that sound? Stop apologizing already! LOL

  • Paula May 20, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Great tips, Alicia. Nice to "meet" you here.

    Sorry. Yikes, Lori. Last night I apologized twice for something I didn't do (or didn't didn't do as the case may be) just to placate someone who thought I was ashamed of them because I didn't introduce them to someone. Someone they'd already met more than five times… and I'd already introduced them to at least twice. Of course, I couched it like, "I'm sorry I didn't think I needed to introduce you since you've already met several times." That's also the way I might use "sorry" in business, when it isn't really an apology for anything I did. Or didn't do.

    Other words I'm trying to avoid are the ones that diminish my efforts: Only. Just. Merely. They really do convey a lack of confidence in one's values.

  • Alicia Rades May 20, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    That's a great point, Lori!

  • Lori Widmer May 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    LOL! Paula, I've had to do the same kind of apologizing. Recently, I apologized for a timing error that I didn't create. It was to placate, but it was also to show I wasn't one to pin blame on clients.

    I think it's fine to say "sorry" when it helps, but not as an intro or during a negotiation. Maybe the only time in a negotiation is something like "I'm sorry we couldn't find mutually beneficial terms."

    But to say "Sorry, I just can't do that" is like saying "I'm not strong enough in my convictions to say 'no thank you.'"

  • Lori Widmer May 20, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    And there I go saying "I think." 🙂

  • Ashley May 20, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Great post, Alicia. Sometimes using questions actually helps us portray confidence, rather than detracting from it. For example, when I'm asked about whether I can do/quote a project, that's when I start asking questions about what they need me to do. That shows the client that I know what I'm doing, because I know the right questions to ask.

    Lori — I had to go back and delete all the "I think" phrases from this post 😉 But I have said "sorry, I can't do it for that rate" and I probably would do it again. It isn't that I'm not confident saying no, but the "sorry" makes it a little softer to hear on the other end. For me, just the act of saying "no" establishes the confidence, and making it easier to accept on the other end helps the other person realize that I'm not trying to be hard to work with. This, of course, is my opinion (I would say "I think" since it's my opinion but I can't do that now! haha!) I haven't asked the receiver to share how they feel about that type of response, so I only know how *I* would feel on the receiving end of "sorry" vs. not saying sorry. I would more likely think the person is rude without the "sorry" but I wouldn't think any less of their confidence.

  • Tracy Spangler May 21, 2015 at 12:34 am


    Thanks for such great advice! I've been freelancing for a couple years now, and I'm still unsure of the strength of my writing and experience.

    Your post helped me realize I'm not going to move forward until I can silence (at least temporarily) the critical voices and doubt in my mind, and instead portray confidence- even if I'm not all that confident at first!

    Your insights and tips were exactly what I need. Thanks for sharing them!

    Tracy S.

  • Jenn Mattern May 21, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Nice to see you here Alicia. 🙂

    And great topic!

    I'm always surprised by how many newer freelancers don't understand the "fake it 'til you make it concept." They think it means faking samples, outright lying about experience, or trying to make themselves look like a larger company instead of a freelancer. But it's not. It's all about confidence!

    And fortunately we don't have to fake it for long. That first "yes" is the big one. And everything goes up from there. 🙂

  • Lori Widmer May 21, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Ashley, that's very true. Just be careful no to apologize for lack of experience, for an unruly person's behavior, for not accepting less than you deserve….

    You get the idea. 🙂

  • Ashley May 21, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    Lori — I never apologize for that 😉 You've taught me well!

  • Peter Bowerman May 21, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    Great post/topic!

    Remember, a new client doesn't know anything about you other than what they read on your site, so you can "be" anyone you want with them. As such, why not BE confident, even if it's an act at first? Which, it will likely be initially, and that's OK…

    If you need to practice delivering a rate/quote, etc. to a client in front of a mirror until it sounds natural, then do it. And in my experience, clients will typically follow your lead, especially if they haven't used a writer before (but even if they have).

    Also, in my experience, your rates will either be a fit for a particular client, or they won't. And if they aren't (i.e., too high), then expressing doubts to them publicly, and offering to trim your rates won't accomplish anything except have you lose credibility in their eyes.

    Assuming you have the skills, and you've done your homework, and know your rates are in line with what writers at your experience level charge for those kinds of work, then state them with confidence. Everybody isn't a prospect for you, and you only have to find a small number who are, to make a good living.

    AND, as was noted in the article, how true that even experienced folks question themselves! You'd be amazed at my doubting voices – they're still there – just not quite as loud as they once were…


  • Lori Widmer May 22, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Such great advice, Peter! You're right — if I want to "be" a confident writer, it's as easy as presenting myself in that way.

    Peter, your book actually helped me learn to say my rates with confidence. I did just as you've suggested — I practiced. It works.

    Funny too how we all still question ourselves. You're right — the voices have quieted down a bit. Still there, but at least they're not screaming any longer. 🙂