Writers Worth: Changing Perspective

Wow. Just a few more days to Writers Worth Month. Thank you for coming along with me as we celebrate our skills, abilities, and love for this wild ride we call freelancing.

This month we’ve talked about a lot of things — from feeling worthless to calling bullshit to competing to convincing clients you’re worth it.

Now it’s time to convince you. And yes, maybe even convince more clients that you’re worth hiring. It’s not as tough as you think, either. You can start to shift your perspective (and even gain some confidence) just by making simple switches in both your language and your actions. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Change:

“Freelance writer” to “consultant.”

There’s just so much negative connotation attached to the word “freelance” these days, and not all of it is unjustified. “Freelance writers” will more likely field questions like “Are you still doing freelance?” as though it’s nothing more than a hobby. “Freelance” writers are sometimes viewed as flaky, working in their underwear (most of us do, but we also tend to put clothes on over them). “Freelance” writers have to be chased when the deadline passes. “Freelance” writers aren’t serious about it. “Freelance” writers will take anything for payment.

But replace that term with “consultant” and suddenly, you’re seeing a person who’s well-dressed, experienced, serious about their work, and who’s a business person. That commands a lot more respect (and more money).

“I’m just” to “I am.”

Nothing pains me more than to hear good writers with experience say “I’m just a freelancer.” No, you’re not. HELL no, you’re not. You are a small business owner. You are a trailblazer in the gig economy before the term was even invented. You are a change-maker in your own life and in the lives of your clients. You are a talented writer who is also running every aspect of a business. You’re not “just” anything. Except fabulous.

Apprehension to confidence.

Are you lacking confidence when you try wooing a new client? Fake it. Pretend you’ve done it a million times. Pretend the money doesn’t matter. Pretend you’re trying to impress yourself as a customer. What do you want from the consultant (never too early to start using that term) you hire? Be that person.

“I can’t” to “What the hell.”

I struggled with my freelance writing business for years, just like you. It all turned around for me when I stopped saying I couldn’t and started thinking “What the hell — if it doesn’t work, I try again.” And it worked. Then it worked again. And again. Pretty soon, I didn’t need to talk myself into going for it — it became natural. Give yourself permission to stick your neck out and yes, to fail. If you fear failure too much to try, you’ve already failed. Don’t be afraid to fall on your face. We’ve all done it. You can’t imagine how much more confident you’ll be when you realize you can get back up.

Piecemeal business approach to planned out.

Maybe your clients are fine with emailed contract terms not needing anything more than a written okay. For those clients, it works. But sometimes you’ll come across the big guns — household-name clients or those with a global presence. Suddenly, that informal email confirmation doesn’t feel adequate. Trust that feeling and pump it up. Instead of the email, start sending out formal proposals (I use Word templates — the presentation templates work just fine). Spell out details formally. Project scope (the things you’ll be doing in detail). Payment terms (include any upfront payments, due dates, and most importantly, your last due-by date that doesn’t hang on the entire project being finalized). People you’ll work with (name them — saves you a ton of back-and-forth later with people you’ve never heard of). You can keep it to a few pages, but make sure you get the details squared away. Once they agree to the proposal, put it in a contract and get signatures. Who looks like the professional now? You do, freelancer.

Writers, what shifts in perspective made the difference for you?
What advice do you have for writers struggling to improve their business image?

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Comments

  • Cathy Miller May 26, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Business owner was my biggest shift in perspective. I don’t remember when it actually happened but it was early in my freelancing career. To reinforce the perspective, I began writing Owner on forms that asked for your position at your company (instead of business writer).

    Lori, thanks again for your huge commitment to Writers Worth month. I so appreciate you.

    Reply
    • lwidmer May 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      That’s a great shift, Cathy. I love it.

      My change happened when I realized I was running a business, not simply freelancing. It gave me a bit of a detachment from the emotional side. Too often we don’t protect ourselves, but we’ll protect the things we own.

      Reply
  • Joy Drohan May 26, 2017 at 9:16 am

    I’m sticking my neck out on a new project for which I’ll have to learn WordPress. It’s something I should surely know already, but it’s been many years since I did web design work as an employee. This project will get me working again for a client I haven’t worked with in a few years, and it’ll allow me to take over the maintenance of my own website.

    Reply
    • lwidmer May 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      I bet you pick it right back up, Joy. 🙂 Sounds like a great project, and a nice way to spread your wings.

      Reply
  • Anne Wayman May 26, 2017 at 11:21 am

    well, I think of myself as a consultant as well as a writer… and I often say I’m a writer and drop the freelance… but I still want writer in my title somewhere – I don’t have as much trouble with the word freelance that many seem to have… I know what it means and it doesn’t mean no pay 😉

    Reply
    • Paula Hendrickson May 26, 2017 at 11:46 am

      I know what you mean, Anne. I was thinking maybe Consulting Writer, Writing Consultant, or Writer & Consultant?

      Reply
      • lwidmer May 26, 2017 at 1:17 pm

        LOL Yes, this. Sorry, Paula. I should have read all responses before answering Anne. 🙂

        Anne, you might try “Writing Professional” or something like that, too.

        Reply
    • lwidmer May 26, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Or you could do something like I do — I have “Writing & Editing” on my business cards. I don’t put a title. If you want a title, maybe “Writing & Editing Consulting”?

      Reply
  • Paula Hendrickson May 26, 2017 at 11:44 am

    I’ve long resisted the term “consultant” since it always seemed so vague. As if they consult on things but don’t actually do anything. But I might switch it up and see what happens.

    As for the last point…it’s true of any professional. When I sought bids for a couple of fairly minor (but still expensive, to me!) masonry repairs only two of the four bothered with formal written proposals. Sure, one was hand written, but it was thorough. And frankly, given the estimates and the fact that the electronic one came from a big company with huge overhead (and a price tag to match), and the hand-written one came from a one-man shop gave the one-man shop an advantage since he doesn’t have a staff to handle the details. He does it himself. That was a big step one of the other one-man shops skipped. And that other guy had himself priced slightly above the bids from the larger companies with more overhead. He was trying to look like a pro by charging their rates, but didn’t have the details down.

    And once we have a stretch of a few rain-free days, the masonry work can commence—by the guy who provided a formal, hand-written estimate/proposal.

    Reply
    • lwidmer May 26, 2017 at 11:52 am

      And you make a very good point, Paula. “Consultant” clearly comes with its own stigma.

      I like Cathy’s “owner” title. I’ve been using “Principal” but what does that say other than I’ve registered my business? Nada.

      Reply