Writers Worth: Expressing Your Worth

My husband and I were at a high-end kitchen design shop not long ago. We were browsing for ideas, and in the process, we were greeted by one of the salespeople. The man introduced himself, explained the showroom floor, then hung back at the front of the store until we sought him out. He then walked us through the answer, gave us advice when we asked for it, and didn’t once push us into any commitment. In fact, at the end of the visit, he shook our hands and thanked us for coming in.

What was missing? The hard sell.

This is a company with a stellar reputation. They’re sought after not by just locals in the Lancaster, PA area, but by people as far away as Venezuela. They’re that good. And it wasn’t lost on either my husband or me that the man never handed us a million brochures, nor did he give us a business card (and he was attentive enough that it didn’t feel like a slight or a judgment). He knew he didn’t need to beg us to return or sell us on that company’s quality. It’s implied in the brand, which is strong.

The salesperson was friendly, but not overly so. He was informative, also not overly so (no diarrhea-style sales pitch). He was helpful without being intrusive. He was exactly like the best waiter/waitress you’ve ever had at the nicest restaurant you’ve ever been to. He was present, but not obtrusive.

What he wasn’t: aloof, pushy, arrogant, insistent, desperate, insecure…

That, freelance writer, is what you too want to remove from your marketing and networking approaches.

This freelance writing game requires you to sell your services, but not your soul. Click To Tweet

That’s something way too many of us forget when we’re struggling to find clients. We’re desperate. We want to please. We’ll agree to just about anything in order to get that job. So we ignore those instincts, push aside those red flags, and accept bad deals to the point where we believe that’s all we deserve.

So how do we get to the place where we’re expressing our worth in a positive way?

Believe in your own worthiness. Honey, I get it. That’s the toughest thing about this profession — getting used to the idea that despite any argument or pushback, you’re worth respect, payment, and courtesy. But it really does start with you. If you can’t yet view yourself as a worthy writer, do this: think about a place or a situation in which you are the most confident. Even if it’s a particular moment — like when you completed that novel or ran that race or landed that fantastic job — use the energy and certainty you had and push it forward to right now. Embrace that same feeling, even if you have to play mind tricks with yourself (like imagining you’re once again crossing that finish line). Every time you start to feel weakened, insert that energy.

Look out for your own needs. No one — and I mean not one other person — will protect your business interests for you. You’re it. So it’s on you to protect yourself. It’s not hard — it requires knowing what you want (ideally before you start talking with new clients), knowing your minimum, and knowing what is and isn’t acceptable to you. I’m not just talking money on that last point. You should know what terms won’t work for you, such as you’ll be paid 45 days after publication or your fee will be “rounded down” or the contract terms are shifting too much of the burden onto you. Push back when necessary. By that I mean assert what you’d rather agree to, then get it all in writing.

Negotiate. Obviously not with those low-paying clients who just aren’t going to be worth the energy (you’ll know them when you meet them), but be willing to negotiate with clients. Don’t accept offers verbatim, particularly if they don’t satisfy what you need (see my point above).

Change how you ask for the job. These days, I don’t verbally ask for the job. I focus instead on creating a partnership between the prospective client and me. I change it from a “hire me” scenario to a “how we can get to what you need” one. I ask questions about their project goals. I learn what they do, how they say it, what works, what doesn’t. I use the term “we” much more than “you” (and almost never “I”). If your potential client feels you’re on their team before they even hire you, you’ve already created a sense of your value in their minds. You are now a valuable commodity, not “just a freelancer” looking for the next gig. And please. Don’t just pretend to be on their side. You have to genuinely commit to the relationship. Otherwise, it’s like a really bad episode of The Bachelorette.

Behave as though you don’t need the job. It’s a bit like dressing for the job you want rather than the one you have. If you’re desperate, it’s going to show. If instead you’re relaxed and leave them feeling like you don’t need the job, they’re going to be more receptive to your message. Think of the most self-assured business person you know, famous or otherwise. What about his or her demeanor makes you listen? Emulate that.

Writers, how do you express to the rest of the world that you believe in your own worth?
How can newer writers come to that same place?

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  • Paula Hendrickson May 19, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    In reading this I just now realized why I’m so resistant to sales pitches. I sense their desperation.

    As my dad used to say: If what they’re selling is good, they wouldn’t have to work so hard to sell it.

    • lwidmer May 22, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Your dad was a wise man, Paula. Yes, it’s why I can’t stand sales pitches, either. They need to tell me how it benefits me, not how great they are. If they’re trying too hard, I’m instantly doubtful it’s anything I need.