Writers Worth: Your Business Equation

We freelance writers may not have office mates, but we have colleagues. One of the people I rely on most for sounding off ideas, finding answers, and unending support and friendship is Cathy Miller. She’s a veteran corporate communications expert, a terrific writer and editor, and a wonderful human.

And she has plenty to teach us about business and success. Today, she’s going to teach us a little math.

A Writers Worth Business Equation

by Cathy Miller

Don’t you hate when emotions take over? It’s like an out-of-body experience as you watch the exploding anger or the weeping wailing of lost control. Who is that person?

It happens to the best of us. There will always be events we cannot control. Your worth as a writer is not one of them. That sits squarely on your shoulders. If you continue to have those out-of-body experiences tied to your writing business, perhaps it’s time to take control.

Getting Down to Business

In my 30-plus years of corporate life, I learned a lot about myself. Some I’d rather forget. One thing I learned was I tended to react emotionally to criticism. Who doesn’t, right? However, I knew my initial reaction was more emotional than practical.

I learned to stay quiet (no easy task) and ride out the storm of emotions. Once I got past the emotions, I reviewed the criticism objectively. Was it valid? What could I learn from it? What could I improve?

When someone questions your worth as a writer, it’s personal. It’s easy to react emotionally. But when you come from a position of strength, you move past the emotions to the practical – the business side of your writing. How do you acquire a position of strength? Solve your absolute value equation.

Solving Your Absolute Value Equation

I know what you’re thinking. I hate math. Trust me, math is not my first love. I always had to work at it. I could do it, but it wasn’t easy for me. Does that sound like your writing business?

A simple math definition of an absolute value is how far a number is away from zero. You remove any negative sign before a number and think of all numbers as positive or zero. So, the absolute value of a negative three |-3| is 3.

Zzzzzz…oh, hello. What the heck does that have to do with your writing business?

  • Wouldn’t you like to remove the negative from your business?
  • Wouldn’t you like your income to move away from zero?

Calculating Your Writer’s Worth

The Importance of a Serious Freelance Rate is an excellent place to start. When you know your bottom line, you can work up from there. What else factors into the business equation? Look at your rate objectively. As Jenn Mattern expressed it in a recent post, “What appeals so much…about math is it’s objective.” That’s what you need in calculating your writer’s worth.

Move away from zero. Your writing skills are but one part of the equation. If you were hiring someone with your experience, skills, and knowledge, what adds value?

By calculating your absolute value as a writer, you start from a position of strength. The X factor in your business equation is your writer’s worth. And it’s okay if it does not match the client’s. The client’s X factor does not change your absolute value. Don’t confuse budgets with value.

Variables in math change the calculation. You will have variables in your writing business.

  • A business relationship that brings its own value
  • A project or client not worth the disruption to your personal or business life

You control the calculation. You decide how far you move from zero. After all, it’s just business.

Cathy Miller has a business writing blog at Simply stated business. Her blog, Why 60 Miles, is in the early stages and inspired by her passion for walking 60 miles in 3 days to support research for finding a cure for cancer.


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  • Cathy Miller May 4, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Apparently, I’m no better at controlling typos than I am at doing math. Instead of searching for Moby Dick, I am wailing over typos that sneak by editing. Now you know why I don’t professionally edit anymore. 😀

    • lwidmer May 4, 2017 at 9:10 am

      Then there’s your crack editor here. I read it and thought nothing of it. I guess we’re both thinking of Ahab. 😉 Fixed.

      Great advice here, Cathy. Thank you again for your words of wisdom. 🙂

      • Cathy Miller May 4, 2017 at 9:11 am

        Thanks for letting me visit your always helpful site once again, Lori. And thanks for harpooning the typo. 😉

  • Paula Hendrickson May 4, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Cathy’s best line in this post: “The client’s X factor does not change your absolute value. Don’t confuse budgets with value.”

    Such a simple shift in thinking!

    • Cathy Miller May 4, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks, Paula. 😉

  • Sharon Hurley Hall May 5, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Great advice as always. Cathy! 🙂 I love your last point about having the power to basically do the math in a way that makes sense for you.