I remember the moment I connected with Sharon Hurley Hall on social media.
I was giddy. I’d stalked followed Sharon for a while and liked everything she posted. She’s smart. She’s successful. She’s professional. I wanted to know her — hell, be her.
When you read her post, you’ll want to be her, too.
How to Value Yourself from the Start of Your Writing Career
by Sharon Hurley Hall
I’ve been talking to my daughter about freelancing lately, and it’s been interesting. That’s partly because her home environment is a bit different, because in our house, unlike the households of most of her friends, all the adults around her are freelancing.
I’ve been freelancing for about 12 years; my husband has been self-employed for longer and my mother started not one but two home businesses once she retired several years ago. So it’s safe to say there’s a lot of entrepreneurial spirit floating around our house.
And I notice the effect in the way my daughter talks about her life expectations. She doesn’t take it for granted that she will have a full-time job. Instead, she’s confident that she’ll be able to use her skills and abilities to make an income that finances the lifestyle she would like to have.
She already knows that she has value, which puts her ahead of many new freelancers, including me when I started out. But talking to her about freelancing has made me think about how writers can value themselves right from the start of their careers. Here’s my advice (but pay attention to tip #7, too):
- Start Now
First, it’s never too early to start freelancing. When I had my first job in journalism, more years ago than I care to remember, I was offered the chance to freelance occasionally for an international news organization. I had a full-time job at the time, wasn’t sure I was up to it and couldn’t see the benefit of getting my name out there in a wider forum so I did it once and never looked for any other opportunities.
If I’d trusted my own worth then, I’d already have had an established freelance career when I was ready to stop being an employee.
That brings me to the second thing.
- Seize the Moment
Second, recognize when an opportunity has arisen and jump on it. Don’t be the person who talks yourself out of something good because you don’t think you’re good enough. Instead, let your default answer to a new venture be “yes”, rather than “no”, and figure out how to make it happen.
The more you do this, the sooner you’ll learn to listen to your gut and know when something you’re not quite sure about will prove to be wonderful. For me, being asked to write for Crazy Egg proved to be one of those opportunities. The work that I did there does my reputation no end of good and has been responsible for me landing several other writing gigs.
- Talk Yourself Up
When you start freelancing, it’s important to let people know you’re available and you’re great. The best place to do this is on your own website.
I’m not knocking social media, but a form of media that you own (as long as you keep your payments up to date) is far better than a site that can disappear at any minute. This is not hype; this has actually happened to people and it’s taken them a while to get their social media presence back again.
It’s amazing how much having a good site can do to make you look – and feel – professional, and that’s a big part of valuing yourself. It doesn’t have to be very fancy (my first site certainly wasn’t) but it has to be able to introduce your potential clients to you, show them what you can do and give them a way to contact you.
- Build a Network
Sometimes you need to talk to others to see that what you’re offering has value. Hey, we could all use a little validation sometimes. Ever been in a discussion with other writers and realized they charge their clients more than you do for the same service? Me too.
The first time this happens, it’s an eye-opener, but it reinforces the point that you set your own worth. It’s the kind of info you only get when you hang out with other writers. My favorite place to hang out with writers is the Five Buck Forum – check it out for yourself.
While you’re networking, you’ll also learn a lot, which makes you more valuable to your clients. In all the groups I’m in, people share resources and insights, and we’re all better writers and bloggers because of it.
- Search for Balance
There’s nothing to make you feel a bit wobbly about valuing yourself like having clients suddenly disappear. The truth is, that’s a fact of life when you freelance, and it doesn’t mean you’re not great. Often, the reasons clients leave have more to do with their finances and priorities than your quality.
To avoid feeling that you have to settle for less than you’re worth, maintain a balanced client portfolio. Diversify, diversify, diversify so that when one client disappears you don’t have to go into panic mode. And if that means you can take one-off and fun projects that fuel your passion for writing, that’s even better.
- Value Your Services
I’ve talked about value throughout this piece but it’s worth mentioning again because it’s a lesson many freelancers learn far too late. When you start out in freelancing it’s easy to look around and feel that you have to be part of the low ball market.
When I started, I didn’t assign a value to the years of experience I already brought to the table and therefore I accepted lower pay than I should have done. But I soon learned.
Make it your policy to step up your rates gradually, working one client at a time until you get to a figure that makes you feel slightly uncomfortable.
That’s probably about the right price point for you at that moment but be aware that this will change. I now earn for a single article what it might have taken me a week to make when I started out. If you don’t value yourself, no one else will.
- Think for Yourself
Finally, one of the most important lessons about valuing yourself as a writer is that you should feel free to ignore advice that doesn’t seem right to you (yes, even mine 🙂 ) Instead, value yourself and your writing services in the way that works best for you.
Let’s face it, the beauty of freelance writing is the flexibility and freedom it brings, so why box yourself into the straitjacket of other people’s expectations?
Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional freelance writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, including stints as a journalist, university lecturer, and ghost writer. To work with Sharon, visit her website or connect with her on Twitter @SHurleyHall.
Writers, which of Sharon’s points were easiest for you?
Which one proved the most difficult?