October 2011

There’s been something brewing beneath the surface since I decided to begin freelancing.  It took me a while to put my finger on it.  But my transition from a 9 to 5 job to working for myself has been met with low rates by many clients and a lack of support by people in my personal life.

Whether it’s a client with ridiculously low rates, or the constant inquisition by certain people about when it is that I plan on getting a “real” job  — I’m over both.  Frankly, I was exasperated with having to defend and explain my line of work over and over again.

Here’s a typical Groundhog Day-esque conversation about my work:

The Inquirer — “How’s work?”

Me — “Work’s going well, thanks?”

The Inquirer — “Huh, so what is it that you do again?”

Me – “I’m a writer.”

The Inquirer — “Oh, yes!  You work at that medical publishing company.”

Me – “Uh, not anymore. These days I’m a full-time freelance writer.”

The Inquirer — “So you’re just doing that in the meantime until you find a real job.”

Me — “Nope, not really. I work for real clients and they pay me real money.”

I don’t want to take you through the rest of this long-winded conversation— it gets really redundant with the person asking me the same thing in different ways.  Basically, I get the sense that some people I know really comprehend what I do. But they still make judgments with respect to my line of work. Whether it’s the ill-conceived notion that I have a lot of time on my hands or that writing doesn’t take a lot of work.  After all, in their minds, I’m probably just stringing together words to make sentences.  How hard can that be?  Ha!


No one takes into consideration that I’m not just pulling words out of thin air.  I’m working on building a business and that involves a lot of work: I have to market myself to get new business clients. Freelancing also means that I have to manage my finances quarterly and pay estimated taxes. I have to manage projects in a timely fashion so that I don’t fall behind on my work. I’m usually juggling more than one client, and I also have to find time for my own writing endeavors. There’s research, editing, interviews, and loads of administrative tasks involved…and this is before I sit down to write.

My issues don’t only lie with some of the people in my personal life.  I have major issues with some would-be clients too.  When I first decided to work as a freelancer I was literally shocked with the expectations of some potential clients when it came to rates.  The work that would have to go into the assignment, and the meager earnings that they expected to pay me made my jaw drop.  I mean some of the prices being offered for assignments compared to the amount of time and effort I would have to put in was preposterous.  I recently listened in on a webinar hosted by Carol Tice and featured guest speaker Laurie Lewis that covered how to handle  the discussion of your rates with clients.  Well I have to tell you it was really refreshing to participate in that webinar because I realized that I wasn’t alone in the idea that writers have to command their earning power.  And that webinar really provided some helpful points on how to to make that happen.

In these next few months in 2011, I’m implementing strategies that will help me build my career as a freelance writer. And these tactics will also secure my position as a writer who commands respect for her work from clients who undervalue what I do and to people in my private life who thinks a career means having a cubicle or office space (not a laptop, discipline and—ahem, a latte).  Here are the top three things that I do to command respect:

  • Exude Confidence: I’ve been freelancing for a while now, and I’ve secured some great clients and projects. So when I’m asked, “What do you do?”  I respond unequivocally, “I’m a writer.”  I don’t explain myself to people who don’t get it.  I refuse to indulge in negative conversations. The fact that, in a short amount of time, I’ve worked on many writing projects and received positive feedback from my clients after leaving a full-time job speaks for itself. If someone doesn’t get that then it’s not my burden to convince them otherwise. At the end of the day I love what I do, which is something very few people in my personal life have bothered to ask me.
  • Don’t Take Low for an Answer:  To be fair I think when I first started freelancing I didn’t realize just how much work was involved.  But now after many assignments under my belt, I know exactly how much work goes into writing given the amount of research and revisions among other things that I’ve had to do.  So, when a client is vague about rates, I jump right in there to discuss the details of the project and what that’ll costs.  If the client refuses to appreciate that what I’m charging is right for the amount of work then we’ll have to part ways.  A hassle in the beginning makes for a messy end…at least that’s what I’ve learned.
  • Stay in Good Company: I find that surrounding myself with like-minded freelance writers who know their worth and command respect for the work that they do is great for my writing chi.  Before I became of full-time freelance writer, I dabbled a bit in content-mill writing.  It took me 60 articles after the fact to realize that I was not recognizing my worth.  I let the fact that I don’t have a journalism background and a lot of other negative mental chatter in my mind get in the way of success. Which is why, I surround myself with other writers who believe that quality work deserves quality pay.

Commanding respect as a freelance writer is about making good choices for your business such that people sense your confidence, business acumen, and passion. Once you set the bar high for yourself people will respect what you do because you do it so well.