Confidence: Learning to Build and Project It

*Photo by Alicia Jo McMahan

Confidence is a difficult thing to come by for new freelance writers or any creative type. It takes forever to build up and only one comment from a client to destroy it. For me, I’ve always been a pretty confident person, but my confidence as a freelance writer can be downright fickle.

In a recent conversation with a fellow freelancer, I mused that when I feel confident I land more clients. It’s like the client can feel my confidence in myself and wants to work with me because my confidence builds their confidence. It really got me thinking. If I could keep my confidence levels steady and always portray a certain level of confidence, it would have an extremely positive impact on my career. Since then I’ve been looking at confidence in a whole new light and want to offer you some tips that I’ve found.

Build Confidence

I started to look at how I build my confidence and pick myself up when I feel down. Here are a couple of my confidence boosters that may help you build your confidence too.

  • Look at what you’ve accomplished – this is huge for me. I work hard at what I do and when I look back at the results I have created for myself, I immediately feel ready to conquer the world.
  • Go back over positive feedback – I keep a file of positive feedback from clients that remind me what I did right and how good it felt to be successful. Likewise, I often come to this blog and read the encouraging comments that you all leave me. It reiterates to me that I really can do this.
  • Reach out to others – there are certain people in my life who believe in me. They think that no matter what I put my mind to I can do it. My mom and my husband are two such people I heavily rely on when I start feeling down.
  • Take a step back – it helps me when I start to feel low to step back and figure out why. Sometimes this means going over an article to see why I was asked to rewrite it, other times it means re-reading my cover letter to a potential client to see why they might not have wanted to hire me. Going back helps me understand and makes me feel more confident that the next time I won’t make the same mistakes.

Project Confidence

Confidence is a great thing to have and once you have worked to build it up, you want to make sure that you project it the right way. Have you ever thought someone was arrogant or cocky? That is an example of over projection. You don’t want to be too confident that you turn people off – rather you want to project the right amount of confidence to make other people believe in you. Here are a few ways that I’ve learned to project confidence in the business of freelance writing:

  • Be honest – a lot of people think that telling a client that they can’t do something is a way to lose the client. I have found it quite the opposite. Sure there have been times where I haven’t landed a job because I wasn’t as qualified as the next person, but there have also been times where I’ve admitted that I wasn’t sure how to do something but I showed confidence in my ability to learn it which more than once has landed me a client.
  • Say what you mean – this is especially important when talking to potential clients. Be clear and concise in your communication. When you aren’t clear, you give off the impression that you aren’t sure what you’re talking about.
  • Mean what you say – the flip side to saying what you mean. When I negotiate price with a client and say I can’t go any lower, I mean it and will walk. The way I think of it is if the client really wants to work with me, they will take my offer. If they don’t I may be opening the door for a better opportunity to come along. Have the confidence to stick to your word.
  • Brag a little – I don’t mean go out and give a potential client a five page list of every compliment you’ve ever gotten, but do show them what you’ve done. I have a professional website that I’m proud of. There I list my best work and always share it with potential clients. I’ve also shared my work with former colleagues and friends. I’m not showing off, but I am confidently portraying my work so that they know what I’m capable of should the need for a writer ever arise.
  • Be positive – it’s a well known fact that people respond better to someone who is positive. If you were a client looking to hire a freelancer, would you want to work with someone that has a positive outlook or someone who is negative, moody and grumpy? Of course you would want to work with someone positive. A positive, optimistic outlook is something that a client will really value.

I hope that this gets you thinking about your confidence and how you can build it and project it. It really will help you with so many aspects of your freelancing life. Do you have any tips to add?

Advertisements

Inspiration Away from My Computer

As a freelance writer, I sometimes find it difficult to motivate myself to leave my comfortable home office and step into the outside world. And since I live in Ohio where the winter months can be brutal, I find it even harder to get out even to run errands. While this is good for my work and I am currently getting so much done, it also has its downfalls. Since I was forced to leave my office behind to attend holiday parties and I even left my laptop at home while traveling among three cities to visit family I noticed that there are a lot of benefits for writers to get out from behind their computers once in a while.

Networking

Holiday parties turned out to be the perfect place for me to network a little bit. When asked what I do, I was more than happy to explain to people. Some even asked for my business card. While I haven’t gotten any direct business from it thus far, it’s great to tell people what I do. Hopefully the next time they or someone they know is looking for a writer they will think of me.

One thing that I found surprising is that even some of my closest friends weren’t sure of what exactly I do and more than one person was very interested in the fact that I write resumes. This has me somewhat convinced that maybe I shouldn’t completely hibernate this winter and should actually make a point of getting out to see friends and meet new people.

Inspiration

View from my office window

When I used to work outside the home, there was a constant stream of other people to talk to. And while I wouldn’t trade in my home office to go back to a windowless cubicle, sometimes some of my best ideas came from talking to other people. As a freelance writer, I often miss the simple banter. Over the holidays, away from my computer I got to really talk to other people, find out what was going on outside my little writing world and I actually got much inspiration from others for blog posts and projects.

Even just a simple change of scenery was enough to prompt inspiration. Normally I stare out my office window onto our front yard and street. But by traveling, I got to see different scenes like a ski resort packed with people and an abandoned barn in the middle of a snowy field. While these scenes in themselves aren’t all that remarkable, they were enough to jar some inspiration.

As I write this post it’s snowing so hard outside my window that we probably have gotten a good three inches in the last hour. Since I don’t think I’ll be leaving my home office today, in the near future, I will be making a point to do so just to find the inspiration and stimulating conversation that I’ve been lacking.

What about you, do you find it inspiring to abandon your computer for the outside world?

Writing Reflections

As 2009 comes to an end, and the beginning of a new year is looming just a few days away, many people begin thinking about goals and resolutions for their fresh start.

But for me, this time of year would not be complete without remembering how far I’ve come. So today, before I write out my goals for 2010 I want to remember the past year. I remember waking up the first day of 2009 and thinking that I needed to change my life in a drastic way. I had told my husband that with the purchase of a laptop, I would find a way for it to pay for itself. I was going to get back to my roots and follow my dreams to freelance writing. At the time, I was thinking I would begin pitching to magazines again. After all, that was what I had done in the past. I never in a million years thought that by the end of the year I would be a full-time freelance writer.

As my husband sat around New Years day watching football, I typed into Google freelance writing and up on the screen popped a million sites. I spent hours that day researching and reading what knowledge and experiences others had to share. It was my first time learning anything about online writing. That same day, I signed up for Blogger and created my first blog (which I erased a few months later). A few days later, my research led me to sign up for Associated Content. I can’t tell you the thrill I got when my first story got bought. So I wrote more and at some point realized that I was never going to make a living there.

A few weeks went by and I stumbled upon Demand Studios. I signed up and had my first article published. Now that was better money. I became obsessed with writing for them and finding other online sources of revenue. I worked most nights late into the night after working a full day at my full-time job. A few months later, I started this blog. I began fantasying about quitting my job and those dreams started to look within reach when I landed my first private client. In July, I finally quit my job and went full time to freelance writing. By August, I was working for myself.

Today, I am proud to say that I have many private clients on a regular basis and many more one time projects sprinkled in a month. I am proud of what I have accomplished this year. It hasn’t all been easy. I’ve had to learn about accounting, contracts, technology, confidence in myself and more. But I have loved every single minute of it. I have many writers from around the world that I would now call friends and hope to someday meet in person. For the first time in my adult life I am living the life I always imagined for myself.

Without being too sappy, I want to thank all the people that I have met through writing this year that have hired me, given me advice or just lent me an ear to vent. I truly could not have made my dreams into a reality without such a warm and sharing community that freelance writers all over the world have created.

My goals will be coming soon, but for now, I just want to be proud of and thankful for how far I’ve come. What are you most proud of this year?

Lacking the Creative Juice

I haven’t been posting here regularly, I know. The reason is I’ve been busy – not just busy but overwhelmingly busy. I hate using excuses, but with the holidays and this being my first year as a full-time freelance writer, I’m finding it hard to do everything and be everywhere at once. I have also been pushing myself to work a little bit extra at the content site I write for in order to make additional money that will help with all the gift buying.

I am very thankful that I have the option to take on extra work, that I have been blessed with landing two new clients this month and that I’ve been given a big project by a current client. However, in all this rushing around (I was literally in three cities in two days at Thanksgiving!) I have realized that being overwhelmed is not good. Yes, having a lot of work is great, but a lot of work and too much stuff going on is causing me lose my inspiration and my creativity – so much so thatI haven’t even been able to think of a topic for this blog.

So what am I planning to do about this? Well, no one said this career would be easy and this is definitely one of the harder times I have experienced, so I may need to work a little harder this month. I’m going to try to get up an hour earlier every day and perhaps spend some extra time on work at night. I’m also going to turn down a few holiday party invitations to stay home and just relax with my husband. I won’t be volunteering to bring a dish to every party that we do go to and I may cut out making cookies for all of my neighbors.

As far as my writing inspiration goes, I’m looking into creative exercises now. I’m thinking of scheduling myself some time each day to focus on creative exercises, writing about what I want to write about and doing other inspiring things like reading my favorite blogs. I haven’t been keeping up with my favorite bloggers and that bothers me because a lot of my inspiration comes from them.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is feeling pressed for time and as a result uninspired around this time of year. What do you do to combat the holiday stress and manage to stay inspired through all the chaos?

Staffing Agencies

Pencils

A new potential way to find work has, odd as it sounds, found me. Here’s what happened: I was online, applying for projects and I applied for one through what I now know was advertised through a staffing agency. The agency is a creative staffing agency that happens to be local for me. A representative called me and I have an appointment to go meet with a recruiter next week. I can’t really say much on if this will work or not, but I can say that initially when I hung up the phone I wanted to call right back and cancel my appointment.

Here’s the thing, I am a freelance writer, I charge a decent hourly rate, I work from home and I like (really I do) looking for my own work. One red flag when I spoke to the staffing agency was that most of their work is for on-site projects. This I’m willing to try only IF it is a job I really want to work on. So, right there we might have a problem. The second red flag was that they really didn’t seem to care so much that I have an online portfolio. Umm, when working with “creative” people and trying to help them find work, an online portfolio is pretty important.

However, aside from those two red flags, I’m very willing to give them a try. What can it hurt, right? Plus, I stumbled upon these two posts on staffing agencies: Why I’ve Lost Faith in Creative Staffing Agencies, by Susan Johnston over at  The Urban Muse and 6 Ways You Can Add an Agency to Your Arsenal of Work-Generating Tools by Jesaka Long over at a.k.a. Writer. They have further spurred my curiosity in staffing agencies.

Have you ever tried a staffing agency? What are your thoughts?

Tips to Save Money

coach purse

Photo courtesy of Coach, Inc.

I’ll admit it, when I was in a full time job with regular pay I never worried about money. I’m a fan of brand names, especially in clothes and accessories. The Coach store regularly calls my name and I love nothing more than high end jeans. My clothes budget per month was needless to say pretty much limitless. For most of my adult life, if I wanted something, I bought it without hesitation. Now, you are probably thinking I’m spoiled, but the truth is, as part of a couple with two good incomes and no children, what else was I going to spend my money on? All that changed when I threw in the towel on my full time job and struck out on my own as a freelance writer.

What I realized is that while working from home has its perks – like setting my own schedule, deciding who I work with and not having to dress up every day, it has its downfalls too. My income – at least starting out has been greatly cut. To adjust to this I had to make some big changes. Here are some things that I’ve done to save money – maybe they can help you too.

Cut out coupons. I’ve never been one to cut coupons, but one of the things my husband and I decided to cut down on was our grocery budget. I am continuously amazed by how much money I save from using coupons found in the Sunday paper. Just this week I saved $30 at the grocery by using coupons.

Buy store brands. At the grocery, instead of buying the known brand names, I have switched to buying store brand items. The savings are as big as $2-$3. It’s amazing and with the exception of a few things, the food tastes just as good.

Use a store card. This is easy, but again I never thought of it. There are so many discounts offered at the grocery and other stores when you use their store card.

Don’t eat out. Okay, this one has been hard for me. I love nothing more than grabbing a bite to eat and washing it down with a cocktail. In the last few months I have gone from eating out three to four times a week to eating out two to three times a month. It’s getting easier, as I learn to cook and it’s starting to be fun to experiment in the kitchen.

Shop around. This applies to clothes and gadgets. Where I once would just purchase something on the spot, now if I see something I want, I shop around to find the best deal. There are a lot of deals that can be found online too.

Don’t buy brand named clothes. This is hard. I love Steve Madden shoes, Ugg boots, Seven Jeans and Express, but sacrifices must be made. Now instead of buying up the newest line at Express, I go to places like TJ Maxx where I am able to find good deals on clothes that are fashionable and fit just as well. Sometimes they even have brand names.

Sign up for mailing lists. I hate receiving junk mail, but it is worth it when I get great coupons in the mail. Stores like Bath and Body Works, and New York and Company regularly mail out great coupons when you sign up for their mailing list.

Don’t impulse shop. Nowadays, I never go to the mall or store without a clear idea of what I need. When I need something, I go shopping look for what I need and if I don’t find it I leave empty handed. I don’t buy things just to buy something.

Clean out your closets. I have never done this before, but last week I decided it was time to figure out what I really needed clothes wise for the winter and what I can do without this year. Surprisingly what I found was that I don’t need much. I literally had clothes with the price tags still on them or clothes that I had completely forgotten that I had.

Organize a clothes swap. My love for Coach purses will probably never go away, but fortunately, my friends all love Coach too. So we are having a clothes and accessory swap. We are all gathering a handful of things that we will trade with one another. This makes it feel like we are getting something new and fresh without having to go buy it.

These things have enabled me to work from home and do something that I love. What do you do to save money?

The Key to My Time Management Success

timerI know that I’ve covered the subject of time management, or my lack of it before. Well, today, I’m happy to share that I’m kicking time management’s butt! For a while, I’ve really been struggling with this, as I know other writers and freelancers struggle with it too. Let’s face it, when you work from home there are a lot of distractions and at times a lot of other things that feel more important than work.

Over the past few months I have done a lot of reading on time management and how other people tackle it and I am completely convinced that there is no one size fits all solution. I think that we each need to find the right combination of techniques that work for our unique needs. Now before I tell you the key to my time management success, here are some small tips that are helping me and may help you too.

  1. Schedule time to check your email. I could spend hours on end on email, so scheduling times into my day to check it is very effective.
  2. Create a to do list. As long as I have been a working adult I have had a to do list. Every day before I stop working, I make my to do list for the following day with the most important things at the top – and let me tell you, it is a great feeling to check things off of that list.
  3. Set goals. I set weekly goals, monthly goals and yearly goals in order to make the income that I need to make. In addition to having my daily to do list, I also have my weekly list of goals to keep me on track.

While these three things help me, I am happy to report that I have stumbled upon my own time management jackpot. Are you ready for this? It’s a kitchen timer. Now you are probably wondering why I have made such a big deal about a kitchen timer and I’m sure I’m not the first to discover this, but it has completely transformed my work life, I just had to share.

The idea came to me because I needed a way to track my time for clients that I charge on an hourly basis. So, I brought my kitchen timer upstairs to my office and here is what I have found works for me: I set it for one hour increments of time. During that hour I don’t check twitter, I don’t answer my phone, I don’t talk to my husband – I completely focus on what I’m working on for that hour, be it an article, a resume, etc. When the timer goes off whether I am done or not, I take a ten minute break. If I finish before that one hour is up, I immediately start working on another project until the timer goes off. I can’t tell you what a difference this has made!

It’s perfect for me for a lot of reasons. It allows me to track my time, to take breaks regularly and to ensure that I’m not spending too much time on low paying projects. In addition, if I have my timer going, everyone in my household knows not to disturb me. Literally, my husband won’t even try to talk to me when he sees it going and my dogs are now trained that they lay down until the timer beeps. Although, when it beeps, they usually jump up and run around.

During my ten minute breaks, I get up, stretch, make a snack, do small household chores, check my Twitter, etc. And I have found that I look forward to my ten minute breaks plus I get a lot of little chores done around the house which my husband loves.

Quite honestly, it’s gotten to the point where everything I do during my working day is by my timer. If I check my email I set my timer for an hour, if I’m doing my writing job search – you guessed it, I set my timer, if I’m checking my Google reader and networking, I set my timer and if I am doing bookkeeping, I set my timer. It works like a charm. I’m so excited with the results that I’m seeing, I just had to share!

I even finished this blog post in an hour. Time for a break!