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?

New Year, New Goals

Almost everyone makes a list of resolutions for the new year, and every  freelancer takes some time to set goals for the new year. It is after all the ultimate clean slate, the chance for us to actually put into words the hopes and dreams that a new beginning brings. While it’s easy to write down our goals and resolutions, the hard part is achieving them. In 2009, I was lucky and far surpassed my goals. I can only hope that 2010 will be as good!

Here are my freelance goals for 2010. Some are pretty hefty, some are simple and hopefully all will be met.

  1. Double my monthly income.
  2. Pitch to two to three magazines per month.
  3. Get at least three magazine articles published.
  4. Market myself to more local companies.
  5. Take on more regular (monthly) clients.
  6. Continue the wonderful working relationship I have with my current clients.
  7. Improve my writing through classes, workshops, webinars and creative exercises.
  8. Network more with other writers and work to create a more recognizable online profile.
  9. Improve traffic to this blog.
  10. Update my professional web site monthly with new clips.

And a few personal goals that I have set as well:

  1. Become more frugal.
  2. Live more environmentally conscious.
  3. Take better care of my body through healthy eating and plenty of exercise.
  4. Make more time for family and friends.
  5. Be true to myself and live 2010 to its fullest.

Happy New Year’s and here’s to hoping that all of your hopes and dreams come true in 2010! Cheers!

Hire Me Please

Thumbs upHave you ever come across a job ad that just screams your name? You know what I am talking about, that job ad where every word is just dripping with a description of you and your talents. I’ve came across several of those seemingly perfect jobs before and I just came across another one today in my daily writing job search. The most frustrating thing is to just know you are a perfect fit for a client only to apply for the work and not hear anything back. Well, rather than immediately writing the client a “hire me please” note begging to be hired, here are some tips to actually help you hear back from that client that you really want to work with:

Apply for jobs that you actually qualify for.

Okay, okay, I know that a lot of my fellow freelancers will tell you that you have to apply for many, many jobs in order to land one. And I’m all for that, but the real truth here is that you have to apply for jobs that you can actually do. While it is impressive to apply for 25 jobs a day, are you really completely qualified for all of them? It makes much more sense to take your time and apply for a handful of projects that you are sure you qualify for rather than rushing through and applying to tons of jobs that you don’t necessarily qualify for and really couldn’t do even if you got the work.

Follow the directions.

This should really be common sense. We are taught from a very young age how to follow directions, so why some people still can’t do it is beyond me. Really, the concept is simple: a client writes an ad for what kind of work they have and what you need to give them to be considered for the project. Make sure you give them everything they ask for in the way that they ask for it. If they say don’t send attachments, then don’t. If they say to send three samples, then send three samples, not two. Seriously, what are you saying about yourself and your work ethic if you don’t even follow the directions when applying for the project?

Use a conversational tone.

One thing that I have found in my months of looking for freelance writing work is that email, the Internet, blogging, Twitter, Face Book, all that changes the tone of applying for freelance work. Back when I used to apply for full time jobs (and I have applied for a lot!) it would be with a formal, by the book cover letter, a resume that was also straight out of career services and that would suffice. But with the boom of social media everything is more casual, especially in the world of freelancing. Many clients these days are looking to hire a contract worker that can communicate in a functional way, not necessarily by writing Dear____ and signing off Sincerely _____. Be friendly, give the information they ask for and do it in a conversational way.

Don’t be overly friendly.

Okay, this might seem a little contradictory, but there is a line. Don’t cross it. You don’t need to tell a potential client that you sleep until 11 A.M. every day and work until midnight, or that you need to make some extra cash to take a trip. There is just no need for this. Tell them what they need to know in a nice way that doesn’t cross that delicate line.

Be clear and concise.

In my early days of applying for freelance writing jobs when I was asked to provide a rate I would give one rate for a blog post or I would give a flat rate for a project. But silly me, I forgot to include what that entailed. Now I try to be very clear. If I quote a flat rate for a project I say that it includes an x number of rewrites or a certain amount of interview time. For blog posts I now quote my price based on the number of words.

Ask for feedback.

I’ll admit that this is a little tricky. You can’t ask for feedback on every job that you apply for – chances are you don’t hear back from all of them. But I’ll bet that you have heard back from some for possibly clarification on something and have still ended up not getting the client. In this case I always wait a few days and then send a quick email asking for feedback on my resume – or my portfolio web site which I now use, my clips, my correspondence, etc. On a few occasions I have had responses that were very nice and most importantly very helpful in making me more efficient at applying for future freelance work.

Did I miss anything on this list. What do you do that works when applying for freelance writing work?

Um, Seriously?

Overall, I really try not to complain. I love that I have the opportunity to pursue my life dream of being a freelance writer. I love that I have friends and family that support my decisions. I love that I can work from home. And I love that I have already gotten a few clients. But…..

This week I have been applying for jobs like crazy, mostly off the typical job boards and lists. Among some of the responses I got, one completely shocked me. Mind you that this job advertised for a “Professional Writer” with a college degree. So you would think, anyway, the ad went on to request a resume, three samples of work, a summary of my work experience and why I think I am qualified for the job. All in all, thanks in part to my new Web site, applying for the job took me about five minutes. But five minutes of my precious time, only to be told that after reviewing my resume and samples, they felt that I was very qualified for the job and they were willing to offer me, wait for it, wait for it…. $1-4 dollars per 500 word article depending on the exact length, plus a whopping $2 for editing other people’s articles. WHAT!?! Seriously people. Do they really think that I went to college, put together a resume, collect perfect samples of my work and take time out of my day to seek out opportunities only to be offered that? What an insult.

Now, I know at this point you are probably thinking “welcome newbie”, but I have heard the horror stories. I know that some places really do offer writers this measly wage; I just haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing it firsthand. So thus ensued my first moment of weakness. As I sat there dejectedly reading the email again, I just felt my self-worth going down the drain. But I didn’t let it keep me down long, soon I was able to brush it off and move on.  However, later that night as I was telling my husband about it, it dawned on me that somewhere out there, someone will really accept that offer. Which truth be told is what is going to drive down the rates for all of us freelance writers. Oh the injustice.

How can companies really think that it is okay to offer someone that amount for their precious time? In my previous full-time job, at least they had the decency to compensate me well for my time. No way in the world would they have thought to offer an employee $1-4 for an hour of work. That is why we have a minimum wage in this country, so people can actually support themselves. And, what so called freelance writer would actually accept that wage for their precious time? I think the minimum wage should apply to freelancers of all fields too. Can’t we all join together, not accept these crap jobs and demand at least a minimum wage for ourselves?

Do you have any horror stories about searching for jobs?

A Busy First Week

I can’t believe it’s Friday! This week has just flown by. I guess the saying is true, time flies when you’re having fun.

This week I have been so busy, it’s not even funny. I decided that this was the week I would get a web site up and running. I researched several free web site building programs and after a few days of messing around with several, I finally decided that since I already know WordPress (WP) to go ahead and give it a try to see how it works as a portfolio web site. I have been presently surprised at the usability of it as a portfolio web site, since it’s mostly designated for blogs. There are still some kinks that I need to iron out, but I think it is almost ready to be revealed. I also had to research and select the best hosting service, which once I decided on WP, was quite an easy decision. WP strongly recommends several and I went with the option that got the best reviews from WP users and it ended up being one of the cheaper hosting sites.

Once I got started with the actual creating of my web site, then things moved rather slowly. I tend to be a little particular when it comes to design, and most of the kinks that need ironed out are more design issues. I don’t know HTML that well, so the going is slow and is more of a trial and error thing. The good news is that once the site is established, there is virtually no HTML needed. So probably sometime next week the site will be ready to be viewed.

On other news, I got a new client. Well, technically a client that I have worked with before that would like me to start working on another project for them. It looks like it could turn out to be a long term thing, so that’s good.

Unfortunately, since I was obsessed with my web site this week, I didn’t quite meet my writing goals, but no worries there. My old employer is paying me my vacation time on my last paycheck, so I should be fine for this month and not have to use any of the money I have saved up to get started freelancing.

On the financial front, I have not as of yet had to use any of the money I have saved, which is great! Next month will be the true test to see if I am making what I truly need to make without using my saved up money. After that I should be able to determine if I need to step it up looking for new clients.

I did search for new writing jobs this week and applied for about ten. Not much, I know, but it’s a start. I hope to apply for much more next week and hopefully it will be even easier with my web site up and running.

Overall, this getting started full time freelancing thing is a slow process, but a process that I have carefully planned for financially. Plus, I can’t complain, everything seems to be going as planned and I have truly enjoyed my first official week working from home full time. More on that later, but for now I have to wrap up a project and get ready for happy hour.

Oh yeah, I changed the look of this blog again. I think I really like this look and may stick with it, but then again, I am a classic Gemini and can never make up my mind!

Have a great weekend!

The Freelancing Lifestyle

I am feeling very grateful that I made up my mind to leave my job and pursue freelance writing on a full time basis. I am still working part time to train my replacement, but a few more weeks and I will be done for good. So while the steady money is nice, I much prefer my time at home working on my projects, for my clients. Here are my five favorite things so far:

1) I actually have a weekend now! This weekend was the first weekend in a long time where I didn’t think about work – not once and I have to say it was a very nice weekend. Mostly I spent time with family and friends. My husband and I went to a music/arts festival and then stopped and had dinner with my grandpa. Then we went out with friends for a birthday, and we finished off the weekend with a baseball game.

2) The stress is disappearing. Since leaving my job, (well, mostly) I have felt the stress just melt away. It’s like, all of a sudden, I am moving at a clam pace and I am actually able to live in the moment. I can concentrate on what I am doing and not be thinking about 101 things while trying to do something else. When I feel myself start to rush through something, I  remind myself to slow down, there is no rush. I’ll get done what I get done. I really think life is supposed to be lived at a slower pace. I mean, what was the point of all that rushing around anyway? It’s not like it really got me  that far, I think I can get much further at my own pace on my own terms.

3) I can actually sleep. For most of my adult life, I thought I suffered from insomnia. I literally can’t remember the last time I got a full eight hours of sleep. That too must have been stress related because now I sleep almost eight hours a night – and its good sleep, not restless sleep. It’s just amazing how much better I feel with a full night’s sleep. I really have no idea how I functioned on four or five hours of sleep before.

4) I’m have the opportunity to learn about things that actually interest me. I know that sounds weird, but before I just worked, period, that’s pretty much it. Now I can actually read up on things that interest me, and sometimes if I’m lucky I can get paid to write about them. I feel like daily I am coming across more that interests me that I want to learn more about.

5) Finally, I actually like it to be quiet and to be by myself all day. I’m not non-social, quite the opposite, but I value time alone and I really enjoy the house to myself all day. I know that a lot of freelancers have a hard time with that, but I really don’t mind it.

I feel like the world is just open now and anything is possible. It’s a very liberating feeling, and I love to think of all the possibilities! The bottom line is I think I am designed for the freelancing lifestyle – I just hope I can make it work financially!

Learning Something New Every Day!

One thing I love about the wonderful world of freelancing is that I feel like I learn and explore something new every day. Today I learned about two things.

I started exploring Twitter – I’ve had an account for a while now but have never actually used it. So I started reading up on it today. There is so much information out there that is really helpful, it is amazing. And quite soon, I will be using Twitter to see if it helps my writing career.

The other thing I discovered today is Google Reader. I’m not sure of all the ins and outs yet, but so far it has been awesome! Call me behind the times, but this is great because I can actually see all the updates posted on my favorite blogs (all writing blogs so far!) right in one place.

So while I know that most of you are probably already familiar with these two gems I am exploring (if you’re not, check them out), I am just happy to have the time to finally explore them and hopefully some more things in the near future.

One other thing that I am thinking about, researching and considering is a way to boost viewers to this blog. I’m considering making it more of a niche, or starting a more specific blog to improve my online presence. So far, I’m a little short on ideas, but hopefully soon I will have a grasp on where I want to go with blogging.

Having the opportunity to learn something new every day keeps things exciting and fun! I hope that my writing career always remains this way and I hope that I never lose the desire to learn something new.

Do you have any suggestions of other things I can look into? Remember I am still fairly new to all of this!