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?

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Spec Work: Beneficial or Not?

Stop Sign

Over the past two weeks I have been asked to do four separate spec pieces. Normally, when I get these requests I email the potential client and let them know that I don’t do spec work, the reason why and I send them some of my published clips. Generally, I don’t hear back. Ever.

My issue with spec work is that in the past when I have done it with no questions asked I have never heard back. Once, I even found that my spec piece had been used, without my permission or even my name and after repeatedly trying to get in touch with the company, I never heard back. Yes, I got burned. How does the saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me…..

I’m not sure why all of a sudden there is a flurry of spec work requests but, here are some tips on how I handle these requests:

  • Don’t do it if it sounds like they are asking for spec pieces from a bunch of people. You know those emails that start out “You’re in the top 20 candidates, to determine the best fit we are asking for…..”
  • Always ask questions before you do any spec work. Clarify that your article won’t be used without your permission and get it in writing.
  • If you can’t get in touch with the company about your questions, it probably isn’t going to benefit you to do the piece anyway.
  • When a company asks for a spec piece just to apply for the gig, give a few sample paragraphs, but not a whole article. Explain why you can’t give a full article and direct them to samples of your published work.
  • Follow your gut, if you have a bad feeling about it there is probably a reason.

I have not actually gotten a job off of a spec piece. Most clients that hire me look at my online portfolio and can determine if they want to hire me based on my published clips without needing additional writing. That being said, I don’t like to rule out opportunities, especially if it’s a gig I really want. I try to handle every request on an individual basis. How do you handle spec work requests? Have you had any luck with spec work?

An Opportunity

question-mark3An opportunity has presented itself and I’m not sure what to do. My gut feeling is that I should just shut my eyes and jump, just go for it. This could be a great start towards my freelance writing career, but it could also be very damaging to the career I have. Again, this is where I start to waiver. As soon as things start pushing me in the direction I want to go, I start to doubt everything.

I have possibly an opportunity to do an interview with Nacie Carson, that would be posted on her website, The Life Uncommon (if you haven’t checked it out, you definitely should). The interview would be about my journey to leave the “rat race” to pursue my “life uncommon”. Exactly what I write about here. It would be a great way to get some traffic to my own blog and work. It would also be a great way to start establishing my name in this community. Having a background in marketing, I trust myself enough to know a good marketing opportunity when I see one.

But here is my problem: my current employer has no idea about my plans. Unfortunately, they think they have me for a lot longer than I am planning to stay and I am okay with that for now. I’m not set up enough to start freelance writing full-time. I’m not ready to tell them I’m leaving. I have a huge project coming up and the company is depending a lot on this project. I respect them and have a vested interest in what happens there. Above and beyond anything else, I don’t want to cause panic by revealing my plans before this project takes place. As you have probably noticed, I have been very careful not to reveal any identifying information in this blog for these very reasons.

So what to do? I could forget about it and not do it at all. Or, I could do it under my so called “pen name” and list this blog only, and none of my other writing samples. I would hopefully get more traffic, but not under my real name, which I hope to write under in the future.

Oh, what to do……