Writing a Super Proposal: Getting a Foothold in the Freelancer Bidding Wars

Okay, so it’s not really a war. Freelance writers are all part of the same occupational family, each of us offering a different creative version of the same service. We partake in forums where we help one another do the best we can do; we all go (or want to go) to the classes and conferences that help us define and refine our craft.

Even so, families have their rivalries.

For freelancers, that rivalry takes place on the bidding field.

But, before I get into how to write a great proposal, there are four things about the freelance writing market you should keep in mind…

moron-gifHARD TRUTH #1: Even bad proposals get selected sometimes.

After all, many people looking to hire a freelance writer readily admit they don’t know how to write — like, at ALL — so chances are that eventually one of them will also not recognize what reads well. That person will probably choose a proposal that exhibits a feature they do recognize, like price, turnaround time, flexibility, responsiveness to messages, et cetera.

Or, heck, maybe they just close their eyes and point to their computer screen in order to randomly select a name from an applicant list (#itcouldhappen).

So if you think you’ve been getting jobs simply because your proposal writing skills are great… well, that doesn’t always jive. Think of your proposals as your advertisements, mind you they’re directed toward an individual person and not a broad audience. Just like there are a lot of good companies out there that run crappy ads and still stay in business, so can a good writer put out bad proposals and still find work. And maybe that works for you, but… what if you could get better work by running better ads? If that sounds like something you’d like to get in on, keep reading.

meh lady

“Meh. Don’t care.”

HARD TRUTH #2: Clients may not care about your perfectly written proposal. At all.

This is a truth that really sucks because really great proposals take a lot of time to craft. And since time is money, it hurts when you don’t get a return on your investment.

Still, the fact is that there are some clients who don’t care about what a proposal contains or how it reads. They may not be the type of clients who are oblivious to what a good writer’s writing looks like (see Hard Truth #1) — in reality, they may know exactly what good writing looks like — but these folks actively DON’T CARE about your skills. Period.

Instead, they’re focused on other aspects of your candidacy. Things like:

  • your rate
  • project turnaround time
  • availability (i.e. “Do you work weekends/nights/holidays?”)
  • alternative skill sets (in case they want to hire you to do more than one thing at a time, like both write and illustrate, or both write and manage their company’s blog)
  • proximity (I’ve had clients who’ve hired me just for being nearby because they prefer to meet in person rather than discuss the job over email or phone)
  • how you want to get paid (e.g. fixed rate or hourly? in increments or in a lump sum at the end of the job? with or without escrow protection*?)

It’s our best guess as to which of these — if any — drive the potential client to select their ideal candidate. So while you may think the client wants to hear about your five award-winning novellas, they may only care if you can meet with them regularly on Sunday evenings to discuss the project.

Oh, and if you take checks.

abacus

“I feel like this is getting complicated. I’d just rather not.”

HARD TRUTH #3: The client’s commitment to the project may be… fickle.

I’ve had this happen many a time:

A potential client will reach out either on a jobs board, privately via email, or in person (if we happen to be crossing paths and talking about our work at the same time). They’re excited about their project. They have this great idea and they can’t wait to get started and ‘Do you think you could do it!?’ they exclaim.

‘Sure,’ you say. So you listen to their idea and draft a quick bid (even if only mentally) for the work you think you’ll have to do. Then you proceed to discuss everything concerning their project: outlines, time tables, budgets, contracts… you know, all that boring, business-like, non-writing stuff.

As you talk, the wind gets blown out of their sails. Suddenly this sounds like work; it’s not as fun anymore. Suddenly it occurs to them that they’re entering into a financial agreement (via contract*) and might have to — gulp! — pay you!

Once you show them the cost estimates, their eyes gloss over. You’ve officially lost them.

‘That’s a lot of money,’ they say aloud (or write) (or think) (or say via body language).

‘Well, writing is hard work,’ you say (or write back) (or think) (or say via body language).

Their interest deflated, they offer up an “I’ll get back to you about it” but never do. Should you have pushed the sale harder? Should you have fluffed your writerly feathers and wowed them with more amazing stats about your #skillz?

Maybe. But if it was either of the following two realizations that turned them off from their own project, there was really little you could do to get them to commit:

  1. They wanted their project to be fun and games, not work and business.
  2. They don’t want to pay you what you actually charge.

If the client wants you to work for free or to do it for “exposure” or “experience,” they can ask their Auntie Ava to write their memoir (unless she’s a freelancer, too, then I hope Auntie Ava charges a fair rate!).

HARD TRUTH #4: Even GREAT proposals don’t get selected.

Yours could be one great proposal among many. Or for another reason altogether your awesome proposal may not have been selected.

Sometimes, we just gotta chalk it up to “Not meant to be” and “Better luck next time. Because, let’s face it: Sometimes it really is about luck.

 

Though it’s frustrating to admit, we always can’t tell what, exactly, the client is looking for or how seriously they’re looking. But as freelancing spirits we’re not so easily deterred, so trudge ahead and do our best we must, despite detours, disappointments, and hurdles!

That said, here are my

strong man

Tips on Writing a Super Proposal

timeclock clipart1. Take the time to know the job.

Seems basic, but sometimes out of desperation (or as part of their self-marketing strategy) freelancers will go for quantity over quality. Hey, I can’t say mass submissions never works, but they can be mentally draining without being financially rewarding.

Also, refusing to take the time to see what a job requires could put you in the hot seat in the event that you do (somehow, magically) score the contract. What if you find you can’t do the work and have to decline the job after you’ve been awarded it? Or, worse, find yourself mid-project and realize you can’t finish the work? That’s just embarrassing and a hard hit to your professional portfolio, especially on sites like Upwork where the client has the opportunity to leave a negative review on your profile.

2. Customize your cover letter.

While you may be able to get away with using certain aspects of a previously submitted proposal for a different job, don’t copy and paste your way into the freelancing game.

Potential clients can see right through this tactic and, unless they’re looking for one of those alternative aspects mentioned previously, submitting an impersonalized cover letter will only cause them to think (a) you’re too lazy to read the actual job description, (b) you’re too lazy to do the actual work of writing a good response, or (c) you don’t really care about the job (see ‘a’).

Either way, you don’t come out looking good and, like a resume cover letter that isn’t tailored to the employer’s needs, your proposal will likely get swiftly tossed in the round file.

think money3. Make clear your rates.

Take the extra time to be clear about how and why you’re charging what you do, especially if the job description expresses client concerns about rates. If you’re interested in the job but your price is higher than the client’s initial budget, it’s okay to still apply and offer up a solid explanation as to why your rate is higher than they might like and why it’s worth it.

This is a great opportunity to sell your skills as well as show you’re a professional who understands value. If you feel you need to, refer to the Writer’s Market’s “How Much Should I Charge?” report. It’s a little outdated, but certainly a usable reference when discussing various writing fees.

Just remember: You’re not defending your rates, you’re just explaining them. And don’t patronize the client when you clarify your rates, either. Nobody likes a smarty pants who makes other people feel stupid.

4. Offer appropriate samples.

Like your cover letter, get into the habit of being selective about which writing samples you share with a prospective client. If the job is for nonfiction work, share nonfiction samples. If it’s for blogging, share blogs you’ve written.

Offering samples of unrelated work is a great way to show you’re NOT paying attention. For instance, if you’re applying for an adult romance fiction writing gig, don’t share the latest nonfiction elementary school inspirational picture book you wrote (and/or illustrated).

A special note: If you’re often hired as a ghostwriter, be sure to obtain the permission of past clients before sharing their work as part of later bids. You can easily do this by giving clients the option of declaring permissions at the start of the project, as part of your written contract. Then you can simply refer back to the contract later on to see if you have received permission to share the work or not.

Laz-e-mailer

5. You’re a writer, so write well. (Always!)

Another seemingly obvious one, I see a lot of comments on freelancing forums from self-proclaimed writers who don’t take the time to type out complete sentences or use proper grammar or punctuation.

If you can’t offer me paragraph separation in your 250-word rant about low-paying work, it’s no wonder nobody is taking you seriously!

Learn to interact in every way (every day!) the way you want to be seen as a professional. Make good writing a personality trait, not just a profession. Whether it’s in your texts or emails, in private forums or in proposals, make it a habit to show your best abilities (and not only in writing, but in attitude as well!). Do that, and people will begin to remember you for those things.

Likewise, habitually communicating with bad writing will cause people to habitually remember that about you… even if, in your work, you’re a very clean-cut writer, nobody will know it!

6. Be confident, not cocky.

People don’t have time to wrestle with your ego and, trust me, it won’t do you any favors either. Confidence is professional and magnetic, but cockiness will just turn potential clients off from liking you as a person which, in today’s workforce, is critical.

When writing your proposal, describe relevant accomplishments and abilities without embellishing them.

For example, instead of writing, “I’m an amazing historical novelist with several award-winning publications under my belt,” and inserting a link to your author website, opt for the more relaxed and low-key, “I am a published author of three successful historic novels” and allow the client space to ask for further information if they’re intrigued.

(Never interject irrelevant information or brags into your proposal. #TMI!)

Learn to be likable and you’ll experience a more successful freelancing career. Likability involves traits like honesty, positivity, and the ability to build and maintain good co-working relationships.

And just because you’re freelance doesn’t mean you work alone! The saying “No man is an island” applies here, and you need to learn to [quickly!] develop positive working relationships with clients in order to gain their trust, respect, and, ultimately, their business.

shaking-hands7. Say “Thank you.”

Your mother was right: Kindness pays.

Sometimes it might just take a little acknowledgement to put your proposal over the top. End your proposal letter with a quick “thank you” to the client for taking their time to read what you’ve had to say. Finish with a closing — “Sincerely,” “With Kind Regards,” et cetera — and type out your name, just as if you were signing a real letter.

Where other proposals may end in terse business lingo (bor-ing), your offer’s clean finish may be all the client’s palette needed to initiate a conversation with you instead of your competitors.

 

As long as you digest the four aforementioned hard facts of freelancing — and can equally learn to not take every rejection or non-response as a personal insult (though some clearly are) — you’ll be able to dedicate yourself to writing the best possible proposals in a way that best expresses and sells your skills and abilities.

 


Have additional tips for fellow freelancers about writing proposals? Share them in the comments!

*Like those who refuse to sign contracts, be wary of clients who don’t want to put money into an escrow account, especially if it’s a large project and an escrow service is readily provided (like on Upwork). The client may be trying to swindle you into working for free. This has happened to me before, and being duped is not a good feeling to either your ego or your wallet.

Review Reads & Pretty Paperbacks: 3 Reasons to Have Your Manuscript Reviewed (Before Publishing*)

Last fall I was presented with the opportunity to review a book written by an indie author in Tennessee named Kayla Lowe.

We connected on LinkedIn. I was a LinkedIn suggestion, nonetheless, when Kayla was new to the platform. Unlike many other “connections,” the connection with Kayla immediately turned out beneficial for the both of us, though I think I got the better end of the deal. Kayla got her book reviewed and I got, well… to read a good story, make a new writer-friend, get some business promo, and most recently received a free signed copy of Maiden’s Blush! Score!

Reviews are important in the book business - just ask Kayla Lowe!

Holding my (signed!) copy of “Maiden’s Blush” by Kayla Lowe.

Kayla Lowe writes Christian fiction and poetry. She’s recently been releasing some of her poetry as memes on her blog, some of which may even pull this anti-poetry editor into the magic of prose poetry.

But, back to the book review…

Reading the original version of Maiden’s Blush was less work and more a pleasure. True to form — what with her various recognitions for her talent as a writer — Lowe’s story was complete from start to finish and her writing was easy to peruse, a small blessing an editor doesn’t commonly get to enjoy.

There were only a few problems I caught onto when reading the book, and those were passed to Lowe in a head-to-toe Mountain Owl Ink manuscript review that involves notations on…

  • dialogue,
  • setting,
  • character development,
  • tone,
  • believability,

…and more. Of those issues, a number of them were writing habits I see commonly in others’ works. Little things like overuse/preference of certain words and phrases, pronoun ambiguity, and character trait vagueness are common issues that writers often don’t see in their own work but can present as problems for readers.

Which leads to my reasons for

3 Reasons To Get Your Manuscript Reviewed* (Before Publishing)

Reason #1: Self-Blindness

Self-blindness is the concept of being blind to what we do wrong. Sometimes our errors are pretty obvious (thanks, Spellcheck), but from time to time we can all use a second pair of eyes — not only in writing, but in life — to help keep us on the straight and narrow.

Nobody is immune to self-blindness, not even the most diligent writer or and editor (yes, including me!). That’s why I always say that “even editors need editors.”

Writing errors common in self-blindness include…

  • the overuse of “that”
  • comma overuse (or under-use)
  • pronoun ambiguity
  • setting confusion
  • vague transition(s) between action, speaker, point of view, and/or setting

The only way we can learn to recognize our bad (and good!) writing habits — and learn from them — is by having the help of other people pointing them out to us. Remember…

brucelee1.jpg

#2: Avoid the “Whoops!” Re-Release

While there are a number of good reasons to do a re-release of a book, you don’t want to feel compelled to do so in order to fix (um… hide) writing mistakes!

Other than being an expensive and time-consuming way to fix mistakes,

In Lowe’s case, her re-release of Maiden’s Blush also included the integration of a brand new, simplified cover. Other good reasons to re-release, other than integrating a new cover:

Lowe_old cover

The first edition cover of Maiden’s Blush.

  • Addition of a new chapter (e.g. a different ending that leads into a sequel);
  • Addition of artwork within the book itself (e.g. illustrations);
  • As part of a promotion for another product (e.g. with the release of a sequel);
  • Changing author’s legal name to a pseudonym; or
  • Addition of an introduction penned by a guest writer.

One reason an author may not opt to have their manuscript reviewed prior to publication* is the cost. It can cost $200+ to have a manuscript reviewed by an editor

However, get creative and you may be able to get a review done on your manuscript for free (or close to it). For instance, see if you can strike up a bartered deal, as in the case of Mountain Owl’s review of Maiden’s Blush. Our simple barter involved me doing the review in exchange for a little promotion on the new review service I was offering. Win-win!

#3: Don’t turn off new readers.

Especially if you’re an indie or self-publishing author, you don’t want to run the risk of deterring new readers before you’ve even begun building an audience.

Readers are critical folk. They like pointing out (sometimes cruelly) errors and problems they see in books they read. They tell their friends, their Facebook pages, the bookstore clerks, Amazon reviews… And a bad review can hurt sales of that particular title as well as your future releases.

Start your audience off on the right foot with a well-written, strong, positively reviewed book to gain their respect, loyalty, and future business.

And that’s today’s #HappyWriting advice about #seeingfarther.


Have a manuscript that could use reviewing or questions about the review process? Send me a message at Jessi [at] MountainOwlInk [dot] com.

 

*Ideally, manuscripts should be reviewed prior to publication so as to prevent putting sub-par writing out into the world to be read (or, in the case of bad writing that gets published, not read).

A Fair (Fare?) Working Relationship

I happened upon this ad yesterday as I scrolled down my Upwork screen looking for jobs to bid on:

Ad for Children's Book Illustrator

An ad pulled from freelancer site Upwork.com.

When I first saw this ad I laughed. The problem isn’t with the wording, or the need, but with the advertiser’s expectation. Just take a look: They’re wanting an expert to draw likely 10+ illustrations (probably in full color) for $125, total. Really? That comes to $12.50 per illustration, maximum.

Fees and the question “What to charge?” has been on my mind lately. Not because I don’t know what to charge (I now have a fair set of rates that I go by regularly), but because I run into the problem so often of potential clients feeling like a writer’s (or, in this case, an illustrator’s) time is worth a dime on the dollar.

I don’t know what it takes for other illustrators to do their work, but I know when I’m drawing a full page for a client each image can take from half to a full day to complete. At a half day (4 hours), that comes to $3.13/hr; a full day, $1.56/hr. Unless they’re ten and doing chores for candy money, nobody in their right mind would work for such low wages.

Most don’t realize an illustrator isn’t just mindlessly sketching in some notebook. There’s a lot of thought, drafting, finalizing, and coloring to do, and this doesn’t count the back-and-forth communication with the client about the layout, characters, color choice, et cetera before pencil even touches paper.

In short, a hobbyist or novice will sketch out something for $12.50 per illustration while riding the bus to his day job. An expert, on the other hand, will charge $125 per illustration.

The unfairness starts with YOU.

 

Ads like this — of which there are many — tell me there is a big reality gap between what a client thinks we do and what actually happens. And this doesn’t just apply to rates, but also to time schedules: Clients will be willing to dish out a fair sum of cash but their expectations about how long it’ll take to complete the work are far off course.

what-people-think-i-do

The above is a funny rendition of the gap between outside perspective and what actually takes place at the illustrator’s desk. Illustrator’s certainly don’t work for free, draw all their business-owning friends (free) logos, or doodle all day like Kindergartners. (Some of us do, though, get our sleep. I happen to take sleeping very seriously.)

Entering into business with someone who doesn’t understand what a freelancer puts into their work is like going into a one-sided relationship: Person A makes good effort to spend time together and Person B sits around twiddling their thumbs while also complaining that Person A never hangs out anymore.

Annoying? Yes. Unfair? Absolutely. Toxic? You bet.

Luckily, as of late last year I’ve purged myself of toxic clients, guilt-free. And I do mean “luckily,” because I know a lot of freelancers don’t enjoy that freedom. Why? I think a lot of it has to do with perspective about what good clients give. That is,

It starts with the writer’s expectation about what they can get. If that’s skewed, everything goes downhill from there.

If you think you’re not worth more than a few dollars an hour, you’ll only get paid a few dollars an hour. A lot of the freelancing game is about mentality, so build and maintain your mental strength when conducting business.

It’s about setting your market value. I’m not going to repeat the overdone freelancer’s chant, “We need to stop taking such low pay!” because it’s a cop out. Saying “we” takes the pressure off of ourselves and puts the obligation out there, into the wide, empty nothing, for some unknown entity to take hold of. Taking low pay is now the world’s problem, and who can fix the whole world? Nobody.

But stop passing the buck! YOU are the only entity you should be fixing!

Instead of chanting to the proverbial “we,” take charge of your situation. Stop worrying about everyone else’s earnings and the general freelancing market value (i.e. what freelancers overall are willing to accept as common expectations and wages) and start focusing on your freelancing value.

I’m not saying that since I’ve altered my expectations and self-valuation I get the “best paying freelance jobs” out there. (I put that in quotes because I’m sure you’ve typed that into Google more than once as a freelancer, just as I have!)

But I am saying that my earnings per project are better than what they used to be, and certainly better than what potential clients advertise, like the one looking for an expert illustrator at $12.50 an illustration. Pfft.

To improve your own situation starts with just three easy steps, which are more like new mentalities you need to adopt and apply. (Sorry — no easy 1-2-3 checklists here!) Here’s MOI’s strategy for…

How to Get Paid a Fair Fare

1. Don’t get into an unfair relationship in the first place.

Just because its business doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking out for your own — present and future — well-being.

Think of starting and developing a working relationship with a client like you would a relationship with anyone else. Your business relations should be fair, understanding, open, and respectful. That means the client should respect your time and effort by paying you a fair rate, and you should respect the client’s money (and time) by doing your best job and staying on schedule.

2. If you’re already in an unfair relationship, adjust it.

Whether that means renegotiating your rates, deadlines, or availability, do it and do it NOW.

And don’t forget to do it via a contract, on paper. (Don’t have a contract to begin with? Yikes… doing work under contract is respect rule #1!) Make the new terms clear and concise, and make available a way for either party to back out of the deal at any time. One of you isn’t indentured to the other (or if you are per the terms of a contract you signed, you shouldn’t have agreed to that in the first place!).

Remember: You’re working with, not for, the other person. You’re a freelancer, not an employee! So take the “free” in “freelancer” seriously.

3. If the other party won’t adjust, dump them.

If the other person doesn’t want to change terms — or doesn’t even want to see or admit that they are doing you wrong — then it’s high time to say goodbye. It’ll hurt, but in the long run you’ll be better off. (Don’t worry about them: They’ll undoubtedly find someone else to fill your shoes at $3/hr. That’s not your concern.)

If your clients don’t respect you, you shouldn’t want those clients. Period. So let them go.

untitled

Bad clients. Just let them go.

Keep to this strategy and eventually you’ll have clients, old and new, who value your talent, time, and who will pay you a fair fare.


Mountain Owl Ink LLC is a freelance creative services company located in Minnesota, USA, that has been providing writing, illustration, and design services since 2013. For more information, visit www.MountainOwlInk.com.

Waiting For Work: 4 Suggestions to Finding Freelancing Happiness

Last time in “Waiting for Work” I talked about how downtime between jobs can be detrimental to your business, depending on how you decide to ride the waves of the freelancing life, and how self-fulfilling prophesy plays a larger part in our lives than we’d like to think. (Ironic.) The truth is:

We have far more control over everything than we think we do, simply by the power of our minds and intentions!

As a follow up to that article, I’d like to offer these

4 Suggestions to Finding Freelance Happiness

1. Remove the Angst.

First, remove the [negative] self-prophesying from your life. Stop dreading the client hunt. Stop hating the gaps where you don’t have work.

Stop the cycle of negativity surrounding your experience as a freelancer. The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll come to actually enjoy the quiet (see #4).

2. Have a plan for your portfolio, and keep it clean.

One of my favorite books is The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. (Okay. I lie. It’s my absolute favorite. I actually have three different copies of it. #forshame) I have a not-so-secret crush on red-haired architect Howard Roark. Admittedly, he’d make an awful IRL boyfriend (what a selfish, work-absorbed jerk!) So why do I love him so much? Because, like honey badger, Roark don’t give a sh*t.

One of the most famed quotes from Roark should be the mantra of many a freelancer:

“I don’t build in order to have clients. I have clients in order to build.”

Before I met Roark, I was a lost 10th grader who was trying to fit in. I felt an overwhelming sense of obligation. I hate obligation. Feeling obligated all the time actually put me in a deeply depressed and anxious funk. I was miserable, and my family couldn’t figure out why. Turns out, obligation hits harder on Creatives (remember: being Creative is different than simply having creativity) and I felt like the obligation was literally eating me alive.

Other reading: “Can a creative person survive corporate life?”

Then here was this character, Howard Roark, who basically said, “Screw you and your obligations and ideas about who I should be [as an architect]. I don’t care. I’m doing what want to do, because this [designing buildings] is what I was made to do!”

Heck, yeah!

Roark is the epitomal hero of all freelancers, or at least I think he should be. Sure, he’s poor sometimes. Sure, he struggles. But he never gives in to the angst of negative thinking. He always believes in his God-given destiny: To build, and to build the way he was made to.

Roark ends up being a very successful and strongly sought-after architect, designing buildings that awe the masses. More importantly, Roark ends up happier than his adversaries, other architects who gave in to obligation and expectations and built buildings they not only didn’t like, but didn’t believe in and even downright hated.

roark-quote.png

That’s why MOI doesn’t take on projects we don’t believe in. It guarantees we’ll do our best job, every time, and be damn proud of the end result, every time. If I don’t believe in your goal, your project, I won’t do it. Period.

I learned about professional regret the hard way after taking on jobs in desperation in the beginning of MOI’s life. I didn’t like the projects and didn’t like the results. Even now thinking of them leaves a bad taste in my mouth and, the worst part? The jobs didn’t even pay well. There was very little value to the work, and almost zero money. I feel like those jobs have dirtied my portfolio, and all because I didn’t stick with believing I’d find jobs that I believed in.

In short: It isn’t worth it to take a job you don’t believe in.

Other reading: “The Big “O” [Obligation] For Introverts”

3. Have a Filler Ready.

There are guaranteed to be times when there is no work on the table. Though the thought of no income can be frustrating, it is not the end-all. While you should be taking this time to seek new contracts, you can’t do that all day long, every day. You’ll burn out!

So, have a filler at the ready to occupy these moments.

Distract yourself from stressing out over the “no work” mantra in your head with other work-related projects. They could be personal projects that you’ve been wanting to get to for a while that would be beneficial to your career (e.g. finishing writing your novel), or other investments into your business that you didn’t have time for before (e.g. taking a class on accounting or a graphic design course).

Though I have many (MANY!) projects that I love to get into, I often use Textbroker.com as a filler because I do have monthly bills that need paying. Even though I don’t earn much, at least I’m (1) bringing some cash flow in as well as (2) maintaining my “writing muscles” by continuing to practice and challenge my craft.

4. Enjoy the Quiet.

Finally, learn to enjoy these quiet moments with personal, non-work projects and hobbies. Consider them vacations and opportunities to reconnect with yourself as a person, because sometimes we can lose ourselves to the identity we adapt when we’re constantly working.

facebook-two-Growth-Negligence_-Losing-Yourself-in-Your-Business

Ironically, I’ve found that it’s when I let my guard down, relax into a quiet moment, and stop worrying about what’s next, that I’m contacted by clients — either repeat customers or new ones entirely — about potential work. And I didn’t even have to fish for them!

In conclusion, don’t fret about those down times when you’re waiting for work. I’m not going to say “enjoy them,” but I will say learn to neutralize negative self-prophesy by adapting to those quiet times and accepting that they happen to even the best freelancers.

Like Howard Roark.


Thoughts? Suggestions of your own? Please share in the comments!

Waiting For Work: Is Self-Fulfilling Prophesy Holding You Back from Freelancing Happiness?

Something strange happened to me the last few months: I’ve stopped stressing over work. Not work, specifically, but waiting for it to come.

In the beginning, I got the strong notion that freelancing life would be tumultuous, filled with emotional ups and downs that would leave me fishing desperately for jobs one day and drowning in a tidal wave of work the next. I would feel lonely, isolated, yet elated at pursuing my passion at the same time.

And, for a while, it was like that: a horrible psychological bipolar effect where I was always worried about the next downer moment, so much so that I could never fully appreciate the enjoyable here and now.

Freelance life still is full of ups and downs, but I have a different attitude about those waves than I did before. Before, I was floundering, drowning and gasping as I fought the currents, determined to maintain my elevation even if the tides I sat on were emphatically uncontrollable.

Now? I’ve learned to work with the waves, riding my awesome surfboard of freelancing happiness, bobbing up and down with the tide as if its nature’s very own roller coaster ride.

What changed?

In the middle of a recent panic, I started to wonder if it — the stress, the failure to get clients, the gaps of time without income — was all a product of my own (rather false) expectations about how freelancing life is. If, in all my stress and attempts at “growing my business,” I actually got in my own way. If my expectation for hardship at the close of a contract actually created a bubble of hardship at the close of a contract.

And my wonderings led me to realize I indeed was doing all of that. Me. I was drowning myself in freelance misery!

The Very REAL Power of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

First, let’s go over what, exactly, self-fulfilling prophecy is. Study.com says

“A self-fulfilling prophecy is when a person unknowingly causes a prediction to come true, due to the simple fact that he or she expects it to come true.”

Let’s say I, a freelancer, have just finished my latest project. There is nothing on the calendar for new work. I have a desert of emptiness ahead of me.

I need to find a new contract.

I immediately start looking for more work — say, through online marketplaces like Upwork — and at the same time begin to, even unintentionally, think to myself, ‘I hate this part. This is so hard. So nerve-racking. The market is way competitive. Look at all those other guys bidding on the same job! I’m going to apply for a ton of jobs and not get any of them, I just know it.’

Then — BAM! Guess what? I didn’t get any of them.

Why do I think this way? Maybe it’s because it’s been my common experience, and that’s perfectly valid. Stereotypes are, after all, molded from grains of truth.

But that’s only part of it.

I’ve come to believe it’s also because when I was mentally prepping to become a freelancer I read a ton of articles about how finding new work is one of the hardest parts of the being a freelancer. In a short time, I was convinced. After that, I gritted my teeth, preparing for the daunting task of finding work.

And what happens when we go into a task, teeth clenched, stressed out, forcing ourselves to do it (albeit reluctantly)?

As the Study.com article states,

“Our actions toward others impact their beliefs about us, which dictates their actions towards us, which then reinforces our beliefs about ourselves. This, in turn, influences our actions towards others, which brings us back to the beginning of the cycle.”

So I expect not to be hired for anything, therefore maybe I

  1. Rush through bid writing just to “get it over with.”
  2. End up not putting my best work forward and
  3. I come off as either cocky or unconfident in my abilities as a writer/illustrator/etc.
  4. And nobody wants to hire a cocky or uncertain freelancer (duh!), so
  5. I end up not getting hired for anything.

And the cycle starts again.

See Farther Beyond Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I’ve written how just saying “yes” (with enthusiasm!) in 2016 really blew away previous years’ business. I said yes to anything, with very few exceptions. It was tiring and overwhelming, but I got a lot more done in a lot more ways than I would have ever expected.

And “getting things done” isn’t just about raking in the money, but about experience, knowledge, and opportunity. Specifically, opportunities that would prove useful — and even profitable — in 2017.

(I know, I know… You’re thinking, “That just means you didn’t make any money.” Not true: I did make money. I just didn’t bring a lot of it home because I ended up reinvesting that income into MOI (marketing, ads, web development, etc.). So, while I didn’t put many numbers into the Owner’s Pay column of my accounting books, there were a lot of extra numbers being recorded elsewhere.)

Having a motto — a short phrase I could say to myself to help me to maintain focus — was just the catalyst I needed to enhance my freelancing experience.

As a result of this motto success, I adapted “See Farther” for 2017, which means I’m taking my “Yes” a step into the future and trying to envision how that automatic yes will effect me and my business in the long run.

Now we’re not only talking money (worth), but VALUE. The worth of a contract is the monetary sum you’ll receive for doing the work. The value of a contract is its worth PLUS what that contract can offer non-monetarily (e.g. free marketing, networking, more contracts later on).

Ideally, each job will offer both worth and value. But, sometimes, they have more value than worth (say, a low- or non-paying gig that offers a lot of positive exposure to potential future clients). An example is taking low-paying jobs to build up your resume.

Establishing value in a project with a client requires forethought, insight, even a little business politics and suave. So an immediate “Just say yes” policy doesn’t always work.

Therefore, establishing value into my work means saying no sometimes. Even to myself.

How Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Effects “Seeing Farther”

There are two kinds of self-fulfilling prophecy: negative and positive. Most of the time, people get disheartened because they’re trapped by negativity. The funny (yet not so funny) thing about negative thinking is that it comes on fairly automatically; we don’t have to teach ourselves to be negative or to doubt ourselves. It just… happens.

On the other hand, positive thinking actually requires practice. You literally have to actively stop yourself from thinking negative thoughts and actively replace those with positive ones. Positive thinking can become habitual, but it’s a much more difficult habit to pick up than negative thinking.

So, if I fall victim to a pattern of negative thinking, that creates a bubble around me of self-fulfilling prophecies that will negatively impact how successful I am, how good I feel, and how the world interacts with me personally and in business.

Speaking specifically on moments of waiting for work, if I hold fast to the idea that bidding for jobs is a horrible experience and I expect not to get work from it, it will be horrible and I won’t get work.

But a freelancer can’t simply not look for work. So what’s a girl (or guy) to do?

Considering worth versus value, I know I have to judge when to say yes to what may seem initially like a great job. But, if I can’t see that job taking me beyond the limits of the contract, it provides much less value to me than it would otherwise.

If I give in to negative self-fulfilling prophecy, that in effect will shut down any positive growth MOI has looking forward. There is no “seeing farther.” That negativity has built a wall, blocking my view.

There are things you can do to stop this cycle of harmful self-prophecy in your life, and I’ll touch on those in a later article. For now, take time to recognize merely when you’re trapping yourself by these thoughts. Remember: You can’t fix a problem unless you first identify it!

Take a moment to analyze WHY you’re feeling negatively: Self-doubt? Fear of success? Fear of rejection? Someone told you you should feel that way (as was the case with me when I read articles about how I should feel about looking for work)?

Acknowledgement is the first step to finding freelancing happiness and true value in what you set out to do when you decided to become a freelancer in the first place:

Change the world, and your life, with your craft!


Has negative thinking impacted your freelancing career? Share your story with MOI in the comments!

 

More Than Words: 3 Reasons Why MOI Offers Creative Services Of All Sorts

Even though Mountain Owl Ink LLC started off as a word-centric business, I quickly got bored of writing all day just months into it in mid-2013.

*GASP!* Say it ain’t so!?

Well, yes, it was so. I wrote and wrote, edited and edited, and slowly but surely became embittered toward my keyboard. My carpal tunnel starting coming back, making me hate typing even more. When it was time to clock out, I didn’t even want to touch a keyboard or typewriter, much less write something fun. For me.

I knew I had to mix it up, lest lose my desire to write altogether.

Truth is, while I love writing, my creative interests span far and wide. And, because I am owner, CEO, CFO, COO, and 100% of MOI’s Board of Directors, I’m free to spread my wings and serve the creative needs of people in whatever way I can. Woot woot! (Or, rather, hoot hoot!)

3 Reasons Why MOI Offers Creative Services Of All Sorts

First, above everything, MOI is about helping people.

If what I’m doing isn’t helpful, what’s the point?

Humans are social creatures (even if in shades), and have an intrinsic need to feel, well, needed. And feeling needed — being helpful — is an excellent motivator. If we’re caught up in work that isn’t needed or doesn’t help someone other than ourselves, our sense of esteem, identity, and purpose suffers.

Imagine you’ve been hired as a construction worker. Then your supervisor assigns you your job: to dig a hole and refill it, then when you’re done with that, dig it again just to refill it again. Over and over again. This will be your job forever. You’ll still get paid, no matter if you dig it faster or slower, just so long as you dig. And nobody’s going to use the hole (or the dirt you dig up) for anything. It’s just there for you. To keep you busy. But, don’t worry: You’ll get paid for it.

At first the arrangement may seem acceptable — heck, it’s an easy, no-brainer paycheck! Or is it? You’ll quickly start to question the wider purpose of your efforts. You’ll quickly realize you aren’t motivated exclusively by money; you’re also motivated by your desire to feel needed, helpful, and productive.

That — feeling needed — is why being employed is so important on a basic human level. Believe it or not, you aren’t employed for the greater good of society! You’re also not working for some higher, altruistic purpose. You’re employed — and you should want to be employed — for the good of YOURSELF.

Think about it.

Speaking of self…

The second reason MOI offers creative services of all sorts is because of ME.

I want satisfaction (which doesn’t always equal “happiness” — know the difference!) in work. Along with the desire to be needed, I want to face challenges, reach goals, tally accomplishments, and experience a variety of thought and work.

In a survey, 85% of people said variety was important or very important to their job satisfaction.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/226736/us-employees-importance-of-work-variety/

85% of people surveyed said variety is “Important” or “Very Important” to their job satisfaction. (c) Statista 2017

If I were surveyed, I’d be in the “Very Important” category. And I’m guessing that many of the others in that group are probably Creatives like myself: artists, writers, etc. (Psst… being A Creative is not the same as being creative.)

But, just because you want to, doesn’t mean you can. I’m of the unpopular belief that a person cannot “Do anything they set their minds to.” Some people just aren’t made to write. Or paint. Or build. Or swim. Or drive…

I love this clip from “Gone in 60 Seconds” because it’s so true! I think if more people accepted that there are some things they just aren’t designed to do, they’d be a lot happier and the world would be a lot better off.

That’s why…

The last thing that drives MOI is my ability to do.

As a renaissance woman, I can do lots of stuff: write, illustrate, design, build, cook, sew, and the list goes on. I don’t say I do any of it perfectly, but I can do it well.

Combining my desire to fulfill people’s creative project needs with my desire to fulfill my desire for variety with the final ingredient — my ability to actually do this stuff — results in merely one big, rhetorical question:

Why not?

Home Decor: The latest project.

Recently I was approached with a request to help design and make a wooden sign for an engagement party. The job was easy enough and I knew I could do it, so, again, why not?

The project was small and took only a few days from conception to finished product. The customers were very happy with the end result, seen in the image below.

Final Product_June2017

This post isn’t a “how to” on making a sign like this. It’s simply an admission that (1) I can, and (2) Mountain Owl does.

(Bonus: Their sign is one-of-a-kind. The compass image in the background, the layout, that’s all MOI-designed. They didn’t buy the product from a craft or gift store that sells the same inspirational sign that hundreds of other stores sell. They’ll never see this sign in someone else’s home. Ever.)

So, even if you don’t need something written or edited, maybe there’s something else Mountain Owl Ink can help you with?

 

If so, reach out by emailing Jessi[at]MountainOwlInk[dot][com] or dropping me a line on the Contact page. You can also see MOI’s other projects on the portfolio page.


A more detailed step-by-step of the sign project, start to finish:

Woodburned-Journey-Begins-sign_June2017.png


 

I Dumped Simbi. Here’s Why.

Not too long ago, in February, I signed up for Simbi, a services website designed to connect individuals through the power (and draw) of the good ol’ barter system.

Some people really seem to love it, but, for me, joining Simbi was pointless.

Here are three reasons why…

#1. It’s benefits are highly location-dependent.

I live in a rural area and I felt like that really excluded me from cashing in on the greater benefits of the Simbi community. Not that I expect greatness (hey, I chose the rural life for a reason: Disconnection!), but I did expect to at least get more than opportunities for remote, video-chat palm and tarot card readings.

#2. The services offered weren’t worth much (to me).

As a stay-at-home wife (and soon-to-be stay-at-home mom), I’m looking for services I can use to help me reduce the workload for things I can’t do. Much of that involves finding people who can help reduce the “honey do” list so my hubby can relax when he returns from a long day at work, bringing in the dough.

On Simbi, I was looking to exchange my writing and editing services to people (and companies) who did things like plumbing, electrical, landscaping, pet-sitting, and other hands-on stuff. More specifically, I was looking for freelancers like myself who were in need of further advertising their business via blogs, logo design, et cetera… things I do as part of my usual business.

Unfortunately, the people I found were hobbyists who “could” do stuff in their spare time but who weren’t completely vested in what they were advertising on Simbi. To me, it was like having a neighbor you don’t really know well who’s a banker in real life who “could” help you organize your garage… if he can do it from a remote location. Like, video chat with you and tell you where to put stuff.

Yes, I’d love to organize my garage with a pseudo-drill instructor on my laptop issuing orders. Fun.

#3. I feel like I misunderstood the premise.

In a Google search, Simbi offers this summary of their site: “Trade skills for skills, and services for services. Join Simbi, a talent-exchanging network of people striving to create abundance outside the dollar economy.”

To me, that sounds like I can trade my services — which just happen to be transferable over the internet — for real life, in-person help, like getting an electrician to fix my breaker box.

But the great number of Simbi offerings are virtual — they aren’t material at all. By that I mean almost every person I saw on there was offering a virtual service for trade: online PC help; business adviceonline psych sessions; and, the one I found the most obscure, “a friend to talk to”. What the…?

Writing and graphic design are two skills that overlap the physical-virtual barrier. They’re services easily provided over a long distance (i.e. online) that result in a material, actual product (like a book, advertisement, blog, or logo).

However, writing and graphic design services were numerous in Simbi-land. This presented two problems: I had a lot of competition in a marketplace that (1) didn’t need me and (2) I didn’t want.

shaking-hands

“Long Live Barter!”

In the end, Simbi was a nice concept but unfulfilling in execution. Virtual services only go so far until you need a real life person to come to your house and fix your sink.

I still believe in the value and power of the barter system. In fact, I’m currently formulating a proposition for a grant request in order to fund the creation of a Simbi-type directory (the online AND paper kind!) for my small town next year.

I don’t know what I’ll call it yet, or even if it’ll be a success, but I have plenty of time for figuring all that out since my current grant project — under my singer-songwriter identity — is still ongoing until the end of September.

Then, in October, I’m having a baby. So… let’s just say, the rest of 2017 is pretty booked!


Have you tried Simbi? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, what do you think about my reaction to the service?

My “Wild Things” Soup: Morels & Nettle

It’s springtime in Minnesota, and that means sunshine, greenery, and tackling outside chores. SO many chores.

They add up over winter, so everyone is out using all the muscles they forgot they had during winter in order to do what they need to do now that good weather has arrived: clear fallen branches, refinish decks, mow lawns, plant gardens, et cetera.

That’s a lot of muscles!

For me, springtime means the wild edibles are growing. The first weeks of May are when the morel mushrooms start popping out with haste. Those babies don’t wait and will soon disappear, either going to feed the deer or maturing, dropping their spores, and then shriveling up.

So, let the hunt begin! (And quickly, because I’m hungry!)

Ingredient #1: Morel Mushrooms

After an afternoon working on the house, Hubby joined me for a hike up our back hill

IMG_20170507_164035_edit.jpg

That’s a big ‘un!

where we found some hefty morels growing in the sun-speckled shade. We picked a few that were nearly palm-sized and almost (almost) too pretty to eat. But, into the sack they went!

Our total gathering amounted to about a half pound of delicious mushrooms. I was disappointed we couldn’t find any Pheasantback mushrooms (aka Dryad’s Saddle) while we were out, but I’m hoping some of those meaty morsels will pop up over the course of summer when the morel season is long gone.

Back at the house, I poured out the collection for the count: 10. Not my best harvest numbers-wise, but surely best in overall size. I’ll be returning to that collection spot next weekend with high hopes (we’re expecting a bit of a rain mid-week, so hopefully more will have grown by then).

IMG_20170507_173132_edit.jpg

The Final Count.

Ingredient#2: Burning Nettle

A wild edible that pairs fantastically with morels are burning nettle leaves.

Being 18 weeks pregnant, I’ve been having a hard time eating my veggies (or my meats). Even though I was a veggie-meat fiend pre-pregnancy, the smell and taste of them now is… unappealing.

However, the thought of butter-sauteed nettle (very high in a multitude of vitamins and good-for-you stuff) is one veggie that isn’t at all off-putting! Hooray!

I’m pretty good (I think) about keeping our many acres of land free of noxious growth, but since I like the taste of nettle I intentionally maintain a “crop” of the greenery near the house, ripe and close-by for fresh picking.

I gathered about 3 cups of nettle leaves — of course remembering to wear good gloves while doing it! — and stored them with the morels in a plastic bag in the fridge overnight.

I dreamt of having morel soup for breakfast.

Preparing & Cooking My “Wild Things” Soup

The next morning (err… this morning), I made coffee — one cannot cook breakfast without a coffee in hand! — and pulled out my bag of mushrooms and nettles. I filled a sink with cool water and dumped the bag’s contents in, making sure there was plenty of space to swish and slosh the ingredients around and wash all those dirty bug feet germs off.*

(I like to let the nettles and ‘shrooms soak a bit, to soften up and loosen any caked dirt and to encourage any bugs hiding in the crevices of the morels’ caps to skedaddle.)

I also prepped my other fresh ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
IMG_20170508_110307.jpg

Garlic and onion getting their saute on.

I pulled out a saucepan and melted about 1 tablespoon butter in it over LOW heat, dumping in the garlic to let the herb warm and release it’s deliciousness. Once softened, I added in the onion and gave the whole bit a good stir.

Since the pan was on LOW, I could confidently walk away and let the flavors gently blend while I tended to washing my nettles.

Back to the sink, nettles are top priority. Donning a pair of thick dish gloves so as not to get stung by the still-active toxic hairs, I removed the morels from the sink and set them aside.

(No, they’re not done being cleaned. I like to take out the morels before agitating the water to prevent any excess breakage. While delicious, morels can be crumbly before they’re cooked and thus require tender, gentle care.)

IMG_20170508_110400_edit.jpg

Washed nettle, ready for cooking.

I agitated the nettles in the water to shake off any debris. Then, by the handful, I gathered and squeezed the water from them, setting the clean nettle leaves in a colander.

By this time my onions and garlic were nicely softened, so I dumped the full batch of nettle in the pan, added about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tsp pink Himalayan salt, and gave it all a good stir.

IMG_20170508_110456_edit.jpgThe nettles filled the pan at first, but they reduce pretty significantly upon cooking, like spinach does, so I knew I’d have have plenty of space soon for the morels and broth that will follow.

Back to the mushrooms…

I drained the dirty water from the sink and refilled it with clean water. I dumped the pre-soaked morels back in their bath and, this time, prepared to do a thorough cleaning of my fungus finds.

With a paring knife, I cut open each morel in half for TWO GOOD REASONS:

  1. To make sure they are actually morels — with their hollow stems & crowns and non-furry insides — and not any one of a few kinds of dangerous morel impostors; and
  2. To get a good clean. Bugs like to hide in the folds of the external cap, but they also find ways to make their house on the inside. (Nothing like biting into a whole morel and crunching on a bug. ICK!) So, I slice open the mushrooms and make sure I don’t have any hitchhikers on the inside that will be going to the pan, too.

(A bonus this time ’round: Because the morels we found were nice and big, I didn’t end up feeling like I’d be cooking morel bits instead of full-on mushrooms. Woot!)

IMG_20170508_111514_edit.jpg

Cleaned & halved morels.

Once clean, the morels went into the colander for their trip to the pan.

On the stove, the nettles had reduced nicely, but they’d need to be relocated while the morels sauteed. So I dumped the nettles out of the pan into a bowl, and in went the mushrooms (as well as another tablespoon of butter).

I cranked the heat to HIGH and let the mushrooms do their thing for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they cooked on all sides.

IMG_20170508_112401_edit_edit.jpg

No water added. Just the morels, making their own broth…

The mushrooms make their own sort of broth (which you can see a bit of in the photo on the left), but don’t dump it or drain it out, as it adds a great flavor to the soup broth!

It didn’t take but a short while for the morels to reach that tender, ‘shroomy chewiness that all mushroom lovers love and, once they did, back in went the nettles along with the 2 cups of chicken broth I’d prepped earlier. (I use a powder bouillon at half strength, because I like to taste more of the nettles and ‘shrooms than a salty broth.) The broth should just about cover the nettles and morels.

I put the lid on the pan and reduced heat to MEDIUM to let everything simmer together for about 5 minutes.

The Finished Product: Ah, SOUP!

All this took less than 15 minutes (not counting the morel and nettle gathering, of course), and now I had a delicious, hearty, vitamin-packed wild soup breakfast to enjoy with (my second) cup o’ joe.

Since the dandelions outside my kitchen window were calling to me — and since my soup was looking less than colorful — I picked 4 dandelion flowers to garnish my meal. The flowers have a mild flavor, easily overpowered by the dense aromatics of the nettles and morels, so I wasn’t worried about them affecting the flavor. But they did look oh-so-pretty atop the deep colors and earthy textures of my soup!IMG_20170508_120213_edit.jpg

Sided by a couple slices of store-bought garlic bread (alas, garlic bread trees do not grow wild in Southern Minnesota), this was the perfect meal to start my day.

I hope you get the chance to get outdoors and find yourself some morels and nettles to make your own Wild Things Soup.

If you’ve missed morel season, you can sub for another mushroom variety and, if you don’t have nettles in your area (or if they’re out of season), spinach works well in its stead for a more delicate, mellow vegetable soup.


 

Wild Things Soup recipe

Ingredients:

  • ~1/2 lb fresh morel mushrooms, halved and washed
  • ~3 cups fresh nettle leaves, washed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 cups broth (chicken, vegetable, or beef — your choice!)

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 TB BUTTER on low heat. Add garlic and onions.
  2. Thoroughly wash nettles and morels.
  3. Add nettles, salt, and olive oil to pan, stirring thoroughly. Let cook 5-10 minutes or until nettles tenderize and reduce. Remove from heat.
  4. To same pan, add REMAINING 1 TB BUTTER and morels. Increase heat to HIGH. Let saute about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are firm but tender. Do not drain.
  5. Return nettle mixture to pan and add broth. Reduce heat to MEDIUM and cover; simmer approximately 5 minutes.
  6. Serve hot.

Tips:

  • For an extra special “wild” treat, add some pre-cooked wild rice to the soup.
  • Morels and nettles can be substituted with store-bought mushrooms and spinach. It’s less wild, but still delicious!

*An ode to my mom, who always preached about thoroughly washing fruits and veggies because of “dirty bug feet.”

Putting My Mouth Where My Money Is: Setting A Fair Rate & Sticking To It!

I wrote recently about drawing lines when it comes to money in freelancing. And, today, I had to put those brave words into practice.

Today, I sent off a well-formed quote to a potential client.


As a freelancer, I have a history of erring on the side of self-doubt, which often left me working hard for not much pay.

That’s not a fun place to be in, ever. Seasoned freelancers know that charging fair rates — fair to both you and the client — is one of the biggest hurdles to get over when learning how to operate your business.

I spoke to a long-time freelancer friend last year who does graphic design. She’s GREAT at it. She’d been working in the industry as a freelancer twice as long as I had been at the time we talked, maybe even longer, and she admitted she still undercharged clients on a regular basis. We vowed to keep one another in line when it came to charging properly for our services.

I didn’t really work — I mean, it did at first, but the novelty of having a money angel on my shoulder soon wore off and I went back to my old habits of undercharging.

But, now, I’ve finally come to the stage in my career where I’m taking myself seriously. Seriously.

You see, I wrote those articles in April for ME as much as I did for YOU.

I needed someone on my side who wasn’t distracted by a client’s dangling carrot, the job that I “could” have but maybe wouldn’t because “What if I charged too much?”

I needed a voice of reason, spoken from a place of neutrality, to bring me back to center.

I knew what I knew, but I was hesitant to apply that knowledge whenever it came time to actually tell clients what I wanted to charge. Instead, I’d doubt myself (again) and fall into the trap of bidding what I thought my clients wanted me to charge.

Stupid. I know.

So I read a ton of blogs on how to bill clients, how to estimate a job, about how undervaluing your work actually does more harm than good… I read a LOT on the subject, but I still didn’t want to take the leap.

I was still afraid. Why?

We live in an age of cheapness. As a culture, we love discounts, sales, clearances, coupons, and finding the lowest price. Paying full price is thrown around like a status symbol — “Oh, look what could afford!” — whereas buying something for a discounted rate is, for the rest of us Scrooges, something to brag about.

However, as thrifty consumers, we also know that the lowest price doesn’t always equal the best value and can so often mean less-than-mediocre work,

Sending that quote out today was uncomfortable, yes, but only because I’d been drastically undercharging clients for far too long.

What does drastically undercharging look like?

Undercharging looks like a my fresh-out-of-high-school, year-2000-minimum-wage (that is, $7.50/hour), even though I have a Bachelor’s Degree, four years of experience, and multiple projects and happy clients under my belt.

Undercharging looks like Textbroker basics (500 word articles for $5 each) on a full-time basis, as a necessity and not as a supplement when I’m bored or a quick daily writing exercise to get my brain warmed up.

Ultimately, undercharging looks like making myself look cheap and my work look cheap because I’ve mentally displayed it on the discount rack instead of front and center, on a fancy end cap, with the premium goods.

I am not a low-end writer.

There’s a market for low-cost writers who’ll pop out content for pennies on the proverbial dollar just like there’s a market for discount clothes, tech equipment, and kitchen tools. Heck, I used to be in that market when I was just starting out, needing experience over money.

But I’m not in that market anymore.

Now I’m here to provide quality goods at a fair price. Yes, my clients may have to come to expect bigger numbers on the bill, but they’ll also notice the quality I provide is worth it. Unless they aren’t looking to spend the money…

In which case, I’ll suggest they find someone on a freelance brokerage site like Upwork, Textbroker, or others where there are plenty of discount writers available for hire at discount rates.


What are your experiences with pricing your work as a freelancer? Join the conversation here or on Facebook.

Drawing the Line: Conclusions

This entry is one part of an April 2017 Mountain Owl blog series on drawing lines in freelance work. To read the previous post, click HERE.

It’s Wednesday, April 26th. I’ve purposely waited to publish this post today instead of Tuesday, which is the day I’d been posting previous blogs of this series this past month.

What makes today special? Well…

admin prof day

It’s a special day for secretaries, admin assistants, and all you freelancers out there tackling your insane list of to-do’s on a day-to-day basis. I know you’re often underappreciated for all the crap you juggle, so here’s a hat’s off to you crazy folk for hanging in there. (If you’re wondering how this relates to the blog topic, visit my first post.)

But, to get to the real subject…


Hopefully you’ve done lots of line drawing in the past three weeks.

By now you know how important it is for both YOU and your BUSINESS that you draw lines (that is, create boundaries) for yourself and your clients.

Here’s the recap:

  • On TIME…
    1. It’s the only thing nobody can make more of and the single most valuable asset you have. Spend it wisely, and be frugal with giving it away.
    2. Learn to take breaks. Working too much can have a negative impact on your health and reduce your creativity.
    3. ACTION PLAN: Establish your office hours, post them, and, most importantly, ENFORCE them. Nobody will respect your hours of operation if you don’t either.
    4. If you work from home, get out of your PJs and put on some adulting clothes. It’ll help your brain get into gear and out of that at-home-and-lazy lull.
    5. Creating time boundaries comes down to RESPECT.
  • On MONEY…
    1. Time is your biggest asset, money is your second.
    2. “What do you charge?” is the toughest question a client can ask. Be prepared to answer it and stand by your answer.
    3. If you don’t take your money seriously, no one else will. People are naturally cheap, so don’t let a client swindle you into thinking your price is too high or let your lack of confidence make you question your rates (which you hopefully set within some reasonable guidelines). If the client wants your services, they’ll pay for them. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s that simple.
    4. NEVER work for free! Don’t let anyone act as if your time isn’t worth something. Nothing is “quick”, nothing is “free”, and people will either see value or they won’t.
    5. Start with a base rate, post it, then stick by it (with some flexibility). Remember: Bartering is also a form of payment. If a client can’t afford to pay you cash money, perhaps there is something else they can offer you that would be worth your effort.
    6. In the end, setting your value is about RESPECT.

Did you notice a common theme with those final points? That’s right: RESPECT.

In the end, drawing lines comes down to RESPECT. 

rooster.jpg

BWAAAK!

Without a strong sense of self-respect and a respect for your business — and an expectation that clients will also respect you and your business — you’ll be hard-pressed to find satisfaction in your work. (However, be sure to distinguish between self-respect and cockiness. Nobody wants to work with a rooster!)

Everyone, in every business and occupation, freelance or not, needs to know what they’re willing to do for a paycheck and where they draw the line. 

So, yeah, this serie’s lessons on applying boundaries to business can and should be applied to life, too. Surprise! #Lifelessons #HappyWriting


This entry is the final part of an April 2017 Mountain Owl blog series on drawing lines in freelance work.