Self-Worth and Freelancing

Knowing what you are worth as a professional and a freelancer.

Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash

This is a blog post that I’ve been considering writing for some time but have placed it on the back burner in exchange for some slightly lighter topics. However, some recent experiences have pushed this topic, once again, to the forefront of my mind and I feel that I should talk about it. This blog post will outline how you deserve to be treated as a professional and a freelancer. We’ll also cover how to ask for the respect you deserve, in order to achieve the best working relationships with your clients. It’s a difficult topic to cover but it is also an important one if you wish to make it in the freelancing world.

Who am I and what qualifies me to talk on this subject?

For those of you who are new to my blog, hello and welcome. My name is Sarah and I’m a freelance ghostwriter, content writer and editor. I’ve been working as a freelancer for around three years now and I absolutely love my job! Honestly, most days I have to pinch myself that this is something I do for a living! I work with clients both through Fiverr (Fiverr: Sarah Jules Writing) and privately through my website.

What prompted this blog post?

Recently, I’ve had an experience with a client where I’ve had to lay out some boundaries. I won’t go into too many details here, as it’s obviously confidential. What I will say, is that in order to complete my work on schedule, I need all of the relevant information and guidance by an agreed-upon date. How I structure my days as a freelancer, is as follows…

I usually work on a few different projects at a time, switching between one and the other. This is what works best for me. I plan my diary around a month in advance, but have things pencilled into it a few months in advance. Nothing is ever set in stone, and I am fairly flexible regarding dates and deadlines in order to best meet the needs of my clients. However, most months I am fully booked up (which is awesome) and that means if I am to be flexible, I have to switch around the days I would usually be working on one project for another. And therein lies the problem. If I don’t have the information I need before a certain date, it might mean that I can no longer fit your project into that month, which sucks for all parties involved, let’s be honest.

How does this link to self-worth?

Well, as a freelancer, it is easy to feel intimidated by clients that are possibly high profile or respected in their fields. Back when I first started, I used to pretty much bow to whatever clients asked of me. Eventually, I realised that this just wasn’t feasible and to make the most out of my working week, I needed to set boundaries. Knowing what your work is worth, and knowing what you are worth, means that you are able to be professional and outline your expectations, just as you would expect a client to do with you. This might be something as simple as only answering emails during your working hours, or using the client’s preferred contact method to get in touch with them. It also means that you follow your end of the bargain and provide the service they signed up for.

Making boundaries and expectations clear from the start is essential.

Before starting any project, you must discuss what the client expects of you and what you, in return, expect from them. Some projects are more complicated than others and will therefore require more planning and discussion prior to starting. For example, you might want to discuss how many revisions you offer, or when to ask for revisions. You might want to discuss deadlines, for both parties, or rights to the final project. Depending on what field you work within, you will likely ask different questions, but you get the general gist.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Even if you are new to freelancing, make sure you price yourself according to your skill level, experience and expertise. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether you are self-taught, or you went to university for years, what matters is the added value you provide for somebody by offering your services. Check out rates for the service you provide in your area and adapt from there. I have a tip in this regard, don’t price yourself down, price yourself up. If you value the work you provide and know it is of a great quality, then show that to the client by pricing yourself accordingly. Pricing yourself low only opens you up to more issues as you’re communicating that you don’t value your work as highly as others.  You will be asked why you are so expensive, no matter what you price yourself at. Even if you are super cheap, somebody will come along and ask why your rates are so high, so price yourself at what you think your services are worth. And, if in doubt, take a listen to my new favourite song: Woah Dude – It Costs That Much (trigger warning for dry humour and some language). It pretty much sums this up perfectly!

Say ‘no’ if you don’t want to work on a project.

The beauty of being a freelancer is that you can say ‘no’ to projects you don’t want to do. Maybe the potential client is rude or you don’t like the sound of the project, politely explain that you are not the right person for the job but thank them for their interest. If you’ve been freelancing for any amount of time, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. If the alarm bells start ringing, then it’s not the project for you. This also goes for people attempting to negotiate on pricing. My prices are fixed, at the moment, due to how full my diary is, but I’d never rule out some small negotiations if the project was something I really wanted to do and the client was on a strict budget. That being said, you never have to negotiate if you don’t want to. There are ways to communicate this with clients. I like to say something along the lines of, “Thank you for your offer, but unfortunately I am not able to negotiate on my pricing at this time.”

You’ll develop a thick skin.

As the work builds up, and your fabulous reviews do too, the odd client that makes a fuss about nothing won’t bother you anymore. In the beginning, if a client said something negative, it was the end of the world. Now, of course, I want my client to have the best experience with me, but I know that their negative remarks are not down to the quality of work I provided them with. I will always try to accommodate and act upon critique, if possible, but sometimes, believe me, it just isn’t. There are always going to be those clients who are difficult for the sake of being difficult, although, thankfully, they’re pretty rare. I’ve worked with perhaps 350 different clients, and maybe 10 of these I’d class as ‘difficult’. Funnily enough, you get more difficult clients when you first start out and when your prices are low, take from that what you will. As with anything, the more you do it, the more your confidence grows. As you gain feedback from your clients and see the impact your work has had on them and their business, you will see your worth first hand.

Imposter syndrome is real!

When researching the link between freelancing and self-worth, I came across an article written on the website: regarding imposter syndrome and freelancers. At the start of my freelance career, I very much felt this way and when people asked what I did for a living, I felt like I was playing pretend. However, now I hold my head up high and say, “I’m a freelance writer and editor.” I won’t go over everything Rose said in her blog post, although I do recommend you read it here: Boost Your Self Esteem Freelancing. What I will say is that freelancing is legitimate. You are a professional in your field. And, as L’Oréal would say, ‘you are worth it’. If you’re providing a service that somebody will pay for, that will benefit them and their company, then you are a professional and you should be treated as one. No matter where you are in your journey as a freelancer, you are legitimate.

Part of the issue is how people view freelancers.

I think, particularly for the older generation who are perhaps unfamiliar with the gig economy, freelancing is a weird concept to get their heads around. There’s a misconception that it’s for people who are lazy, inexperienced, or just don’t want a ‘proper job’. This article by Gabriella Hoffman, which was written a while ago now but still rings true, outlines the common myths about freelancers and makes for an interesting read: Common Misconceptions About Freelancers. I think the misconceptions are sometimes why some potential clients treat you as though you are not a professional, despite them coming to you for your skills (I know, this still confuses me too!) and has led to freelancers needing to fight their corner. Freelancing isn’t easy, and it can certainly change the way you view yourself, but you have the power to control this. This blog post on by Renee Fleck has a fantastic, humorous, approach to freelancing myths. I highly recommend you check it out: The Truth About Freelancing.

I’ve waffled long enough, so here are the main take-away points…

  1. Don’t allow yourself to be treated disrespectfully – set expectations and boundaries in advance and stick to them. Be polite yet firm.
  2. Know that you are worthy – the client has chosen you for a service that they deemed to add value to their life in some way (and price your work accordingly).
  3. Remember that freelancing is a legitimate career and that you are a professional (and you deserve to be treated as one).
  4. Learn from negatives and move on – if a project went awry, consider what went wrong and learn from it. It might simply be that you don’t work with that client again.
  5. Every so often, look back through your reviews. This is especially great if you’ve been freelancing for a while. It is easy to forget that you have the ability to impact somebody else’s life with your work, remember the power you have and always strive to give your clients your best.

You are worthy. You are a professional. You are valued.

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