Wednesday, September 3, 2008


On my last day filling in for the agency copy editor, one of the interns asked if she could talk to me about freelancing. During our discussion, I discovered that she's an English major (like me!) and will soon be graduating from my alma mater. She's not sure what to do with her degree, so she's exploring as many options as she can. Like me, she considered teaching, but doesn't think that's the career for her. She enjoys the editing work she's done at the agency, but dislikes the idea of sitting in one place and doing the same thing for 8+ hours a day. In addition to her internship, she works at a golf course, which allows her a certain amount of networking that could benefit her if she chooses to pursue freelancing.

I encouraged her to try freelancing, if not as a career at least to give her more opportunities to find a business environment that she does like. She had a lot of questions: how did I determine my rates (I used guidelines from Writer's Market plus a little trial and error), find clients (I explained how lucky I have been with clients coming to me instead of vice versa), etc.

I also suggested that she contact the creative staffing firm that I work with, and gave her the URLs for some of my favorite freelancing blogs (see my blog list). I gave her my business card, and said she could email me if she had more questions or needed any guidance.

As happy as I was to share my experience with her, it made me a little uncomfortable to present myself to her as an authority on freelancing, and I was hesitant to offer myself as a mentor. I think this feeling stems from the same place as my reluctance to network/promote myself and my inability to see what I do as a unique skill. I guess I'm just going to have to get over it--I'm good at what I do, I enjoy what I do, and people are willing to pay me to do it. If that doesn't make me an authority, I don't know what does! Seems to me that's also the definition of success.

So, fellow freelancers (or other entrepreneurs, or mentors), how do you define success? What tips do you have for individuals hoping to follow your career path? How do you overcome your self-deprecating moments--or do you even have them?


Devon Ellington said...

Well, I think it's important to have a sense of self-esteem and self-respect without it flowing into ego and becoming a legend in one's own mind.

I didn't have the mentors I wanted when I started, so I'm trying to be a good mentor whenever the opportunity arises, be it via coaching services or volunteering with an organization here and there or "adopting" newbies during Nano.

I'm not brilliant at self-promotion either, but the biggest lesson I've learned is that if you don't treat your own work with respect, no one else has any reason to, either.

So, while it's good to have a sense of humor about oneself, one has to be careful with self-deprecation, because you're telling people to view you in that light.

What you put out comes back.

If you send out a message of low self-esteem, you'll draw in the people who don't respect writing, think anyone can do it, and think you should be grateful to write their Great American Novel for nothing.

If you attack the world with humor, intelligence, a healthy sense of self-respect and curiosity, you'll draw people to you who regard and treat you as a professional.

writtenexpressions said...

Very good advice--thanks!