Confidence. Can you have too much of it? For our purposes: No.
I read something recently that made the (perfectly reasonable) point that:
You are bound to have self doubt about your writing, that this is part of being a writer, and that if you don’t have any doubts about your work it’s probably not very good.
I won’t disagree with that statement, but as far as your prospective clients and customers go, this is detrimental to your bottom line.
THE ANXIOUS CUSTOMER AND THE UNCERTAIN WRITING PRODUCT
Think about your customer, sitting across the table from you or opening a reply to their Craigslist post.
At the top of their mind is uncertainty. They’re asking someone to create something for them and they’re anxious it won’t be what they want or what they need. And there’s money at stake.
Your writing is not a fixed object for sale. They can’t hold it in their hand, kick the tires, or even read the thing they want to pay someone for BEFORE they agree to pay for it. It doesn’t get a keynote from Tim Cook, there are no Amazon reviews of it, it does not have four stars on Yelp. It does not yet exist.
Your job as a prospective writer is to replace uncertainty with clarity and anxiousness with confidence.
If you can do that, you’ll win more of the jobs you want, be paid better for your work, and get more offers for continuing work.
DO YOU EVEN ANTELOPE?
If you come across a job post like this:
I need someone to write 800 words a week about antelopes. Can you do that? Do you even antelope?
Your reply should have the confidence of this:
I. Know. Antelopes. I’ve read extensively about antelopes and seen them — home, on their range, along with some deer playing — so, yes, I am the right person to solve your 800-word-per-week antelope copy problem. Here are some pieces I wrote about buffalos. I can write similar pieces about your antelopes or adopt a different style and approach of your choice. I’ve published pieces in Buffalo Today… and so on.
This is funny blog post. But whatever you say or write back to that job poster should exude that kind of confidence. Make it your own, but put that person at ease and demonstrate you’ll have no problem solving their writing problem.
CONFIDENCE: REQUIRED, PREVIOUS ANTELOPE EXPERIENCE: MEH
Notice in my example though, that I have never even written about antelope. But based on past experiences, my confidence in my abilities, and my confidence in my future work, I think I can do this job.
Some job posters may not even notice you haven’t done this exact thing before if you take this approach. Some may be assured by comparable past work you bring up. And yeah, some will be short-sighted dicks about you never having done this very exact thing, but those are probably not going to be the easiest people to work with anyways, so I wouldn’t worry about it.
The reality is, most people applying for a job haven’t done that specific, exact job before. But the world goes on and people get hired and generally rise to the occasion and eventually they may even try for another job they have never specifically done.
In other words, you can do this.
Think about it. If you’re not confident you can do it — you think you can manage, or, you’ll try to do great antelope copy — you’re not convincing that person you can do it. They may pass you over — ironically, for some jackass who can’t even antelope that well but just had the right swagger to get the gig.
VISUALIZE YOUR CONFIDENT ANTELOPE COPY
You should get the gig.
Do you believe that statement? Make that your first step. You have to believe you’re the best, that you’ll get it, and then that you’ll deliver as promised. Before you reply to that next job post, take a minute to visualize yourself in this scenario.
The words you type out will be more confident. You’ll be more likely to have the right effect on your job poster. You have now improved your chances of getting the gig.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…
The confidence game doesn’t stop after you submit that first pitch. You have to keep that shit up, because next you have to:
Ask for what you’re antelope words are worth. You want to win this gig, yes. But not at any cost. At a certain point, you’re losing money, and self confidence, and motivation to keep writing. So be willing to walk away if you can’t get at least in the ballpark of what you feel you’re worth.
Confidently deliver your piece. Here is a fun secret: If you submit your piece with confident email words, your client is more likely to view it as good work. If you sheepishly submit your piece — is this close to what you were looking for? I think this should be good enough to work — you have unleashed the anxiety–uncertainty monster on your client all over again. Bad writer, bad.
Develop and maintain a healthy client–writer relationship. People will take advantage of you. Sometimes, they’re not even aware of it and they’d feel bad if they realized it. They just need what they need. If you’re turning out 800-word antelope copy every week, they might not think much before telling you they need 1600-word antelope copy from now on. This is where you adjust your confidence hat and calmly negotiate a new fee for more work. Remember, as a freelancer, no one works for anyone. This is supposed to be a partnership of equals and with very subtle use of confidence you can help keep your relationship healthy and mutually beneficial.
This is all best-case scenario. I fuck this confidence thing up every once in a while myself. So then what do I do? I forgive myself, look at where I went wrong, and try to do better next time.
In other words, it’s not easy. But from everything I’ve experienced, from everything I’ve seen around me, it’s worth it. The right level of confidence can help make your work more fulfilling, bring more happiness and financial stability, and spill over in a positive way into other aspects of your life. So go own that fucking antelope copy, already.