How To Stand Your Ground and Know Your Worth

The story that I like to tell people about how I got started in this world of freelance writing and blogging in the first place is that I fell into it “accidentally on purpose.” By that I mean that I’ve always had an interest in writing, but I was never completely certain that it would actually end up as a career for me. I applied for a job posting on Craigslist for a tech blog contributor, and I ended up writing for that site for several years.

At one point, my income from writing for that one site made up about half of my income. That kick start to my freelance career led me to seek out other opportunities, as well as explore the world of professional blogging in general. That’s how I came to meet John Chow, that’s how I came to attend Dot Com Pho, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Looking for Work?

In the early days of my career, over a decade ago, I applied for a lot of gigs. Some of them worked out and some of them didn’t. Some of them paid a decent rate and others, not so much. I even got caught up in thankless transcription work at one point that worked out to less than minimum wage.

But through the years, I gathered more experience, made more connections, built up a portfolio, and established a certain reputation. And through the years, my rates have increased accordingly.

And for most of my career, I haven’t really applied for anything. By and large, the clients find me, either via web search, referral, or good old fashioned word of mouth. People see my writing on sites like John Chow dot Com, so they ask if I can do the same for them. That’s why bylines are so important in my line of business.

The New Client

This brings me to an email conversation I had recently with a prospective client. He found me through one of the sites where I write regularly and asked if I would be available to do something similar for his company. He and his partner are interested in content marketing and they’d like to have a few articles to share with possible publications. The scope of the writing project would be similar to what I’ve done before, so I told him about my availability.

Then, he asked about rates.

I told him that for an article of a certain length with a certain amount of legwork and research, the rate would be X dollars with a byline and Y dollars if it was on a ghostwriting basis. I typically charge a 50% to 100% premium on ghostwriting, because I lose out on the passive marketing that a byline can bring.

But I Can Get It Cheaper

After receiving my rate quote, he responded back by saying that he had spoken with one of my existing clients. He pointed out that the rate this other client was paying was less than what I was quoting him. At this point, I could’ve made one of two possible decisions.

  1. Buckle under the pressure and lower the rate quote.
  2. Stick to my guns with the original quote and risk losing a new client.

I went with the latter. I told him that the rate the other client was paying was “grandfathered” in from several years ago (which is true), and the rate I quoted him was for new clients.

It didn’t take long for him to reply back saying that he was still interested in moving forward. As I write these words right now, we haven’t completely finalized a deal and I haven’t received any payment yet, but things look positive. By choosing to stand my ground, by deciding that I knew my worth, I will (hopefully) be paid the rate I originally quoted.

And if he decides to walk away, that’s okay too.

Never Undervalue Yourself

No one is going to respect you unless you respect yourself. No one is going to value your work unless you value it yourself. When you start from a position of confidence, one where you’re perfectly fine with the other party walking away from the table, you are far more likely to get what you want in the long run.

You may lose the occasional prospect here and there — and this applies to almost anything, not just freelancing — but the ones who agree are the ones you want to stick around anyhow. You might be still trading hours for dollars, but you’ll be trading fewer hours for more dollars.

Focus on long-term growth, not just a short-term payday.