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I was going through some old New York Times Magazines a few weeks ago, and came across an article by financial guru Suze Orman. A lot of advisors in the financial industry don’t like Suze Orman. Sure, she has made some errors in advice and made some mistakes in her books, but in general her conservative approach to investing and insurance are dead on for the average middle class investor.
In the New York Times article, she said something that stunned me. Here is an excerpt from the article. When the article starts with “She” they are referring to Suze:
She has been reluctant to work on school curricula on personal finance, because she says students can’t learn empowerment from people who aren’t empowered, and teachers, she says, are too underpaid ever to have any real self-worth. She told me: “When you are somebody scared to death of your own life, how can you teach kids to be powerful? It’s not something in a book — it ain’t going to happen that way.” She once delivered pretty much the same message at an anniversary celebration of a private school — she seems to recall calling the school a “travesty” — and was all but escorted to the door when she was done.
Teachers Lack Self-Worth?
I don’t agree with Suze’s point of view here. I am friends with many teachers and yeah, they are underpaid, but they are not short on self-worth. When you choose to teach you are answering a calling that goes well beyond money. You want to play a part in the future of our world. You want to be a positive influence in a child’s life. In other words, you are getting something more than money out of your career.
But with freelance writing, it’s different. I do believe that freelance writers who allow themselves to be underpaid are probably lacking in self-worth. I say probably because, well, what am I—Carnac? I don’t know anyone’s mind but my own, but I do know this—there is no reason to be underpaid other than being too scared to go after the pay you deserve unless your writing is altruistic in some way. Maybe you write for non-profits and like to bask in the glow of charity more than greenbacks---that's cool. But if you are writing cheap for a company that is going to profit off of your writing then that's not altruistic. I can think of a lot of things it is (all of them negative), but altruistic it is not.
Learning to Value YOU
Now, when I talk about going after the pay you deserve, I’m not talking about the pay you want or the pay you’d like—but the pay you deserve. Sure I’d like to get paid a million dollars every time I deign to sit at a computer, but my work is not worth that much. It is worth what I bring to it through my experience, my voice, my knowledge, my education, my talent, my notoriety, my innate me-ness.
So how do you put a value on your worth? Is there some sort of algorithm you can plug facts about yourself into and a sample of your writing in order to get the number that fairly and accurately represents the value that you provide to a client?
Well, unless Google is currently working on that, no… no there isn’t. So you have to get your hands dirty. You need to seek out other writers in your field, compare their writing style, accuracy and their experience in your niche. You have to figure out where you fit within the scheme of talent, knowledge, voice and expertise. You have to take your ego out of the equation and objectively weigh your strengths and weaknesses against other writers in your niche (Dare I say---your competition?). You can't allow yourself to feel threatened or bad by this process.
Let me explain to you why it's so important to take your ego out of the equation. My husband thinks that Kim Kardashian is hot. I do too---but that doesn't threaten my husband like his acknowledgment of her hotness threatens me. For some irrational reason, I am threatened by Kim Kardashian's hotness. So when I found out that she had gotten Botox, I ran to my husband, tugged on his shirt and gleefully told him that. It was as though I thought that my Botox-free face was somehow hotter than hers now. I thought this because my ego desperately wanted that to be true and because I am a sad, sad old woman. If I actually look at the situation objectively, I can see that I am in no way as hot as Kim---Botox or no Botox---and likely never will be. I can also appreciate that she is totally hot---but doesn't have many of the personality quirks that I have, and these are the things that make my husband love me and not simply find me "hot." So yes I objectively think that she is hotter, but I am actually valuable to hubby as a person, so HA! SUCK IT! I WIN! Oh... wait... no... that wasn't the point. Okay, my point is my self-worth is now increased because I realize my true value while acknowledging hers as well.
Now, let's talk about that other freelance writer's rates... next week!