Suze Orman, Self-Worth and Freelance Writing, Part 1

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on June 18, 2010 in Freelance Writing Business
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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.


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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!

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Yo Prinzel
Yolander Prinzel is the profit monster behind the Profitable Freelancer website. She has written for a number of publications and websites such as American Express, Covestor.com, Advisor Today, Money Smart Radio and the International Travel Insurance Journal (ITIJ). Her book, Specialty Ghostwriting: A New Way to Look at an Old Career, is currently available on Amazon.

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14 Comments

  1. Carson Brackney June 18, 2010 Reply

    Hot: Busting out the Johnny Carson reference.
    Not: Mistakenly assuming that one’s finances are a self-worth indicator.

    Hot: The absence of ego.
    Not: The presence of botox.

    • Yo Prinzel Author
      Yo Prinzel June 18, 2010 Reply

      Not that one’s finances are a self-worth indicator, but their rates can be (Although, I’d venture a guess that people who value themselves appropriately are probably better off financially than those that don’t because they want to invest in themselves rather than consumerism, but I don’t have any studies to back that up.).

      As you’ll see next week, I don’t get into what kind of rate defines a healthy self-worth. I’m simply playing with the concept of self-worth in setting rates. If you honestly assess your talents, experience, etc. and know that .03 per word is a good rate for you, that doesn’t mean that your self-worth is less healthy than mine because I charge more.

      Also, Botox is gonna be hot on this face soon. I put in my contacts the other day and realized my forehead looks like an aged antique vase.

      • Carson Brackney June 18, 2010 Reply

        My comment was directed more to the Orman assumption that a teacher working for $XX,XXX per year obviously lacked self-worth.

        Completely (and I hope obviously) untrue.

        I don’t know if I’d go as far as to echo former (and future?) CA gov. Jerry Brown’s sentiments about teachers receiving “psychic pay” that makes up for the lousy wage, but there’s definitely something happening with educators that isn’t about the bottom line and their self-worth isn’t tied to the Benjamins.

        Orman’s comment irritates me even more with her assumption that those who aren’t loaded are somehow “afraid” as they move through life. I think that’s a 100x magnified reflection of her own insecurities. There are plenty of folks who don’t buy into the consumption/accumulation model who are less afraid and probably more courageous than most of us.

        I always get a little icked out when people start making connections between income/rates/money and issues like self-worth. I can see where you’re going with rates and self-worth question–and that does seem to be different in some ways. I look forward to reading it.

        In the meantime, avoid the Botox. Then again, Suze Orman and Kimmy K are both users. Maybe it should go into the hot column.

        • Yo Prinzel Author
          Yo Prinzel June 18, 2010 Reply

          I know what you mean–there are a million motives behind every decision so you can’t just assume that someone who is poor (for instance) lacks self-worth. Maybe they just aren’t into sacrificing their time for money, or maybe their sacrifice is rewarded in some other way. But when you are writing web content or copywriting for a company… well… I can’t imagine the spiritual, ethical or emotional payment you are receiving that outweighs cash.

          I come from poor stock. I know what it’s like to literally be hungry, to live on government assistance, to not have clothes–heck, I once lived in an Airstreamer as a kid and had a couple of rental homes (one deeeep in the woods) that didn’t have a proper bathroom (one I lived in very, very temporarily and one we built a bathroom into). I seriously, seriously, seriously get poorness in a self-imposed positive way and as a result of poor self-worth. But I also know that there is a relationship between how you treat yourself and your money and your self-worth. It isn’t all hard luck and artistic sacrifice. I think that’s where I really want to go with this.

          • Yo Prinzel Author
            Yo Prinzel June 18, 2010

            I should mention that while the poorness I talk about above was the result of parents with alcohol problems and poor self-worth, I ‘ve also sacrificed within my own life and been poor–because I wanted time more than money. Because I wanted to be serendipitous rather than controlled–so I really do “get” both ends of the spectrum.

          • Carson Brackney June 18, 2010

            And all of that is a very good reason to trust your perspective on the issue. Not everyone does “get it” and those who don’t can be pretty damn icky, lol!

  2. Rebecca June 18, 2010 Reply

    Wow! I’ve been discussing this topic with another freelance writer.

    Yo, I can relate to you because I come from a family with alcoholism and a limited mind set. This is why I chose to move 2,000 miles away. Unfortunately, when you move you take yourself with you. If have a “poor mindset” in Ohio, you’ll have one in Arizona. It takes a lot of transformational work for you to break the patterns that repeat in your life. You also face the “nasty files” in your subconscious mind put their by people who didn’t know any better. It’s up to delete and rewrite them.

    I agree that there is a “relationship between how you treat yourself and your money and your self-worth. It isn’t all hard luck and artistic sacrifice.” Some people are victims because that’s all they know. They want to change and know they deserve to paid for their work, but they keep creating situations where they get to play the role of the victim.

    I totally agree with 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.” There are many writers who may not be as talented or dedicated as you who are earning a great living.

    As far as teachers go, they are underpaid. My sister works for the school system back in Ohio. Not only do teachers teach but they play other roles such as a “surrogate” mom or dad, counselor, nurse, and tutor. They wear multiple hats some of which are not easy to wear.

    • Yo Prinzel Author
      Yo Prinzel June 19, 2010 Reply

      Yeah, you really do take yourself with you–and it’s not always easy to get over the “self” that you become after growing up like that. But it is possible, and that’s pretty awesome :)

  3. Rebecca June 23, 2010 Reply

    There are plenty of teachers who do lack self-worth. There are also plenty of lawyers, doctors and Indian chiefs with the same problem regardless of income.

    Teachers who teach because they want to have a far better reward than a job that pays well – and this is something I know well. I left a well-known consulting/Accounting firm and then energy trading to be a teacher because I liked teaching better and didn’t like the sensation of existing just to make a bit company more money.

    I teach to use a special part of my brain that loves a particular kind of ongoing challenge, and if I may say so, I’m pretty damn good at what I do. I write and run the writing business for the same reason.

    If Suze Orman has a problem with how much money I make and how it affects my self-worth, perhaps she’s never had a teenager tell her she’s changed his life in a positive way. Or thank her for introducing him to the joy of reading or the fun that education can really be.

    Forget a salary when what you do every day makes a real difference for real people – especially ones who struggle with the kind of problems y’all have just mentioned (alcoholic parents, poverty, lack of self-worth) and more than a few additional ones as well.

    Ironically when I left the business world, I wanted a job that I would do for free. Can I afford to do it for free now, actually yes at this point probably, but the paycheck is a nice bonus. I’ve never sweated the actual numbers and always have to go and look what the district has decided to pay me every year because I forget constantly. LOL I’ve taught “tough” kids for eight years now and I’d still do it for free because it’s fun and worthwhile.

    Suze is totally played out.

    • Rebecca June 23, 2010 Reply

      Full of typos – consider them a sign of tired brilliance please!

  4. Becky Blanton October 1, 2010 Reply

    Suze Orman once lived in a van and waited tables for a living. If the people who supported her had said, “She’s just a waitress and there’s no way she has any self-esteem,” they would have never seen who she was INSIDE and supported her and gotten her to where she is today. She forgets she got to where she is on the faith and backs of people who believed in her when she was a nobody. Suze is a bigot, and an arrogant know-it-all with no self esteem. She is terrified of being around people she who aren’t successful and rich because she doesn’t want to be reminded how ashamed she is of herself own roots and beginnings.

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