Graphic designer Havana Nguyen said something to me two weeks ago that really hit home today. “You might think what you do is no big deal,” she began, “but to us mortals, it’s a big deal.”
A bit overstated, but what Havana was talking about were gifts–those natural abilities which all of us are born with and which we tap into and perform so naturally and effortlessly that we don’t understand the ruckus other people make when we use them. For Havana, it’s the ability to design creative, innovative graphic images. For me, it’s my speaking and writing ability–specifically, my ability to take garbled, often complex and seemingly unrelated ideas and information and spin them into something catchy, clever, and understandable.
Turns out Havana’s not the only person who noticed I was selling myself short. I realized it yesterday, while talking to a recruiter about a freelance writing opportunity with a rather large company in a major US city.
The recruiter called me shortly after receiving my resume and asked me to send clips of my recent work along with more detailed descriptions of my writing experience. I struggled with the second part of her request, primarily because, well, we never really fully realize our gifts. But also, when you’re running your own business, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in getting clients, completing work, following up, paying bills, and dozens of other daily activities that you can lose sight of how much you really do.
In my case, what I saw staring back at me on paper left me speechless. In less than eight months, I’d written more than a half-dozen websites, several web pages, sales letters, email blasts, bios, and press releases. But the kicker: I’d provided untold hours of consulting and marketing strategy and planning advice…free of charge.
Freelancers frequently write about their pricing conundrums, but how did I allow this to happen on such a grand scale? Trying to be nice? Trying to add value, show myself to be a resource in hopes of gaining more business down the road? That was some of it. Mostly, though, my failing to charge what I’m worth was due to my not realizing how integral effective copywriting is to the success of every business and business owner everywhere.
It’s a hard (and tangible) way to learn just how valuable your skills are in the marketplace. As Havana said, “It’s a really big deal.” I know that now, and you can bet that going forward, I’ll make sure prospective clients know I know it, too.