Knowing My Own Self-Worth

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A couple of weeks ago, during a mentor coaching session, I told my coach that an issue I’d like to work through was my tendency to shortchange myself when quoting rates. By the end of the session, I had vowed both to do some market research on writing and copy editing rates in my geographic area, and draw up a budget in order to determine the lowest rate I could possibly live with.

Copy editing rates were easy enough to come by…writing/blogging rates less so. And when I drew up a budget, I found that I could actually survive on a much lower rate than I felt was warranted (though it was interesting to note that I was spending more than I was making from month to month…I’m still alive how?). Not exactly as helpful as I’d hoped.

Only a week or so later, however, I reached a rates-related epiphany.

The first step in my epiphany occurred when I received a much-hoped-for job offer. I was thrilled, but the monetary compensation was lower than I would have liked. When I told my coach about the offer, she urged me to respond with a negotiation letter. The thought of doing such a thing made me want to barf — especially since I had been aware of the low compensation from the very beginning of the job application process — but, in the end, I decided that it was better to at least try. I wrote up a much wussier and informal letter than the sample she had sent along to me, and then stewed in my own neuroses for the next 24 hours. In the end, I didn’t get a monetary increase, but my suggestion of starting up a pre-tax transit program — in order to make my commuting costs more bearable — was placed on the table, dependent upon further research. This was my very first negotiation attempt, and it helped me to realize that asking for what you deserve won’t reflect negatively upon you, but will only make a new client or employer respect you more.

The same day I received my job offer, I was also approached by a writer I happen to admire quite a bit with an offer to collaborate on a new web/publishing project. The project sounded fun, interesting, and aligned with what I had determined to be my life purpose. After we chatted a bit about the scope of the project, he asked me to contact him later that day with a flat rate. Thus began my usual rates-related flailing. Thank god for UPOD and Freelance Success. When I mentioned the $1,000 flat rate I had been considering, my fellow group members quickly pointed out how drastically I was shortchanging myself, one even doing the math and informing me that my rate came to a mere 10 cents a word. It forced me to think seriously about what I really wanted my minimum hourly and per-word rates to be. I calculated both, found the average between them, and sent off my rates proposal, trying to sound both matter-of-fact and confident in my worth. I almost had a heart attack when it was accepted within the hour, as it was the most I’d ever been paid for a single project. The lack of negotiating on his part probably meant that I could have asked for even more, but I was elated. It was my first time being paid what I really felt I deserved, and it helped me to realize that my freelance business would never succeed unless I treated it like a business, and treated myself like the hot commodity I was. After nine years of writing and copy editing, it was about time I started mentally placing myself on the same level as my fellow successful and talented freelance peers.

Have you had as much difficulty as I have setting your rates? What’s keeping you from charging what you actually deserve? And if you’re among those who are asking for and receiving the rates you want, at what point did you become comfortable doing so? What caused the shift where you started treating yourself as a professional rather than a hobbyist?

Related: My 5 Favorite Things In: What To Charge


  1. Congrats on negotiating!! I’m so excited that you sent a negotiation letter and you’ve decided on a flat rate that reflects your work. A lot of women have trouble negotiating and putting a fair value on their work, so way to go!


  2. @Ed: That’s totally one of the reasons I actually went for it. I felt that it had to be done if I was ever going to ramp things up to the next level. Hopefully, I can be just as brave in the future.

  3. Since I became an innkeeper, I have discovered the same tendency in myself. Last spring a successful innkeeper in the area toured our B&B and told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to raise our rates. Since we had consistently done so since start-up, that came as an eye-opener. That first year our guests were sure getting a good deal!! I think it is harder for writers to believe in themselves. I was never good at negotiating, not a skill that comes naturally to some people I suppose.


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  2. […] neither of these really helped me to figure out what my rates should be. Then I was approached with a big project opportunity, and was forced to come up with a flat rate by the end of the day. I looked for input from my […]

  3. […] such as the one displayed by my husband* contribute to the difficulties many writers have in placing a monetary value on their work. (Freelance Folder has a great post on setting rates, btw.) After all, how could something […]

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