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Conquering Insecurity: Every Copywriter's Hobgoblin

Aug 17, 2007
In my work as a copywriter's coach I often talk with new and even seasoned copywriters who express their deeply hidden yet oft-nagging fear of "not measuring up."

I explain that every copywriter has to go through this (sometimes long) phase, and tell my own story of crippling insecurity.

My worst moment was shortly after I was hired by Rosen/Brown Direct, a highly respected direct response agency in Portland, Oregon.

I was expected to write copy for Dell Computer...but I had never written copy for technology before, and knew that I was finally to be exposed as an impostor.

It was the only time in my 20-plus years of copywriting that I had writer's block. I sat at a blank screen all day until the account executive assigned to Dell came over and asked (with some alarm) why I'd produced nothing.

I said "It must be all the noise in the room, I'll take my computer into the conference room." And I did. The next thing I remember was putting my fingers on the keyboard. Several hours later the piece was done. I handed it in and spent the next three days waiting for the inevitable firing.

When the copy came back from the client, it had only minor edits! I could not believe it. And I remember my next thought was, "Wow, now I'm a technology copywriter!"

Had that single event not happened, I may never have niched in software...I certainly had no confidence I could write for something so "smart."

Other Proof That Insecurity Is Unnecessary

In a small file deep in my filing cabinet I also have samples of my very earliest copywriting work. Some of it is ghastly, yet I was paid for it! By my own standards at the time, I thought it was wonderful.

And I guess because of my own enthusiasm, so did my clients. Most of my early clients were small business, and it may be that they weren't that sophisticated either.

At any rate, they had a need and I filled it. We both won and we were both happy (most of the time).

Tools That Ease Uncertainty

Because copywriting is subjective, I've found that using business tools goes a long way toward building confidence, getting rid of insecurities about copywriting skills, the value of your work, and your own propensity to "price downward."

In my Copywriter's Pricing Workshop teleseminar, I shared the three pricing tools I've developed over the years to build my own confidence, present myself as a contractor of value, and ensure a level of respect for both parties (especially me:)

These three tools include:

1. An hourly rate worksheet: A formula for determining what your hourly rate should be, taking into account your level of skill and region (the first thing any freelancer must know is what their hourly rate should be).

2. A Client Questionnaire: The questions you must ask the client before you can accurately determine your true value to his direct response project, plus the formula for determining your value.

3. A Fee Agreement: This powerful document shows you how to present what you will be doing for the client in a way that helps the client see how valuable your work is (so you can price "up," not down).

Add A Full Hour Of Additional Pricing Info

After two months of prodding by Workshop attendees, I has the teleseminar mp3 transcribed, and created the world's first Pricing Toolkit for Copywriters. Therefore, the two additional tools include:

4. A full written transcript of my Copywriter's Pricing Workshop

5. The downloadable mp3 of same

In addition, for my Workshop attendees, I secured a 20 percent discount on my favorite timekeeping software, which helped me learn how long it really takes me to do things, so I can price my work more accurately.

Using these tools gave me the confidence I needed to stay strong during negotiations and end my pattern of coming in too low, then hating myself for my weakness, and every minute of the job as well.

(By letting your insecurity get the best of you, and underpricing, you also unwittingly set the new client/copywriter relationship up for failure.)

So look at the tools you use in your pricing and negotiation. Could they use improvement? Do they help you obtain your financial goals? If not, the best thing you can do is drop what you're doing and get your pricing tools in order. You'll be glad you did. And you'll reap the benefits the very next time you price a job!
About the Author
Award-winning copywriter Chris Marlow offers pricing information and pricing tools for copywriters. Visit:

PO Box 1134, Palm Desert, CA, 92261
P: 760-340-2045

Chris Marlow, all rights reserved
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