This is the first installment of a series tentatively entitled "Pain Free (almost!) Sales Techniques for Writers Who Hate Selling". I'm open to new titles, by the way. The wackier, the better!
If you had an appointment with a doctor and he or she told you, "I'm just a physician and I'm not really sure of what I'm doing... I guess I should start by having you undress...", would you feel comfortable having him or her check you out?
If you went to an auto mechanic and were told, "I'm just starting out... I'm not really sure what I should charge to change your oil... what do you think it's worth?", would you readily give him or her the keys to your car?
In 99.9% of all cases, customers want to feel comfortable hiring professionals, whether those pros are lawyers, accountants or writers. Clients don't want to take a chance -- they want to feel their money will be well-spent and their projects will be in capable hands.
Yet I hear the same phrases from freelancers again and again:
"I'm just a writer."
"I'm only writing part of the time and I'm really not very good..."
"I'm just trying this freelancing thing..."
Many writers in the freelance field add "just" or "only" as a descriptor... why in the world would you want to define yourself in this way?
Though I understand the desire not to sound too pompous, I implore all my fellow writers to ditch the "just".
Consider the difference between the sentences "I'm just a writer" and "I'm a writer". Isn't the latter much stronger? With which person would you want to work?
As a writer, you are the sales person for your work, whether or not you realize it (or like it).
Even if you aren't 100% certain you're the next Hemingway or Updike, it's up to you to put a positive face on your chosen profession. And don't assume that your portfolio will speak for itself; it needs you to sell it.
The next time someone asks you what you do, I urge you to avoid defining yourself using words which have negative or "wishy-washy" connotations. They make the listener feel uncomfortable and/or force him or her to placate you by saying something like, "Oh, don't put yourself down that way! I'm sure you're good."
Instead of appearing ashamed of your field, be bold and declare, "I am a writer." (If you have to, practice the line a few times in the comfort and seclusion of your bedroom.)
Remember -- if freelance writing (even on a part-time basis) is what you've chosen to do, be proud of yourself. When you exhibit confidence, your customers and clients will feel more comfortable in giving you projects, even those with whom you only connect via email or telephone.