I Don’t Sell Writing. I Sell My Experience and Service.

Two conversations I’ve had recently exemplify my current approach to managing my freelance life.

First, I was given the opportunity to provide a quote for a significant amount of work each month. After taking a look and determining that yes, it would all fit within my schedule and capabilities, I came up with a price. That figure represented a “bundle” deal compared with what I might charge for each item as a one-off project and I felt it was fair.

Second, in talking with another freelancer she was apologetic for the scale of a request she was making of me. “Not a problem, I said, that’s what I do: Turn copy around quickly.” She made some remark about how I must have been doing this for quite a long time to be able to do that. “Since what we’re doing was called ‘new media marketing,’” I said, offering a term she wasn’t familiar with at all.

When I offer my services or take on a new project, my writing skills are only about 25% of what the client is paying for. Yes, I’m a good writer and can turn quality copy around quickly and with minimal fuss. That’s great, but there are plenty of people like that.

The other 75% – what I’m really selling when I talk to new clients or offer to take on a new project – is my experience.

I’ve been writing blog posts since 2003, both for myself and for employers and clients.

I’ve been writing social media copy since 2007, both for myself and for employers and clients.

I’ve been creating, discussing or refining strategy for brand content programs for 15 years.

I’ve been at the forefront of conversations around new technology adoption, the creation of best practices on a number of issues and more.

I’ve been carefully navigating office politics for 20 years.

This is, to be clear, not my first rodeo.

That all is reflected in the prices I present to clients. That’s all reflected in the copy I produce and the services I offer clients.

They’re not just buying someone to write a blog post, they’re buying someone who’s written countless blog posts on a wide array of topics, for different audiences and to achieve unique goals.

They’re not just buying someone to write social media copy, they’re buying someone who’s been eyebrow-deep in editorial calendars for over a decade and knows the difference between real optimization and the superficial, ineffective stuff.

They’re not just buying someone to work on website copy, they’re buying someone who’s single-handedly managed the content on several corporate sites and has been responsible for producing much of that in the first place.

They’re not just buying someone to manage their social program, they’re buying someone who’s been involved in the creation of program style guides, has made recommendations on CMS and reporting vendor contracts and much more.

That’s what I’m selling when I put my experience out there and when I offer someone my services. That’s all priced in.

It took me a while to fully realize and embrace that, honestly. Once I did, though, I felt far less self-conscious about providing quotes and putting my experience out there. It made me more confident in my presentation. Most importantly, it’s made me a better freelancer because I feel surer I’m worth whatever that quote might be.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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