If you ever start to feel P.O.’ed at the self-obsessed nature of our society (how many pics of other people’s dinners must I be subjected to, Facebook?), you can get a healthy counter-dose of sadness by taking a look at examples of some people’s horrible lack of self-worth.
How? Just peruse some of the big freelance job boards.
It’s not pretty, man. I’ve seen things.
People clambering over each other to snag a gig that pays $5 for a 500-word article, SEO optimized.
Jobs that pay the equivalent of 5 cents an hour and have 46 bids on them.
But the worst — oh, the worst! — are the projects with open bidding, because then you really get to see what people think their skills are worth. From what I’ve gathered, 99% of the freelancers using these sites must owe society a sizeable debt of some kind, because they’re basically giving away their work, with a desperately eager smile.
I know the big free-for-alls like Elance and oDesk seem like the best way for an unproven freelancer to score a gig or two with little experience. But they’re really just an exercise in how low you’re willing to value yourself. Even the newbiest of newbs has to know that offering to line-edit a 100-page ebook for $20 is doing themselves a disservice.
I’ve unsubscribed from all of the job boards I used to follow, largely because none of the offers I got were worth my time but also because seeing the bids people were putting in depressed the hell out of me. I wanted to send each low bidder a message that said, “Dude, why are you doing this to yourself? I’ll pay you $20 to stop bidding on this crap. I implore you. Think of the children!”
(I don’t know who exactly “the children” are in this case or how they come into this, but I’m sure it doesn’t benefit them, at any rate.)
Why We Lowball Ourselves
This is, of course, about more than freelance editing rates. It’s about all of us.
We sell ourselves short regularly, downplaying our skills and accomplishments and eagerly kowtowing to whatever crapportunity is tossed our way, regardless of whether it’s something we really want or something that’s even worthy of us.
We settle, in other words. Sometimes very low.
We take the shitty corporate job that drains our soul because it’s a paycheck and the title looks impressive on our business cards. We figure no one likes their job, so we’re doing pretty well in the grand scheme of things.
We settle for relationships with people who put us down, hold us back or just plain don’t “fit” us right, simply because we want to be in a relationship. We feel more validated being part of a couple, even a miserable one.
We brush aside our dreams, dismiss them as silly hobbies and refuse to imagine they might actually be possible, because we don’t think we’re smart enough/special enough/talented enough to make them happen. Growing up in “The Real World” has taught us that schlepping and plodding are what people do. It’s only celebs with that uncapturable “it” factor who deserve to live fantastic lives. You know, like Kim Kardashian. Or Snookie.
We volunteer to be unremarkable before we or the world even have a chance to determine what our true worth is.
Why aren’t we more willing to stand up for ourselves?
You’re a Glittering, Ass-Kicking Star, Baby
(And If You Tell Yourself Otherwise, I Will Throttle You)*
*For the sake of the effectiveness of this threat, I am a 6′ weightlifting Amazon, not a 5’2” little girl with what my husband affectionately calls “Grover arms.”
I don’t care if you’ve never published anything beyond a poem in your high school anthology. If you’ve got a book in you, fucking write the hell out of it. And don’t write the version of the book you think will “sell,” or I will materialize at your writing desk and smack you roundly upside the head. (Even Grover arms can deliver a good, quality smack. Don’t test me.)
Write the story that wants to be told. Write the story only you can tell.
I don’t care if you’ve only ever baked things for your nieces’ and nephews’ birthday parties. If your “no big deal” cakes are actually elaborate SpongeBob SquarePants ocean scenes complete with graham cracker sand and a fondant Squidward, then get your ass learning what it takes to open a small business. Because you’ve got real talent.
Timmy isn’t saying you make the coolest cakes ever because he’s a toddler and they think anything is cool. He’s saying it because you’ve got mad skills, and he recognizes.
I don’t care if you have no freelance “experience” and you don’t think anyone will hire you. The kind of experience you need is not a portfolio of shit jobs that demonstrates you have a remarkable capacity to accept insulting pay grades for doing complex, skilled work.
It may take a little longer, but hold out for the good stuff. You have a valuable service to offer, one that takes time and effort to perform, and quality clients will be willing to pay for that.
You have to believe you’re worth it first, or no one else will. (Tweet, tweet!)
Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t introduce yourself to the world as an amateur or a wannabe. Whatever your dream, whatever your talent, go out there and freakin’ own it like you’ve already made it.
People will take note. I guarantee it.