Why you should stop apologizing for your work. Yesterday.

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Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

I want to share something very personal with you.

In addition to the YouTube videos I watch about how to rid my computer of malware or how to set up a portable air conditioner, I also watch videos on health and beauty stuff, like how to bump out my hair (yep, that’s a thing) or to create a natural-looking full eyebrow.

I’ve noticed a particular theme in the beauty videos. Many of the narrators serve as effective demonstrators and some have developed a cult following. People watch them, trust them and do what they say. Judging from the high number of views these videos get, I’d guess that their content is useful to hundreds, if not thousands.

Yet, so many of these narrators feel the need to begin their videos with, or interject with, and apology.

As in, “I’m sorry the video quality is so poor today” or, “I’m sorry I look so tired today” or, “Sorry my voice sounds so ______ (choose one: raspy, quiet, loud) today” followed by an explanation.

I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing.

In the past, when handing in an assignment, I’ve caught myself beginning the accompanying email with something that goes like this:

Dear ________,

Here’s the latest draft of the _________ story. As you can see, it’s a bit long, and the tone might be a bit too heavy …

We must do ourselves, our readers / watchers / listeners and our clients a favor and stop apologizing for our work. Yesterday.

Here are two ways to kick this nasty habit:

1. Revise, don’t apologize.

It has taken me a long time to realize that, if my work warrants an apology or disclaimer of some sort, it means it wasn’t ready to be packaged and sent off to begin with. The word count may indeed still be too high or the tone might very well be missing the mark. Whatever it is, it’s not my client’s job to fix, it’s mine. After all, they’re paying me to do the work as specified. So, my advice to you is, if you ever find yourself apologizing for your work on submission, hold back. Re-work it until it no longer needs an apology. Then, it will be worth your asking fee.

2. Ask yourself: What if this work were food?

I’m serious! Say you’re at a restaurant and you’re about to shell out for an expensive meal. Hey, any meal. You order, the food comes to you, and as the server hands it over, she says, “Sorry, this smoothie may not taste like it should. I used way too much agave.” Or, “I know you wanted that steak medium, but mid-well is the best I could do. Let me know how it tastes though, ok? [smile] I’ll remake it if you want me to.” It would be a total career killer for a chef or restaurant proprietor to deliver her creations with a smile and an “I’m sorry.” No one would take the time to taste the supposedly subpar stuff and wait (and then pay!) for the better stuff to appear. Don’t diminish your own work’s value before others have the chance to draw their own conclusions.

You must first create quality work worthy of no apologies. Then, be confident enough in its effectiveness to serve it straight up.

Greetings from my air mattress.

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We up and did it!

It’s been quite the summer, what with my husband’s move to the West Coast in June (to start a new job) and my move last week, but I’m happy to report that my groom, both dogs and I are finally all back under the same sun-soaked roof in beautiful San Juan Capistrano, California.

The relocation has been slightly crazy, as most are. For starters, my old Honda, affectionately named Dirty Hairy, bit the dust somewhere outside Springfield, MO on the cross-country drive. The repairs were so extensive we had to junk the car and buy a new one on the spot. Upon arrival, there have been the usual tasks: setting up with what little stuff we have (for now), obtaining appliances and other large essentials, a multitude of big-box store runs and a couple of DMV trips. We’re not done yet: The bulk of our furniture and household goods is on a truck somewhere between Northern Virginia and Cali.

In fact, I’m writing to you from the only soft surface in our home right now: an air mattress.

In lieu of a chair and desk, it’s my current pop-up office space. Mentally, though, we’re all starting to settle in.

I’m telling you this because I made a promise two weeks ago to start on a series on the freelance sales process. And I haven’t delivered. I might have been too ambitious in thinking that, in between moving across the country and setting up house, I could write several thoughtful, helpful posts. Sorry about that.

With my feet firmly on California ground (Or, should we say, in the sand?) I’m ready to deliver on my promise. So, starting next week, I’ll begin with a piece on prospecting.

Until then, have you picked up your copy of The Wealthy Freelancer? As I’ve mentioned before, the book taught me almost everything I know about how to develop an effective client-prospecting program. That should get you going.

Yesterday, after 10 days in our new place, Jason, the dogs and I finally made it to the beach for a bit. This great spot, Doheny State Beach and Dana Point Harbor, is just down the road. I think I’m gonna need a paddle board.

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“You should write …

Photo: Mack2Happy, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo: Mack2Happy, freedigitalphotos.net

“You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page.” – Annie Prouix

Have you “turned pro” yet?

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I’m putting up an extra post this week because I’ve just read this fantastic book and I want to tell you all about it.

It’s called “Turning Pro,” by Steve Pressfield (Remember the movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance?” He wrote the book). And before I go any further, I need to remind you that I don’t get paid to endorse anything I read. I also don’t receive advance copies very often (this was not one) and I rarely review books.

I shelled out for the Kindle version after watching a video interview Steve did with Marie Forleo (LOVE her!) in which he talked about the concept of deciding, really deciding to pursue your beloved craft, not as an “Amateur,” but as a “Professional.”

An Amateur, as Pressfield defines it, is someone who dabbles. An Amateur paints a little (if painting is her thing) or writes a little or does whatever she loves, but without truly dedicating her self to the endeavor. Amateurs, Pressfield says, hide behind fear, believing that failing is the only option.

Some Amateurs also hide behind distraction. That’s me. I’m a freelance writer on paper, sure, and I get paid to do it. (Lucky life!) But when business gets slow, instead of going on some sort of supercharged sales campaign, I tend to coast, turning out small projects here and there in between running errands, exercising, homekeeping, cooking, shopping, caring for the dog and whatever else I can to do to churn the time away.

I fell into that mode recently. And while sometimes it feels great, luxurious even, to go do something on a whim right in the middle of the day, there was an underlying problem with the way I was spending my time: I blog about writing, I talk about writing, I have a portfolio and social media accounts to show potential clients and others what I’m writing about. Yet there were many days in which I wrote nothing or pursued nothing having to do with writing. About the time I picked up Pressfield’s book, it had all begun to feel like a bit of a fraudulent existence. (Pressfield is gentler about this. I think he would have called it an “Amateur” existence.)

Contrast that with the existence of Pressfield’s Professional, whom he writes, “shows up for work every day.” And “stays on the job all day.”

Pressfield goes on to explain that, in order to become a legit _______ (fill in your own occupation here) you have to “turn pro.” This requires taking on your work as a discipline — a practice, in the true yogic sense of the word. “To ‘have a practice’ in yoga, say, or tai chi, or calligraphy,” writes Pressfield, “is to follow a rigorous, prescribed regimen with the intention of elevating the mind and spirit to a higher level.”

He then goes on to list key characteristics he believes the Professional possesses. Here are a few:

“The professional is committed over the long haul.”

 “For the professional, the stakes are high and real.”

 “The professional seeks order.”

 “The professional acts in the face of fear.”

 “The professional does not show off.”

 “The professional dedicates himself to mastering technique.”

 

Pressfield also recounts stories of other individuals who have turned pro. My favorite is the story of Rosanne Cash. Unlike many books in this genre, which focus primarily on attaining success, power and / or money, this book defines success as fully realizing your ability to do your thing. Cash was already commercially successful when she made the decision to turn pro. She’d become a critical hit in the music world. Yet she knew something was missing. Though industry heavyweights and the public told her she’d made it big, she didn’t believe she’d reached the true and full expression of her art. Then she had a dream. I won’t tell you about the dream. You’ve got to read the book! But it changed her life, and she recommitted herself to being an even better singer. “I had awakened from the morphine sleep of success into the life of an artist,” she writes.

The core message of this book is that professionalism is a mindset, and one worth cultivating.

If you’re like me and you feel like you’re on the verge of realizing your true potential, but that somehow you’re asleep at the wheel of your own career, this book could be the kick in the pants you need to break through your own inertia.

Not convinced yet? Here’s that interview with Marie Forleo I mentioned earlier:

Have you read the book? What did you think of it? Do you remember the moment you “turned pro?”

The Power of Letter-Writing

I’m traveling on assignment this week, so my posts will be short and sweet. I love this mini TED talk from Lakshmi Pratury on the lost art of letter-writing. Putting pen to paper for a loved one or friend not only makes connections, but it’s a great exercise in letting ideas just flow. Enjoy.

“When words become unclear …

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” – Ansel Adams
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