Monday, May 24, 2010

30-Day Confidence-Building Challenge: Kelly James-Enger is a Five!

Kelly James-Enger's name ought to be familiar to most freelancers. She's the author of the freelancing bible Six-Figure Freelancing and a prolific freelancer in her own right. She's been a full-time freelancer since Jan 1, 1997 and is the author of Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money, in addition to Six-Figure Freelancing.

She also blogs about making more as a freelancer at Deadlines and Dollars. I asked her to talk about her own path to professional confidence. Here's what she had to say.

When you started freelancing, where would you place your professional confidence level, on a range of 1 (who me? I'll fade into the wallpaper over here) to 5 (I'm great! Let me tell you more!)? Why?

I’d say it depended on the day. I was fairly confident starting out, but that was because I’d had early success early on, selling my first two articles to national magazines. I had *no clue* about how challenging full-time freelancing would be, and even less of a clue (if that’s possible) about how I would actually approach it. I’d say, though, that I was a 3 or 4 most days, 1 on plenty of others…usually coinciding with receiving more than 1 rejection on that particular day.

Where would you place your professional confidence now, on the same scale?

With all modesty, I’d say 5 simply because I’ve encountered and overcome multiple challenges (e.g. having stories killed, losing steady clients, dealing with an unstable economy, having books going out of print). I really believe surviving those kinds of things has made me much more confident. For example, if a query gets rejected, I never think it’s because my query isn’t good enough (something I would have automatically thought early on). Now I just figure the editor didn’t like it, had something similar in inventory, or just isn’t smart enough to work with me. (Kidding!)

What parts of your professional life still cause you the most insecurity?

I think it’s having the time and drive to keep up with our changing industry. I’d resisted jumping on the social media bandwagon until quite recently… simply because I didn’t want to take the time to learn how to do it. Setting up my blog took me about 10 minutes. I’m not joking. I’m a luddite at heart but I know that to thrive as a freelancer, I have to embrace technology and know how it impacts my business and the publishing industry as a whole. And that’s always something I’m working on.

My premise for this challenge is that all creative people are insecure at some level. Agree or disagree?

I totally agree…and actually I think probably all people are insecure at some level. I think being a creative person, however, you’re taking a risk of putting yourself out there, whether it’s through a painting or short story or photographs, whatever. I can say that I am much more insecure (and take criticism much more personally) with work that I wrote for myself (I’m a published novelist and have published essays as well) compared to the work I do on assignment for editors. The latter is what I do to pay my bills. I’m much more attached to, for lack of a better word, the former.

If you could offer any two suggestions for beginning writers on how to increase their self confidence, what would they be?

Fake it ‘til you make it. Seriously. When you act confident, people think you are confident. Even when I’ve had my biggest slumps career-wise, I didn’t post on message boards or blogs bemoaning my existence. (I did vent to my husband and close friends, but I didn’t put it “out there.”) It’s really important for freelancers to remember that they’re running their own businesses, and clients want to work with people who are confident and successful.
Oh, and another tip—keep an “inspiration file.” That’s what I call a folder I have of happy notes from editors (e.g, “you did a great job on this piece"), “fan mail” from readers, awards, whatever. It’s a reminder that I am good at what I do, even when I doubt myself (which again everyone does sometimes!)

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