It was a delicious hoax. Terry Simmonds created an algorithm to rank your Google+ profile. Much like your Klout score. You dropped in your G+ ID, pressed “Submit,” and in less than a second spit out results.
Google+ was two years old back then, and even at that point, outside of follower count, it was difficult to determine your influence on the network. And you know everyone wants to know where they stand. This is why vanity metrics like Klout, though ridiculously silly, are popular.
So Simmonds’ Author Rank grader was irresistible. You even got a few pointers about your score. For instance, there was this one:
“If you feel your score is lower than it should be, then it’s probably due to the Dunning-Kruger effect.”
What exactly is the Dunning-Kruger effect?
In 2003, Campbell Dunning and Daniel Krueger were dusting up their study on confidence in male and female professionals. One of the most notorious findings was this idea that we tend to be more optimistic about our abilities than we actually are:
- We tend to think we are better drivers than we actually are.
- We tend to think we are better writers than we actually are.
- And we tend to think that our Google+ profile grade should be higher than it actually is.
I fell for Simmonds’ grader, did not know about the Dunning-Kruger effect, and then laughed my head off when I discovered what it meant.
Don’t let your doubts do this to you
A few months back The Atlantic published a piece on The Confidence Gap. Women were lagging in many sectors, and it boiled down to this: they doubted their abilities and let those doubts stop them.
Men, on the other hand, had moments of doubt, but they didn’t let that stop them. In fact, they viewed it as a challenge. One to overcome.
Another difference between men and women involved internal and external attribution. Men tend to blame the circumstances around them. When they find themselves struggling, they respond, “This class is hard.”
Women, on the other hand, respond by saying, “See, I told you I wasn’t very good at this.”
Another factor that contributes to low confidence is the plague of perfectionism, “the enemy of good,” because it keeps us from getting things done. Here’s one way this works out in the professional world:
- Men will apply for jobs when they feel they qualify for about 60 percent of the requirements.
- Women won’t apply until they meet 100% of the qualifications.
But what does this have to do with earning potential as a freelance writer? Everything.
How confidence influences what you earn
When it comes to the freelance writing world setting fees is hard work. And based upon how many times I get asked the question “How much should I charge?” it is probably one of the most contentious issues facing freelancer writers.
It always boils down to this: experience and confidence. There is a lot to be said about this.
If you have fifteen years of experience and results, then you can charge more than someone with less than a year experience. But if you have fifteen years of experience and a load of confidence, you can charge more than someone with the same amount of experience, but with half the confidence.
In fact, the one with loads of confidence, but little experience, can even get away with charging more. It is about believing in your abilities.
What overconfidence actually does to your reputation
Isn’t that narcissism? And what if you are exposed? Don’t sweat it. Research determines that “honest overconfidence” does not come across as self-centered nor does it drive people away. In fact, it draws people.
New research is even pointing towards the fact that overconfidence that sails past actual ability is not harmful.
We don’t bail on overconfident people when they are found out. This is probably why political candidates can make unreasonable campaign promises, get elected, not deliver, and serve a second term, on different, but no less unreasonable, campaign promises that they will again fail to fulfill.
It seems we are drawn to these confident people. Charmed by their outlandish claims. It establishes the notion that we follow people who have strong convictions — even if those convictions are wrong.
They are like hard beacons in a soft world.
It’s more than just confidence
So does this mean you get cocky and charge people an unreasonable amount of money? Heck no. One thing I can’t stand is the pompous writer who charges based upon their name, and not the results they can deliver.
In negotiations it is about confidence, experience, but also conversions. What kind of value can you bring to your client?
It’s not as simple as saying “I just need to be more confident and I can achieve anything.” That sort of attitude leads to “ambition inflation,” and a lot more failed dreams. You also need competence.
Besides, people can detect fake confidence.
Fight for the value you bring to the table
Let’s say you get an offer to write a two-page native ad for a product that costs $150 per installation. In the research phase you discover how much the product costs, their profit margin, potential market, and then figure out how many of those units you can sell.
If you believe you can sell at least ten additional ones, that’s worth $1,500 dollars. More than likely, if it’s a big market, or a fresh market, then you might be able to sell 100 additional installations. That’s $15,000 in additional revenue. What is your stake in that? Ten percent? Then you could charge $1,500 for the sales letter.
But the question is this: do you have what it takes to achieve those results (experience and competence)? And do you have the confidence to ask for it?
If you believe you do, then ask for it. Don’t be shy. Have the confidence to defend the value you bring to the table. Even if you may be guilty of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
And by the way, take this quiz to determine your level of confidence. Great tips on how to bring your confidence up if you land on the low end of the scale (like I did).
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Image source: Bartleby
Rob Skidmore says
Great stuff Demian. So true. Made me think of Cheryl Sandberg’s TED talk. The part I’m referencing is around 8:55.
A little bit of confidence can really help your career. I sat in on a webinar with Gary Vaynerchuk where he talked about starting his marketing agency after all his Wine Library success. He said that every time he went into a sales meeting he would double his prices. When someone finally laughed in his face he figured he was around where he should be charging.
I thought that was a funny way of doing it.
Around the time I watched the webinar I was inundated with freelance projects. I was starting to get a little burnt out. When someone approached me about another project I thought I’d try what Gary did and I basically tried to price myself out of the job. It didn’t work. I got the job and ended up getting paid way more than I thought possible. Even though I’ve got another project on my plate I’m being paid much better for it. Lesson learned.
Anyway, always love your thoughts. Thanks for sharing.
Demian Farnworth says
I always say it’s what the market will bear. You have to push up your prices to find that out (which takes confidence). And yes, pricing yourself out of work is a great strategy to control demand. You just have to do darn good work if someone bites. 😉
Samar | Freelance Flyer says
After spending 6 years as a freelance writer (the past two of which I actually did something to break away from all the doubt that were holding me back) I’ve come to the realization that charging more isn’t the problem, It’s justifying those rates that is.
How do you know you’ll be able to sell $15k worth of product from your sales copy? What if you don’t? And if you’re setting rates according to how much effective your copy is, doesn’t getting a percentage of all sales made from the sales page you wrote make more sense? (provided your words are good enough to actually sell a lot).
Since questions like these make my head spin, I now tend to raise my rates and then worry about writing well enough to justify those rates. I’ve found it keeps me on my toes and encourages me to learn my craft more. The minute I stop worrying about justifying my rates is when I know my rates are no longer reflecting my writing ability.
Demian Farnworth says
The exercise is to help you gauge where you should price it, as well as validate your fees when the client comes back and wonders why you are charging that. And to be honest, it is much better to get paid by performance — only if your copy lives up to the promise. A set fee locks you in. Performance structure allows you to earn more (royalties) for longer. This is why financial copywriters make a lot of dough.
Brian Ruggiero says
Thanks for the inspiring thoughts Damian.
This is always a huge coaching point at corp work as well with junior associates. I spend a lot of time making sure they are very comfortable with the material we consult on before they are put out on a project. They need to be strong and convey confidence or else there can be doubt. The work tends to be too analytical to stand on its own and we can’t be having doubt, based in non confidence, making things more shaky.
How many times have we asked, “Why do you trust/use this person/service?” and heard the response, “Not sure, but they seem very confident.”
Thanks for the link to the quiz. Something went wrong though….My results were tailored for a woman with daughters. I’m PRETTY SURE I entered male, but VERY SURE I entered 3 males and 0 females for kids.
Demian Farnworth says
Same thing happened to me, too. Clearly they don’t know their audience. 😉
Brian Ruggiero says
Looks like it’s working fine.
I missed this post:
Rob Lawrence says
Awesome stuff, Demian.
I’m currently in the process of reading the excellent book, ‘Mindset’ by Dr. Carol Dweck. Have you read it?
Essentially people are of two kinds: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
There’s an interesting chapter where Dweck explores confidence in minority groups and also women. Dweck suggests that one of the core reasons many professions are male biased (particularly those involving science and math) is because confidence (in men and women) stems from socialisation during upbringing. For example girls are flattered early on and boys are told to behave. Until…
Later on, when a young woman is faced with a less than positive remarks, perhaps in class when urged to ‘do better’, she may slide away from a growth mindset to a fixed mindset. Ongoing, this may inhibit confidence and personal growth not just in women but men too e.g. not applying for a job much further down the line.
Young men, on the other hand, to some degree, expect criticism so if they already have a growth mindset are able to maintain one.
From what I have read so far, Dweck suggests success and confidence is much more to do with (praising and applying) effort than (being born with) innate ability or natural talent: growth and fixed mindsets respectively.
Of course, I’m grossly over-summarising here but hopefully I’m illustrating and supporting some of the points you are making on confidence. It’s a great book and this post was a great read. Thanks for sharing more good advice and insight, Demian!
Demian Farnworth says
I’ve heard great things about that book, Rob, but have not yet read it. Sound like I need to. 😀 Thanks for a great comment.