It's hard for me to get beyond my mercenary mindset and accept that it's ok for me to write for something other than money.
I've long had a mercenary mindset when it comes to writing. Because I started out desperately trying to pay the rent while my husband worked on his Ph.D. and I stayed home with my son, my early freelance writing career was marked by my willingness to write almost anything for almost any amount of money.
Even as my career progressed, and I no longer had to work for peanuts, it was difficult to lose the mercenary mindset. I occasionally provided the odd guest post for people I liked and even worked for “exposure” sometimes.
But working without pay is a rare occurrence for me. I've worked so hard for so long, and I'm so used to being paid immediately, that it's hard for me to see the value in providing free content. It's a very mercenary mindset that boils it all down to a dollar amount.
Setting Up as an Expert Rather than a Mercenary
Some of that is changing recently. I had a short, but enlightening, conversation with some of my peeps on Skype, I realized that my mercenary mindset might be holding me back because my focus is shifting. My focus is no longer so much about client work as it is about working on my passion projects.
Unfortunately, I can't just ditch all of the client work, since my family still needs to eat. However, I can devote a little more time to marketing [easyazon_link asin=”149361116X” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”marquit-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]my book[/easyazon_link], and making sure that I devote some time to my rant blog. I'd like to write another book — I really enjoyed the self-publication process — and there are civic-minded things I'd like to do.
This new shift requires a slightly different direction, though. While I'm out there trying to tout myself as an expert on online freelance writing and perhaps on simple money issues, I have to expect that sometimes I will provide free content to others. I never got big into guest posting for exposure (almost all of my guest posts have been paid for by someone, somewhere), but now I'm thinking about it. I've also carved out time to answer queries on HARO, rather than just using the site as a place for me to find sources.
Moving away from the mercenary mindset as a writer is difficult, though. Instead of knowing that I'm going to get paid for what I'm writing, I'm painfully aware that what I've provided might be a crap shoot. Will I get signups? Will it really raise awareness for my book and translate into sales? I'm even sponsoring podcasts now.
All of this could be so much wasted effort and even money in some cases. I'm not much of a risk taker, and leaving the safety of the mercenary mindset — the mindset that says “show me the money” before I do anything — is scary as hell.
As a mercenary writer, you know you're going to get paid. You know your efforts are going to translate into dollar signs. When you move away from the mindset and try to see the advantages of exposure or expert credibility, or any of the other things that you attempt to accomplish when you do something for free, you are going out on a limb.
The ultimate goal is to raise your profile, and hopefully that translates into book sales, or more followers, or the ability to charge more for your services. I'm trying to see the value in that, but it's difficult since I'm not much into self-promotion (which is why I so often have to pay for my publicity) and I don't feel confident about the way I look, or my credentials, so it's extra-hard. These are just the realities that make it difficult for me to shed the mercenary mindset and embrace another way of moving forward as I shift my business model to one that's more about building me rather than building up my clients (although client work is likely to remain Very Important to me). The mercenary mindset is easier to deal with, and a lot safer in terms of my emotional and financial situation.
What do you think? Are you more of a mercenary? Or do you find that working for free has better perks sometimes?