Overselling/Underselling Yourself

By Amanda Connor

I have been caught in this web of imbalance before. It is as easy to oversell yourself as it is to undersell yourself to a prospective client.

On days when I’ve felt terribly confident in my abilities and perhaps caught a really inspirational Lifetime movie that hammered home the idea that “I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to,” I may have taken on a project that was clearly over my head, and later lived to regret doing so.  On other days, when I’ve felt overwhelmed or exhausted, I haven’t taken the time to really sell my abilities and I’ve missed out on some great writing opportunities.

The only answer to finding this perfect balance of appropriately selling your abilities is to take the time to really evaluate your own work and to give yourself room for introspection.

Questions to ask yourself to prevent overselling:

1. If this project sounds challenging, am I genuinely interested in the subject matter?

2. Do I have the energy and drive to put into taking on a project like this?

3. Will taking on a challenging project like this boost my knowledge/skill set for future projects? Will this increase my value as a writer?

4. What’s my motivation: the subject matter or the paycheck?

Questions to ask yourself to prevent underselling:

1. What other projects have I worked on that are most worth mentioning? Highlight these projects. Now is not the time to be modest.

2. If I’m not giving this pitch my all, why not? Fatigue? Burn out? Stress? Lack of interest in the project?

3. Am I being too timid about my abilities? Focus on the most difficult project you have taken on to date and ask yourself: Am I capable of producing even better/more challenging work?

Whether you suspect you are underselling your abilities, or you are coming down from the high of another great project and feel like you can take on the world, save yourself the frustration of a botched opportunity by remaining grounded in where you stand, as well as remaining focused on each new step in your writing career.

2 thoughts on “Overselling/Underselling Yourself”

  1. Oh, the overselling is a hot button for me, because it causes problems for ALL freelancers when someone botches a job. It reinforces the freelancers-are-flakes perception.

    I would add another facet that’s in the same vein: On a rare occasion, I’ve gotten myself into a bad situation because I really, genuinely liked the person who had contacted me, and philosophically liked the idea that I could help him/her out. But because their own business plan/idea wasn’t developed fully enough, I struggled to make it happen. I should have ferreted that out in the beginning, but overlooked it because I thought it would be cool to make it work.

  2. Great point, Jake. Whether intentionally or accidently, we’ve all gotten ourselves into this position once or twice before. The real challenge is in knowing when to politely pull the plug, and ideally we all learn to identify this point before we’ve gotten in over our heads.

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