Do you feel like a pro yet?

It matters. Feeling like a pro helps you get through the day. And when you’re a pro, clients sense it.

I thought I became a ‘professional’ the first time I wrote some stuff and got paid for it.

I hung out my sign. I landed an assignment. They gave me a check.

Ergo, a pro.

Not quite.

Later, when my sole source of income was writing copy for money, I could fill out forms and applications and list my occupation as Writer.

Under ‘Employer’ I could write Self’.

A pro.

But that wasn’t it, either.

Once, I was on a conference call with four marketing people at a fancy corporation. They all made much more money than me. They had MBAs and ran big departments. They were blathering about how to handle this project.

None of them had any clue how to write this, how to crack this nut.

I was listening, not saying anything. I was thinking “Duh, guys, this is not rocket surgery. I know exactly how to do this.”

I felt a little pro there.

Another time, I was on a conference call with some very smart people at a fancy agency. None of them had any clue what to do, how to crack this nut.

I was listening, not saying anything. I was thinking, “Hell, I have no idea how to do this, either.”

But I wasn’t worried. I trusted that when I got to the keyboard and started typing, the answer would eventually show up. As long as I did the work, things would happen.

I felt pretty pro there.

My designer friend Dave, who is even more grizzled than me, adds these:

“Here’s a pro: When your insides are cramping and bubbling with some intestinal malady, or your personal life is in high drama, or it’s one of those days you feel like a no-talent impostor, you can still put a solid and workmanlike job on the client’s desk. Pros aren’t fragile. Pros can work in the rain.”

I love this one from fellow writer Ivana:

“When the client craps all over your work, ticking off 23 things that are wrong with it (most of which she asked for) and all you want to do is fire off a diatribe refuting each point in withering detail, while simultaneously making obscene gestures at the screen with both arms.”

“Either that, or you want to quit.”

“But the next morning you put all that aside, and figure out how to push the thing forward anyway. That is pro.”

“You have to stand back a bit from what you do. You can’t tie your ego too closely with your craft, your skill. Don’t confuse what you do with who you are.That’s amateur.

“It’s never about you. It’s about the work.”

When the bell rings, when the curtain goes up, you’re on. And you’re ready.

That is pro.