Too long for Tweets, too short for posts. Too brilliant to keep in the drawer.


In all, I calculate that by avoiding moves that seemed too risky and frightening, I saved myself at least $12,390.

I also calculate, that by avoiding moves that seemed too risky and frightening, I have missed out on about $150,675, easy.


If you Google your profession, “technical copywriter”, “English-to-Polish Translation”, “freelance web designer,” you will despair to see there are 2,986,441 people already competing with you.

You will notice that maybe 10% of them are incompetent dopes, which will encourage you. But you will also despair to see that the other 90% all seem far smarter, better-looking, more confident, and way more successful than you.

They are not.

So quit looking at them. Quit making yourself feel bad for no reason.


Which is why I quit looking at the 489 other freelancing blogs out there. They all have 64,000 more readers, they create hugely popular “9 Ways” posts that garner hundreds of retweets, and get about 362 comments every day. They have so much traffic they have ads.

So I quit looking at them. Simple.


Is there a going rate, or a customary charge for what you do?  Then you are pretty much stuck. Unless you (a) learn how to work with uncanny and unheard-of speed, or (b) cultivate a persona, a voice, an approach, a story that is so distinctive that you no longer fall into that class. Or elevate what you do to high art so those ‘customary’ rates do not apply to you.

I know. That is glib and facile. But if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. And we would be back at square one.


Clients are willing to pay most when they are in pain, or trying to avert a disaster.

Second most when they are trying to look like a hero to their bosses. Or to avoid looking like an ass.

Third most, when they want to confidently check off items on their to-do lists.

Least when they don’t really care one way or the other.

You do not want to work there.


Most times, the client is just as uncertain and clueless as you are. Especially if they are yelling. So don’t take it personally.


If a client gets angry because you have quoted too high, it is a good sign.

It means they really want you, but they have underbudgeted, mis-judged, or are just too strapped to afford you. And that makes them frustrated. It’s their problem.

If they didn’t want your stuff they would just shrug and move on.

But they want you and can’t have you. And are angry.

I have told myself this for years, and I can attest that it works.


There is magic in trying things. You can theorize and think about strategies all you want. Nothing counts until you put it on your site. Tell it to a customer. Put it in a bid. Charge by the kilo? Try it.

I know, you’re afraid to fail, to look like an idiot. To have it not work.

Here’s a clue:  Nobody is paying attention. They won’t notice. Until you do something interesting.

Most ideas don’t work. But that’s okay, because most people won’t see them anyway. Until you come up with something good.

“Obscene teeshirts in Slavic Languages.”  How to say nasty things in Czech, so no one will know.

You are freelance, you are independent, you are your own master.  Try it. Post it. If it sucks, take it down. Try something tomorrow. If that stinks, too, try something else on Wednesday.

If it works, you will look like a genius. Try things.


The trick is to find the pricing level that results in the most income, not the most jobs.

Usually, that means attracting fewer, but higher-priced assignments.

A corollary: You should lose maybe a third of your jobs because you’re too pricey. If not, you are underpriced.

Work at the ‘whistle point’. Where the client hears your fee and whistles. “Ooh. That’s higher than we wanted to go. But let’s proceed.”

No, you won’t hit that every time. But shoot at it nonetheless.


Make it look easy.

Downplay the complexities.

There is an Italian term “Sprezzatura.” It means ‘appearing as if you were not trying. As if it were casual and unstudied.’

(Mara Celani: is this correct?)

At one time, I thought it would be smart to look at every job as if it were impossible. To tell every client, “Oh this is difficult, impractical. There are a thousand problems here. There is no solution. I don’t know what we can do.”

In the hope they would be willing to pay more.

Dumb. Stupid. (You do not want to see your dentist worrying and checking his textbook for advice on how to save this tooth. No.)

Think Sprezzatura.

“Ah yes. This is difficult. But we can do this. Go home, eat some dinner. Think no more about it.”

“It will be costly. But you will have it.”

“No problem. ”