Self-respect is a cornerstone of freelance success.

Self-respect and looking good.The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines self-respect as:

1: a proper respect for oneself as a human being
2: regard for one’s own standing or position

I come across the term myself most often when I’m about to set off on some chore or other and my wife asks, “Are you going out like that? You should have more self-respect.”

She has a point. I’m sometimes a very scruffy dresser, particularly at weekends. My most comfortable clothes and shoes are generally old. Sometimes very old.

Last year a young man at a local store stopped scanning my groceries half way through, just to check that I had enough money to pay for them. I’m guessing it was because, judging by my scruffy weekend clothes, he thought I was down to my last few dollars.

That said, I don’t make the same impression professionally.

I “dress myself up” very nicely.

Recently I was in discussion with a prospective client. After about 2 hours on the phone, numerous emails, and a two-page document outlining some broad recommendations, I decided it was time for me to start charging.

I thought long and hard about the best price point. We had both agreed that my experience and credentials made me ideal for the project. I balanced that against the fact that this wasn’t a massive company with a vast budget.

I settled on a figure and sent in a short proposal. My price was higher than you might expect from an average freelancer. But that’s as it should be. I have been doing this for a long time and knew I could add huge value to his business.

After I emailed my proposal I waited for him to reply.

He never did. Nothing. Not a word.

And I breathed a sigh of relief.


Absolutely. Because my price point was a filter.

If he had accepted, that would have meant that he “got” my value and would willingly pay for it.

When he didn’t reply I knew that he clearly didn’t get my value, and that he would be trying to get as much as he could from me for the lowest fees he could get away with.

Professionally, I have enough self-respect to turn away from relationships like that. So yes, I was relieved that I had set the filter at the right level, and identified him as someone I wouldn’t want to work with.

Imagine if I had waited a few days and then emailed him back with a revised and lower estimate.

Total lack of self-respect.

Think about this yourself as you deal with your clients.

I know, it’s tempting to do whatever it takes to land the job. But when you sell yourself and your time at a level that is below your true value, that shows lack of self-respect.

And as my wife points out, quite rightly, respecting yourself makes you feel better about yourself… and happier as you work your way through the day.

Professionally, it means you get to do better work with better clients, and achieve higher and higher levels of success.


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7 thoughts on “Self-respect is a cornerstone of freelance success.

  1. Hi Nick,
    Thank you for writing this article. It is so timely. We were just having a discussion recently about this same subject in the AWAI groupsite forum. One AWAI student is having trouble maintaining a high level of copywriting self-confidence. The rest of us wrote encouraging posts for her to help her raise her own level of copywriting esteem.

    Maybe to avoid embarrassment the next time you go to the store, you should listen to your wife.

  2. Hi Nick,
    It is so wonderful to hear an experienced copywriter like you preach this gospel of self-respect. To the ears of someone who has yet to land a client, it affirms the attitude I’ve been taking, and encourages me to soldier on, pricing myself in a way that reflects my abilities and training. Thanks!

    • Well, having respect for yourself is the first step in making sure your clients respect you too. : )


  3. Hi Nick,
    As Joyce has said, it’s good for beginning copywriters to hear about vulnerabilities similar to our own, from a pro. A little scary, actually, because if you’re worried about you, it makes me think I need to really worry about the quality of what I produce!

    I, and many of your students, believe you do an excellent job, based on courses we’ve taken from you. We may not be the best judge of great copywriting, but we know what works for us – and so do you.

    So – given that you have your humble moments, I should be quaking in my boots. (I am!)
    This career definitely has it’s humbling opportunities, all of which appear in monster form in my dreams, to be out there to bring me to my knees!! It seems to be a fine line between getting moving, and knowing enough to offer value.

    Thank you for your contributions.

    • When it comes to copywriting and freelancing, one is never “done”. Always learning, always excited, and always scared about the next new project or idea. : )


  4. HI Nick
    I am just learning this copywriting and I am web editor for our local Lions club. I figured with some experience with this, then moving up to eventually paid jobs is the journey to take.

    Never thought about the “respect for myself aspect”, yes I do deserve to get paid well once I hold value and should never allow myself to undersell my talents.

    Some will see value and others will not. Working for someone that doesn’t want to pay what you want will probably be a royal pain anyways.

    I shall remember this for the future.



  5. Nick

    Good article.

    I like the phrase ‘fee filter’, I’ve used it and can understand why you ‘breathed a sigh of relief’ – you sort of get a hunch prior to sending these proposals, especially if you’ve spent ages on the phone first.

    The best returns seem to be from potential clients who don’t beat around the bush and keep probing for more information.

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