Are You Selling Yourself Short?

NHL/If you make your living as a freelancer, you’re going to be asked – constantly – to prove your worth.

Your clients want to know if you’re the best person for the job.Your blog readers want to know if you really have the smarts to give them advice. Your social media “friends” want you to prove that you’re interesting, funny, worth their time.

With all those people constantly questioning your authority, it’s only natural that you’ll occasionally question your worth. Of course, most of the time, you’ll pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go right back to putting together an aggressive case for why you’re worth it.

Wait a second, though. While you weren’t looking, something happened. You doubted yourself for a moment.

And when you doubted yourself, you pulled back just a little bit in the offense. You started pulling your punches just in case someone clocked you in the face. You raced to your team’s basket for the toss, but you looked back just in case someone tried to steal the ball at half-court. You missed that critical moment to make the pass because you hesitated.

In short, you lost a little bit of faith in your ability.

Now, hang on a second. You definitely didn’t stop making a good case for your abilities or your worth. You didn’t just give up. You didn’t tell people, “You’re right.” What you did was just a little more sinister, because you didn’t even noticed it happened.

You sold yourself short.

You told the client that yes, you could definitely do a great job… but you didn’t tell him you could knock it out of the park and get him better conversion rates.

You told your blog readers that yeah, you’re pretty sure this is good advice… but you reminded them that you’re just a guy with some ideas, take ‘em or leave ‘em. I’m not infallible.

You told your social media followers (unknowingly) that you were having a rough time of it. You started retweeting other people’s stuff instead of promoting your own. You weren’t excited about your own links.

You sold yourself short.

You probably stress yourself out, too. You stand there trying to look impressive and putting forth your authority and acting like nothing ever goes wrong. But all the little bits of doubting, all the wondering if people are going to still like you the next day, if this client will be impressed, if everything is going to be all right tomorrow…

It wears you down hard. I should know.

I recently had the experience of getting a great opportunity, an opportunity I would have just killed for. Every step of the way, I sold myself short. I worried I wouldn’t get the opportunity in the first place. I worried I wouldn’t get the preparation right. I worried that I would embarrass myself. I worried I’d blow my chance at something good.

Now, did that stop me? Hell no. I put my game face on and geared up my offense and went for it. But if I’d stopped doubting myself, it would have been a lot easier. I would have saved myself a ton of stress and worrying, too.

Because I absolutely nailed it. Knocked it out of the park. Scored a hat trick. The people involved couldn’t stop raving about what a great job I’d done.

Nothing stopped me. Nothing kept me from getting out there and playing the game. Nothing held me back from giving it a shot and getting it in the net. But I would have loved the game a lot more every step of the way if I hadn’t been selling myself and my skills short.

When have you doubted yourself? Caused yourself unnecessary stress because you didn’t really believe you could do it?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. I’m feeling really, really contrary tonight. Probably just self-doubt speaking.

    So I’ll leave it with a Kudos!

    Looking forward to my own hat tricks.
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Saturday Morning Surfing – Oversharing is *not* intimacy =-.

  2. “Your blog readers want to know if you really have the smarts to give them advice.” – If they are you readers… as in people who drop by regularly then they shouldn’t be asking that question. At least not in my mind. Obviously nothing’s perfect, but this should be mitigated with so much value that it hits them like a fucking tsunami. No one would question a tsunami.

    However, I HAVE felt some doubt in the past (I know, shocking eh James?) I felt it on my first day of teaching Karate. I felt it on my first day when I started coaching gymnastics and I felt it when I took on my very first client for E-Training (It’s still crazy to me how much you can change someone’s life over the internet. Can’t get over it)

    I think self-doubt is natural because when you start something new… it’s an “unknown”. But for me, all those initial doubts have been tackled down, mounted on and been pummeled into the ground. They wouldn’t dare re-surface.

    However, I’m glad I felt that shit because every time I doubt myself… I have to work through it and I keep proving to my self, time and time again that my skills are far more concrete than I ever gave them credit for.

    And THAT feels pretty f***ing sweet, if I should say so myself 😉

    Good post, I could definitely vibe with it.
    .-= FJ – No BS Fitness Blog´s last blog ..FitJerk Friday#3 – Importance Of A Workout Buddy =-.

  3. Archan Mehta says:

    Hello, James, no need to worry. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

    For every doubting Thomas out there, there are true believers too.

    I think you are a darn good writer and I love reading your posts.

    So, instead of doubting yourself, believe in yourself. And know, just know, out there you have fans who are rooting for you.

    And egging you on for that next great victory. So, clinch that deal and don’t sell yourself short.

    Every time you have any doubts about you abilities, take a deep breath and slowly let it go. Then take a look at all the people who think you are doing a fantastic job. And keep on going. And keep on moving, shaking.

    And, while you’re at it, listen to some soft rock station. Every time I doubt myself, I listen in to the song, “I love you just the way you are.”

    Man, if that doesn’t give you the confidence, nothing else will. Thanks.

  4. I believe it’s common and healthy to have some self doubt. It keeps us grounded, thankful, and humble. However, putting on that ‘game face’ is what separates those who persevere from those who don’t.
    .-= Heather Villa´s last blog ..Weekend Reading: My fav’s from this week: 1/22/10 =-.

  5. I doubt myself every time I have to justify my pricing…but as you have nailed in this post that bringing out the offense is the best strategy…perhaps that is why some entrepreneurs win and others don’t…the difference between a great offensive strategy or being on the defense…
    .-= elaine shannon´s last blog ..Success and 9 words that struck me like an ICEBERG =-.

  6. James,

    Aw, that’s easy. I’m infallible. 😉

    There’s a great quotation by Jim Rohn that goes in part: “Don’t bring your need to the marketplace, bring your skill. If you don’t feel well, tell your doctor, but not the marketplace.”

    That’s pretty much my feeling. Not that I mind being human in front of people, but that a very, very little vulnerability goes a long way.

    As you say: Sometimes it’s not easy, but putting on your game face is good for your own empowerment and it’s great for keeping colleagues and customers happy, too.


    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Sour Sales Save Stores! =-.

  7. Hi James,
    I’m one classic case of selling myself short. I have often been told so by friends and after reading your post I realised how much damage, I was doing to myself as a freelancer. I even reduce my price if a client wants, assuming I’m new to the profession, so, I may not get as much. Leave alone self-doubt I show it to others too. Thanks for the rocking post.
    You are the best!
    .-= Laya Bajpai´s last blog ..The best free writer’s resources =-.

  8. Self doubt is good for us, it allows us to explore the reasons for our insecurity and fix the things needing to be fixed. In fact, I recommend it in order to explore who we are, our mission and what we’re worth.

    With that said, the game face is oh so important. It’s OK to doubt yourself, but you don’t necessarily want others to do the same.

    Thought provoking, as usual.
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..The Brand New Jeans Approach to Freelance Writing =-.

  9. And when does confidence and game face become arrogance?

    It’s a fine line…
    .-= Alex Fayle ¡ Someday Syndrome´s last blog ..Resolving to Be Happier: The Happiness Project =-.

  10. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Another message with power: yes–you had doubts, yes–that sucked. But in spite of it, yes–you nailed it.

    I don’t think there is anything harder than believing in ourselves. Our culture, parents, religious leaders, schools, and …everyone wants to only point out what is wrong. To be surrounded by so much negativity, and still stand tall, is inspiring. So Congratulations James.

    Thanks for feeling confident enough to share this with your online community. We are here to not only learn new things, but to emotionally support and encourage each other–you nailed it again.

  11. @Alex – There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is an obvious security, arrogance is using negativity (usually directed as others) as a way to cover up insecurity.
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..The Brand New Jeans Approach to Freelance Writing =-.

  12. Brett Legree says:

    I figure it this way – we’re all human, and no matter how impressive “that other guy” looks, he makes mistakes too.

    (I didn’t say “she” because women don’t make mistakes hee hee!)

    In fact, that way of thinking got me started along the path I’m following right now. I looked at a service provider who I will be competing with at some point in the not too distant future, and I saw that, yes Virginia, even though they have a flashy web site and business cards and so forth…

    …the documentation they sent us (quotations and so forth) wasn’t absolutely perfect.

    I knew that I could do it better, and I saw how much they were charging my company for it.

    I knew that I had a lot more experience than many (most, actually) of them do, so I decided to stop selling myself short.
    .-= Brett Legree´s last blog ..the terminal man. =-.

  13. Um, James, if we’re less than modest, don’t we risk having our Canadian citizenship revoked?

    Seriously, though, the thing that holds me back most is the fear that someone will tell me I’m full of shit.

    And the thing that propels me forward is that is hardly the end of the world. I can be wrong. If I’m always right I’ll never learn anything.

    Denying the passion that pushes me to take risks turns me into a pale imitation of myself. The doubt might still show up, but it’s not going to stop me.
    .-= Stacey Cornelius´s last blog ..How to start a revolution =-.

  14. I remember this happening to me once many years ago when I was just starting out as a freelance writer. I got a project from a well-known company and felt intimidated by them. And it didn’t help that they maintained an iron grip on every step of the project and wouldn’t let me revise anything once I’d shown it to them.

    The whole situation gave me brain lock, and while I finished the job, the ultimate results were poor. Looking back, I can see that I didn’t do the job well simply because, in your words, I’d sold myself short.

    It’s all about attitude. You don’t have to be arrogant. It’s just a matter of having confidence, which comes from experience.
    .-= Dean Rieck´s last blog ..11 quick ways to kickstart your slow freelance business =-.

  15. My particular foible is thinking too much about what others can or have done, and letting their achievements wear down my self-confidence. There’s a great anecdote in Schwab’s *How to Write a Good Advertisement* that usually shifts my perspective back where it needs to be. Schwab says that when somebody asked Willie Hoppe’s manager how it was that Willie always won his billiard matches, the answer was, “Willie is always playing billiards; his competitors are always playing Willie.” If I work hard at writing good copy, knowing I’ve produced something good keeps me from selling myself short. (I love the Schwab quote so much I recently used it on my VersaQuill blog.)

  16. @Dianne – A different way to look at what others have accomlished (and this is how I tend to look at it) is that if they could do it, *you* could do it too. Other people’s accomplishments tend to give me goals to reach for. What goal would you go after?

    @Dean – Ha, been there myself. You get that victory feeling of “Ohmigod, I’m working for XYZ!!”… and then suddenly you think, “Ohmigod. I’m working for XYZ.”

    Then you get a few more years under your belt and you realize that XYZ wouldn’t be working with you if you weren’t already rockin’. That’s a much better attitude, eh!

    @Stacey – People tell me I’m full of shit all the time. I grin, nod and answer, “Yup!” Because most often, those who tell you you’re full of shit should be looking in a mirror 🙂

    And… well… yes, I think the Guide to Canadian Behavior says something like that on page 37. But modesty was never really my forte.

    @Brett – I spent a lot of time telling myself, “He’s just a guy like me. He’s just some guy. Like me. No big deal. Just some guy.”

    When I wrapped up the interview and then grabbed the phone to tell someone I’d made it through alive, I think the first thing out of my mouth was, “Oh man, it was the best. It was incredible how much we had in common. He’s just like me! ”

    No one is allowed to say, “I told you so, James.”

    @Deb/Alex – Arrogance, to me, is the state of abasing others to lift yourself, by claiming that you’re better than they are. Confidence is the inner knowledge that you can do something or are something and completely unrelated to other people.

    @Mary – I think today’s world makes it incredibly tough for people to believe in themselves. But I also think that too many people give permission to others to knock down their confidence.

    While I may at times doubt myself, I would never allow someone to knock down what I believe in. Which, I think, gives me the ability to face adversity head on and make it through.

    But more importantly… I think anyone can be just like that. It isn’t a mindset I own exclusively. You just have to believe 🙂

    @Deb – I’m not sure I agree that self-doubt is good for us, but I haven’t had enough coffee to debate that yet. 🙂

    I do agree that everyone should take time to look inside ourselves and improve what needs improving to be more confident in life.

    @Laya – I think it’s a normal learning process to doubt yourself when new to business. No one wants to screw up. No one wants to do the wrong thing and lose a client. But I think you’re already seeing where there are a few doubts you can let go of now so you can replace them with confidence.

    @Kelly – I can’t figure out if that was a hidden message that said, “You idiot! Don’t tell people you were nervous!” or one that said, “People shouldn’t air their dirty laundry as much as they do.” I’ll go have more coffee and think about it 😉

    But I absolutely agree. There is no place in business for hanging your doubts, no matter how small, out for all to see.

    @Elaine – The best defense is a great offense, n’est pas?

    @Heather – And I think winning a few games also helps!

    @Archan – I’m sitting here grinning, because when I feel even the tiniest doubt, I stick on some Kid Rock and listen to him screaming, “You never met a motherf**ker quite like me.”

    Oh yeah. 😉

    @Alex – Now I wonder if that falls into arrogance or just plain cocky? Hehehe…

    @FJ – This right here, buddy:

    I think self-doubt is natural because when you start something new… it’s an “unknown”. But for me, all those initial doubts have been tackled down, mounted on and been pummeled into the ground. They wouldn’t dare re-surface.


    @Dave – Contrary’s good. Makes a person determined!

  17. Thank you for another great post, I think this is just what I needed to see. I constantly sell myself short, with life and my writing, and I think confidence is what I need to really get the ball rolling on my book.

  18. Self-doubt is fear. The mark of courage is working through the fear to accomplish a given task.
    .-= Todd´s last blog .. =-.

  19. James,

    Naw, not aimed at how *you* handled that situation in particular, or business in general. Just musing on the topic of putting on that game face. Sort of like… if you can’t pump yourself up… puff yourself out. It has nearly the same effect.

    Until later,

    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Sour Sales Save Stores! =-.

  20. @Kelly – Wooo. I read that too quickly and caught, “Pimp yourself out.”


  21. LOL. My dearest Man With Pen, whatever works.

    There’s probably a post in there somewhere.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Sour Sales Save Stores! =-.

  22. @James
    Yeah “pimp yourself out” doesn’t sound half bad. See what happened when “I” read shit too fast:

    Hah, ahh… I went back and read the discussion. Still cracks me up. Too bad my chocolaty appearance can’t get away with screaming “blonde moment” – because that’s precisely what it was. (Minus the forgetting about who the heck Josh was… I totally did)
    .-= FJ – No BS Fitness Blog´s last blog ..Supplement Review: Chocolate Whey Crisps =-.

  23. Very true. Sometimes I’m so concerned someone else won’t believe in me and point out my weak points and yet that has never happened! Made me think of the book “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. We need to push past our own insecurities and prove ourselves by succeeding not wallowing in fear.

  24. This is just such an awesome post. That is all.

  25. I agree with the article. You’re more likely to do an awesome job if you really believe that you can do awesome job. Your energy level and motivation will shoot up making you ready to deliver the goods!

  26. I teach freelancers and they often sell themselves short. They think that because they may not be attached to a big publishing firm, no-one will want to work with them.

    But, I agree with James, if you believe in yourself (or at least pretend when it counts) and you know you will give 100%, you will get the gig, and you will do it well.

    I’ll admit though, I know I am very good at what I do (Not because I am a genius, only because after 20 years you would darn well hope so!), but I often undersell myself to new editors.
    .-= Pamela Wilson´s last blog ..Climb Everest with these time management tips =-.

  27. I think it’s human nature to doubt yourself sometimes and sell yourself short. Sometimes however the nervous energy created by that insecurity can produce great work. It’s important to know that everyone feels that way even the greatest of the greats. Some of us just hide it a lot better.

  28. As someone who tends to get twisted out of shape by self doubt too often, I appreciate your post today. I really need to remember what I have accomplished and use that to fuel enough confidence to do the next thing. Still not easy, but definitely do-able. Game face, yes!

  29. I would guess I’ve probably done that as many times as there are stars in the sky.

    In a world of pessimists, it’s kind of easy to allow yourself to believe “you can’t”. But I often think back to your article about being successful in spite of what anyone thinks or says…..

    ….and I press on 🙂
    .-= Roschelle´s last blog ..Open Letter to prospective emergency room patient =-.

  30. @Roschelle – Ahh, that’s sweet to hear (not the part about the pessimists, but the part about spiting them all). I’m a firm believer in the “I’ll show them!” mindset. That always tends to pay off well.

    @Elly – Now, there’s a good way to keep moving forward: by looking back. Even if you have to dig back years to that one single time you put on a brave face and put your heart in your hands and really gave it a shot – and succeeded! – I think there’s something in everyone’s life that they can say, “Yup, I did that.” And with pride.

    Which means you can do great stuff again, n’est pas?

    @Sarah – The energy we feel about being just a little nervous or insecure does often pay off. We work harder to do our best, we make sure we’re doing everything right… win. I think that feeling comes from caring about what we’re doing – a lot. If we don’t care, we don’t feel that tingle of nerves, and we don’t give it our all.

    @Pamela – Freelancers by nature are, I feel, some of the most inwardly screwed up people I’ve ever met – which is/can be a really good thing. They really live their emotions (well, most of them!) and through that, I think they tend to experience life more at its fullest.

    @Chet – Bingo!

    @Deb – Thank you 🙂

    @Elizabeth – Wallowing in fears never got anyone anywhere. And it’s kind of silly, if you ask me. I’d rather wallow in money 😉

  31. This is a very good read. Unfortunately like many freelancers, I am guilty of selling myself short. Especially if it is a new client I am with, and am unsure of what it is they want. From now on, I’m going to try to be more confident in my abilities!
    .-= Zara Henderson´s last blog ..Lane Recliner Chairs =-.

  32. I agree with you in there. I, for an instance have experienced that a lot of times already but i realized that it’s my lost i let them ruin my confidence. And then, i swear to myself, i won’t let the people do that to me. i will never give them the chance to make me feel insecure with my capabilities and potentials.. OPTIMISM is very important for a freelancer. 🙂
    .-= Sallie Holiday´s last blog ..Holiday Cottage in Cornwall =-.

  33. Persuasive post! Thanks a lot.

    I’ve realized that whenever I let my inner charisma jump out and do its work, it attracts and leaves no space to doubt on my capabilities.

    The ridiculous thing is that sometimes we stop ourselves in order not to be very bold and articulate. Being mild and modest is the enemy of gaining what you want! You could be polite, but resolute and say what’s right, good and proper to say at its appropriate situation.

  34. I think a little self doubt sometimes goes a long way and you can use those nerves and feelings to write great copy. I think this is something most writers probably suffer from. I know I do! I think you should talk yourself up first and have some self doubt later.

  35. David Oliveira says:

    I doubt myself everyday day…


  1. uberVU - social comments says:

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by glennarcaro: Are You Selling Yourself Short?

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bkmacdaddy designs, Michel Fortin, WPstudios, Studio Rhoad, Todd Rutherford and others. Todd Rutherford said: Are You Selling Yourself Short? […]

  3. […] Are You Selling Yourself Short – Continue on Menwithpens SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "[Designers] Are You Selling Yourself Short?", url: "" }); Tagged as: Advice for Freelancers, Freelance, Freelance graphic design, Web Design Leave a comment Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) ( subscribe to comments on this post ) […]

Leave a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.