After a lifetime of working for an organization that resisted quality, that rewarded sloppy work as long as it broke no rules or caused no accidents, that compensated slackers with abundant overtime pay, that asked employees to check their brains and their work ethic at the door, I have entered an entirely new realm. I probably would not like working for me, if I weren’t me. I’m not complimentary. I’m a harsh critic. I hate sloppiness. And I’m driven to beat deadlines by days rather than by hours.
My new career requires no physicality, no suffering through the extremes of heat, cold, wet, ice, or snapping teeth. Now my brain drives success. I must devise workarounds when software fails—or I fail the software. I must figure out how to do what I don’t know how to do. I must hold my temper and resist the urge to fire the client when things slide sideways. Now I am quality control. Whatever rolls out the door is all on me. If errors lurk, they are mine. That extra space between sentences is on me, not on the typist who slipped it in there in the first place.
By far the most challenging dilemma of being my own boss is standing by what I’m worth. I’m committed to charging industry rates. I want no part in stealing potential work from other tech writers who must craft a living from this line of work. But how can I learn to value my work? I am so unaccustomed to acknowledging that I offer value, that my talents might be unique. Each time I calculate an invoice, I shudder inside. I could never afford my own services. How can I expect others to cough up such sums? Each invoice I submit is accompanied by a subliminal apology. I dread the day a client fires back with, “You must be padding this bill! This is exorbitant!”
Time after time, however, I’ve been stupefied to receive the same verbatim response from my clients: “You are worth every penny!” Will I ever believe my clients?