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Writers have a driving need to describe, explain, and express. The change of seasons intoxicates. The vibrancy of fall leaf colors attracts and the irony of such beauty coming at the end of the growing season causes inner contemplation. The creative soul could at times exist and thrive in the world of individual and craft; however, for most self-employed writers the creative process must also pay the bills.

Enter Dr. Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation. Dr. Vroom’s theory works on the principle of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. Within this work management theory a writer can find a financially rewarding balance between the creative and the mundane.

Simply put Expectancy Theory asks what you expect the outcome of your tasks will be and offers a formula for how well you will succeed based on your mindset. How well you expect the task to proceed will affect your motivation to begin and complete the task. For example, you pitch an article idea but have heard this editor is slow to respond and is even slower to pay after the article is filed or you have worked with this editor before and have firsthand experience of this fact. The creative part of you loves researching and writing on the topic this magazine covers, but what will be the outcome of the task knowing there may be hazards ahead? By using Dr. Vroom’s Theory, you can work through the emotional part of taking this assignment based on how motivated you will be to begin and finish. Motivation has a distinct effect on your bottom line.

The Theory’s three factors grant insight into how you see an assignment from past experiences and if you perceive the outcome to be rewarding or unsatisfying. Do you see the project as producing pleasure or pain? The factors are: Expectancy, Valence, and Instrumentality.

Expectancy: You have the assignment. It is penciled in on your calendar but the closer it gets to the time to contact sources to set up interviews the more you dread getting started. Why? What’s causing your hesitation? Check your motivation so that before you pitch this market again you will know whether it is worth your time. Ask yourself is the pain worth the pleasure. Figure your hourly rate and consider time lost due to procrastinating.

Valency: What is your reward for completing this article? If the subject matter is not your specialty and in fact you find it boring, think through what will make completing the article more pleasurable to you. Will you be compensated well, help others with the information in the article, or will writing the article have long-term positive effects on your career.

Instrumentality: After thinking through your motivation for pitching and completing the project now measure the probability of obtaining the desired outcome which is your project will be more pleasure than pain. Use the following equation:

Force (Motivation) = Valence x Expectancy

The Force or motivation you apply to the project is a direct result of the outcome you want (Valence) multiplied by how you fared previously producing the project or a similar project. For example:

1) If you feel the outcome of this project will reward you in ways that will help your career the Valence rate will be high. The same is true of the Expectancy rate. 2) If you do not believe payment for the project is sufficient and completing a similar project was previously unsatisfying then both rates will be low. 3) One rating can also be higher than the other i.e., you feel the Valency of doing the job is low but did have a good experience previously then the rates will vary. The expectancy rate can be high with a low valency rate, as well.

1) Force (64) = .8 (V) x .7 (E)
2) Force (16) = .2 (V) x .1 (E)
3) Force (36) = .6 (V) x .2 (E)

Force in each of these equations measures your motivation to do a job and can help you make a conscious business decision of whether to accept a project. As usual, you will initially figure your hourly rate for a project but factoring in previous outcomes can keep you from taking a project that will become a time drain. Ask yourself is the pleasure worth the pain as a freelance writer. If not, find a project you are better suited doing. You will, at times, have to take projects you are not excited about, but if the outcome is rewarding then you know you have made the right decision and knowing that will produce a positive attitude toward the project.