The master class I ran last month almost didn’t happen. That was partly because my voice had gone AWOL on me the morning of it, and partly because I was scared that no one would turn up. That no one would care what I had to say.
I forced myself through it, because well, life is all about being uncomfortable, right? And guess what? No one shouted abuse at me. No one said they hated my advice.
In fact, the opposite happened. People learnt from it. They took away information they didn’t know before. It was valuable for them.
Why am I telling you this?
Because we are seriously our own worst enemies. If I had given in to my fears, that masterclass would never have happened. The people who watched it wouldn’t have learnt what I had to say, and I wouldn’t have had that moment of relief and joy you get when something you were anxious about goes way better than you expected.
Fear holds us back all the time. It sucks but it’s true. No matter how much we try to tell ourselves that things will turn out just fine and that we ARE good enough to do something, there’s always a little niggling voice at the back of our minds telling us to just pack it all in because it’s never going to work.
This fear seems to come to a head when you’re making a brand new lifestyle decision. You know, like becoming a freelancer. And it’s no surprise really, considering it’s such a huge leap to take. It’s a career move where we have to rely on ourselves, which gives good old fear free reign to party all up in our brains.
Freelancing just seems to be such a scary subject, what with the prospect of not earning any money, getting rejected every day, and having to compete with tonnes of people who are naturally more skilled than we are.
But if I’ve learnt something over the past 18 months, it’s that EVERYONE has these fears. No matter how successful they are. No matter how good they are at what they do. Everyone suffers from the dreaded fear of SOMETHING.
So here’s how you can overcome the top freelancing fears.
1. Fear of Rejection
At the start of the year, I was knee-deep in the interview process for a writing job I REALLY wanted. It was for a great company that I absolutely believed in, and I thought we’d be a great fit. I’d had a Skype call with their recruiter which went well, and I’d submitted a test piece that I worked really hard on.
Honestly, I thought it was in the bag.
But on my first day back at work in the New Year, I got an email from them saying they’d chosen someone else.
Cue worst start to the year ever.
I had been anticipating their email for the whole of the Christmas Holidays, so when it pinged in my inbox I almost couldn’t click it to see my fate.
But I did. And it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
I got that whole stomach sinking feeling you get when you’re super disappointed. I wondered why I wasn’t good enough. I wondered what was wrong with me. All they said was that they “decided to go with someone else.”
Do you know how long I read into that sentence? Way too long. I wondered what test piece that person they’d chosen had submitted. I wondered whether they were chattier and more approachable on the Skype call. Basically, I spent far too long thinking about this other person I’d never met before in my life.
My initial reaction was to hit ‘reply’ straight away and bluntly ask why I wasn’t chosen, but instead I stepped away from my laptop and took a breather. I thought about how I would feel if I had landed the job — I would have been happy, excited to get to work, and really pleased that my application had been good enough.
So, even though I personally was feeling pretty low, it helped to know that someone out there (this person I had never met) was feeling pretty good about life in that moment. And, you know what? That kind of made it better.
Rejection is one of the freelancing fears we have to tackle every day. It’s not easy to overcome, but there is one way you can make it easier.
Solution: Think about the alternative.
Being rejected means we’ve brazenly put ourselves out there (you have to be in it to win it, right?!). By putting ourselves out there we are choosing to move forwards with our businesses rather than stagnate. Think of each rejection (or each potential rejection) as a notch on your business bedpost — a notch that means you’re moving forward one painful step at a time.
2. Fear of Failing (or, “I’ll Never Make It”)
Okay, hands up if you’ve read a blog post or article that openly says you’ll never make it as a freelancer.
I’m betting there are a few hands in the air at this stage. People like to be dramatic. They like to be controversial. They like to stand out. Let’s face it, there is a lot of resistance against people going freelance,just because it’s not the norm (though that is actually changing — can I get a hell yeah?!).
And the freelancers we do see out there doing their successful thing and flaunting it all around seem so far out of reach they pretty much take on an idol status.
But guess what? These people, these successful freelancers — they weren’t born successful. We all start out the same in life and, at one point, they were rabidly searching Google for ways they could find more clients or get themselves noticed by brands.
So why do we think that we’ll never be as good as these people? What’s stopping us? What’s holding us back? (Hint: if you look in the mirror you’ll see the answer!).
Alrighty, but how can I have a word with myself and be more positive?
- Step 1 — Take a piece of paper and a pen and first write down why you’re scared of failing. What will happen? Will your family disown you? Will you lose your home? Will you be a laughing stock?
- Step 2 — Now follow that up with a sentence about what failing would look like. Would it mean not earning enough money as you did in your day job? Would it mean not having thousands of raving fans shouting your name from the rooftops?
- Step 3 — Now write down why you personally are going to be a failure. Why aren’t you as good as that person who has thousands of raving fans and all the clients under the sun? What’s so special about you that you are definitely, 100% going to fail?
- Step 4 — Okay, now I want you to write down a solution to each of the answers you just gave. So if you said, “I’m going to fail because I’m not a good writer like XXX”, write next to it, “practice writing every single day.”
We often use fear of failure as an excuse to not do anything, when we should be using it to propel us to do something.
3. Fear of Being Poor
Oh yep, this is one of the biggest freelancing fears. We all need money to live, so it should always be a consideration when making a career or lifestyle change. I’m really not a fan of people who say “you should do it because you’re passionate about it”. Yup, all well and good, but passion ain’t gonna pay the bills.
As adults, we have a responsibility to look after ourselves, and part of that means making sure we have enough money to feed, clothe, and house ourselves.
So, no wonder the prospect of an unstable career in freelancing puts the fear of anything in us, right? Because, you see, freelancing is a notoriously low paid career choice. In the beginning, you’ll have to hustle to get some money through the door. But if the fear of being poor is the only thing holding you back from going freelance, ask yourself what other reasons tempt you to go freelance.
Is it because:
- You want more freedom in your work life
- You want to serve a multitude of clients
- You want to spend your days doing what you want
- You don’t want to work for anyone else anymore
- You want to build a lifestyle that involves doing something you love to do
All of these are totally valid. But you should at least be answering yes to one of these besides the whole money thing. These will be your driving forces, not the money factor. If you really want something, the money will come after.
And I’m not saying it’s a case of “money comes where passion flows” or whatever that woo-woo saying is. But if you want something bad enough — a.k.a. if you’re passionate enough about something — you will figure out a way to make money. For example, you might:
1. Figure out how much you need to live off each month
2. Write down how many hours you need to work to earn that much money, or how many clients you’ll need to reach that financial goal
3. Create a strategy to find enough clients to reach that goal. I lay down a pretty good strategy in this post here
4. Fear that there will always be someone better
Why do we always want to be the best? What is this strange affliction that we have where we get disappointed if someone else is praised for doing something that we want to be the best at?
I’ll chalk it down to us being human (because we can pretty much chalk down everything to being human, right?!).
I hate to break it to you, but there will always be someone better than you out there. It’s really, really difficult to be the best person in the world at something. Like, seriously difficult. You have to dedicate your life to that shiz and start from a REALLY young age if you want to be the best in the world.
But what do you do when this fear is holding you back from moving forward?
- Step 1 — Firstly, tell yourself that there will always be someone better.But that doesn’t mean they’re the right person. It can often give you a sense of peace and understanding when you accept that you can’t be the best at everything. But it also helps knowing that you can be the right person, even if you’re not the best.
- Step 2 — Consider your personal knowledge and experience. Say you’re applying for a job writing about travelling in the Amazon jungle and you just so happen to have travelled extensively in the Amazon jungle (if you have, by any chance, I’d love to chat to you and hear about your experiences!). Now, there might be tonnes of better writers who have applied for the position — you know, the ones who can use grammar all properly and know what a dangling preposition is (I still don’t know…). But they don’t have the experience you do. They don’t have the first-hand knowledge.It’s these two things that make us different as human beings. It’s these things that make us the right person, not necessarily the best person. So, even if you’re just starting out, there will always be something unique you can bring to the table — you just need to tap into it.
5. Fear of not knowing where to start
Ever think about something that seems so big and unattainable you just can’t even comprehend it? I get this when I think about the universe. How it never ends. How it has no edges and just keeps going on and on forever and ever. It seriously freaks me out, and I ban myself from thinking about it before bed.
Freelancing can seem like this when you’re coming at it for the first time. It can seem like there is a universe of tips, advice, and horror stories out there, clashing opinions, and so many “unique takes” on the industry that nothing seems to be unique anymore.
This is a totally valid fear (I’m trying to make myself feel better about the whole endless universe thing). Starting anything new can seem completely overwhelming, especially when we don’t know anything about it.
But luckily, this is one of the easiest freelancing fears to get under control. You just have to narrow your mindset and chop everything up into bitesized chunks.
Solution: Write down three things you can do this week
It can help to look at things on a week by week basis, because 7 days is long enough to get stuff done, but also not too long that it seems like you have a huge time frame to fill.
So, take a calendar or a post it and write down the days of the week. Now, for each day, write down ONE thing you can do to start moving forward with freelancing.
It might be something like, “set up a website”, “research and write down 5 jobs boards in an excel spreadsheet”, or “send out a tweet about my services”. They’re small steps, maybe even insignificant if you look at them on their own.
But, when they join together with the other 6 tasks from the week, it all adds up.
Think about it this way: if you carried out the three steps above, after three days you’d have a website, an excel sheet of jobs boards you can regularly look at for jobs, and you’d have put your services out there for the world to see.
Not such a bad job for the first week, right?
Then you do the same every week. So after a month you’ve carried out 30 tasks, each of which is getting your name out there and moving your business forwards. Before you know it, you’ve landed your first client and you’re no longer afraid of starting — because, without you even knowing it, you started a long time ago and it really wasn’t that bad!
6. Fear of changing your lifestyle
As humans (yep, I’m going to keep drilling that home), we are creatures of comfort. We like consistency and we rarely like change. Which is why it’s no wonder that going freelance is a scary thought, because it means undertaking a huge lifestyle change.
We no longer work for someone else, we set our own hours, and we have to make sure we have time to do all the other things that come with being a freelancer (like admin stuff, financial stuff, marketing stuff, all the good stuff).
We no longer work with others — usually, we’ll spend the day working by ourselves, either from our homes or from a coffee shop.
This is a huge change, and it can be scary diving in head first, especially if we’ve known a certain way of life for so long beforehand. But this is really easy to overcome.
- Firstly, think about WHY you want to go freelance. I’m guessing a huge part of it is BECAUSE it’s a lifestyle change, right?
- Secondly, make the transition easy for yourself. Start by going freelance part-time before making the move to full-time. Or consider hiring a co-working space to work from so you don’t completely lose the office atmosphere you enjoy.
- Thirdly, don’t be so hard on yourself. Lifestyle changes are difficult for anyone, no matter how much you want it in the first place. It takes time to get used to, so give yourself that time.
These freelancing fears are very real for a lot of people. In fact, there were a number of these I was fighting with when I first went freelance, and it took a while to completely get over some of them (I’m looking at you, rejection).
These fears aren’t unfounded. They are completely understandable and rational, but that’s also why they’re so easy to overcome.
But most importantly, overcoming fears takes time and work. And if you’re willing to slog through it? Well, you’re on your way to becoming a great freelancer!
What freelancing fears do you struggle with on a daily basis and have you figured out any ways to overcome them?