How to build confidence when you start freelancing
How do you start freelancing? It’s easy. Learn your profession, find those clients and charge them for that service! There is a slight chance you’ll face some obstacles. One of them is really tiny, not too big of a deal..
It is the fact that it is FREAKING SCARY. The number one issue I have faced before even trying to start was lack of confidence. Lack of confidence with the quality of my work, my ability to manage myself, handling money and the list goes on.
I believe that 50% of our success is learning the job and how to set our game plan right. The other 50% is pure psychology. It is facing the challenge of keeping ourselves from stopping ourselves. Every morning. Right past lunch break. At the end of the day. If we let worry and fear paralyze us, our chances of moving forward are pretty small.
Lately I found myself freaking out on a daily basis. But I also noticed that my stress and ways of overcoming it repeatably fell on the same categories. Those are my top 3 causes that had me feeling insecure as a beginning freelancer. This is how I learned to identify them, and move forward!
Lack of information
I recently got an offer that was very exciting for me. In order for it to happen I was asked to sign some legal agreements. Instead of feeling super happy about it like I should, I panicked. I didn’t understand any of these contracts, and how things usually work. After a few good days of me getting the right people on the phone to ask what I needed to know, I felt relaxed.
At first I thought that my stress was a sign of my incapability of handling stuff but then I realized that it was simply lack of information. I was asked to agree to something without fully understanding what I’m agreeing to. It is stressing. The information I needed filled in the blank spaces, gained back my sense of control over the situation and helped me make clear decisions.
Most of the time, the fear that holds us back while facing a new task is the fact that we don’t know from advance how it’s actually done and we have never experienced it before.
Therefore, it doesn’t feel safe. It goes to any process you make while managing yourself. Starting from how you price your offers, facing technical issues with your projects, handling money, or knowing your rights when facing a conflict or a negotiation. Information is power.
Know that, and know that everything and anything you need to know in this world is a Google search away. If Google won’t help, there are humans out there with emails and phones you can reach out for and just ask. Let it be your friends, or their friends, or in my case, even past professors from school.
I even walked to my bank, and sat down with the person who takes care of my account. For an hour I asked her everything about those new bank fees I met when I was starting to receive transfers from clients abroad. If I wouldn’t put the time and energy dealing with this information I could find myself losing a large sum of money that would add up. Don’t be shy to ask questions. It is not a sign of weakness, to me it is a sign of a person who takes herself and her business seriously.
Research is hard work and takes a lot of time of it’s own. But it has a major value to your progress. When I face a new challenge, I don’t panic anymore. I know that “getting the information” is a normal part of the process of solving it. With the next step you want to take, write down the list of questions you need answered, to feel at ease about it. Now google it like you mean it, or find the right person to ask!
I don’t feel like I’m good enough to get payed
Bullshit! Your amazing! But I can understand why you find it hard to believe. Specially if you’re still training, or generally don’t feel experienced enough. The answer to this is, well, experience.
If you’re too scared to start charging like I used to, it is ok to start with a little free/cheap work. BUT, my advice is, if you feel like you need this practice phase, avoid by all means doing it for an operating business and do it for close friends and family.
If you are giving yourself away, it is best if you do this for the people you really care about. Moreover, you will still gain a true learning experience. Lately I discovered that clients who are paying a lot or not paying at all, will still act like clients. When it comes to handling with another person who you’re creating stuff for, your close friends and siblings will have demands and regression just like a big manager of some firm.
By branding my sisters new decorations business and making my best friends her business card, I learned a lot about creating work which is not for myself only. Plus, getting feedback for my work from various people outside of design school, helped me put things in a better perspective when it comes to criticizing my own work.
Been stuck in the cheap zone for a while now? There is no doubt, even after practicing around, charging your first project for a fee you find reasonable, will be scary.
Once you do go for it (So proud of you!), and for any reason the client won’t be super happy with the results or your performance, here is what I can 100% guarantee WON’T happen:
Your client will get so pissed off he will make sure that all clients of the world know your name and that they will never ever work with you. Because you F***ked up, your client will make sure NO ONE will give you a chance ever again.
If you’re still single, he’ll make sure no one agrees to date you. Why would they? You did such a horrible job, therefore, you must be a horrible person, a complete failure and not cool. You will end up broke and lonely for the rest of your life living inside a hollow tree. The squirrels will laugh at you every day (Think Alvin from the chipmunks as you read this one) -” You’re unworthy of success, unworthy of love and you suck!”
Actually it might happen, if your client is rich enough to afford all of this campaign against you. If any of you learned statistics I would be delighted if you share in the comments down below some math of this being possible. At least the squirrel part can’t happen. Squirrels can’t talk.
Our dark side is mean. Mine likes to picture funny animals laughing at me. When we fear something, our dark side sees it as party time in our head. All thoughts and source of stress in our life are invited to dance all together, and make us overstress a situation.
Once you really examine them (writing them down is a great technique) it is easier to see how unreal they are. From there it’s way easier not to believe any of it. Fear not friends, you know you have what it takes and you are good enough. If you do make some mistakes, it is not REALLY the end of the world.
Here is the reality I was explained numerous times by fellow colleagues, and been experiencing myself. From the minute you decide to start freelancing, until you’ll actually see any money, it will take time. Until you’ll find yourself fully supporting yourself from your business alone , it will take a lot of time.
I know I’m not quite there yet. And that’s ok. It takes time completing projects, gathering clients, figuring out how to manage pricing and charging. It’s a process.
Lack of financial stability is a huge cause of stress. It’ll often affect our day to day decision making, often forcing us to make bad ones because “we have no choice”.
We always have a choice. When facing a complicated reality, sometimes good choices take sacrifice. In order to handle the uncertain, one must choose to be conscious. Financially conscious.
Know that you’ll need to create yourself a situation that will make you feel safe about your money. Maybe you decide to stick to a day job and spend more energy handling both a job and your dream. Maybe you decide to wait with your dream and gather some savings before getting started. Where are you going to live? How will you pay the rent? Are you at all right now living within your means?
After recently graduating this year, I got back at my parents in my home town.
I had some money I made during my summer job as a tour guide. I knew I wanted to freelance right away and not spend a day trying to find a day job as a designer. I also really want to live on my own. I knew that all of my wishes combined will be challenged by reality. Either someone else will pay the rent for my own flat, or I start making some sacrifices.
I decided I’m staying for one year only at my parents place. I will be a good girl, clean up the dishes and be nice to mom and dad. In the meanwhile, I’m dedicating my entire time to my goals and business, while feeling safe to make all the mistakes along the way in order to get there- being able to move out by the time of my deadline, hopefully.
Lets put it out there – graduating at 28 and living with mom and dad doesn’t make me feel too cool. I could choose trying to move out right away . But I just finished a 4 year marathon of school filled with constant stress causing me clinical depression and anxiety I recently recovered from.
Taking it easy and waiting this one extra year is more important to me than clinging to a social status I feel I suppose to have by a certain age. This is my own game plan based on my own priorities.
I’m not saying everyone should live with their parents, quit or not quit their job, if they want to start freelancing.
I’m saying that feeling financially secure is crucial to make better decisions so you actually make progress as a starting freelancer. In order to be there you should face your reality in it’s eyeballs, figure out your own real options, and from there choose what is best for you. Any choice you make will probably involve some sort of compromise , but if you’re aware of your priorities, that compromise will be worth it to you.
Don’t let your fears of the beginning bring you down. Every beginning is hard. Do realize that you don’t have to accept feeling helpless all the time, you have within yourself the solution to every worry you experience and it’s more simple than you think.
Sivan is a freelance videographer based in Tel Aviv, with a passion for motion design, storytelling and stretching the boundaries of visual effects. She creates commercials, music videos and writes more about her freelance feelings on her blog Freelance Therapy.
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