The Freelancing Mindset: Don’t Be Afraid

FreelancingMost of what your mind will offer you when the doubts start to kick in about freelancing are based on what you’ve heard from other people.

Or (more likely) what you’ve read online.

The problem I have with most of what I read about the ‘realities’ of becoming a freelancer is that the downsides are often overstated, deeply depressing and completely off-putting if taken at face value.

I’m not suggesting the realities these people feel compelled to comment on do not exist – or even that they’re not valid in some cases. I just don’t much like the reaction they provoke in the talented, hardworking folk that are scared off from learning how to build a fulfilling freelancing life they may have been perfectly suited to.

Many that could make a success of their work and their lives by freelancing gradually decide not to pursue it because of the perceived risks involved.

Interestingly, people rarely balance the argument by putting forth the ‘harsh realities’ of people stewing in their own contempt in a full-time day job their entire lives.

So in the interests of balance…

Freelancing scare tactic #1:

You have to have the self-motivation of an angry mule to be a successful freelancer

Yes, you have to be self-disciplined at times and conjure up elements of self-motivation to get the work done, but no more than the average day job worker has to conjure up to get out of bed each morning and sit at their desks for eight to nine hours a day.

The scaremongers (for whatever reason) make out that if you had nobody to answer to but yourself you’d spiral into a dangerous world where you’d never see the light of day, nor complete any of the work you’ve toiled so hard to go out and get.

In fact as a freelancer you do have people to answer to – your clients – it’s just they don’t breathe down your neck all day, telling you what to wear and what time to take your lunch. As long as you regularly pitch for work, complete it to a high standard and deliver it on time, you don’t have to be any more self-disciplined than your average (non-lazy) full-time worker.

Contrary to popular belief, freelancing doesn’t mean you’re constantly testing the boundaries of your self-discipline and struggling daily to become motivated, you’re just getting on with the job – just like everybody else.

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Freelancing scare tactic #2:

“Don’t Quit Your Day Job”

If there’s a phrase in the English language that annoys me the most (when said without irony) it is this: “Don’t quit your day job.” I feel like saying to the (perhaps well-meaning) individuals that utter this to me, “No, you don’t quit your day job – I’m making money in other, more satisfying and lucrative ways now.”

Some people wish to stay in their day jobs alongside their freelancing endeavours and this truly works for them, but many others are only there because they’re too scared not to be.

Of course it would be unwise to immediately quit your job before you’ve built any freelancing foundations, but does this really need to be laboriously pointed out?

People should give those who express the courage and commitment to become freelancers the credit they deserve.

Yes, it takes time to build a reputation and therefore it takes time to build a full-time income – but you knew that already, didn’t you?

Freelancing scare tactic #3:

In this economic climate it’s risky to be a freelancer

In this economic climate it’s risky to rely on just one source of income for your entire living costs and financial future. In this economic climate it’s far riskier to rely on anybody but yourself to provide you with an income.

As a freelancer, if a particular client drops you, you can find other clients. If you need more money for an unexpected expense, you can offer another service to existing clients or look for extra opportunities on freelancing sites.

The bottom line is this: Implementing different income streams is a far less risky option in this, or any other, economic climate.

If you want to go freelancing full-time you can make good money from it if you’re smart and learn how to get good clients that pay well. To be a freelancer means to market yourself and your services and always be on the lookout for opportunities.

Your mind (and sometimes the people around you) will make you doubt your abilities at times but if you do the work well and on time you’ll slowly build a reputation and the hard work will pay off.

Then you’ll never have to worry about all the scary things you once read about freelancing that very nearly put you off this incredibly rewarding way of living and working.

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photo credit: nvk via Express Monorail via photopin cc

20 Comments

  • Dylan

    Reply Reply September 3, 2013

    Thanks so much for your post, Kirsty. I couldn’t agree more!

    I’d like to add that aspiring freelancers should avoid labelling advice and opinions from those around them as ‘gospel’.

    There are many paths up the mountain. Don’t let anyone tell you which to follow. The path you choose may very well be longer, steeper, or more dangerous, but the journey will be all the more memorable and it will still take you to the top…

    The trick is to keep moving onwards and upwards. That’s at least how I see it.

    Great blog, Kirsty. It seems we have a lot in common 🙂

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply September 3, 2013

      Glad to hear it Dylan! I completely agree. It’s easy to slip from learning into simply believing everything you read online when you first start out. Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a lovely comment 🙂

  • wendymc12

    Reply Reply September 3, 2013

    I couldn’t agree more!! The best thing I did was to start a blog. I worked on it for a year and then went into freelance writing full time. In the meantime, I shared posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc… Companies took notice of my articles and contacted me. That’s how I began. I think the most successful writers are those that don’t have a safety net. You tend to work harder and smarter when finances are on the line.

    • Shawanda James

      Reply Reply September 3, 2013

      Hi wendymc – Your last point is proving to be right in my situation already. I just recently cut ties with content mills (without having a safety net), and now I’m more motivated and determined than ever. I’ve also been working harder on my website, blog, books, and finding clients than I ever did when I wrote for the low paying mills.

      • wendymc12

        Reply Reply September 3, 2013

        That’s fantastic Shawanda. May I suggest you try reaching out to connections on LinkedIn? I got about 90% of my clients through thoughtfully written inmails to the people I was connected to. Wishing you tons of success. 🙂

        • Shawanda James

          Reply Reply September 3, 2013

          Thanks so much! I really appreciate your good wishes.

          Your LinkedIn strategy sounds excellent. I’d hadn’t thought of doing that before. That’s awesome you’ve had such success with it. I’m already convinced, and will definitely try it out. 🙂

          • wendymc12

            September 3, 2013

            That’s great. When you write to your connections, make sure you have contact info and any links to a blog or website in your signature. I’m sure you will do fantastic.

    • Dylan

      Reply Reply September 3, 2013

      “…the most successful writers are those that don’t have a safety net. You tend to work harder and smarter when finances are on the line.”

      Well said, Wendy. You hit the nail on the head!

      • wendymc12

        Reply Reply September 3, 2013

        Thanks Dylan and Kirsty. Wishing you both the best in your careers. 🙂

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply September 3, 2013

      That sounds similar to how I started out Wendy. I tend to agree about the safety net too – I often think if people have a Plan B then Plan A is less likely to work because it doesn’t really have to.

  • Shawanda James

    Reply Reply September 3, 2013

    I really appreciate this post because it provides relief to those who have read about the “harsh realities” of freelancing, and have been utterly freaked out (me included.) This post is encouraging and informative, and gives people the “sigh of relief” moment they need to push forward in this endeavor and find success.

    Thanks Kirsty! 🙂

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply September 3, 2013

      You’re more than welcome Shawanda 🙂 I’m glad it resonated with you – I was tired of reading all about the doom and gloom side of freelancing!

  • Philippa Willitts

    Reply Reply September 3, 2013

    I completely agree. One of the reasons I decided to take the leap was that I realised that job security in *any* job was now a myth. I saw my friends in salaried work losing their jobs, or having to re-apply for their own job, and realised that freelancing was actually no less secure than any other work. Also what you said about having no-one to answer to? Also spot on. Sure, I need self-discipline, but I have deadlines and clients and plenty of people who keep me on my toes.

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply September 4, 2013

      Exactly Philippa! Freelancing is probably more secure than full-time salaried work at the moment. I love the fact that so many people are in agreement with this way of thinking 🙂

  • Diana

    Reply Reply September 5, 2013

    Great post, Kirsty! I particularly like the part about implementing different income streams being a far less risky option in this, or any other, economic climate. Sometimes I have difficulties explaining this to others. I found that asking the question ‘what guarantees you that you won’t be fired or your position won’t be cut tomorrow due to company bankruptcy or just bad economic climate’ does the trick. Worst case scenario, I get a frowny face and the same question back – so I rest my case by stating the fact about diversifying my income sources and I a client letting me go isn’t the end of my income 🙂

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply September 5, 2013

      Thanks Diana. Exactly – I’m not sure why some people don’t get this?!

  • Karen Martínez P.

    Reply Reply September 23, 2013

    I agree with you!

    Sometimes there are too many excuses and all we need to do is to take that first step.

    Great post 🙂

    • Kirsty Stuart

      Reply Reply September 23, 2013

      Thanks Karen!

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