Freelancing is exciting, but like most exciting things, it can be scary too. When you start out as a freelance writer, you’re probably exchanging a life of stable paycheques, regular work and paid holidays for one of uncertainty, at least in the beginning.
Whether you’re freelancing as a side gig or a full time career, there are a few fears you’re going to have to face at one stage or another.
1. Fear of getting started
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re just starting out as a freelancer, particularly if you don’t have much experience in your industry. Will anyone want to hire you? Will your work be good enough? We all have these fears in the beginning but overthinking can be crippling for a new freelancer.
While you want to research your target market and put systems and plans in place for the day to day of running your business, at some point you’re going to have to just jump in. Try a few smaller projects at first, and once you’ve got a few successful jobs under your belt, you’ll have the experience, and the confidence, to pitch for bigger and bigger projects.
2. Fear of rejection
Marketing your skills and pitching for work are part and parcel of successful freelancing, but it can be uncomfortable to put yourself out there at first. Rejection hurts, especially at the beginning, but the success of your freelance business depends on your ability to pick yourself up and keep trying.
Remember, even the best and most experienced freelancers get rejected sometimes. Often, it’s not about your abilities or the quality of your proposal, it’s about where the client is at. Maybe management has pulled the plug on the project, a key person has gone on leave or they have decided to go in a different direction. If you’re getting a lot of rejections, it’s worth taking some time to work on your pitch. Identify the clients you want to work with and tailor your services specifically to them rather than going for every single job that crosses your path.
3. Fear of not getting paid
Being paid late, or not at all, is a huge potential source of stress as a freelancer. It might not be such a big problem if you’re not relying solely on your income to pay the bills, but if you’re the family breadwinner not being paid can have serious repercussions. It’s well worth building up some savings so you can ride out those occasional dry spells without stress, but this may be difficult in the early days.
To minimise late payment issues, it’s a good idea to state your payment terms upfront, and get all clients to sign off on your terms and conditions before you start work with them. This helps alleviate any misunderstandings and it may give you some level of legal protection in the event the client refuses to pay. Develop a system for following up on late paying invoices. Even the best clients can be forgetful and often a polite reminder is all that’s needed.
4. Fear of charging what you’re worth
With more and more people moving into freelancing, we’re seeing a lot more competition. As a new freelancer it can be tempting to lower your prices when pitching for a job you really want, especially if you feel you don’t have the experience or confidence to quote what you’re really worth. Unfortunately this can be counterproductive as it often leads to a race to the bottom. If you get the job you’ll probably be left feeling resentful and irritated.
Attracting clients who want to pay rock bottom prices also means they’re less likely to respect you or your work. Check your average industry rates and don’t be afraid to charge accordingly. The right clients, the ones who appreciate your value, will be happy to pay.
5. Fear of saying no
When you don’t have a steady flow of work to rely on it can be really tempting to just say yes to every project that comes your way. The fear of saying no to work can lead to exhaustion and burnout, and if you don’t lay down boundaries, you are at risk of being taken advantage of by clients who expect you to be at their beck and call 24/7.
It’s OK to turn down work if it’s not the right fit, you’re leaving yourself the space to take on other work that’s more suited to you. And it’s also OK to create boundaries with clients. If you have set working hours or you don’t reply to emails on weekends, say so. Make it clear and stick to it. The clients who don’t respect your boundaries are probably not the clients you want long-term anyway.
Freelancing might be scary at first, but if you can overcome those fears and be brave, you’ll be able to enjoy a flexible and potentially lucrative career working from home.