A confident freelancer who walks around with swagger and suave is rare. Freelancers across all skill levels and years of experience struggle with a crisis of confidence.
This lack of confidence can cripple your business. It means constantly struggling with worry and doubt. It’s not charging what you’re worth and allowing yourself to be mistreated by clients.
Ultimately a lack of confidence will steal the joy and satisfaction from your work. So how do we become confident freelancers? We’ll explore this crisis of confidence and how to overcome it.
What Is a Crisis of Confidence?
So what is this lack of confidence that plagues so many freelancers? It’s this feeling that you’re not good enough or you don’t deserve to be here. It’s thinking that your work isn’t valuable or people will discover you’re a fraud.
Many people call it impostor syndrome.
It’s a documented psychological phenomenon where someone is unable to acknowledge their accomplishments and is afraid of being exposed as a fraud. Ironically, impostor syndrome is more prevalent among the highly successful.
If you ever think your hourly rate is maybe outrageous or you don’t deserve to make the money you do or you can’t believe clients pay you to do what you do—then you might have impostor syndrome.
Recognizing Imposter Syndrome
The first step to being a confident freelancer is recognizing how much confidence you lack. OK, that seems like a discouraging first step, but seriously, you have to be aware of the problem before you can do anything about it.
So let’s take a quiz.
The Impostor Syndrome Quiz
Go through these 10 questions in the Imposter Syndrome Quiz and keep track of how many are true for you:
- 1. Are you ever worried people may find out you’re not really as capable as they think you are?
- 2. Do you sometimes feel pressure to know the answer to any professional question someone might ask you?
- 3. Is it hard for you to accept compliments about your work or accomplishments?
- 4. Do you secretly compare your abilities to those around you and feel like they’re better than you?
- 5. Do you ever feel like the reason things went well is because you were just in the right place at the right time or knew the right people?
- 6. Do you ever think that if you can do it, anybody can?
- 7. Do you agonize over even the smallest flaws in your work?
- 8. Do you become defensive when you are given constructive criticism because it makes you feel inept?
- 9. When you have success, do you privately feel like you’ve fooled them again?
- 10. Do you ever feel like you really have no clue what you’re doing and you’re afraid people will find out?
If you said yes to four or more of those questions, you’re probably experiencing impostor syndrome.
And if you’re thinking, “Oh, I don’t know—that couldn’t be me,” then you’ve definitely got impostor syndrome.
Impostor Syndrome for Web Developers
For web developers, impostor syndrome often looks like some familiar excuses:
- “I just chose the right theme. Everything else was easy.”
- “I just added a few plugins and made them work… I didn’t really do anything.”
- “I just did a Google search and the answer was right there.”
- “I just ___. Anyone could have done it.”
It’s the “I just” problem. We dismiss any praise by saying we didn’t do anything special.
But that’s not true.
Your clients hire you because you can do something they can’t. Maybe they don’t know how or they don’t have the time or they don’t do it as well as you do. Whatever the reason, they hire you.
You deliver value. Embracing that idea is key to becoming a confident freelancer. So let’s do that.
How to Become a Confident Freelancer
So how do we overcome the crisis of confidence, cure impostor syndrome, and become confident freelancers? Here are some steps that can help:
1. Be Realistic
You need to realize that no one is an expert at everything. We all specialize in one degree or another. In fact, that’s how many freelancers find even greater success. They stop trying to be good at everything and become amazing at one thing (and you can bet those are confident freelancers!).
So you need to be honest about where you’re at. Maybe you’re not a 20-year veteran, so stop comparing yourself to 20-year veterans. Recognize what you bring to the table and be realistic about it.
2. Be Perceptive
Everyone is good at something. So what are you good at?
Often our greatest skill is something we don’t realize we do well. We’re so good at it, we do it intuitively, which means we don’t think about it or even realize we’re doing it.
You might need to ask others what you’re good at. Get that outside perspective on your own skill set so you can see where you’re doing great work. That kind of shot in the arm will help you become a confident freelancer.
Realize that not every WordPress freelancer is an amazing developer. Or an amazing designer. Some folks work in between, as assemblers, doing a little bit of design and a little bit of code. Bringing both worlds together is a skill in itself, but it’s especially susceptible to impostor syndrome because people only ever think about designers and coders. If you’re an assembler, recognize the value you bring to the table.
And maybe you’re not a designer, developer, or an assembler. Maybe you bring a different skill to the table. You need to be aware of your unique value.
3. Be Authentic
Pretending gets you nowhere. Be honest about what you can do and what you can’t. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll learn.” A confident freelancer is willing to admit what they don’t know.
Some people say ‘fake it ‘til you make it,’ and there’s some truth to that. When you’re first starting out, you’ve definitely got to do some things that you’re still learning. But we put too much emphasis on that phrase, to the point that people who have made it think they’re still faking it.
What’s supposed to be an encouraging rallying cry for beginners turns into impostor syndrome for the veterans.
No, be honest. In fact, you should connect with other freelancers and be honest with each other. Get together, not to brag and gloat (cue impostor syndrome), but to be open about the challenges you’re facing. You’ll become a confident freelancer when you can discuss your struggles with other freelancers and see that you’re not alone.
4. Be Helpful
We’re all in this together. There’s no reason you have to go it alone. That’s just going to fuel the impostor syndrome.
Get out there and help other people. Helping others is the best cure for impostor syndrome. Why? Because when you help others you gain confidence.
Confident Freelancers Will See Growing Profits
Addressing this crisis of confidence is so important because it’s often the root of bad pricing and bad clients. As soon as you realize your value it becomes easier to charge what you’re worth, to say no to bad clients, to become a better freelancer.Recognizing your value is the foundation of a profitable business. When you know your value, you can do a better job selling yourself. You can highlight that skill and leverage it for the income you deserve. You can’t quantify your value unless you know your value.
So figure out what value you offer and embrace it. You’ll be the kind of confident freelancer that banishes impostor syndrome.
Remember that understanding your value and being confident is never about arrogance. Being a confident freelancer is about having an accurate view of yourself. You are good at this. You can do this. And you deserve to be paid well for the value you offer.
As your confidence grows, your profits will grow as well.
A confident freelancer is a successful freelancer.
Up Your Freelancer Game
For more on becoming a confident freelancer, check out the Freelance Summit with Nathan Ingram. It’s 11 hours of video content to help freelancers refine their process, profit and productivity.