How to Survive (and Thrive) While Freelancing with Imposter Syndrome: Part Four
We’ve come to it at last: The cataclysmic conclusion of our look into how imposter syndrome impacts freelancers and what they do to put it in its place. I’m so glad you’re with me, and for those of you just joining the fun, check out parts one, two, and three before leaping into this installment.
This time, we’re looking at the art of charging what you’re worth, facing your demons by reciting affirmations, and more. And before we begin, you know I’ve got to remind you that if you want to read even more posts about freelancing, follow me on Medium.
Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, we’ll hear from several wonderful freelancers across industries and experience levels on how they thrive while working with imposter syndrome.
How can freelancers thrive in the face of imposter syndrome?
In the last post, we talked about how freelancers fight back against imposter syndrome by keeping reminders of wins, always learning and growing, journaling, and being creative. This week we’re getting into the thick of things by talking about setting rates, saying affirmations, finding community, and giving yourself time.
No time to delay — let’s jump right in and hear how three freelancers handle the conundrum of setting rates.
Charge your worth
Setting your rates as a freelancer, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been at it for years, is a daunting task. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. If you’re nervous about whether your rates are too high or too low you’re in good company. Among the freelancers I spoke with for this series, the most common response to the question “What triggers your imposter syndrome?” was pricing. Setting rates and raising rates gives us all the feeling that maybe, just maybe, we’re not worth what we’re charging. And I’m here to tell you one thing.
But no matter how many times others reassure you that you’re charging an appropriate amount, when a prospect walks due to your rates, it’s often hard to shake the feeling that you’ve done something wrong and you’re not cut out for the freelance life.
Once again, bullshit.
“My imposter syndrome mainly extends to my pricing. I’ve not put any details on my website yet, which is ridiculous. I need to take pride in the prices I charge, as much as I do the work I create.”
Catherine, freelance copywriter and marketer
She’s not the only one that gets caught up in feeling this way. Several of the freelancers I spoke with were candid about how much handling their rates causes their imposter syndrome to manifest. Many admitted to undercharging to keep clients from walking, even when they knew their work was worth substantially more.
“Imposter syndrome convinces you that you’re not worth what you would like to charge. One of the best ways to combat that is to have mentors you can trust. I’ve never asked, “What do YOU charge?” but rather, ‘Here’s what my potential client is asking for. Here’s the price I have in mind. What do you think? Should I charge more or less?’”
Sheila B. Robinson, owner of Custom Professional Learning LLC
It’s tempting to take work for lower than you should when times are tough and you really think you need it, but beware of clients not willing to pay you a fair wage. Chances are, if they decided to walk away from you because of what you charge, you’ve dodged a pretty big bullet.
“It’s important not to let imposter syndrome affect your value as a freelance professional. I’ve been in a situation where potential clients have tried to drive down prices or claim it’s “not worth” the quote I’ve put together, but actually I have lots of happy clients who are willing to pay for quality work (that’s priced in line with industry standards). The others are chancers looking for a bargain, and that’s not the type of person you want to be working with.”
Chelsea Groome, copywriter and founder of Fierce Content
For those of you just getting started, it’s hard to know just what to charge out of the gate. After all, you want to get experience and build up a portfolio and referrals, so it’s tempting to work for less than you’re worth, or even for free (gasp!). And while there’s no clear cut resource to tell you exactly what you should charge, I found a worthwhile guide in Dave Smyth’s freelancer pricing guide. It’s behind a paywall ($16 for US freelancers), but it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so it’s low risk for a high reward, in my experience.
Chances are, you’ve heard of the practice of saying affirmations. Proponents of mindfulness and the law of attraction are firmly onboard the affirmation train, which shows no signs of slowing. But what are affirmations, and what can they do to help combat imposter syndrome?
Affirmations are simply statements designed for facilitating change in the individual by challenging residual beliefs and stating the action or behavior the reciting party would like to manifest. The use of affirmations is inherently personal, and they can be individualized to meet the needs of the person reciting them. Examples of affirmations include:
“I am brave, strong, and fierce.”
“I am loved and am living my best life.”
“I will have burritos for lunch every day in 2020.”
Whatever behavior you want to change, affirmations are a powerful tool. So it’s clear to see how affirmations challenge imposter syndrome: Every time you recite one, you push back against those unwelcome thoughts until they’re backed into a corner.
“I feel like my success is that I’m able to catch imposter syndrome in its onset and repeat affirmations like “I’m worthy of this success”.”
Freelance B2B SaaS writer Swathi Bhaskaran
Consider taking an affirmation or two for a spin next time you feel imposter syndrome creeping up behind you. Along with Swathi’s affirmation, others that have the potential to be effective in combating thoughts of inadequacy include:
“I am both capable and committed to my success as a freelancer.”
“My thoughts are not in control, I am.”
“I’m in charge of my destiny and I am choosing success.”
Try these out for size and see if you notice a change in your beliefs and thinking about your competence as a freelancer.
Find sanctuary in others
Aside from setting rates, the area I got the most responses about was joining a community and finding your people. It’s easy to get stuck in the solitude of working for yourself by yourself — I think we can all agree on that. What’s not always easy is tracking down a community of friendly freelancers in such a competitive field.
“Being Freelance has been critical for me. It’s a place full of humor and nothing but supportive words. I trust the advice I get there and love it when I can give back in little ways. It makes me feel productive and supported on a weekly basis.”
Laura West, freelance analytics and strategy consultant
For me, Twitter has served as a bastion of camaraderie and friendship, but you might take solitude in your Facebook community or LinkedIn network. The medium isn’t important; it’s the people that are, so try out a few communities or build yourself a wide network and reap the benefits of surrounding yourself with people who understand your fears and frustrations.
“If you’re not already, join a community of other freelancers where you can share your work, so that others can give you feedback, praise and support. When you work for yourself, it can be quite isolating at times, so build yourself a team of cheerleaders. The Leapers community, for example, has a channel called #littlewins, which is all about celebrating the things you’ve done. It can be great to scroll back and see what you’ve shared, but also there’s a lovely little rush when you see everyone clapping, sharing and cheering your work.”
Matthew Knight, Chief Freelance Officer at Leapers
If you’re just starting out, it can be intimidating to reach out to more experienced freelancers. They seem like they’ve got it all figured out, and it makes you think that they won’t have time for connecting with a newbie.
I’ve reached out to a lot of freelancers with more experience than me, and I’ve had nothing but positive experiences. The freelance community has been warm and welcoming to me, and I know they’ll do the same for you. Trust me, we’re good people.
“Network online or in-person with other freelancers who are in different stages of their careers. They will reassure you that if you plow forward you will be successful. Maybe even happy. You might never overcome your sensitivity as an artist, but you can use that emotional strength to overcome feelings of being a lesser mortal.”
Nick Soucy, freelance writer
Finding people who understand your struggle is key to feeling seen. When you connect with other freelancers, you’re connecting with people who have had the same problems as you. Whether it’s setting boundaries with a difficult client or setting your rates, we’ve all been there. And we’re all happy to help.
Give yourself time to learn and grow
This section particularly applies to fresher freelancers, but there’s an important lesson here for all of us — it takes time to get comfortable and find your stride in anything, and freelancing’s no exception. It’s tempting to try to be an expert in everything overnight, but the reality is that you’ll grow in your comfort with freelancing as time goes on. One day you’ll look back and realize that your discomfort and unease has started to fade.
That’s not to say that those among us who have been at it for a while don’t experience moments of self-doubt or self-deprecating thoughts about their capabilities. It affects all of us, across experience levels and industries, but as your confidence grows, you’ll begin to find that you are an expert and a professional.
“I became self-employed a year ago this month and it’s taken me a year to get to the point of doing or at least starting to do the things I’m passionate about. To start with I took any work that came my way and did the things that come easily rather than the things that I am most passionate about (and actually most qualified for!). It’s easy to tell people not to doubt themselves but I also think it’s okay to take your time to find your feet and your confidence.”
Katie Stanley, freelance business psychologist at Elixion
There you have it, folks. With parts one, two, and three already wrapped up, this concludes our deep dive into freelancing with imposter syndrome. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Comment below to let me know what you thought of the series. I’ll leave you with parting thoughts from Nick Soucy, one of our contributing freelancers:
“Ideally, art works out as a meritocracy. If fans, patrons, clients, colleagues and other professionals appreciate your work, so should you. It has merit. You’ve proven your talent. Stop worrying so goddamned much.”