Freelancing can be a scary world.
After all, you’re on you’re own. That’s pretty much the whole point.
No matter what type of freelance work you do, you always need to present yourself as confident and professional. We’ve all heard the saying “fake it ’till you make it,” and to some extent it is advice worth applying for freelancers just trying to get off the ground.
But once you’ve dipped your toes in the water, how do you develop real confidence in what you’re doing? If you’re lucky, it will come naturally. If it doesn’t, getting there might not be so obvious.
Here are five helpful concepts that I believe can help both new and veteran freelancers in any field build confidence in what they’re doing.
1. Do Good Work
This might seem obvious, even condescending. If you can look past that and truly take this advice to heart, it is the single most important thing you can do towards building your confidence.
Strive to never submit work that you don’t feel is your best. Whether the project is so simple as to seem beneath you or so toweringly complicated that you weren’t sure you could do it at all, the final result that you submit should be something that you, personally, can take pride in.
Any time you’re working with other people you will have to accept compromises and changes along the way. You will work to specification as a freelancer and what you create might not always be pleasant or of personal interest to you. That can mean quality can sometimes be hard to judge.
What you always have control over is your personal output, and what you always have some sense of is how earnestly you put yourself to the task. Regardless of the project’s ultimate fate, if you try your best at every task, you can walk away with the confidence that you did good work.
Sometimes that can be more valuable than the job itself.
2. Understand Failure
You are going to fail. Just like with anything in life.
Sometimes it will be totally out of your control. Sometimes it will be the random happenings of circumstance. Other times you might even be sabotaged by a bad client, a fellow freelancer, or just washed out by plain old bad luck.
And other times, you’re going to mess up. Badly. You’re going to fail. You’ll delete work accidentally, lose clients, fumble deadlines, and screw up details.
All of this is okay, so long as you fulfill one simple condition: learn from your mistakes.
In freelancing, nobody is going to steer you right. You won’t have a boss financially interested in keeping you on track. When you screw up, the only person there to pick you up and dust you off is yourself. You have to get used to knowing when you’ve bungled it, how you’ve sent yourself up the river, and what exactly was your fault and what was the result of your environment. Finally, you need to put it all together and figure out how to do better.
Being aware of your mistakes and shortcomings is essential to being confident as a freelancer. You need to know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Confidence isn’t ignoring your faults. It’s understanding how to work with them.
3. Create and Celebrate Goals
In freelancing, it can be easy to lose sight of how far you’ve come or if you’ve made any progress at all. Unlike with traditional employment, there is no defined career path and no promotions or raises waiting for you at predetermined milestones.
Of course, you still have plenty of possibility for upward mobility. Far more – in some cases – than you’d be afforded at a traditional job. But the only person who is going to recognize or reward you for completing your goals is you.
Set some well-defined goals for what you’d like to accomplish as a freelancer. Make them reasonable and achievable in the short- and long-term. Start simple. Aim for getting a certain amount of work done each day or acquiring a certain number of clients. Anything that is easy to measure and sets you on the right course.
Once you’ve accomplished your goals, find a way to celebrate. It doesn’t need to be extravagant. Just enough to reinforce what you’re doing. Then, after basking in your success for a little while, set some new goals and get back to it.
4. Encourage Honest Feedback
Sincere feedback is one of the most valuable things one person can give to another. You won’t always be lucky enough to get honest, heart-felt critiques, but you can find some value in any feedback you get.
Take every piece of criticism you come across – no matter how nasty, mean spirited, harsh, or plain wrong it might be – and do your best to understand why and how you created that reaction. Ask every client you work with for their thoughts and encourage them to be forthright with any alterations they want to the work.
Learning to take criticism, both positive and negative, will go a long way towards bolstering your overall confidence as a freelancer. Sincere feedback is the only way you can truly know if you are hitting the mark or not. A little bit of honesty goes a long way.
5. Organize Your Portfolio
Having a well-organized portfolio is essential for any freelancer to find work. Yet outside of acting as your public résumé, your portfolio is also something of your personal trophy collection. Use it to showcase the best of what you have to offer. Organize it in a manner that you can be proud of. Keep it fresh and up-to-date as you forge ahead with your freelancing career.
Your portfolio is the jewel in your crown. Polish it well.
Onward and Upward
Finding the confidence to make your own way as a freelancer can be a tall order. If you’re doubting your abilities or your presentation, it’s essential to create a systematic method for recognizing and tracking your gradual improvements.
Organization is key in any business. For those who work under managers and corporations, they don’t need to worry about the meta-organization of goals and reward structures. But as a freelancer, these issues raise their head everyday.
Keep moving along and with your mind on the next task.
Before long you’ll have something to be truly proud of.