How To Fight Your Freelancing Fears

Tips from a pro writer on kicking fear’s butt before it kicks yours

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Photo by Ashima Pargal on Unsplash

When you freelance, fear crops up from time to time. And fear’s little brother doubt (usually in form of self-doubt) tends to come along for the ride. But I believe that fear doesn’t have to be deadly. If you deal with it the right way, you can stop it from affecting your self-worth and your earning potential.

For example, there’s the time when you start thinking about going freelance. Some common fears for new freelancers include:

  • whether anyone will actually pay you to do the thing you love
  • whether enough people will want to hire you for you to make it into a full-time career
  • what your friends and family will say when you say you’re giving up a perfectly good job — or not bothering to get one — so you can chase your dream

But of course, the deadliest fear of all is your own inner voice that says: “what if this is a terrible idea?”

Luckily for me, I tend to let fear be a motivator rather than a destroyer, so I fire right back at that inner voice with: “So what if it IS a terrible idea? The only way to know for sure is to give it my all.”

That means going out of my way to get more information, to learn more about my writing craft, to figure out what clients want, and to strive for continual improvement. Lifelong learning for the win, y’all!

The thing is, the alternative to kicking fear’s butt is to let it kick yours, and for me, that’s an even worse idea. Because it can lead you down a painful path of doubting your worth. And that in turn often means you don’t ask for, or get, your value from clients.

I’ve made mistakes with that before. Like the time I totally convinced myself that if I asked a client for the amount I really wanted for a writing job, I wouldn’t get it. So, I suggested a lower figure and the client jumped at it. That job ended up taking longer than anticipated to complete, making the hourly rate paltry. I had to chalk that one up to experience.

Of course, that’s not the only time writers feel fear during their writing careers.

If you’re anything like me, freelance writing is a series of firsts. And sometimes when you’re considering a new kind of project, you can feel a little bit lost.

For example, the first time I wrote a sales page I agonized over what should be included and what I should charge, and that didn’t work out so well. Sure, the work was great, and the clients were happy, but I didn’t really account for the time it took and the value they were getting, so I definitely undercharged.

Fear stops you from asking for your true value. That’s why it’s something you have to rise above.

Five Ways to Fight the Fear

So, how exactly do you kick fear’s butt? Here are some of the ways I do it.

  1. Join a strong, supportive community of fellow writers. My community of choice is the Supportive Writers’ Forum (have I mentioned that’s it’s the best $5 I spend each month?), but I’m in a couple of others, too. Hanging out with other writers is affirming and empowering, plus they’re a great resource for fact-checking and gut-checking so that you can go to clients confidently.
  2. Get informed. Knowledge is power. I see how writers I respect with similar experience to mine price their services. I make a note of what they offer, then I use that as a starting point for working out what’s right for me. Another part of this process is knowing how much time a writing job will take and what’s involved. That takes experience, but at the start you can also use time-tracking software like RescueTime to track your time so you have some idea.
  3. Plan ahead. If you’ve ever worried about being able to meet deadlines, and having clients walk away because you couldn’t, this is a must. Schedule your work. And I don’t just mean the day it’s due, but also the days you plan to work on it. I use Google Calendar for this, and can see at a glance how much I have to do each day, which makes it easy to know where new opportunities fit in. Importantly, I add multiple tasks for each writing job (for outlining, writing, editing, and delivering).
  4. Fake confidence till you ARE confident. Even if you’re riddled with self-doubt, your client doesn’t have to know. Eliminate wishy-washy words from your client communications. Remember, as far as clients are concerned, you’re the expert.
  5. Recognize that you are in charge of your client relationships and your writing career. This is the most important one for me.

Once I recognized that I was in charge, I was able to:

  • ask for and get a better rate for writing services
  • take writing jobs and set deadlines that suited me
  • turn down opportunities that I didn’t like rather than just taking them for the money

This last one can be difficult, because writers often worry about disappearing clients. If ALL your clients disappear at once, that’s definitely a concern. But in my experience, that doesn’t happen. Instead, you lose a client, your income takes a hit for a while, then you gain a client, and your income goes back up.

I’m not saying the slumps can’t be tough; but they’re always followed by times when there’s so much work you hardly have time to breathe. Once you get used to that, it’s easy to ride out the disappearance of a single client. And it also eliminates the fear.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you — or I — will never feel fear again. But when we know what it is, we can choose not to give in, be the CEOs of our own writing business, and always ask for — and get — what we’re worth.

Written by

Pro writer (B2B/B2C). Antiracism writer. Co-host: Introvert Sisters podcast. Global citizen. She/her. Sharon’s Anti-Racism NL:

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