A huge set of cojones.
Deciding to leave a steady income for the unpredictability of freelance work is a huge decision, one which takes a considerable amount of courage.
I know the feeling of leaving a steady income behind, it’s as liberating as it is terrifying. As I walked out of my former employer’s office for the final time I had an overwhelming feeling of contentment. I’d finally made the leap into self employment, my confidence spiked and I felt unstoppable, at least until I sat down at my computer the following day.
It was then that the gravity of the situation dawned on me, there was no one else to rely on. If I didn’t perform, I didn’t eat. I was excited at the possibilities that lay before me but at the same time terrified that I couldn’t make it work.
Indeed fear is a major part of making these kind of decisions. If you don’t experience any fear when leaving the stability of a 9-5 then I’d argue that you haven’t fully comprehended the implications of doing so.
Without fear there can be no courage, and it takes more than most people possess to make the jump to becoming a freelancer. To have the courage to make the ‘big cojones’ decisions, you need to have the self confidence that you can make it work.
I’m not talking about the blind courage to believe that you can achieve anything, but more a realistic courage, one which is spawned from a full understanding of what is expected of you, the obstacles you’ll face and the implications of failure yet still making the decision to keep moving forward.
Blind courage is for fools who will leave everything to chance, as a freelancer the chances are that at some point you either have, or will need to, find the courage to make it your full time profession. Make sure you’re not playing the blind fool.
If you have already made the jump then I’d love to hear if you think of your decision as courageous or simply well planned. If you’re still on the fence as to whether you should take the plunge I hope that the comments of this article prove useful.
Anyway, that’s enough of my waxing lyrical over the merits of courage and confidence. We all know that it takes a good measure of the stuff to leave your employer, but how does it affect you once the decision has been made?
What implications can confidence, or a lack thereof have on the continuing progression of your career as a freelancer.
Why You Need to be Confident
Leaving an office job is a ballsy decision which isn’t possible without the confidence and belief in yourself and your ability. If you want to keep making the big decisions and driving your business forward, you’re going to need a healthy supply of self-confidence.
Your mentality and approach to any endeavour are of paramount importance. Many are defeated before they even begin simply because they believe their plan will fail. If you don’t have confidence in yourself to achieve your goals, I’m betting you won’t.
Confidence often equals competence, at least in appearance.
If you interview for a position with your gaze fixed firmly on your shoes and stand with an awkward hunch whilst mumbling your words you come across as less confident. Your lack of confidence is likely perceived to be you expressing your own misgivings with your ability to do the job. One confidence issue has just lost you that new contract.
As a writer you probably won’t be interviewing in the flesh for the majority of your positions instead relying on email correspondence. This should play to your strengths, words are your weapons and you should be in a better position than most to wield them effectively.
Your task with a pitch or application is to convey your own confidence in a clear manner. The key to this is to know who you are and what you can do. If you’re not sure exactly what it is you’re about, it’s going to come across in your proposal.
There are a few tricks to your writing that can help convey confidence (cutting words like ‘just’ and ‘only’ is a start, know what you want to say and say it) but the best results will be if you internalise your own strengths.
If you’re not confident about what you’re writing and what you can offer, it’s going to be plain for everyone to see.
Treading the Fine Line
There’s a very fine line between being confident and being arrogant. A line that is easily crossed should you not be keeping a solid check on yourself.
In writing a proposal or application to a potential client you have the added bonus of time to edit, a benefit those in a face to face interview do not have. There’s simply no excuse for coming across as a complete dick in email correspondence, unless that’s your goal.
There’s a desire to want to go really over the top in tooting your own horn. You know you’re a great writer and this client needs to understand that so you decide to really over sell yourself. The results of which are usually less than exemplary.
A confident writer knows what they can achieve and doesn’t need all of the bells and whistles of someone who is trying to impress. State what you can do for the client, supply good references backing up your claims and ask questions. Avoid any kind of condescending tone and hold your hands up in admission if there’s something you’re not clear on or simply don’t know.
Too often people overestimate their own abilities and come across as arrogant. Know yourself, know what you can achieve but most of all know your limits.
How to Build Your Confidence
Talking of confidence as the catalyst enabling you to make the ‘big cojone’ decision is all well and good, but what can we do to build our confidence? The first thing is to internalise your strengths. As a society we’re usually too quick to put ourselves down without focusing on what we do well. Knowing your strong points can be a huge confidence booster.
Draw up a list of the top five to ten things you do really well and repeat them to yourself, internalise and take ownership of them. Show and convince yourself that you’re worth a clients time and money and they’ll recognise that you are too.
If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.
After you know what you can do, it’s time to look for a few external sources to build your confidence. Some of these may seem counter productive, but sometimes having the worst happen is exactly what’s needed to make you a stronger, better person. Once it’s occurred you’ll realise it’s not so bad and won’t shy away from it in the future. What doesn’t kill you.
Face Your Fear
One of the main problems I’m sure many new writers are concerned with is rejection. After spending so long on a piece you form an attachment with it. To then be told it’s not good enough for publication X or website Y can be incredibly demoralising. Yes it sucks to be told your work isn’t good enough, but once you’ve got your first few rejections under your belt they lose their sting and their power to cripple your progress. Think of it as a rite of passage to the world of writing.
It’s Not You
When you’re rejected you may feel like giving up. What you have to remember is that rejection isn’t personal. The chances are the editor or webmaster hasn’t even considered the writer on the other end of the piece. S/He’s too busy trying to get through their day and hit their own targets to think of another person’s feelings.
The choice to not publish you is more likely a business decision, nothing more. It might be an incredibly well written piece but covers a target they’ve recently covered. There’s a myriad of reasons you’ll likely not be told for why it wasn’t accepted.
My 200 year rule
This is a rule that I’ve been saying to myself for some time now. Whenever there’s something I want to do but am feeling too embarrassed or too scared to actually take action, I ask myself ‘Who’s going to remember in 200 years?’. No one.
If I keep pursuing my goals there’s a very small chance that in 200 years someone will know of what I’ve achieved, but by sitting back and not taking action I’m ensuring an eternity of obscurity. No one in 200 years will know you’ve been rejected, take a chance.
Thank You Wall
My previous employer was somewhat known for providing a lacklustre service to its customers. The amount of complaints that I’d often receive for issues that had nothing to do with me were extremely demoralising. To combat this and prevent myself falling into a downward spiral I kept a ‘thank you wall’. The wall was a small pin board right behind my computer screen where I had pinned all of the thank you emails and letters I’d received. It acted as a great little pick me up.
I’d recommend keeping track of all of the nice comments, emails, tweets or messages you receive from your audience and readership to combat the depressing letters you receive.
Break It Down
Sometimes a job can seem far too large and you can find your motivation dwindling before you’ve even begun. I recently published an article on multitasking and how it’s detrimental to your efforts, but the most interesting text on the page is in the form of a comment left by Doug Belchamber. He offers some great tips on breaking items down into smaller goals.
This will cut that insurmountable task down to size as well as increasing your productivity.
All of these tips, even when used in concert are not a full cure for a lack of confidence. Tenacity is also important. Hear what people are saying about you, take their criticism on board, improve and don’t stop writing.
In time your confidence will increase, the criticism will decrease and you’ll be in a much better position.
Apologies for the very long post this week guys, looks like I got a little carried away! I do think that confidence is one of the main contributing factors for success in both our personal and professional lives. I’d love to know if you’ve got any tricks or tips that have worked to increase your confidence. If you have anything to add to the conversation, have a word in the comments below.
Image – Son of Groucho