My Lessons From 6 Months as a Freelancer. Ladies - it's time to find your soul-sista.
The last 6 months of my new freelancer life have been amazing. I’m not sure I’ve felt happier in a role or in life than I have these past few months. But that’s not to say I haven’t had that moment – that moment that every freelancer will face at least 1,000 times in their career.
I’m talking about self-doubt.
Freelance Life can get You Down
A few weeks ago I was working with a client (who I adore). We met previously while I was working my other life and he identified an opportunity we might have to work together. So we entered into a trial arrangement - I’d have a crack at a smaller project and then at the end we’d have a better idea if the arrangement could work for us.
Unfortunately, it didn’t. I couldn’t give him what he wanted. Without getting into the nitty gritty, suffice to say we both had different expectations of what was required and the time investment was not in the best interests of my business to proceed. So, we walked away.
But I was gutted. I had let this man down, this man who I really respect. I hate the ‘d’ word… it sends a shiver straight into my heart and I obsess about it for days. But, for the first time while freelancing, I disappointed someone. At least that’s how I saw it.
But, as with everything in life – there were some key take homes from this experience (I’ll get to them later).
So, yes, I was shattered. I went emo. I had a crisis of faith in my ability to do this job well. I’m a failure. I’ll never make this work. I’m embarrassed that someone I respect thinks I can’t write. Wah wah wah.
So I did the one thing women the world over would do – I called a friend and invited her to coffee.
How Tapping into My Network Restored My Confidence
A few months ago – I was blessed with the opportunity to connect with a small group of incredibly inspiring women. Each forging their own path through life and doing it with sunshine and sparkly golden glitter (except for Ange – she rocks the world in a sweat shirt ;) )
One of these lovely ladies is also a copywriter. So, we reconnected over coffee to catch up and talk all things life, cafes, and oh my god how bad do I suck at copywriting! Although I don’t wish the self-doubt wallows on anyone – it was reassuring to talk to someone who was at that very point in time stomping around in the self-doubt wallows with me.
Something interesting happened though – while my friend was sharing her tale of apparent ‘not good enough to do this’ – I connected with her story. I firmly said – but that’s bullshit. It was a shit project to begin with.
See, my lovely lady friend had fallen into the same trap as me. A poorly defined project scope and expectations that when finally established – blew the original project out of the water. We busted our guts to produce something perfect, inspiring, and newsworthy – only I was in the position to pull out, and she was not. Simple as that. Nothing to do with skill or ability. It was about managing those crazy expectations from the beginning.
Being able to connect with a fellow freelancer and share my story and empathise with hers. Realising that I’m not alone out there – feeling safe and free of judgement as we trouble shooted through the issues at hand. Having a strong voice sit opposite my coffee and tell me – ‘you’re not shit’ – someone to hug and laugh and lift up out of the wallows beside me – was incredibly powerful and not something I will ever take for granted.
Why I Aim to Build More Face-to-Face Networks
One of my goals this year was to reconnect with old acquaintances, friends, colleagues – and make an active effort to build new relationships by attending small business networking events around Brisbane. Last week was the week I kicked it up a notch and started taking this networking thing more seriously.
I attended my first networking event on Thursday, hosted by the incredible Angela Henderson (of Finlee and Me). Ange inspires me every day with her success, her vision, her support of other business freshies, and her energy and drive to make things better.
This networking group she’s created for Brisbane’s small business freshies is something I genuinely look forward to participating in, moving forward. Regular events, social networking, trouble shooting with non-judgemental, genuinely supportive people who are either in the same boat as you, or in the catamaran next to you after capsizing their own boat and overcoming it – providing you with advice and guidance to help you do the same.
Networking has really lifted my spirits these past few weeks – and I feel much more confident and energised by my freelance life. No longer a solo-job when you have these cool cats paddling beside you!
A List of My Lessons After 6 Months as a Freelance Copywriter
- Behind every great freelancer, is a great wingwoman. Find your soul sista – remain in touch – be each other’s Tay Tay.
- Connect with a supportive small business community (face-to-face). Talk to other people who are going through the same thing as you. Problem solve together, help each other out, join forces and collaborate on projects.
- Be clear about expectations from the beginning. Contracts are great to refer to if you need.
- Not every project is good for your business. I quit 9-5 corporate life because I wanted to do stuff that I enjoy. It’s OK to learn you don’t enjoy doing something. And it’s OK to not offer that work to clients because it’s not your strength or you don’t enjoy it. Free yourself up for the stuff you love.
- Craft your own mantra. There will always be tough days where you experience a knock back – it’s not personal. Recite your mantra 5 times every morning to maintain that positive mindset.
- Meditate – Running your own business is bloody stressful! I try to meditate every day but sometimes it doesn’t happen. When it doesn’t – I notice the cray cray creepin’ in and it affects my rational thinking.
- Accept that you can’t please everyone. I’m a quirky writer – I write how I talk, and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But my purpose is to make organisation communication more engaging for employees and customers. I’m not conventional – so conventional clients won’t enjoy what I do. Identify this up front – and be OK about walking away.
The psychology of women and self confidence in business
I want to leave you with one thing. I spent a lot of time in recruitment before starting my freelance journey. One thing that must be identified, painted onto a billboard and broadcast with flashing lights is that:
Women are humble creatures, generally speaking. It is not in our nature to promote ourselves, sell ourselves, talk highly of ourselves or our abilities. We do what we need to do, we do a rippin’ bloody good job, and we move on. We also take on failure internally (I’m not good enough).
Further, women tend to hold themselves back from promotions unless they can check off 100% of the qualifications required for a role.
Referencing an internal Hewlett Packard report about their lack of women in top management positions, this Forbes article hits it on the head: “Men are confident about their ability at 60%, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list.”
We expect to be perfect. But, it’s time to change this trend. It’s time to change our psychology and this martyrdom that society has influenced us to behave a certain way.
Find your soul-sista, ladies.
Kelly is a writer, copywriter, blogger, and employer brand enthusiast with major heart for words. Her life's mission is to light up corporate communications and bring life to the way organisations speak with their people. Favourite hastags - #stopboring #coffee #words.