Imposter Syndrome: Every Freelancer’s Stumbling Block

As a freelancer, you don’t have a fancy title (unless you’ve given yourself one) and you don’t have a salary or boss giving you a pay rise to show what your work is worth. Instead, it is up to you to say; ‘I’m worth it!’ but what if – whisper it – you don’t feel like you actually are worth it?

So, despite the skills you possess, the qualifications you hold, the experience earned, the clients who keep coming back and the great praise you receive, this nagging self-doubt is thinking; ‘someone’s going to catch me out’.

If you feel this, you are certainly not alone. This feeling, known as Imposter Syndrome, is shared across all areas of work and none more apparent than in freelancing. What’s more, the people most likely to feel that they aren’t good enough, are the ones who are the high achievers or the ones who hold senior positions in organisations.

The problem with Imposter Syndrome

While crippling self-doubt is no good for your mental health, it can also affect your work as a freelancer too. You may be selling yourself too cheap, doing yourself out of the money you deserve. Furthermore, you may even turn down work that you don’t think you are able to do, even though you are more than capable.

Imposter Syndrome can leave you completely unable to start work, devoid of all creativity and, at worse, can lead to crippling anxiety attacks.

However, there are ways that you can move past negative Imposter Syndrome thoughts and value yourself more highly.

Which ‘Imposter’ are you?

‘The One-Man Band’

For some people, the Imposter Syndrome will manifest during group work or needing assistance. People in this category will often believe that if they ask for help or advice, they will be exposed. Furthermore, their pride and confidence come from their independence and when this is weakened it casts doubt over their ability.

‘The Naturally Gifted’

For some people, skills and talent come easily, and it seems like a natural ability. However, if something takes time to master, or isn’t completed right the first time, then these people will feel like they are being ‘found out’. Mentoring, advice and having to complete corrections, will feel like criticism to these folks.

‘The Continual Learner’

People in this category are the ones who measure their ability of the qualifications they have and the amount of knowledge they store away. You may be in this category if you worry that you don’t know enough and that someone will expose your lack of knowledge as you expect yourself to be a complete expert in what you do.

‘The Always On Worker’

Another common category for the different ways the Imposter Syndrome can manifest is in those who overwork. Often called a workaholic, these people will go above and beyond and work all hours of the day as a way to cover up for the fact they feel fraudulent. Even if their work schedule is maxed out, they’ll continue to take on as much as they can.

‘The Perfect Worrier’

Those with perfectionist tendencies will tend to critique themselves all too often. With every piece of work, the self-doubt creeps in that it wasn’t good enough or the client will be unhappy. People in this category will find that they micro-manage if they try to delegate and hate to lose control over their work.

So, which one are you? It’s OK if you identify with more than one, I know I do!

So, how can you get over the Imposter Syndrome?

  1. Use affirmations

I am good at what I do.

I am worthy in my job and my personal life.

I am better than I think I am.

I deserve praise and positive feedback.

I deserve more credit than I give myself.

I deserve to be well compensated for the work I do.

All of these affirmations can help to build your confidence. Try to repeat an affirmation that resonates with you at least thirty times while you feel relaxed and are in a quiet space. Try to do this three times a day. The only thing to bear in mind is that for affirmations to work, you need to believe them. So only tell yourself affirmations when you have confidence in what you do.

Try telling yourself your affirmations first thing in the morning, before you are inundated with work and perhaps when you receive positive feedback from clients so you can really believe what you are saying to yourself.

  1. Cut yourself some slack

You are human, and clients will understand if you make a small error or you struggle to meet a deadline. Instead, cut yourself some slack and stop taking on too much work that is completely unachievable in the timeline you’ve given yourself.

Remember, you need time to think, procrastinate and handle life’s emergencies, so don’t pile your plate too high. By giving yourself a break, you’ll not only improve your wellbeing, but you may notice your productivity actually increases too.

  1. Switch from personal to business brain

If you receive criticism, it can feel like a personal insult especially if you’ve put your heart and soul into the work. However, in cases like these, it is important to tackle it with your business brain. Your client is not insulting you personally (and if they are, they do not deserve to be your client).

Look at the feedback constructively and the point they are trying to make. It is not an attack on your ability, but a chance to offer improved work and you may be able to take the advice forward next time.

Do you feel like an imposter? And if so, what do you do to help yourself feel ‘worth it’ again?




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