No, it’s not you. I know you were probably expecting that, right?
So many posts out there are all “YOU are the key to what’s holding you back from doing what YOU want,” and, while I think we should treat ourselves a little bit nicer, this isn’t the one real thing that’s stopping you from being a freelancer.
I could hark on about self-belief and how you really need to be more confident if you want to be a freelancer. But, really? I don’t think that’s the main thing holding you back.
What’s Holding You Back?
You might think it’s tangible things, like money, or something else, like time, family, and the awesome career you’ve nurtured so far (do you really want to give that up to work from home every day?!), but I honestly think the one thing holding you back from taking the plunge is your perception of freelancing.
Not your self-belief, not your attitude, and not your inexperience.
You see, we’re brought up in this society that nurtures full-time workers.
It’s the “right” thing to do. We get a steady job, we work for 50+ years, then we retire and reap the benefits of what we’ve sown.
Freelancing is made out to be this stop-gap career move for people who’ve been fired or can’t find a job because it doesn’t fit in with the norm.
Yes, how you view the industry is stopping you being a freelancer.
Think about it this way: how many times have you read or heard about the cliché that freelancers are scruffy, failing 30-year-olds who struggle to pay rent and have a tendency to drink whiskey at midday?
I’m guessing it’s way more times than you’ve heard a story on the flipside: that freelancers earn more than full-time employees, and yes, they CAN drink whiskey at midday, but most of them don’t because they’re, well, working.
We’re so ingrained with this notion that freelancing is for bums; for the unemployable, and that stops HUNDREDS of people being a freelancer.
And, while I completely understand WHY people have this aversion to freelancing, I really wish it wasn’t so looked down on.
Because, let’s face it, it is.
There have been many an occasion where someone has asked what I ‘do’ (I really hate that question, but it’s a whole other kettle of fish), and I’ve replied “oh, you know I’m a freelancer.” They try to hide it, but I see the eye roll and the raised eyebrows.
It’s not a REAL career, you see. It’s for people who are too lazy to get a proper job. It’s for people who are leeching off mummy and daddy. It’s for the work-shy. It’s for the unemployable.
Though you might not consciously know it, the term ‘freelancer’ comes with a whole load of other connotations – most of which aren’t a combination of sunshine and roses.
Luckily, this perception of freelancing is beginning to change.
In fact, there are some awesome statistics out there that show just how much freelancing is on the rise. Companies are starting to see the benefits of working with contractors, while employees are beginning to realise they can earn more on their own, working for numerous different brands.
But let’s talk more about the actual term ‘freelancing.’
I’ve had a hypothetical slap to the face when my friends inadvertently make fun of what I do, just because I don’t get up at 6, go to work at 9, and come home at 5. It’s not because they think any less of me – it’s simply because they don’t UNDERSTAND what I do. They don’t understand what freelancing REALLY is.
Because, as I said before, we’ve been ingrained to think it’s this low-level, barrel-scraping choice made by the unemployable peeps out there.
And when you already have this preconceived idea about what something is (thanks to films, books, and society’s generally misguided outlook), it’s difficult to shake them off.
- So you struggle to charge what you’re worth.
- So you struggle to approach clients you want to work with.
- So you struggle to realise how valuable you are to clients.
All because the term ‘freelancing’ conjures up an image of pyjama-laden hipsters who don’t get up until noon.
Having these (wildly generalised) doubts about an industry inevitably stops us from going into it.
I mean, why would you even consider being a freelancer if you didn’t think you’d earn enough money (because you’re hard-wired to think freelancing pays pennies)?
Why would you consider it if you thought you’d be working with low-end clients (because the best brands know that freelancing is for the lazy)?
Why would you consider it if you thought you’d spend every day trying to justify what you do (because society implies that freelancers aren’t “real”, valuable workers)?
And suddenly our fears start to make sense, right? Suddenly our eyes are opened and we are blinking into the bright light of generalisations. Don’tcha just love ‘em?
Okay, all well and good, but how do I change this? I hear you say.
It’s not easy, but it’s totally do-able if being a freelancer is really what you want.
You have to change your perspective
Naw, not so easy, see? Changing the way you think about something is seriously difficult, especially when the idea has been hammered home for years.
Sure, it’s not your job to make others realise the error of their ways (or to simply show them that freelancing isn’t reserved for whiskey-guzzling failures), but it can certainly help.
I’ve had a few candid conversations with friends about what it is I REALLY do, and afterwards they’re like, “I had no idea!”
When someone has ‘no idea’ about something, there is ALWAYS room to educate them. ALWAYS room to make sure they DO have an idea in the future.
And even if you just work on one person at a time, slowly you will start to see the people around you accept what you do, and help you nurture your business.
We all love a bit of mass-thinking, right?
So when a group of people we’re connected to think about something one way, we tend to agree with them (especially if they’re people we are similar to, like friends and family).
As soon as the people closest to you start seeing freelancing as a legitimate career, you’ll start thinking a helluva lot more highly about it, too.
But who’s the most important person in all this? Hello, it’s you! YOU’RE the person who needs to change their perception if that’s what’s stopping you being a freelancer.
I found that following successful freelancers (like Paul Jarvis) have really helped changed my outlook on the industry. These people are rocking what they do, and they do it in a way that’s professional and relatable.
Read books by successful freelancers, follow their blogs, watch videos they’ve made, listen to their podcasts, devour their work, and, if you’re feeling really confident, reach out to them and start a conversation.
And remember, for every successful freelancer you find, there are 10 more doing exactly the same thing – earning just as much, killing it with their work, and climbing their way to the top.
Stop using the word freelancer
If all else fails and you’re still shaky on your ideas about freelancing, try switching it out for another word.
I’ve spoken lots of times about how freelancers struggle to see themselves as a business, because they’re usually a one-(wo)man show.
But think about it: you’re exchanging services for money, just like any other business; you’re running a behind the scenes show just like every other business out there.
Simply changing the words you use can trick your brain into thinking something else. And, using the term ‘business’ (whether this is a good thing or not), gives you a lot more standing when revealing what you do to friends, family, and strangers on the street.
I’d love to hear your view! Do you think it’s your perception of freelancing that’s holding you back from being a freelancer?
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