Don’t let irrational fears kill your freelance ambition

John McGarvey

John McGarvey Ltd

This excellent post from Andy Nattan on the ‘fear of freelancing’ did a great job of examining some of the reasons writers decide not to go freelance.

In the comments, Andy said he hoped someone would address the concerns he’d laid out. Some months later, here I am.

A little worry is a good thing

I’ve been a freelance web copywriter for about five years. Before taking the plunge I worried about everything Andy mentioned. To an extent, I still do.

But while a little worry stops you getting complacement, too much can be paralysing. It’s too easy to dismiss going freelance because “I’ll never get the work” or “I have to pay my rent”, without stopping to think things through rationally.

Working freelance isn’t for everyone, of course. Staying in a permanent role offers a number of advantages – not all of them related to stability. But I think it’s wise to evaluate your fears logically, to see if it you’re assessing the risks accurately.

Fear for your finances

Yes, we’re in a recession. Unemployment is high, High Street chains are toppling like dominoes and – if you’re lucky enough to have a job – you probably haven’t had a pay rise lately.

But throughout this economic turmoil, many freelance writers seem to have done ok. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that because companies are reluctant to hire permanent staff, there are more freelance opportunities available.

Yes, you should think carefully before swapping your regular salary for a bunch of clients, some of whom will pay slowly or not at all. But if you’re good at what you do, you might be surprised how many companies are willing to pay good money for your services.

Besides, how secure is your job in reality? In 2011 (the last year for which figures are available), statistics showed an increasing number of redundancies in the UK. If your employer’s business looks unsteady, would you rather jump or wait till you’re pushed?

Fear of uncertainty

It can be difficult to find the time to find new clients when you’re freelance. If you’re busy with work, you don’t have a moment to think about marketing your skills. And if you’re quiet, you want work there and then, not in three weeks’ time once your marketing efforts have made an impact.

But here’s a little secret about working as a freelance writer. The longer you do it for, the easier it becomes to secure work. So it’s best to start your marketing efforts long before you’re taking on clients.

Start a website. Get blogging. Try a little public speaking. Assuming you work as a writer in your current job, think about what pieces of work you’d show in your portfolio.

If your employer will let you (and you have the time), take on work at evenings and weekends. That way, once you decide to ditch the day job altogether, you’ll already have loyal clients who are happy to use your services and recommend you to others.

Fear of failure

As Andy says, “nobody likes to fail”. But what does failing as a freelancer really mean?

Does it mean you can’t get enough work to pay the bills? Does it mean you have to give up the freelance lifestyle and go back to find a permanent job? If so, so what?

Unless you’re going to do something that brings disgrace on you and your family, failure is nothing to be afraid of. You’ll learn from the experience and, as a copywriter, at least you have the skills to make the venture look like a success on your CV.

Get some advice

If you’ve read this far then I’m guessing you’re the kind of person who might be considering a freelance career, either now or in the future.

If so, let me give you a little advice. Talk about your fears with your family and friends. Definitely talk to anyone else you can find who’s already freelance. And speak to your employer, if you’re absolutely confident they won’t sack you for even considering a freelance career.

Although we often spend time working by ourselves, us freelancers definitely aren’t alone. And it’s much easier to face our biggest fears with the support of others.

Image: Flickr user Brooke Anderson.

  • fear-of-freelancing
  • fear-of-freelancing


25th January 2013

Stephen Marsh

Great post. It really is a very simple thing, that many of us know from experience – you always have to take a leap. There’ll never be a good day to do it, or the ideal moment when you have oodles of free time and clients banging on your door.

You just have to give it a bash, keep in mind the ‘so what?’ approach to failure, and be willing to do the work.

28th January 2013

Phil Williams

All points I think people need a lot of reminding over – freelancing is a scary thing starting out, but then so’s anything new. I wrote a similar post myself a fair while back, and I think it essentially boiled down to the similar ideas! Preparation, progression and knowing your not alone are the best ways to overcome that fear.

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