“Fail often so you can succeed sooner.” —Tom Kelley
Read Time: 3 Mins
Today’s post is an awesome guest post from Veronica who is the owner of AVO agency, a social and content marketing studio in Austin, Texas. I’m excited for her to share some of her strategies for building your own freelance business and overcoming some of the mental barriers. If you have always wanted to start working for yourself, you won’t want to miss this awesome post! There are a ton of takeaways below. So read on!
So you want to start a freelance business? Starting your own business may be the ultimate escape from the dreaded 9-5 job. The epic career solution that allows you to work your own hours, set your own prices, and live a lifestyle of your own design.
Is it possible? Of course, it is.
The problem is, going freelance is daunting. Finding and keeping clients is hard, and figuring out a sustainable freelance business model is even harder.
More importantly, there’s the universal “freelancer dilemma”: how to value our time and stop selling ourselves short.
Let’s back up for a minute. I’m Veronica, a creative-type introvert running a social media agency from my living room. I like long walks on the beach, quirky small businesses, and taking video conference calls in yoga pants.
I have struggled a LOT with freelancing and creating sustainable business models, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I once sold a social media management package for $300/month (which is insane, by the way), opened and left a Karate studio, and struggled as an agency copywriter charging an hourly rate (which is also crazy).
Fortunately for you, the ups and downs have taught me a lot about what it takes to thrive or fail. Although there are tons of actionable tips I could share, none of them would matter if your mindset prevents you from achieving success as you define it.
Fixing that mindset to accomplish freedom is what we’ll cover today.
So, specifically, how to get out of your own way when it comes to building your client base and getting paid; some common self-limiting beliefs that freelancers deal with; and the mindset hacks you can use today to stop selling yourself short and start making real money.
Let’s get started.
New freelancers have a habit of making excuses for why they’re charging less than their time is worth. I’m guilty of doing it too; I made tons of the same excuses when I first started out.
I was constantly hesitant to ask for money, set firm prices, or even start the conversations about my pricing model. I would freeze and fail. I’d start feeling guilty for asking for so much money, and before I knew it, a smaller price point would come out of my mouth… and of course, the client would say yes. It was a terrible cycle. Sound familiar?
Although there are tons of reasons why people under charge, the top excuses I’ve heard (and used) are:
… and so on. And all of these are nonsense.
What you’re doing here is negotiating with yourself, and losing.
All of these excuses are self-limiting beliefs that are not serving you or your client. If you have the skill they need, then they should pay you fairly for that skill.
Always remember that it comes down to the final product or experience you deliver. If you know you can deliver something great, then charge accordingly. The end product or service you’re providing has less to do with your former experience than the ability to execute on your ideas.
You also have to understand that if you start out your freelance career under-charging, you’re setting yourself up for failure long term—or at least a much more difficult road to success. When you work for free or for small fees, you are going to attract the wrong clients. These low-paying clients will not be the ones that continue to bring you more business, refer you, or expand your work.
Remember, too, that when you busy yourself with clients that underpay you, you’re taking time away from potential clients who would pay you more. The time you spend on their low-paying projects is time that could be spent prospecting clients who will pay you far more. It’s just a waste of your time.
If you’re not familiar with the term, “imposter syndrome” is that sinking feeling you get when you feel like you’re not good enough to do what you do, and someone is going to find out.
This tends to be really common with would-be freelancers and entrepreneurs because they tend to be highly intelligent over-achievers… who are also really hard on themselves.
Especially for new freelancers, it’s an easy trap to fall into, because taking the leap to freelance full time is scary. It’s scary knowing that you are solely responsible for your success; if a client is unhappy, if you don’t make enough money, if you lose a client, etc., you have no one else to shift blame onto.
That’s tough, and I get it. The trouble is, if you continue to give weight to those feelings of self-doubt, you will not be successful.
As a freelancer, you are the only person who is going to advocate for you. When you start doubting yourself, even if it’s only internally, you are making it harder to set prices, approach new clients, and share your work with your network. It’s something that will impact your entire business.
Overcoming imposter syndrome, and any kind of self-doubt isn’t going to happen overnight. There is no quick fix or simple solution. But just like any other bad habit, the first step is knowing that you have a problem, and facing it head on.
Every time you start to have those self-limiting thoughts, pause and say, “I’m experiencing imposter syndrome, and I need to let these thoughts go. They aren’t serving me.”
For more on overcoming imposter syndrome, check out this article, or dig a little more on your own for a resource that feels the most helpful to you.
Remember when you were five years old, and some encouraging adult told you that you can be anything you want when you grow up?
Then, remember how somewhere along the way you realized that not everything was possible and that you were limited by X, Y, and Z?
Ditch all of those self-imposed limitations, because thinking small is going to keep your business small.
Have a crazy idea? Pitch it. Found your ideal client? Email them. Have an insane product or service idea that no one has ever done before? At least try it. Even if it feels totally out of reach, you won’t know until you try.
And if anyone tells you something along the lines of, “That’s crazy, no one has ever done that before,” do it anyway. In fact, that’s even more of a reason to do something.
What has helped me the most is getting inspiration from other online business owners who are doing big things. Take Melyssa Griffin, for example, whose freelance efforts went from a $0 side hustle to a million dollar business in only a few years.
Look for people in your industry who are doing big things until you’re so inspired that you can’t help but jack up your prices and launch a new product.
Last but not least…
What mental roadblocks to success have I missed, and what challenges are you facing? Share yours in the comments below.
If you have any other helpful articles or insight, please use this blog post as a thread to share your best resources so that other people can benefit, too.
Veronica is the owner of AVO agency, a social and content marketing studio in Austin, Texas. When she’s not mapping out social strategies and writing high-conversion copy for clients, she’s probably doing martial arts, yoga, or traveling. Still reading? Check out her blog, or connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
P.S. Here’s a great video from another entrepreneur that created a freelance graphic designer job if you want some more inspiration!
Also published on Medium.