Are You a Freelance Writer with Impostor Syndrome? Here’s What You Can Do

Imposter Syndrome can hold you back when it comes to achieving success as a freelance writer. Learn to recognize what it is and how to deal with it effectively.

Are You a Freelance Writer with Impostor Syndrome? Here’s What You Can Do

Freelancing isn’t new, but the number of writers moving in this direction is climbing more and more each day.

Maybe you’ve recently made the move to becoming your own boss or been there for years already and already know the benefits. You can set your own schedule, accept or decline jobs, and grow in expertise the more writing projects you complete.

Yet, is something continuing to tug at you, leading to profound moments of self-doubt?

If so, more than likely, it’s not just a temporary lapse in confidence. You are potentially experiencing what’s referred to today as Impostor Syndrome.

With it, you may feel that any day now, others will learn your secret, the secret that you’re actually pretending, you’re not really an expert, and you lack in professional writing skills.

This Impostor Syndrome can hold you back when it comes to achieving success in your freelance marketing career or any other freelance endeavor.

While it may never completely go away, you can get past it, bury it, and regain that confidence in yourself and your abilities.

Keep reading to learn more about it!

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    What is Impostor Syndrome?

    Impostor Syndrome, in psychological terms, is a pattern of behavior where self-doubt is pervasive, and those experiencing it often internalize an underlying fear of being exposed for what they think they really are — a fraud.

    Regardless of how much success you have, you continue to feel inadequate, crediting luck for those successes rather than individual knowledge, abilities, and skills.

    How are Freelance Writers Affected by Impostor Syndrome?

    Freelance writers, in particular, are at risk of experiencing Impostor Syndrome.

    One reason for this is that such persistent self-doubt thrives when you’re always working alone. You determine your own schedule each day and don’t have anyone checking up on you concerning deadlines.

    Without interaction with clients, you may not receive feedback, and this can start the negative reel in your head that they aren’t pleased or there’s nothing special about your work for them to stop and give you feedback.

    More specifically, freelance writers can be affected by Impostor Syndrome in the following ways.

    Downplay your abilities

    If feelings of anxiety, fear of failure, or inadequacy interfere with your day, as a freelance writer, you may often downplay your own skills, experience, knowledge, or success. 

    In turn, you may view writing assignments and believe you are not qualified enough.

    Procrastination

    With lapses in confidence and self-esteem, procrastination is a natural reaction. 

    You may convince yourself that other tasks are more important to focus on before getting started on a new writing assignment, seeking out a new client, or invoicing clients for work you’ve already completed. 

    For example, you may still be working on your website and convince yourself you need to complete that first.

    Perfectionism

    When it comes to perfectionism, freelance writers with impostor syndrome are the poster child. 

    Holding yourself to unattainable high standards can paralyze you, causing you to avoid completion of a project or spend more time than you can spare on each one.

    Accept Lower Fees

    Impostor Syndrome can also show up in the inability to charge higher fees for writing assignments. 

    You continue to undercharge for your work even though you have experience and success already behind you.

    Why does this happen? Perhaps it’s because you may fail to see yourself as a real writer, so why should you expect to get paid like one.

    Intentionally miss deadlines

    Feeling inadequate, you may delay working on your writing project and, in turn, intentionally miss the deadline. 

    When this happens, you not only damage the client relationship but also your credibility and potential for more work from that client.

    Incompletion

    Excitement may build around a new topic you want to propose to your client or write under your own byline. 

    Yet, that Impostor Syndrome can sabotage that excitement and enthusiasm, and the great idea ends up going nowhere.

    You may do the initial research, draft an outline, then fail to start writing it. Even if you do start on it, you stop before it’s completed. Incompletion happens because, every time you begin writing, that negative voice whispers and then shouts.

    The voice tells you that the idea isn’t interesting, that no one will read it, or you are the last person who should be writing it. You may suddenly think that no one wants to read what you have to write.

    Play it too safe

    You may have dozens of ideas, but with Impostor Syndrome dominating, you choose to play it safe and not present those big ideas to clients or pitch them to publications.

    It’s better, you believe, to stick with tried-and-true topics and not venture into an area that may fail.

    You may think you don’t have enough experience or knowledge to go forward with an idea, so instead, you back down and relegate yourself to the same-old things.

    Avoid marketing/promoting yourself

    Feeling insecure in your writing abilities can cause you to avoid promoting yourself and seeking new clients or freelance work.

    Perhaps you have your own blog but fail to promote it. Your website, if complete, remains stagnant, or you fail to continually update your writer portfolio

    All of these, if made a priority, can generate interest in what you offer, lead to client queries, and bring more work your way.

    Get Taken for Granted by Clients

    With lower self-esteem and Impostor Syndrome, you, as a freelance writer, can also let clients take you for granted. 

    For example, you receive an assignment, but it is well beyond the scope of the project. It may require excessive research that is not included in the fee.

    Since you already feel like you’re a fraud, you fail to push back and negotiate with the client for a higher rate or to discuss breaking the project down into parts. 

    You focus instead on pleasing that client the best way you can without complaining or speaking up. In turn, future projects with this client may continue in the same manner.

    5 Ways Freelance Writers Can Fight Impostor Syndrome

    To fight freelance writer Impostor Syndrome, here are five ways to overcome the self-doubt and fraudulent focus and become the writer you truly are.

    1. Accept Positive Feedback and External Validation

    It can be difficult to accept compliments or external validation for your writing if you’re not used to receiving them. Even if you are, they can still be dismissed too easily.

    You help overcome this by starting to accept external validation. Trust the positive feedback you receive without overthinking it.

    If someone tells you they like your idea or find your writing to be exactly what they need, let yourself believe it.

    Let what they say sink in and fuel your confidence.

    Begin to accompany this positive feedback with your own internal validation that you have valuable skills. When you combine external and internal validation, Impostor Syndrome loses its power over you.

    2. Recognize Impostor Syndrome When It Hits

    Negative thoughts and feelings can be overwhelming and, all too often, these are the result of your own mind treating you unkindly.

    Learning how to recognize when the negativity of Impostor Syndrome is affecting you, then, can help you move past those insecurities and see them for what they really are.

    For instance, do you ever doubt a final article even though, when writing it, you were so caught up in the flow of writing and sure that it fits with the project at hand?

    Do you feel like your writing isn’t good enough and feel stuck where you are?

    Begin to recognize these thoughts and feelings as Impostor Syndrome, not reality. Counteract them with your own self-talk of positivity and confidence in yourself and your abilities.

    3. Don’t Let Misconceptions Rule

    Common generalizations or stereotypes are common today. Yet, it’s time to forget what you’ve learned or what others perceive as the definition of a writer, author, or freelancer.

    Don’t let these misconceptions provide an excuse for dismissing yourself, diminishing what you do, and comparing yourself with others.

    You are your own brand of freelance writer, writing for a living and getting paid for it.

    You don’t have to measure up to some preconceived notion, stereotype, or generalization.

    You write; therefore, you are a writer. You published an article; therefore, you are a published writer.

    Don’t feel the need to quantify your accomplishments in order to define yourself as a freelance writer. You are not an impostor.

    4. Constantly Review Your Accomplishments

    Regularly reviewing your past accomplishments can fuel your confidence and prove to yourself that you are not an impostor.

    Brainstorm your accomplishments. Include degrees or certifications earned, new clients obtained, and fees collected.

    Celebrate every accomplishment, small or large, whether it be a 500-word blog post for a client or a thousand-page white paper.

    Compile reminders of your accomplishments, such as:

    • Create a freelance writing portfolio and regularly update it.
    • List out your accomplishments and look back at this list often.
    • Compile positive feedback from clients and post a few of them on a bulletin board you can see each day.
    • Maintain a file of correspondence with clients telling you how great an article was or how much they enjoy working with you.
    • Create a freelance resume and list out all your projects

    With one or more of these, you can easily review your accomplishments any time you like.

    5. Interact with Supporters

    While freelance writing is a solitary endeavor, you’re not alone in the profession.

    There are literally thousands of others experiencing similar lifestyles, many also going through Impostor Syndrome on a daily basis.

    The freelance writers’ community is vast, meaning thousands of supporters are out there for you. These are people similar to you and want you to see you succeed. They already believe in you because you’ve taken the step to go for what you want.

    Hang out in Facebook or LinkedIn groups for additional support. Join a writing community in-person or online.

    Connecting with each other can make a huge difference and let you know you are not alone in your fears, self-doubt, or anxiety.

    You may also be interested in these articles:

    Wrap Up

    Impostor Syndrome can interfere with your freelance writing career and make you feel inferior and undeserving of rewards for all your hard work. 

    Getting past this interference is possible, and it all begins with recognizing it and finding ways to lessen its power over you and your accomplishments.

    To help boost your skills and confidence in your work even more, find out what the best freelancer tools are today to help you stay successful.

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    Barbara von der Osten Rock author vector
    Rock Content Writer

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