Overcoming the Fear of Failure in Your Freelance Career

Being your own boss is the dream of many. Alas, it’s a reality for precious few. In Canada, self-employed people represent only about 15% of the working population. That’s less than 2 in 10 people.

While I’m sure many of the remaining 85% are happy with their current employment situation, or have no desire to work for themselves, it’s the workers who wish they could be their own boss I’m talking about here.

Why is it that so many people wish they could be their own boss, but remain an employee? Each person will give you a different answer, but it all boils down to one reason:

Fear.

Fear is at the root of any excuse or reasoning somebody might have for not taking the leap into self-employment.

Fear is a big deal! Nobody likes to be scared—especially when we’re talking about your livelihood, your future, and the financial well-being of you and your family.

Leaving your job, your “secure”, well-paying (or not-so-well) job and jumping into a career where you don’t know how much you’re going to make that month can be terrifying!

What if I fail?

What if I don’t make enough money to pay the bills?

What if I stop getting work?

These are all legitimate questions, and very real concerns. In fact, I have had (and still occasionally have) these fears, even though I’ve been successfully self-employed for over two years.

There are two things you must know and understand:

  1. You can overcome fear.
  2. You can use your fear to your advantage.

Before we go any further, it is worth noting that freelancing, or self-employment in general, is simply not for everybody. Some risks are worth taking. For some people, freelancing is just not one of those risks.

That being said, unless you’re absolutely certain that self-employment will never be in the cards for you, I want you to challenge yourself, and keep on reading.

You can overcome fear!

Fear is in your head. It’s a mind game, an emotion. Fear is triggered by something you perceive as a threat. We humans value safety and security, good health, wealth, and happiness. When we feel those things are being threatened, we become fearful. We launch into “fight or flight” mode.

When it comes to self-employment, we either ridicule others who have taken the leap (fight), or we completely dismiss the idea (flight).

One of the key causes of fear is the “unknown”. You know the common saying: “Ignorance is bliss”?

Well, in this case, ignorance creates fear, not bliss. The more you know and understand a situation, the less afraid you are of it.

I think overcoming fear is less about jumping in with two feet and “facing it”, and more about becoming familiar with fear, dissecting it, understanding it, and learning to live with it, until it gets to the point where you are no longer afraid — or at least until it doesn’t control your decisions.

You can use fear to your advantage.

When you’re overcome by fear, how is it possible to turn that into something positive, or productive?

As I previously mentioned, I still occasionally experience a fear of the unknown. I become overwhelmed by thoughts such as

What if I stop getting work?

Is this even a sustainable career?

What if I can’t support my family doing this?

I give myself two options when I’m overcome by these self-defeating thoughts, and I analyze the outcome of both:

Option 1: Allow my fears to cripple me. Throw in the towel, and quit.

With this option, it means I have to abandon the years of hard work, determination and success I’ve experienced. I must drop my clients. I must re-write my résumé. (What’s a résumé?) I will have to pound the pavement, and start applying for studio gigs in town.

Eventually, if I can snag a job, I’d likely be hired as a “junior developer” regardless of my success in running a business, and be paid less than $40k a year. I’d be required to drive in rush hour traffic every day to a job where I’m building somebody else’s business.

Option 2: Change my mental state. Turn my fears into something positive. Make success the only option.

With this option, I’ll allow myself to think about the questions. Then flip them on their heads in order to turn them into a positive. For example, I’ll turn:

What if I stop getting work? into I will never stop getting work. In fact, I’ll continually get more work than I need!

What if I can’t support my family? becomes I will always be able to support my family.

This way, I feel as though I’m building immunity, an armour of sorts. I change my mental state and I use the negative to my advantage. I give myself no option of failure. I focus solely on success.

You may have a different approach to achieving the same result. The idea here is that your fear can be conquered, and in turn, used as ammo to grow even stronger.

I want to hear from you!

Do you want to be your own boss? What’s stopping you?

Are you a freelancer?

What are you afraid of?

I want to hear from you!


This is the second entry in a ten-part series called: “Hacking a Freelance Web Design Career”. Last week, we explored how to start a freelance career from scratch. In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving into some common questions and concerns regarding freelancing, and how you can build a sustainable and successful freelance career.

Are you ready to start building your freelance career? Sign up for my free 60-day email course: “Cultivate a Successful Freelance Career”. You’ll receive weekly emails with actionable steps, along with tips & tricks, resources and stories to help guide you towards freelancing success.

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  • For me personally, fear is the fuel that keeps me going. I don’t want to someday find myself thinking I could’ve accomplished more.

    • That’s a great mindset! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Tom

    I find this interesting. I was just speaking to my father for around a half hour yesterday about how fear can be a great motivator.

    • Yes, it most certainly can be a great motivator. Thanks for reading, Tom!

  • satchmobgw

    Having been freelance for about a year myself, these same fears pop into my head every now and again. I feel like no matter how much I may make, they’ll probably never go away, but I’ve gotten better at simply letting the feelings pass and not giving them much thought. Next time they pop up, I’ll see if I can’t redirect them entirely into productivity like you suggested!

    • Isn’t it weird? You could be well established, have a great client list, continual work, and be making a healthy income with a great lifestyle — all things that scream “success” — and you can still have the same fears you once had when you were just starting out. Fear is here to stay, we just have to know how to properly deal with it, and focus that energy toward something positive and productive. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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Join my free 7 day freelancing course!

START A FREELANCING BUSINESS. GET MORE CLIENTS. BUILD A LIFE ON YOUR OWN TERMS.

  • Daily actionable lessons
  • Define your freelance niche
  • How to start from scratch
  • How to charge higer rates
  • Where to find your first 3 paying clients
  • Tools & resources for freelancers
Want more freelance clients? Enter your name & email below to get started.
I respect your privacy. No spam. No fluff. Just quality content. Unsubscribe anytime.
By providing your email you consent to receive messages and newsletters from Brad Hussey containing news, updates and promotions. You also understand you may also receive messages from Brad containing information on third parties and you can withdraw your consent at any time. Please contact Brad for more details or use the "Unsubscribe" link found within each email message.