+44 7879 440170 helen@unlikelygenius.com

At the point where I went solo in my work life, one thing was significantly missing. Confidence. I felt like it had all been battered out of me over the last few years, and it resulted in me questioning everything I did, then questioning my questioning, going in loops, not knowing which way was forward and generally not trusting anyone. Something had to change.

And it’s not just me. This seems to be a popular truth that is frequently emerging from conversations with other freelancers as to why they have flown the ‘safety’ of the permanent nest.

So many freelancers and contractors choose to work for themselves in a bid to escape the workplace politics, lack of progression, evils of working under management regimes and endless hours of commuting.

Going solo is not a magical fix for all these things, and 99% of the freelancers I engage with regularly state they get imposter syndrome, sometimes cripplingly so. There is a lot of self-doubt and anxiety in the average freelancer’s bones.

However.

It is working for us. We are working for us. And there is always a bunch of fellow freelancers willing to help pick you up on a bad day, give you a supportive hurrah or share your woes over missed invoices and give sterling advice.

Bizarrely, leaving the comfort of a full-time permanent job to work for myself has actually boosted my confidence. And not just by a little. By a landslide.

This is how.

 

I have to be assertive (and sometimes cheeky)

Rather than sit and think for hours (or days) about how I am going to ask for something, push back about a demand or ask for assistance, I have to just come out with it . Whether it is pitching an idea, negotiating a rate or asking for something that has not been delivered. I am just me now, I can’t get anyone to do it for me (except for the occasional ask of a middle man such as a recruitment person) so I just have to deal with it. I am on the clock, and time spent working up guts is not time paid for, so suck up and crack on Helen.Instead of worrying about it or feeling awkward for hours, I just get it over with. And you know what, the world has not imploded. In fact, I have been met with respect for being efficient, knowing my stuff, and being proactive. The more I do it, the more I get comfortable with it. Though I am still rubbish at the rate negotiations. I fear that one will continue for some time.

I put myself ‘out there’

For years I have felt like I needed to be ‘someone else’. God knows who. But I wasn’t successful in being them. Now I am flying solo I feel like I can be myself, I am not having to be who someone else wants me to be.I never thought I would have the confidence to write blog posts about myself, write for a journal,  express my thoughts in public, or reveal my personality. I never felt I should be ‘out there’. One should be robot like and devoid of personality at all times to remain ‘corporate’ right? Wrong! There are some people that still think you shouldn’t do these things. These are not my people.

When I started my business I quickly picked up on business owners who are very much ‘themselves’ in their writing and promotions, and I saw how it was working for them. So I started to be myself instead of a stuffy corporate machine. And it worked! I also started to be myself in meetings. And I have had great feedback for that, with the added bonus that one of my clients remarked that he felt at ease and like he could be himself. Win, win. That partnership is really thriving as a result and it shows in the work.

As a bonus bonus, my tone of voice now finally matches my branding. My brand finally feels like me, and I have the confidence to use it.

 

Continually reflecting on progress

I constantly analyse everything anyway, but I have had to learn to do this in a much more productive way. It is so important to look at the good, the bad and the ugly. So I spend time looking at how I could do something better next time or maybe approach it in a different way.I have a little notebook that I am keeping a brief record of my projects in – what it was, how long I worked on it, the highs, the lows, what could be done differently, my rates, and anything else of relevance. It’s quite handy to flick through every now and again and remind myself of a few bits and bobs too.

It takes quite a lot of stepping back and looking at things from a distance to take the personal edge out of it. But by reflecting on the wins and the ways of adapting in future, it gives me the confidence to move forward and keep doing what I am doing.

 

Publicly acknowledge the successes

As much as I cringe inside to do so, and I hate the whole concept of a brag, I have made myself start celebrating the wins. Whether that is just telling those close to me of my successes or to put it out on there on social media. Either way, I make sure I share it.This seems especially important for us freelancers as we don’t have an office of colleagues to celebrate with when something goes right (and if like me you have an other half who can be a little underwhelmed at times). It is good to share with others who understand why getting that thank you email, being paid on time or having remembered to put the bin out in your hectic schedule are such important celebrations.

So, if I am feeling brave I will give myself a public pat on the back and share my joy. It is usually well received and others will share in your moment. Those that don’t are miserable sprouts that just need to jog on.

 

Engaging with others in the same position

As mentioned above, there are many freelancers out there who are also sat at home alone in their spare room or working from their kitchen table. Freelancing is often believed to be a lonely profession, and it can be at times I suppose, but it doesn’t actually need to be.All you need to do is pop on Twitter or LinkedIn and there are many like minded lovelies who are more than willing to give advice, share their experiences, be a sounding board, give a second opinion, or just a really shit joke. The camaraderie, or a well timed GIF, can give you a surprising boost of fierceness, or a rocket up the butt. Whichever is needed.

 

Realising the successes are my own

If there was ever a confidence booster, this is it for me.

As someone who is crap (and I mean seriously, ridiculously, unbelievably crap) at taking compliments, this is a weird one. But when something has gone right…I have had to start acknowledging that I did that. It was my work. No-one else did it. No-one else can take credit. There is no middle management to take the compliment as their own or pass on a half-hearted thanks.

I need to stop making excuses for why it was good. Why I did my job well. Why it was wise to hire me.

Okay so I have to accept the mistakes too, but that I am more comfortable with.

(Bloody Nora, just suck up the compliment and run with it woman).

There must be many more things helping my confidence and though I am not exactly shouting from the rafters confident, I have come a long way in the last year. Imposter syndrome particularly is a popular beast that needs to be tamed.

If you have any sure-fire ways that you slay the imposter beast or improve your confidence please do comment. I’d love to know what has worked for you.


Write 52: Week 19
​Theme: A few of my favourite things