I’m no stranger to fear — the kind of gut-wrenching, heart-stopping, I-don’t-want-to-do-this-anymore fear that crops up every time I’ve got something big going on.
And if you’ve ever tried to start something big, new, or important, you’ve probably dealt with fear. Especially if you’re trying to pave your own way as a freelance blogger.
There are big names to compare yourself to, big-price programs that promise major success right off the bat, and big visions of what your career could be. Talk about intimidation.
For me, nothing was bigger or more important than freelancing. Not making it happen — not providing enough income for my family to survive — was simply not an option.
I had a lot on the line. I had everything on the line.
And when you’ve got everything on the line, you get a lot of visits from the fear fairy. She takes all kinds of shapes and forms, disguising her real identity:
- anxious thoughts keeping you awake at night
- distraction and “shiny object syndrome” as you look for your golden ticket
- fearful predictions about what you won’t be able to do (for me, I had a weird recurring fixation on being unable to buy my son new shoes when he grew into a new size)
- thoughts about looking stupid or making dumb mistakes
- feeling like you don’t know enough yet
- good old-fashioned procrastination
You’ll encounter a lot of fears when getting your freelance blogging off the ground. And you’ll have to learn how to deal with them. (Or else.)
There’s no magic pill, silver bullet, or super-secret method for getting rid of fear. In fact, I don’t really think it’s possible to “get rid of” fear entirely. But what is possible is moving forward despite the fear.
Here are three fear-busting truths I repeated to myself constantly while I was in my most fearful years…and these days, too, as I keep leveling up and branching out.
1. People have done more with less
While I have certainly faced some daunting obstacles — single mom to an infant is never exactly “easy” when there’s no money to outsource any childcare — my situation could have been worse.
- I could have a chronic illness instead of being pretty healthy.
- I could be extremely young and inexperienced, instead of 30-ish with a college degree.
- I had a favorable separation agreement that included terrific health insurance for my son, so no matter what, I would never have to worry about his health care.
- I didn’t have any debt — no student loans, no car payments, no mortgage, no lawyer fees, no credit card debt.
- I had family and friends in the area who wouldn’t let me fall through the cracks.
- I also had a little (tiny) bit of savings that could be a buffer against a minor catastrophe.
- My community is safe and economically stable, with lots of access to food and even some free fun.
In other words, my safety net was big enough that I could be confident that I was healthy, I’d never go hungry, and I’d never be homeless. There are plenty of successful freelance bloggers who don’t have that kind of assurance. There are also plenty of successful freelance bloggers who have jumped their own seemingly-insurmountable hurdles. I happen to know a few. (So do you.)
Take objective stock of the good things in your current situation, and remind yourself that there are challenges you aren’t facing that others deal with every single day. Get your head to the point where the only thing you really need to worry about is making your next pitch or assignment as good as possible.
2. What’s the worst that could happen?
I’m a big advocate of knowing your worst-case scenario. Plagued with thoughts of disaster and doom? Write them down. Take a look at them. Get a feel for what your worst-case scenario looks like and feels like.
For me, it was not being able to make rent and having to live in my car with a toddler. For you, it might be going a whole year with no clients, or running out of ideas, or having to stay in your crummy job forever.
Once you’re clear on what your worst case is, you can face it directly. Evaluate the realistic possibility of that happening. Identify actual solutions, should it happen. And always remember that even if “the worst” happens, it wouldn’t actually be as bad — or as “forever” — as your fear of it makes it feel.
Once it was on paper, I could evaluate my worst-case scenario — being homeless with my son — and know that it was not only incredibly unlikely in the financial sense, but that I could count on two hands the number of people who would let us stay with them if my situation got that dire. The recurring fear of living in my car never went away, but it became easy to call it out, laugh at my paranoia, and say “[Insert name] would never actually let that happen.”
And then I’d get back to work.
When you’re doing the work, your freelance business will grow. That’s the solid truth. If you’re looking for new clients, practicing your skills, learning from a community of fellow freelancers, and raising your rates, you’ll succeed. It’s a matter of doing the work and having confidence that it’ll pay off. Because it will.
When you can look your fear in the eyes and know that it’s bluffing, you’re going to win.
3. What do the numbers say?
When it comes to issues of money, there’s tremendous freedom in knowing exactly what you’ve got to work with. Knowledge is most assuredly power when it comes to your personal finances. So when money fears creep in, the best thing you can do is take a look at your actual money situation.
One particularly helpful line of questioning during my scarcity-panic days was this:
- How much do I have in savings? (for example, $6,000)
- How long could I feasibly live on that amount alone, with a completely stripped-down, bare-bones budget? (4-5 months)
- How likely is it that I would actually go more than 5 months without making a single dime more? (basically zero chance of that happening)
The end result of this evaluation is that, while there’s not a whole lot of money there, there’s definitely enough to survive for a while — and that’s not taking into account other things like child support (not much, but consistent), selling extra stuff for profit, and the generosity of friends and family living nearby. So in reality, it’s entirely possible we could have gone well past 5 months without going in the red.
Ask yourself the same questions to see what kind of position you’re in. The numbers are based in reality. The fears… not so much.
Take a dose of reality, put the fear aside, and send another query. (And if you don’t have anything in savings, make an emergency fund your number-one priority, especially if money fears tend to be what get to you.)
The big lesson
Ultimately, overcoming your fear has more to do with accepting it and moving forward than it does with eradicating it all together. It takes a mindset shift to go from being afraid and (as a result) stationary, to being afraid but also moving forward.
“Moving forward despite the fear you feel” is the definition of bravery. And bravery is the key to success as a freelance blogger.
Go and be brave today.