The freelancing fear that strikes terror into the self-employed

It’s October, Halloween is approaching… it’s the perfect time to focus on one of the biggest fears that paralyses everyone from the newest of newbie freelancers to the most experienced of small biz owners.

The fear of failure.


We all know how the fear of messing up can keep us stuck.

But it’s a fear that keeps you firmly in your comfort zone, stops you taking risks, and prevents you from doing things that are good for your business.

So, whaddya do about it?

“But what if I fail?”

Here’s a thing – what if you don’t? You can’t make a success of self-employment unless you try. You may fail big, you may fail often… but failure is how we develop as both individuals and business owners.

We fail, we learn, we grow.

Whether you’re in a steady job you hate, thinking of making the leap into self-employment, or you’re an experienced freelancer tackling something you’ve never done before, show that fear who’s boss!

As Nike would say, just do it.

“But it’s not quite right!”

To quote Winston Churchill, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

You can always spend more time polishing that presentation or sharpening that course content but often done is better than perfect.

You can tinker, you can hone, you can faff, you can refine… but hey – semantics!

It all adds up to procrastination.

Whatever it is that’s getting in your way or keeping you stuck, remember – it doesn’t have to be life-changing or world-class or revolutionary. There will never be a perfect time, and you will never be truly ready.

Sometimes you just need to put your big girl (or boy) pants on and put it out there into the big wide world. Because only when it’s out there can you get feedback, improve, rinse and repeat.


Experienced journalist and founder of Freelance Feels, Jenny Stallard, describes herself as a ‘threelancer’. She’s dabbled with self-employment three times – and even now she admits freelance life can be full of fears

“When it comes to freelancing, something scares me every single day,” says Jenny. “Taking the leap into self-employment was the scariest thing, but that’s not all. Freelancing can feel like we are on a cliff path, constantly negotiating the steps between falling off and the softer grass to our other side. From money worries and finding new work, to how much to charge and what to post on social media…”

Make fear work for you

Despite the potential pile-up of panic, Jenny admits the heady mix of fear and excitement is one of the best things about self-employment.

And she’s right.

It’s easy to feel the fear and freeze, like a rabbit in headlamps – but the flurry of butterflies that descends when we step outside our comfort zone reminds us we’re alive.

Any time you have to do something brave and uncomfortable, like a talk or presentation, remember that being nervous and being excited feel just the same.

Tell your brain you’re excited to be doing something new – something bold – and you’re more likely to enjoy it, and to do well.


Author of How to Be a Well Being, Dr Andy Cope studied happiness for 12 years and now delivers keynote speeches on the subject to audiences around the world. “I deliver and teach wellbeing, yet before I go on stage I’m racked with nerves and panic and wonder why the hell I’m doing this, every single time.

“Everyone thinks they’re the only one that’s terrified of stepping outside their comfort zone, but everyone has the same insecurities as you do. The realisation that we all feel uncomfortable, and that we’re all waiting to be found out is, in itself, quite comforting. It’s perfectly okay not to be okay – it’s part of the human condition.

If you never try…

It’s easy to feel like you’re alone with your fears but you’re not. There are hundreds of thousands of small biz owners out there just like you.

The secret to facing – and embracing – your freelance fears is to find those likeminded people.

When you find them, reach out, connect, learn, support, collaborate and grow.

What’s the worst that can happen?

If you fail so spectacularly that you decide freelance life simply isn’t for you, that’s okay! But if you never try, you’ll never know…


Photo of the bestselling guide to self-employment, Survival Skills for Freelancers, by Sarah Townsend

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