Have you ever worked with somebody — a colleague or a client — who just seems comfortable?
They’re cool in stressful situations, and highly adept in social situations too.
When I started freelancing over a decade ago I was the opposite of what I just described. A total stress-head who spent most of his time locked away in front of the laptop, I’d crumble under pressure and make awkward small talk with clients. I didn’t know how to be confident. Looking back, I’m not even sure I recognised just how important confidence is in business.
But lacking confidence in business can have a damaging impact on both your professional and personal success. It will hold you back. I’m going to share with you some of the tips and techniques that I’ve uncovered to teach you how to be confident as a freelancer, and start winning more work from better, higher-paying clients.
What is a lack of confidence all about?
For many of us, a lack of confidence emanates from having low self-esteem. We simply don’t feel we deserve to have the things we aspire to have.
This twisted logic contributes towards stress and anxiety, which leads to poor project management, negative self-talk, lower quality work and tension in our professional relationships.
In short: lacking confidence can have a compound effect. The less confident we feel, the worse we will perform, and what little confidence we did have is chipped away. A vicious circle.
Most people are about as happy as their self-confidence will allow them to beShannon L. Alder
The key to being confident is in reflecting on the epicentre of your anxieties. Where is this coming from?
Understanding the root cause of our confidence anxieties
Before I go any further, I have to point out that I’m not a doctor or a psychologist, and am speaking from personal experience.
For me, my lack of confidence can be traced back to my childhood. I’ve never been a “people person”. I’ve always been… well, a bit of a hermit. This is what probably drew me to web design in the first place: I got to sit by myself for hours, days, working alone.
But the problem with people who keep themselves to themselves is that they aren’t challenged by other people’s ideas.
It’s difficult to build social skills if you carefully curate your life around things that don’t talk back, like books, your laptop or your pets.
And this is sort of what I did, for most of my life. So it’s no wonder that when I started freelancing, the business relationship in particular was completely alien to me. I really had no idea what I was doing, and felt out of my depth the whole time.
Now, facing your fears, which I’m going to come onto shortly, can be a wonderful antidote to a lack of confidence. But if you don’t have a personal growth framework, you’ll sink. Which is what I did.
The next time you feel uncomfortable in a work or social setting, spend some time dwelling on what’s behind those feelings. Can you point to anything in particular?
How to be confident by facing your fears
I always sneered at “personal development” 🤢
But when I started learning about things like assertiveness and reading helpful books, a remarkable clarity revealed itself to me.
Here I was this whole time, thinking that self-help enthusiasts were suckers and that your personality was fixed, when I became to realise that none of that was true. Everything is a work in progress, including myself.
With this “growth mindset” I became aware that I really can learn new skills, get better at business — be a more confident person.
And I discovered that the route to confidence is outside the comfort zone.
I mean, instinctively we all know this. But humans are masters of self-preservation. We simply avoid compromising situations that could harm us. But that’s where the magic is. That is the place in which we grow and become confident.
So to “be confident” (which by the way doesn’t happen in one go — you don’t suddenly wake up confident) you must strive to face your fears — whatever they may be — and embark on a journey of personal growth.
The benefits of being confident when freelancing 💪
Confidence is a skill. And like all skills, it can be learned, and requires practice (especially if you feel that you naturally lack it).
But the benefits that having confidence in business will bring to your working life are massive. By practicing confidence you will:
- Be listened to, and find it less likely that others talk over you
- Be more influential in your projects
- Be able to deal with tough situations, like negotiation and conflict
- Be able to manage bigger workloads and tighter deadlines, without all the stress
- Enjoy better relationships with clients, as they like and respect you more.
So it’s time to go out there and freelance with confidence to get the clients you want and the projects you love.