Is Fear Stopping You From Being Successful?

Scary CrowFear is a powerful obstacle to freelancing success.

Fear can keep you from starting your freelancing business. Fear can keep you from expanding your freelancing business. Fear can also keep you from adequately promoting your freelancing business.

As an example of fear, here is a story from my childhood:

I grew up in a house with a basement. (Here in the south where I live now, most houses don’t have basements.) Despite the fact that the basement was finished with a fireplace and my parents had even put a ping pong table down there for us kids, for several years I refused to go into the basement.
I didn’t go into the basement because I was afraid. The furnace made loud noises when it turned off and on. The stairs creaked when you walked on them. To my seven-year old mind, this was enough to convince me that the basement was haunted.

The truth is that when I was a kid I missed out on some really good times because of my fear.

As an adult, fear also delayed the start of my freelancing career. Despite the fact that I had highly marketable skills and peers even commented that I had the self-discipline and business savvy that made me well suited to self-employment, I was afraid to get started.

My fears very nearly caused me to miss a great freelancing career.

Fear is a very real obstacle for freelancers. For most of us, fear has a mental and a physical component. With some extra effort and the right strategy, most of us can also overcome fear of success.

The Mental Components of Fear

The mental components of fear include those negative thoughts that you could also refer to as “worries.” Here are some common worries of freelancers:

  • I am not good enough at what I do to become a freelancer.
  • No one will ever hire me.
  • Clients will hire me, but they won’t like my work.
  • I will fall prey to a freelancing scam.
  • I will have trouble collecting my pay.
  • I won’t earn enough from freelancing to meet my expenses.

If some of those sound familiar, you can probably add your own fears to the list.

The Physical Components of Fear

If you dwell too long or too often on the mental components of fear, then you may also experience some of the physical components of fear.

The first response to fear may be an increased heartbeat, followed by a tightening of your muscles when you think about the topic that you are afraid of. If you continue to dwell on your fear, you may find yourself with any (or all) of the following physical symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Sleeplessness
  • Dizziness
  • Depression

If you don’t get a grip on your fear, the stress may even weaken your immune system. If this happens, you may find yourself overly susceptible to illness.

Overcoming Fear

In most cases, you can overcome your fears by following a few simple strategies:

  • Consider how you would advise someone else. Most people are more realistic with others than they are with themselves. What would you tell someone else to do if they were in your situation? Chances are that you can trust your instincts for advising another person in your situation.
  • Make a “Plan B.” Having a backup plan can be a great source of comfort, even if you never have to use it. For a freelancer, a backup plan could mean many things. Your “Plan B” could be: savings in the bank, a skill that you aren’t using currently (but could use if needed), or even a job offer that you could fall back on.
  • Realize the worse case scenario isn’t really so bad. It can be helpful to face your biggest fear directly. For example: what if a client doesn’t like your work? The worst that could happen is that you would simply move on and find a client who does appreciate what you do.
  • Remember past successes. It’s a good idea to keep a list of past successes – particularly those successes where you faced and overcame a difficult obstacle. When you doubt your abilities, remind yourself of these past successes.

(Note: In a few instances, you may need professional help to overcome your fear. In particular, you may need professional help if your fear is keeping you from performing day-to-day tasks. If you find yourself in this situation, get the help that you need as soon as possible so that you can return to your full physical and mental health.)

Share Your Thoughts On Fear and Freelancing

Has fear affected your freelancing career? If so, how did you overcome it?

Do you have any suggestions to help new freelancers overcome their fears?

Share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. says

    Nice Post,

    The post is very useful for the beginners.

    Most of the time the fear is about getting failed. People go for the job rather than freelancing for the same reason.

    I was having the reason but after reading some innovative blogs, inspirational articles I opt for the freelancing. Now my friends think that I am very inspiring person.

  2. says

    Fear is a definitely Goal killer.
    The fear of failure can scare you away from your greatest achievements.

    I’m still having a little bit of fear inside of me.
    I was a freelancer when i started in design (10 years ago). I then found security with big clients who offered me great advantages. And today, I feel like I want to go back this freedom I once had. But the fear I once got rid of, is back.

    This post of your Laura is one of many small signs I’ve been getting these last few weeks. Old clients calling back to ask if I’m available. Previous partners with whom I used to work who are offering me to join on great web projects…

    I think the message is clear… I need to kick this fear out the door.

    For those looking for a great motivation speaker. Check out Brian Tracy. I’ve been listening to his audiobooks for almost a year now and I can never seem to get enough of his magical insights. He’s got some demo videos on youtube too…

  3. says

    Oh, this is very timely for me! I have so many of those same fears, and I’m trying to combat them using many of your strategies. Thinking about how to advise someone else is an especially good one; why are we always so much harder on ourselves than we would be on others?

  4. says

    Hi David and Catherine!

    Best wishes to you David, as you decide whether to pursue your dream.

    Catherine – I don’t really know why we are harder on ourselves, but it seems to be an almost universal problem among freelancers.

  5. says

    Wonderful post!
    I’m a beginners and I’ve been experience most of the synthomes u’ve described.
    Yesterday I almost couldn’t work thinking of some money problems I have. This year didn’t have a so good start…
    I’ve written down the advices to overcome my fears and will take a look at them everytime I feel bad again.

    And Nikhil, I’m very interested in what u have to say ; )

  6. says

    Fear kept me from leaving my old secure job, Art Director for a company but had finally reached the top and nowhere to grow.

    After reading Atlash Shrugged and Rich Dad and Poor Dad. It increase my motivation to quit my job.,

    Ran a hot dog cart by the bars for over a year to help ends meet before freelancing picked up.

    Another great article!!!

    Now is fear when no projects trickle in.
    Do let it get to you – it makes you submit low quality proposals.

    Stick a nice CD, drink a glass of wine and go back to the real you, the developer you/ designer in you!!


    I specially like this point:

    Remember past successes. It’s a good idea to keep a list of past successes – particularly those successes where you faced and overcame a difficult obstacle. When you doubt your abilities, remind yourself of these past successes.

  7. says

    I think it helps to keep in mind that you’ve only got one time around, and all being afraid does is limit you during that time. Makes it easier to justify spending the time to get over your fears.

  8. Lexi Rodrigo says

    Fear can be an obstacle if we allow it to prevent us from going for our goals. On the other hand, fear can motivate us to become more successful. For example, fear can spur us to set up support systems to cushion us during lean times, or to market our services more effectively. Or fear of losing a good client can drive us to give an assignment 110% effort. Fear itself isn’t always bad. It’s how we react to it that matters.

  9. says

    Before I plunged into freelancing, I feared a lot of losing a good salary, and a lot of self respect. But, I feared that I may lose my one time life opportunity to be on my own. So, I was delaying my decision, or going back on it several times with each job opportunity.
    At last, I’m here; with so much trepidation if I can get hold of few good clients or not. As the going seems lot uphill. Not knowing the clue how to make it.

    As you rightly said, we need to keep reminiscing on the past success and take inspiration from. As I see, my skills too weigh in equal measure to the ones that get lot of appreciation here around, I’ve the confidence to get few good clients soon.

    I liked the good suggestion of David of listening to Brian Tracy; and all the personal milestones crossed by all the people are a great inspiration to get rid of the fear. Great post Laura!

  10. Amy says

    Hi Laura, great article. :)

    I also agree with what Paul said. That’s one of the things I am guilty of, as I might not hunt for new clients (since where I am now if a comfort zone). But then fear of not getting enough pay or signs one of the old clients might be cutting back way will, in the end, spur me on. Not the best cycle but I guess fear works to move you forward as well.

  11. says

    Here’s my tools to deal with fear: beer and peanuts.
    No, seriously, whenever I feel I’m immobilized by some of those fears, I go to the fridge and catch a can of beer and a bowl of peanuts. I’ll soon be feeling kinda fearless again and ready to do my work. Call me elephant developer, I don’t care…

  12. says

    There’s been some great feedback on this topic – Thanks Freelance Folder community!

    I think the bottom line is that fear need not immobilize you and keep you from your goals.

  13. says

    Fear– I do think this is really one of the greater obstacles in achieving success. I’m sure everyone experiences this thing. If you’ve never been afraid then perhaps you are not human. In the end it’s how you overcome the fears that really matters. Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful article!

  14. says

    Is Fear Stopping You From Being Successful? | FreelanceFolder Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!


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