My 12 Biggest Freelancing Fears That Didn’t Come True

Fear kept me from freelancing for a long time.

Colleagues and even acquaintances would comment on how my skills were perfect for becoming a freelancer and still I hesitated. I just “knew” something major and bad would happen if I left my comfortable corporate job for the uncertainty of freelancing.

Well, it turns out that I was wrong about something bad happening. I’ve been freelancing for over nine years now. Most of my biggest fears never came true at all.

In case your fears are keeping you from taking that next step, I’m sharing them here in this post.


What I Was Afraid Of

In no particular order, these were my twelve biggest fears:

  1. Fear of never having work. One of my biggest fears that I had before becoming a freelancer was that I would never get a client. Since I had mostly worked in a traditional environment, I think this is a natural fear. However, there is work out there if you look for it.
  2. Fear of not being good enough. Another fear that nearly kept me from freelancing was the fear that I might not be talented or skilled enough to make it on my own. Even though I’d always received positive feedback on my writing, I was afraid that it wasn’t good enough.
  3. Fear of being scammed. You’ve heard the horror stories. I’ve heard the horror stories. There are scammers out there and some of them prey on freelancers. However, if you do your homework about each new client you can greatly minimize your chance of being scammed.
  4. Fear of losing my identity. I once knew someone whose identity was stolen. It took her several years to fully recover. One of my early fears was providing too much information. However, if you’re selective about who you provide personal information to, odds are that you’ll be okay.
  5. Fear of being ridiculed. Being publicly ridiculed would be even worse than not being good enough. Nobody wants public humiliation. Fortunately, while I’ve faced a few comment trolls–most people online aren’t out to ridicule you (especially if you conduct yourself in a professional fashion).
  6. Fear of loneliness. Perhaps the biggest fear that didn’t come true was the fear of loneliness. I was used to the office camaraderie and regular lunches with colleagues. I thought I would be really lonely on my own. However, I schedule regular face-to-face lunches with friends and stay active in social media, so loneliness isn’t the problem I thought it would be.
  7. Fear of ruining my career. I was worried that a stint as a (possibly unsuccessful) freelancer would ruin my career. I need not have worried so much. First of all, I wasn’t unsuccessful. Secondly, freelancing is becoming more and more common. It’s not at all unusual for someone to move from freelancing to a corporate job and back.
  8. Fear of dealing with angry clients. I hate confrontations. Again, I’d read about freelancers facing unreasonable and angry clients and had no wish to experience that firsthand. Fortunately, all of my clients have been reasonable. Doing a little homework upfront about your clients can pay off.
  9. Fear of not being paid. Okay, this one did happen in a very small way. After doing business with a client for about seven years, their business finally failed and I didn’t get the last pay that they owed me. But, overall, most clients do pay for my work. (Charging a percentage upfront doesn’t hurt either.)
  10. Fear of working for peanuts. Another fear that I had was that I would only be able to find jobs that paid (gasp!) even less than minimum wage. That would certainly be the equivalent of freelancing failure. Although, I’ve had my share of low-paying gigs, fortunately I’ve usually been able to command a decent rate.
  11. Fear of having to work 24/7. One of the reasons that I was drawn to freelancing in the first place was to have control over my own workload. What if, somehow, I underestimated my projects and wound up working around the clock all the time? While I have done some overtime, overall my hours as a freelancer have been reasonable.
  12. Fear of being thought of as a failure. No one wants friends and family to think that they’re a failure and I’m no exception. At first, my friends and family didn’t actually understand what I was doing. A few even tried to “help” me find a corporate job again. Gradually, however, acceptance has come.

Your Turn

What fears did you have before you went freelance?

Are you thinking about becoming a freelancer right now? What fears do you have?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by chad_k

Comments

  1. says

    You said . . .Most of my biggest fears never came true at all. . .
    Does that mean some of your biggest fears have come true? If so what affect (is that effect?) did that have on you? Interesting reading.

  2. says

    Great post! thanks for your post. your post is really true, because some of your post are same of my fears like fear of never having work, fear of being scammed, fear of not being paid, fear of ruin my career and fear of thought of as a failure, that’s my biggest freelancing fears.

  3. says

    Thank you for the post! I am just starting out and have many of the fears that you outlined. It helps to hear that I am not the only one who faces these thoughts. I read posts about all the possible things that can happen but it is important to know what to do just in case. You have to go into freelancing with open eyes.

  4. says

    Hi All! It takes a lot of courage to face your fears and even more courage to admit that you are afraid. Kudso to all of you!

    Gold–Read point #9 carefully and you’ll see which of my fears came true. Fortunately, I was only owed a small amount so the impact on me was minimal.

    Ronan, Thanks for sharing your fears. I think nearly all freelancers are afraid at first (even if they won’t admit it).

    Carey–It’s okay to be afraid, but full-time freelancing also isn’t for everyone. If it’s right for you the time will come when you decide to face those fears and make the move. If it’s not, part-time freelancing can be a great option too.

    Shannon, I’m so glad you liked the post. :) This is what I was afraid of in the beginning, and over the years I’ve learned that many others have faced these fears too.

  5. says

    Hi Laura,
    I agree with your comment with courage part…my biggest fear was if i will be similarly confident or not..it was whole new world new ppl..had to start everything from scratch…lots of ‘No’ to start with coz i didn’t had portfolio in the beginning …so one imp lesson learnt..build your portfolio before leaving full time job ! and start as a part time first and then make a smooth transition :)

  6. says

    Thank you so much for writing this. Those are exactly all of my fears and I’ve been told many times by family/friends/colleagues that I have what it takes to go freelance but those fears creep up in my head.

    Perfect timing to read this as I was just discussing this with my husband over the weekend.

  7. Sophie McCann says

    Love the post… The other one I would add would be my fear of having to take on work that didn’t interest me… so far, I’ve been lucky enough to work on really interesting projects.

  8. says

    I’m still doing it part time as my biggest fear is not making enough money to pay for the lifestyle I lead, I need quite a bit of money, I’m lucky though that I have quite a bit of time at my full time job to work on my freelance work.

    I can see how the others can make me doubt myself, but in the end the only fear that actually stops me is that money.

  9. says

    Your article is great! I’m a beginner , I can’t really call myself a freelancer just because I’m writing a few articles on my blog or because I’m accepting some jobs as writing simple articles but I would definitely love to become a real freelancer and I’m working on that. Unfortunately, some of your 12 fears turned to be problems I went through but I’m still positive.
    Anyway, my biggest fear is not being able to express myself in the way that I’m doing it in my own language because I have this feeling , that as much as I would read and learn , I could never be better than someone that is using his own language in writing an article or a story.

  10. Sue says

    Great post on the fears of freelancing. My biggest fear was related to insecurity – leaving my full-time brick & mortar world job, with benefits, to pursue a freelancing career where I would not have insurance until I could afford it on my own. However, my employer was in the middle of major layoffs, which, more than 6 months later, still show no signs of ceasing. So, after much thought and prayer, I made the leap, and I’ve never been happier! If you’re considering freelancing, regardless of your field of choice, take some time to weigh out the pros & cons, and consider all the “what-ifs” – if you can justify making the leap, do it!

  11. says

    Numbers 1, 2, 3, 9 and 10 still plague me. At the moment, I haven’t been marketing as aggressively as I should, but I think that’s more so an issue with what I’m trying to focus on. Since I’m starting out, I never think I’m good enough, even with the praise and encouragement.

    I think almost everyone’s afraid of being scammed every so often. I can see how easy it is for a client to skip out of payment after they get the final draft in their hands. Fortunately, my few clients in the past have paid promptly.

    Number 10 is what I’m dreading the most. being a beginner in the freelance world, it seems like I’m going to be forced to work for free or for peanuts to even get my name out there.

    It’s the hard knock life for us freelance writers.

  12. says

    I’ve been writing a number of years now and I’ve only ever had one client who didn’t pay me, and it wasn’t even that much. If you’re careful about clients and ask for an upfront payment then there is little risk involved, so no one should let the fear of being scammed put them off freelance writing.

  13. says

    Great comments! Thanks for sharing your fears. Freelance Folder has a great community, and I think there are a lot of valid points being made here. :) What’s especially great is how we can all come together and acknowledge that these fears exist.

    Ensemble, Diana, Jamie and any others who might be considering full-time freelancing–There are definitely no guarantees when you are a freelancer and that can make it scary. If you really want it, however, you CAN make it work so don’t let your fears be what holds you back.

    Sophie McCann–I’m glad to hear that you’ve been able to only take on interesting projects. That’s one of the freelancing freedoms–you choose what to work on. I have to say that I’ve worked on a few that weren’t really interesting myself, but when I find myself in that situation I always try to look for something about the project that interests me.

    Sue, Thanks for sharing your success story and advice. :) It’s good to hear of one more freelancer who made the leap successfully.

    Jean, There’s no doubt about it–freelance writing can be hard. But, there’s a huge demand for written materials out there and the opportunity for repeat customers.

    Greg Walker. Another success story! I love it. You are right about not getting paid–it won’t happen often if you’re careful about who you work for.

  14. Bob says

    My fear is that I am starting freelancing because I have no other choice. Which, per se, is not a very good reason. But with no other options available, for me this is the only route. So I am betting everything on it and the big scare is to fail.

  15. Daquan Wright says

    Interesting read and even though I only plan on freelancing part-time, my fears are 1) Not having work and 2) disappointing a client.

    As a freelancer, you have to put yourself out there and be willing to stand out. Learn your craft well, develop a good portfolio with testimonials, and be sure to blog as well. All of these are my goals and I’ll bring them to fruition.

    The most important thing that the web in general has taught me, is that you have to keep learning and optimizing your processes. As long as you’re willing to learn and endure failure, there is no cloud you can’t reach.

    Think about Apple, their brand allows them to charge a premium for their products because they have trust with their consumers. I often look at the success of others and ask what I can do to improve things on my end. If you go into the ring expected to fail, you will. Believe in yourself! – Ryu/Street Fighter 4 xD

  16. says

    My biggest fear is and always has been: going broke. Running out of money. Not being able to pay the bills. This can ALWAYS keep me awake at night, especially since I’m a single parent with no backup income.

    It started when I was first laid off very unexpectedly in January 2008. But it’s been 3 1/2 years since that first layoff, and I just celebrated the third anniversary of starting my business. And I still haven’t gone broke, so I must be doing something right!

  17. Daquan Wright says

    @Catena, congratulations! I know what you mean.

    But honestly, everyone fears going broke unless they are rich or something. People who live paycheck to paycheck always have that fear. That is precisely why freelancing is such a great field as long as you have certain attributes (namely discipline and willingness to learn the business side of things). You can niche yourself into anything and build a platform, marketing yourself as a pro. As long as your knowledge holds true, you can easily earn more than at a regular job with a low ceiling. Anyone can lose a day job, unless you’re a valued professional of a company, it gets worse in bad times.

    As long as you can make ends meet, that’s good. People shouldn’t fear not having a regular job. With the ability to learn, you can craft your own empire. It takes time, but with hard work it will come.

  18. says

    I think the biggest fear aspiring freelancers have is the fear of becoming a freelancer. How will you ever know what it feels like if you haven’t tried at all? With opportunity comes risk and your daring will push you between the boundaries of success and failure. The next step is up to you…

  19. says

    I didn’t have any fears when I went freelance as I was suposedly just doing it for a short while to help out a friend while I was looking for a new full-time job. And that was 20 years ago.

    However, even after all that time, I still worry about not having enough work/ having too much. Feast and famine seems to be the name of the freelance game….

  20. says

    Wow! I just started my own Administrative Consulting business for legal virtual administrative assistance and as a new business owner, I am completely terrified about being unsuccessful! This list pretty much covers most of my fears, but knowing that you took the plunge and are successful, gives me the hope that all I have to do is push that fear aside and just stay focused and persevering and eventually in a few years I will be able to give other newbies pep talks!

    Thanks for writing this article it really helps! :)

  21. says

    I’m a self-employed Education Technologist and I fear sabotage and destruction of my livelihood.

    I’ve a Masters in e-Learning and I’m one of the few people I know who has a qualification directly relevent to the field. The field is dominated by teachers who insist that their certification is the only relevent one. They are quite wrong. Their teaching qualification is relevant to classroom teaching and online learning is a completely different environment.

    However, they are the majority and I’ve already suffered the humiliation of having my last job sabotaged by staff who were persuaded by teachers they knew that I didn’t know what I was doing. My employer insisted I prove that I knew my stuff and dismissed my defence when I pointed out that I already spent two years doing my Masters to prove that and I’d got a First – and that the previous seven years at my previous job was also evidence.

    Anyway, here I am – in a very vulnerable situation. I’ve earned my stripes but they are going to be dismissed every day by untrained and unqualified rivals who vastly outnumber me. I can spend months building a reputation and it can be destroyed in an hour – something I know all too well.

    By the way, for what it’s worth, can I just say I’m dubious about being a part-time freelancer? Of course the field you’re operating in makes a difference. I’m convinced that in my case, I’d not achieve anything unless I was completely committed to it.

  22. Jordan Miles says

    I enjoy your blog, but honestly, you’re fortunate that NONE of these things have happened to you during your freelance career. Several of them have happened to me in the 7 years I’ve been freelancing. 1. Right now, I am having one long dry stretch of 4 months, very very unusual. Yes, I’ve got drips and drabs coming in, but not enough to cover expenses. Trust me, no work happens as a freelancer. The trick is to stash money so you can weather these periods. And have more than 2 or 3 clients. 2. Likewise, working 24/7 happens, too. Especially if you have more than 2 or 3 clients.. 3.I have had 2 clients with whom I have had to get nasty for not paying up. Not getting paid–at least on time–happens. 4. Finally, loneliness happens big time.

    The others, like ruining one’s career, not being good enough, etc, have not been a problem in my personal situation, but I imagine they could be a problem for some people.

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