The Dangers of Freelancing Perfectionism

Are you a freelancing perfectionist?

You know who you are. Even now, while you’re reading this very post about the dangers of perfectionism, you’re consciously or subconsciously beating yourself up because you think you’re not good enough.


You think you should be able to write faster, code faster, or translate faster. You think your work should be more than good–it should be the very best. You think that you’re not earning enough, even though you’re living comfortably.

And the list goes on, and on, and on…

Guess what?

Stop it!

You’re only hurting yourself, and by extension, your freelancing business. In this post, I’ll explain why perfectionism is such a danger for freelancers. I’ll also share some tips on how you can overcome perfectionism. Finally, I’d like to hear how being a perfectionist has affected you.

What’s Wrong with Being Perfect?

We live in a society that strives towards perfection. All around us we read books, blog posts, and magazine articles tell us that we need to be better than we are. Self-help is a popular genre.

It’s no wonder that so many of have become perfectionists.

Many of us have come to think of striving towards perfection as the road to success. Some of us might even list as one of our strengths–and perfectionism can be a strength, to a point.

Every client wants to hire the freelancer who pays careful attention to detail and avoids making mistakes. Everyone wants to receive high quality work.

But perfectionism has its drawbacks too.

The real trouble with perfectionism is that no one can do it. Not even the very best of us. No matter how much you want to be perfect, you won’t ever be able to make it happen.

Why Perfectionism Can Hurt You

Perfectionism can lead to some pretty serious problems for the freelancer, including:

As you can see, the consequences of unbridled perfectionism can be severe. It’s one thing to be very good at what you do. It’s another thing to not know when to stop.

But if you’re a freelancing perfectionist you need to stop, for your own sake and for the sake of your freelancing business.

How to Stop

Perfectionism can be a bad habit. If you engage in it long enough, it becomes second nature. You do it without really thinking about it.

So, if you want to stop an over-perfectionistic attitude you’ll have to think about it. Here are seven steps you can take:

  1. Let yourself do something less than perfect. Pick something that won’t really make a difference. For example, you could leave your bed unmade one day. Or you could wait a day before answering a not-so-urgent email.
  2. Practice telling yourself you are good enough. It’s likely that you are much harder on yourself than anyone else would be. Affirmation can help. Tell yourself every day that you are good enough at what you do.
  3. Pay attention to praise. One characteristic most perfectionists share is that they have trouble accepting praise. However, you should pay attention praise. Most people won’t bother to give it unless they mean it.
  4. Be reasonable with yourself. Most perfectionists hold themselves up to a ridiculously high standard that they would never expect anyone else to meet. Pretend you are hiring someone to do your work and ask yourself what you would expect of your employee.
  5. Stop comparing yourself with others. Perfectionists also have the tendency to compare themselves, usually unfavorably, with others. However, the fact is that no matter how good you are at what you do there will always be someone who is a little better.
  6. Set limits and stick to them. Perfectionists can wear themselves out with overwork and excessive worry. Pick a time each day when you will finish. When that time rolls around, stop working and leave your work area.
  7. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you are afraid that you will make too many mistakes if you ease up on yourself, remember that mistakes are how we learn. If you don’t let yourself make them, you are holding yourself back.

Your Turn

Are you a freelancing perfectionist?

Share how perfectionism has affected you in the comments below.

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