The Fear of Freelancing: Why You Could Be Hurting Yourself

217849066_f011b26437_oSeveral months ago, I wrote up a six month plan to become a freelancer. Even though I thought that this plan was pretty rock solid I still got several commenters who mentioned they wouldn’t start freelancing.

Why? Not because they loved their 9-5 jobs or because they thought the idea of running their own business was a bad one–but because they were scared. Several people asked the same questions over and over:

  • “How much savings did you have?”
  • “How did you pay your bills?”
  • “Weren’t you scared to leave your guaranteed paycheck?”

Thousands of people who have the potential to make it on their own don’t and they don’t for one reason–fear.


The Myth of the “Guaranteed” Income

Most people say they don’t want to make the jump into freelancing because they’re afraid of leaving their job. After all, their job gives them a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks, right? Unfortunately, this mindset is misleading. Income from a full-time job is not any more, and in some cases actually less, guaranteed than freelance income.

Especially in today’s volatile market, a full time job doesn’t guarantee you anything beyond the work you’ve already done for that week. It used to be that you could find a good job, show up and do passable work, and then get paid for the rest of your life. Nowadays though, you could be the best designer, writer, developer or whatever, but if the company no longer has the money to pay you–well you could be let go tomorrow.

So why wouldn’t you want to control your own business to ensure this doesn’t happen to you?

The Fear of Fear Is Anxiety

I’ll let you on in a little secret. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. I hate conflict and I’m scared of fear. However, for some reason, this anxiety does not enter into my business at all–in fact, it’s allowed me to see why my personal anxiety is ridiculous and has helped me towards recovery.

What does this have to do with you? When you tell me you want to start your own business, but are afraid of losing your house, bills or whatever–you’re experiencing anxiety. Don’t let this fear consume you or you could be stuck in that job you hate for the rest of your life.

The Fear of Being Poor

Anxiety phobes in business and personal situations focus on one thing–fear. They avoid doing something because they want to avoid that fear of the unknown. I’m going to talk about a touchy subject here–the idea of being poor.

When I was leaving the nest to start off on my own, I was scared. I was scared I would be a failure and would live in a cardboard box. I’d say that’s probably a pretty common fear for any college graduate, right?

However, I realized that I could never be poor if I truly didn’t want to be poor. Sure, I could be fired from my job and be temporarily broke–but I would always have the drive to make sure I would never live in a cardboard box. This is a good kind of fear that motivated me to be where I am today.

This could be you too. If you truly have the drive to succeed, you’ll never be a failure. You may figure out a couple of ways something shouldn’t be done–but eventually you’ll find the right way. You’ll never be poor because you’d do anything it takes to not be poor. Temporarily broke is a situation. Poor is a mindset.

How to Get Over this Fear

While my fear of being poor became a motivator for me to succeed, it can also go the other way and be a demotivator. If you decide not to take a risk or try something because you’re afraid it will make you poor, then that’s a demotivator.

The first thing you should do is to try to figure out your worse case scenario and then the likelihood of it actually happening. What’s the worst case scenario that could happen if you leave your job for freelancing? That you had no clients, work or money coming in right?

Let’s analyze that fear. Let’s say that six months after you started freelancing, you still have no money coming in. Bills are starting to be overdue and your wife/husband/kids are getting angry. Okay, fine. So go find another full-time job. It’s not the end of the world.

Think about this–what’s the likelihood of you actually going six months without any work? If you sit at your desk everyday and play on twitter, it’s a pretty high chance you’ll fail. If you actually push yourself to be where your clients are on the web, to make contacts and to work while you have no work–it’s a slim chance you’ll fail.

Stop Making Excuses

Freelancing is not a scary thing. In fact, I’d almost say it was pretty easy after the first two months. That’s not to say it didn’t require a whole lot of hard work, but I don’t have a business, financial or marketing degree, but I still figured it out.

Some people tell me they’re saving up money to freelance. That’s okay, but if you’re still saying that after a year, then you have an excuse, not a plan. Some people tell me it’s “not the right time.” Okay, so when is it the right time? Did you know that more small business are started in recession times than in times of plenty?

It’ll never be the right time, you’ll never have the right amount of money and the weather will never be perfect for freelancing. If you really want to do it, do it now.

Have you ever seen the movie Idiocracy? In the beginning, it showed a very intelligent upper class family who were waiting for the perfect time to have a baby. First, they got good careers. Then, they were saving up for a house. Then, for money for the nursery and then they waited for the perfect time. By the time they were “ready” to have a baby–they were too old to make one. That will be your business if you wait too long to start it.

I’ll let you in on another secret–I didn’t do anything the freelance books told me to do. I quit my job on a whim one day (thanks to my anxiety) and I had zero savings, zero clients and not even a proper desk for my laptop. But, here I am eight months later and I have so much work, I’m booked for a month and turning away people. Of course, I could still fail six months from now, but then I’d just try again–or get a job somewhere. It’s not really that scary!

Your Turn

How did you get over your fear of freelancing? Or, are you still stuck in that fear? What are you really afraid of?

Image by Capture Queen ™