The Psychology Behind Successful Freelancing

No matter what we tell you about how to become a successful freelancer, the fact remains that a lot of what it takes to succeed comes from inside of you.

Of course, we readily acknowledge a few of the ways that freelancing affects our psyches. For example, we’ve written a boatload of materials about stress. We’ve also written a lot about loneliness.

But stress and loneliness are not the only ways that freelancing affects us. (Of course, we’ll continue to write about stress and loneliness from time to time because those are very real problems that affect a lot of people.)

In this post, however, we’ll cover some of the less discussed psychological aspects of freelancing. We’ll also look at how freelancing can really affect your outlook on life. As you review these mental struggles that we all face as freelancers, I think you’ll come to agree with me that we freelancers are a unique breed.

Freelancers and Security

We freelancers can’t count on much.

You’ve heard of job security, right? Well, freelancers don’t have it. And job security is just one type of security that freelancers don’t have.

For most employees, if they lose their job at least they know that they’ll probably be given some sort of severance package. For a freelancer, however, when the work is done they are out of a job.

Of course, the lack of job security can also lead to a lack of financial security for freelancers. A successful freelancer can’t afford to live from paycheck to paycheck. They’ve got to set something extra aside for those times they won’t be getting a paycheck.

However, not having these common factors that many people rely on to feel secure actually strengthens most freelancers. They develop strategies (such as saving and continually marketing) so that they can rely more on themselves and less on an employer.

Freelancers and Flexibility

While everyone must eventually deal with change, keeping up with changes in technology and in his or her field is what makes a freelancer marketable. A freelancer has to be ready to learn new things.

Also, remember that the people a freelancer must deal with changes constantly as they move from project to project.

All of these changes mean that freelancers learn to be very flexible if they’re going to last. In the end, the ability to adjust to and manage change is a strength that a freelancer can apply to every aspect of their life.

Freelancers and Confidence

Some people say that freelancers are risk-takers, but I tend to disagree.

Yes, there is some risk inherent in starting a new business, but a true risk-taker often takes unreasonable chances. A good freelancer doesn’t. Instead, he or she studies the odds of success and then charts out the path most likely to succeed.

Rather than call that risk-taking behavior, I would call it confidence. And it does take confidence to succeed as a freelancer. It takes confidence to launch a new business. It takes confidence to sell a product or service. It takes confidence to keep going day after day without the encouragement of a staff or manager.

So, even a freelancer isn’t confident at first, he or she usually develops a confidence in his or her abilities.

Which brings me to another psychological trait common to successful freelancers . . .

Freelancers and Persistence

Successful freelancers are nothing, if not persistent.

Talk to any freelancer who has been around for more than a few years and surprisingly you’ll notice that most of them have their stories of failures as well as successes. That’s because a defining characteristic for most freelancers is the ability to stick with it.

The freelancers who succeed don’t quit. It’s just that simple. In fact, sometimes sticking with it is the main difference between a freelancer who makes it and one who does not.

Persistence is not a bad trait, though. Persistence learned from freelancing can keep freelancers from giving up too soon in other areas of their life.

Freelancers and Drive

Finally, it takes a lot of drive to be a freelancer. For whatever reason, you have to want it. I mean really want it.

The forces that drive freelancers vary, but without a driving force to keep them going most freelancers just won’t make it.

Again, like so many of the other psychological aspects of freelancing, drive can’t really be taught. It’s simply there, or it isn’t. As a matter fact, drive is a leadership quality that freelancers share with many other successful people throughout history.

Your Turn

As you can see from this post, there’s more to winning at freelancing than meets the eye. Freelancing is not just working from home in your pajamas.

What’s inside of you that makes you want to be a successful freelancer? What keeps you going?

Share your answers in the comments.

Image by Sweet Evie


  1. says

    I agree with the discipline, there is much to do, we can not let things go!

    I like the part on confidence. We must believe that we are valuable, that our expertise worth paying. It looks like a simple statement, but put a price on our work is not always an easy thing at first!

    Caroline Mayrand

  2. Adam Smith says

    I don’t know about discipline, but removing distractions has really helped me in getting my head down and just getting on with the work.

    As for confidence and a sense of security, these increased very quickly when my contractor accountant explained to me how I could pay myself in dividends in order to receive more tax relief.

    Of course, the dividends are investments in my company, so the money has to be saved in the short term. But it’s much better in the long term.

  3. says

    Hi Laura,
    I read your articles here for a while but I never write a comment, maybe because I have not a good English (sorry for my mistakes). First, thank you very much for this fantastic post. I’m a freelance for over ten years. I live in Spain. Despite the difficulties, especially lack of economic security, increased in this time of crisis, I am happy with this way of developing the working life.

    I think that for move forward confidently, a freelance should enjoy doing their job, whatever it is. You must enjoy the journey and the changes; All will change.

    Although they may seem opposite, there is a very special relationship between flexibility and persistence. Cultivate the wisdom to know when to persist and and when and how to change.

    Another important aspect in my experience, is not taken failure in a personal way, and always learn from them.

  4. says

    “Instead, he or she studies the odds of success and then charts out the path most likely to succeed.” I completely agree. Some people think becoming a freelancer is already a risky thing to do, but I think that’s the biggest risk that a freelancer takes. Other than that, freelancing means you need to make smart choices and have a strategy for handling your business and acquiring clients.

  5. says

    @Susan, I do agree with you that deciding to freelance full-time is probably one of the biggest risks a freelancer takes. However, it can prove to be the most beneficial decision they make in the same regard. Without some risk there is hardly ever significant reward. And the reward can come in many different forms that we all can relate to, more time with family, more creative freedom, a better quality of life (not necessarily just from a monetary perspective), the opportunity to determine your own path, etc. It’s not meant to be easy per say, but it can still be very enjoyable and rewarding. That said it does take a person with the proper mindset as Laura discusses in her post here, to really make it work.

  6. says

    Everything is a risk but we all have to over come all if we want to make it in this big world.I think is more easier now days; now there are so many groups like this website that if help is needed we can always read or even post and someone can help.

  7. says

    Having been laid off from what I thought was a pretty comfy full time position in 2009 and thrust into the freelance world I can say full time positions give a false sense of security. The only way to make sure you have true security is to have several sources of income (ie. freelance gigs, licensing, selling art/products, selling stock art, etc etc).

    Have said that – I certainly need to work on finding those sources…

  8. says

    Having worked hard for the last 6 years as a freelance graphic designer, the fear of job insecurity,I think will never go away. Determination, self discipline and flexibility have got me through. My working hours are very unpredictable so planning social dates can be difficult. This job can be a risk but worth taking.

  9. says

    I’m reminded of that old fable about 2 hunters in the jungle, which is sometimes applied to freelancing and entrepreneurship in general. This is the story where 2 hunters encounter a lion, and one hunter starts to put on his running shoes. The other says “You’ll never outrun the lion,” and the first one says “I don’t need to outrun the lion, I just need to outrun you.” The connection here, according to those who gave me this advice, is that we as freelancers don’t need to be the foremost expert in our field, we just need to know more than our customer and our immediate competition. However, having yet to take the plunge in freelancing, I’m wondering what those of you with skin in the game think about the above story, i.e. whether you think it holds water or not. Hope to hear from you!

  10. says

    It needs patience, hardwork for the first time as a freelancer. This article helps a lot for the beginners who wish to start as a freelancer. I like this post very much and thanks for this Laura. I hope you will share more posts about freelancer. Thank you

  11. says

    In my case it is a stubborn determination that keeps me going. I have always had it… ever since I was a child. I hate giving up and have LOTS of patience. I do, however, suffer from a lack of discipline which can be damaging and often means that I work late into the night owing to a late start. I love the world of freelancing – it is a constant challenge.
    All the best to everyone :)

  12. says

    I go with Allena here.

    There is a serious need to become disciplined while working as a freelancer. Working from home is a luxury but you have to spend at least 8 hours working at your desk not lying on your bed.

  13. says

    I just started with freelancing industry.
    And yes~ you just really have to want it and simply love this kind of nature.
    Thanks for encouraging words. I love reading this post.

    To visit my website, kindly click here.

  14. says

    Freelancing has made my life lot easier, now I can feel the freedom in my self. I would surely love to advance my career more.

    Thanks for nice writing


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