It’s easy to think a lack of skill or knowledge is the key reason why freelancers fail. In fact, the most damaging hurdle to freelancing success is anxiety.
You can be exceptionally gifted, highly experienced, and more knowledgeable than any of your main competitors, but if fear is ever-present, it can ground even the most promising of freelancing careers.
What many new freelancers underestimate when it comes to freelancing success, is the importance of self-confidence. Some anxiety is natural when meeting with new clients, especially when you’re new. But showing too much of this anxiety, failing to hide it, and above all, failing to control it, can be damaging to your chances of being hired.
Prospective clients are looking for a freelancer who shows expertise, certainty, and assurance. They feel comfortable when communicating with a professional who is seemingly in control and leading the way. Anything less and they will doubt your ability to achieve the successful results they so desperately need.
Ways your anxiety can reveal itself to clients
This is a difficult situation for new freelancers and for those who are naturally predisposed to anxiety. You know deep down you have all the skills and talent to do a great job but convincing potential clients of this, when sweating and shaking, often feels unsurmountable.
And the problem is, for freelancers, there are numerous touchpoints with prospects and clients where showing anxiety can lose you potential work. It’s some of these we will explore in this article as well as some simple yet effective ways to hide the fact you’re feeling anxious.
Here are 7 examples of where your anxiety can negatively influence client perceptions:
- Hesitant marketing
It’s through strong and consistent marketing where many clients first come across the personal brand of a freelancer. The most successful freelance professionals use confident marketing and sales strategies that signal they know they can achieve great results.
If you’re filled with anxiety about working with clients, it’s only natural this fear creeps into all of your marketing efforts. Potential clients will feel the lack of confidence and clarity in the words they read on your website and in other marketing collateral.
How to hide the anxiety: – Study basic copywriting principles about strong written communication. You can give off an aura of confidence through your words, using special writing tactics, even if your confidence is at rock bottom.
- Indecision during initial communications
A nerve-wracking but exciting moment for an anxious freelancer is when communicating for the first time with a prospect via an email inquiry. The mixture of hope and fear can get the adrenaline flowing but this often leads to mistakes, especially when you desperately need the work.
Prospects can sense a desperate freelancer. From failing to ask the prospect for a quick phone call to giving mixed messages about pricing, indecision or confusion can result in sudden silence from the other side.
How to hide the anxiety: – Create a standard inquiry-reply template where you thank the prospect for getting in touch, answer their questions, and then arrange to talk on the phone to discuss things further. Make it short and suggest a time yourself. This shows confidence and leadership.
- A nervous phone voice
Perhaps the scariest moment for freelancers with anxiety – and indeed for many experienced freelancers without anxiety – is that first phone call with a prospect.
Sounding a little nervous at first is okay. Most people don’t particularly like phone calls and they might feel jittery too. But it’s important those initial nerves settle quickly, so you can portray confidence in your ability and calmly focus on exactly what the client requires.
How to hide the anxiety: – There are a number of relaxation and breathing techniques that can help you settle before an upcoming phone call. Making meditation and mindfulness practice a daily habit can also, in time, reduce your general anxiety and heighten your emotional wellbeing.
It can also be effective to create a little intro script for when you introduce yourself and explain your services. You can just recite it, without having to think too much and fall over your words.
- Poor body language
If you meet with prospects and clients face-to-face or on video calls, poor body language can signal nerves and self-confidence issues. A lack of eye contact, for example, can be off-putting for people in most situations whether business or social.
Fortunately, confident body language is a skill that can be developed, even when you need to fake it. In fact, faking confidence at first can actually inspire your mind to feel more confident, as can the knowledge that the fear is ultimately an illusion.
How to hide the anxiety: – Positive body language includes standing or sitting up straight, minimizing any fidgeting, slightly slowing your movements, keeping your chin up, gently smiling, and even subtly mirroring the other person’s gestures.
- Lack of confidence when negotiating
Fear of phone calls or nervousness during face-to-face meetings usually leads to a lack of confidence when it comes to negotiating. As a freelancer, there are frequently times when you’ll need to hammer out contracts, payment fees, and write project proposals. Anxiety – including money anxiety – can leave you exposed to choosing less than ideal options.
Some prospects and clients will, unfortunately, take advantage of an obviously anxious freelancer.
How to hide the anxiety: – Before each interaction with a prospect, write down your red lines when it comes to what you’ll accept. Then during a call or meeting, you can refer to these and simply say “no” if asked for something beyond that line.
Understand that you really can say “no”. You have the power to walk away.
- Quoting low rates
Anxiety and a lack of confidence lead many freelancers to charge less than they should, based on their skills, experience, and knowledge. When first starting out as a freelancer, it’s easy to assume clients will reject certain prices. Some will and others won’t.
Successful freelancers understand their worth and charge accordingly, even when faced with demands to reduce their rates. They work only with clients who respect their skills enough to pay what they deserve.
How to hide the anxiety: Set your rates and don’t back down. Refuse to doubt yourself and your prices mid-call. Check the industry-standard rates for your freelancing services and charge accordingly.
- Poor invoicing procedures
Another perhaps surprising clue for clients as to a freelancer’s confidence levels are their invoicing habits. Poor invoicing procedures are sometimes a consequence of anxiety. A nervous freelancer might delay sending an invoice or deposit request for fear of charging too much or because of feeling bad about asking for money.
An overdue invoice can also lead to an anxious freelancer delaying late-payment reminders due to possible concern about nagging a prized client. Lengthy delays in sending invoices or reminders can make the freelancer look unprofessional and insecure.
How to hide the anxiety: Send invoices and related requests as soon as possible, as a matter of routine. Most clients will expect these to arrive promptly and are accustomed to dealing with such matters without emotion.
Growing your freelancing business despite the anxiety
Anxiety needn’t be a drawback when it comes to growing your freelancing career. You might still feel nervous but with a few simple strategies and habit changes, you can relatively quickly reduce your fears and hide obvious anxiety symptoms when the need arises.
It’s okay to be nervous.
Many of the most successful freelancers and entrepreneurs have a nervous disposition. It often goes with the territory of being a highly creative, intelligent, and talented individual.
The key is to channel this nervous energy into positive results for your clients instead of it being a block to working with great clients in the first place.