One thing I have noticed is that women in freelancing often have an uneven relationship with confidence. Confidence gets a bad rap. It’s seen as some gold cuff-link wearing, wheeler dealer archetype that spews sales that most people can barely stand.
But confidence is not cockiness. It’s not knowing it all. It’s not about hiring a megaphone and telling everyone all you are all that and a bag of chips all the time.
It’s being quietly self-assured and capable. Oh, and consistency. You inspire confidence by making it easy to trust you through knowing what we’re dealing with.
Most female freelancers don’t understand that a lack of confidence has a hidden cost. It’s really draining being around people that don’t value themselves.
When you don’t have confidence, you take a lot out of others. Clients and colleagues have to spend emotional labour making you feel self-assured. Or they have to wade through the discomfort of your self-effacing statements and try not to see the pain underneath.
Your lack of confidence can make you difficult to talk to, be around and enjoy. It may also make you less competitive as a freelancer as you don’t inspire the trust required.
How do women in freelancing demonstrate a lack of confidence?
Hating and/or rejecting marketing
Marketing isn’t evil in the right hands. It’s a tool. You hating marketing means you lack the confidence to highlight the good in what you do, the talents you possess and the person you are.
Using the backspace bar
Women in freelancing do this a lot. We commonly say wonderful, intelligent and profound things…and then tack a bit on the sentence like “does that make sense?” or “you must be sick of me prattling on” or “of course it could mean something else entirely” and so on and so forth. Say the wonderful and profound thing and stand behind it. Don’t nobble it.
There’s a difference between being a rich, mean jerk who makes snow angels out of money from the tears of small children and a person with a purpose who has a sustainable business with cashflow. It’s not the amount of money earned- it’s the way it’s earned and the intended use once it’s acquired. Be OK with making your business sustainable.
Overinvesting in money
A certain subset of women in freelancing over-invest in money as the measurement of freelance success. You can almost here the girls within striving to reach up the academic leader boards and never quite being enough for their parents. Money is an important part of freelancing, but it’s not the whole ballgame. You can spot this lack of confidence through intrusive questions, measuring friendships with other women in terms of potential and using money as a means to impress.
Putting yourself down
It’s seen as kind of cool to put yourself down in Australia but it’s really not as cool as we think. If you don’t believe in your skills, ability and capability, how will your clients? Plus, I personally worry when people verbalise mean stuff about themselves with people because I know our inner voice (if you have one) is far more cutting. Why give it that power over you?
Investing in business catastrophes
If you think your lot in life is to be underpaid, paid late, disrespected by clients, hated by competitors and generally a victim of circumstances beyond your control, you’re right. But if you think this is not the usual, you’ll find ways to reduce and even get rid of these situations occurring. Or at the very least, you’ll get better at contingency planning and adopt a more resilient attitude in the face of them.
How to build your confidence when you don’t have much
Confidence is like anything in life- you can turn it around if you make a commitment to try. You can unpack the buttons that have been installed and stop pushing them.
Here’s how you can build confidence over time:
- Notice the good things you do. Write about them. Practice saying them out loud and to the mirror
- Look for admiration in others. Ask friends, colleagues and happy clients why they like you. And for references and testimonials if they are in work-related settings
- Be proud of what you do. Speak about your experiences as women in freelancing as a leader, mentor and someone who is proud of their achievements. Look for opportunities to introduce freelancing as a viable career path to other women and girls
- Challenge negative thoughts. Find the evidence that counters your brain’s claim that you aren’t good enough and don’t let that self-criticism stand unchecked
- Learn and learn some more. By investing in knowledge, training and educational play, we build understanding of concepts and with it, confidence in their application
- Map who you are versus where you want to be. If you can see progress towards your values and goals, it gives you a tangible demonstration you are on the right track
- Find hopeful people. One of the best things I ever did for my confidence was surrounded myself with less cynics and more optimists. Pick the women in freelancing that admire your strength, not treat you like a renovation project
- Recognise change exists. A lot of confidence issues come down to seeing yourself as a set and fixed entity who is unlikely to see a change in circumstances. You’re not. You can develop anything from skills to awareness. And circumstances can change along with you
- Focus on incremental change. Changing is not a simple process and it takes time. You won’t get the blackbelt if you don’t go to training regularly. But you will see value in the steps along the way if you are willing to take them
- Watch what you say. How we talk about ourselves, our work and the world we live in is powerful. We internalise it and it forms the identity other people have of us. Step away from the criticisms, putdowns, and negative language. Take a moment to reframe and look for the positive
- Understand the lack of confidence. If you invest in the misery of where you are and what you are not, it will play dividends. It’s only until you can deal with having a real relationship with your confidence levels and accept the situation, warts and all, that you can rebuild.
And the biggest part of confidence? Forgiving yourself
Cut yourself some slack. One thing I have noticed is that the women in freelancing with the most reduced confidence are often so hard on themselves. Needlessly so, really. Life is hard enough without adding to the pile on.
Greet yourself with compassion.
Don’t get frustrated with feeling fear and instead, understand where it is coming from. Learn to accept that anxiety and doubt are part of the process of challenging yourself. Don’t resist these moments or give yourself a hard time for experiencing these feelings because it simply amplifies them. Accept them, understand them, and try to use them to your benefit.
And forgive yourself for the days where nothing goes to plan, you put your foot in your mouth or failed to hit the target.