What is impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy despite evidence of past successes. It’s a chronic case of self-doubt that even the most successful people can feel.

People with impostor syndrome believe they have over-estimated or overstated their talents and that any minute they’ll be “found out” and lose everything.

American author and poet, Maya Angelou famously said ‘I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'”


Do freelancers suffer from it more than others?

Self-doubt seems to be a common trait among freelancers. It may be because there is no structured way of measuring success. Unlike with a job which has some kind of measurement of performance and someone to answer to, you’re on your own as a freelancer. It’s up to you to measure your own success. A lot of freelancers also work in the creative industries where success and output is harder to measure.

As there is no measure of performance, a freelancer might spend more time than usual questioning their own decisions and the rate their business is moving at. This can then lead to self-doubt and impostor syndrome.

One of the hardest parts of being a freelancer is that you have to wear several hats at once. You might just want to design websites, but you’ll end up having to do the things you’re not used to like admin and accounting. A sense of unfamiliarity is bound to result in a lack of confidence.


How does this affect your business?

While self-doubt never feels great, it can have such a huge impact on how you run your business. If you don’t feel confident in yourself or your services then you’re going to continue to undervalue them and therefore will struggle to grow your business at a rate that you want to.

A lack of confidence can come out while marketing your services. Potential clients need to be reassured that their money is going to the right person for the job. Self-doubt can sometimes get in the way and cause a block between you and your clients.


How can you overcome it?

The good news is that you likely have some confidence already. It takes a lot to dive into the world of freelancing, whether it’s alongside your day job or full-time. It’s something most people would be far too scared to do. At one point you must have believed in yourself enough to do that. You need to be able to tap into that feeling again.


Take a look at your rates

Next you need to tackle the issue of what your charge your clients as this is probably where your impostor syndrome is likely to come out. So take a look at your prices and increase them. Ignore your embarrassment because this is exactly what the most successful freelancers are doing. Worried what to tell your existing clients? You have a few options:

Only tell your new clients the new rate

This means that your existing clients won’t be forced to pay more and you could just tell any new clients what your new rate is. This will keep everyone happy. However, you should aim to eventually drop your lower paying clients for newer, higher paying ones. Why do the same job for one client that you can do for another at a higher price?

Explain that your rate has changed

You could just contact your clients and explain that your rate will be going up soon. They may or may not want to continue working with you but the chances are they’ll want to stick with you if they’re already happy because it’ll save them the hassle of finding someone else.


Stop comparing yourself to others

Everyone has different experiences and circumstances with freelancing which makes it harder to compare with others. Something that might equal success for one person, might not for another.

Think about living expenses as an example. A low rate in one city might be fine for a freelancer living elsewhere. It’s important not to compare yourself too much.

So try not to worry if you think that your business isn’t growing as fast as someone else’s. There could be any number of reasons for this and in the end their success is not comparable to yours.


Focus on your skills and accept your weaknesses

While a freelancer is expected to do everything themselves, this doesn’t have to be the case. If there’s something you really hate or are bad at, like finances, then this is always something you can outsource. You don’t have to be an expert in everything. Instead of worrying and feeling bad about things that you can outsource, you can just focus on what you’re best at and what makes you the most money.


Has impostor syndrome affected you in your business? What tips would you give to others struggling with it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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Lucy O'Reilly
Lucy O'Reilly
6 years ago

This is me! My clients love my work but I feel like that’s only because they don’t know any better!