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Overcoming freelancing fears

How do you overcome a fear of freelancing? You don’t, says Ande Schurr, fear is your friend.


Fear is an unseen all invasive rogue that infects our thoughts and strangles our dreams. As too much salt spoils even the most scrumptious cuisine, fear over-seasons our opportunities in life by enticing us to cling to the known and dismiss what’s new.

Fear is not unique to freelancing. It affects every facet of life. It waits until we start to consider branching out, then it makes an appearance. Seeping into our thought-stream, often in the guise of well-meaning yet cautionary advice, it takes over rationality and strips us of initiative and will power.

So how do we stop it? We don’t. What we do is harness it and make it our ally.

Winston Churchill said, “There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them.”

Without fear we are, as Alexander Pope said a few hundred years ago, fools who rush in where angels fear to tread.

Defeating fear is to put fear in its place - as an advisor - where it provides advisory services to help you consider anything that could prevent your success.

This harnessed fear challenges you to find

  • the money to support your freelancing transition
  • the right skills and work ethic to meet your clients’ demands
  • a satisfactory vision for your life that will inspire you to succeed at the business

These challenges form the three steps needed to defeat the fear of freelancing.

The biggest fear is arguably what others will think of us. It is everyone's right to have an opinion. It’s the very same freedom I want for myself so I have to let others have it as well.

Instead of blindly entertaining fear, we need to use it to help us see what is wrong with our plans. Fear must become the sort of ally which checks the facts, does the math and works out if your intended next step is worth the expenditure of your resources.

Above all, it helps determine the answer to the question - is the opportunity I’m considering feasible and achievable given my unique circumstances in life?

Fear, as an ally, prevents ‘face-planting’ into failure. It keeps us alive, alert, and astute as we move confidently forwards from opportunity to opportunity without wasteful hesitation.

Here are three steps to defeating the fear of freelancing:

Step 1: Build a Capital Cushion

No advisor would let you jump into a new untested form of work unless you had a financial safety net.

You have to have several months of savings to live off while you build your profile and secure consistent work. You could aim towards $10,000 saved. Ideally you’d have enough for 12 months but you do the math and perhaps you can live a lot cheaper during this period. This amount would reduce considerably if you were still working part-time as you transition.

You must develop a saving mentality, to put aside everything that is left over after your living expenses have been met. Commit to saving a fixed amount per month, maybe $1000 or $1500 if that’s realistic, but if there is more left over after the bills have been paid, then add it to your savings.

Hold off on new things - new smartphones, laptops and specialised equipment - unless they are really needed. Avoid relying on loans too. Your capital cushion is real money you have earned so no one can pull the cushion out from underneath you, so to speak. Make saving your first priority until you have the capital cushion you need.

Step 2: Become a Master

To defeat the fear of freelancing we need to think differently - as true masters of business do, with resolve to succeed, a highly refined skill-set and a quality of conduct that one might call ‘old-fashioned’.

Our contemporary culture offers a smorgasbord approach to knowledge and advice. A little bit from here, a little from there - and who cares about the source, as long as I get the information I need.

The problem with this is that you don’t bring your respect to the transaction. Where there is no respect, there is no learning. Simple fact. There is just grabbing like a spoilt kid at Christmas who rushes off with his pile of gifts without even a thank you to the source of his joy.

Respect for the source of your advice changes you. You can see precisely how that person used it and how it has made them into who they are, and so, how you too might be able to assimilate it.

We can benefit from watching online videos of the leaders in our industry explaining their methods, but it's even better to meet one. It’s that personal connection that brings the unattainable within arms distance.

Your chances of meeting a master will greatly increase if you seek out leaders in seminars, conferences, workshops, organisations and on committees. You may even find such a rare person among your colleagues at your current employment.

However, while having a master is a very valuable component of your learning process, nothing beats your personal dedication to becoming your own master and the hours of self-study and practice required. As the Chinese proverb goes: 'the teacher can open the door, but you must enter by yourself.'

Step 3: Find your Vision

We need a vision for our lives so it will inspire us to succeed at our business.

Think about what you live for. Is there something beyond earning a living that excites you? Your vision is very important. It’s something you must work out in your own head - and heart - and when you have, it will unleash your energy and ability to work as if you are two or three people.

It’s one thing to have a financial goal, to pay off your debts, put a decent deposit down on a home, even pay off the mortgage, but I argue that this will not be enough to activate that superhuman ability within you.

You need a blazing fire beneath you and a personal goal on its own will only give you a little spark.

I think there is a desire at the root of us to be useful in this world and help in whichever way we feel drawn to. The billionaire philanthropists are tackling the big problems - Elon Musk is taking humanity to new technological frontiers for renewable energies, Bill and Melinda Gates are helping reduce world poverty - and so we must think about ourselves and where our passion and strengths lie.

Where is that spark for you? Imagine you’re at the end of your life. Life can be tough but what will make it all worth while? What project could you start or support in the future that would give you the best life you can imagine for yourself? If you’re raising kids then you have your spark. For those of us without kids, there are still many worthwhile causes to get behind - in every country; in every sphere of need.

Whatever your goal, commit to it right now. Whatever you vision, allow it to grow in you so that it inspires you each day until the day you can live it.

When your vision becomes solid, you will become a master a lot faster because it means so much more to you to do well in your freelancing business. The better you do, the more time and money you can spare for your vision.

At this point fear doesn’t exist anymore. You have defeated it - overwhelmed it with positive feelings for your future - and it becomes your watchful companion in life.

Written by

Ande Schurr

26 Nov 2015

Corporate video producer and production sound recordist now based in Singapore after a 15-year career in New Zealand. Video clients incl. universities, tech startups, medical clinics and business consulting agencies. Sound clients incl. Netflix, Discovery, BBC, National Geo.