How More Confidence Helped Shannon Hach Unlock Freelance Success
When Shannon Hach, MD, ELS, left family medicine to become a freelance medical editor in 2013, she was full of confidence. “I trusted my instincts and knew that, having exhibited the skills to become a successful physician, surely I could adapt and learn a new (related) profession,” she says.
But during her first year in business, Shannon found that running a freelance business is very different than working for a medical practice. “My confidence started to fade a bit,” she says. “I felt stuck. Building a client base took more time than I thought it would, and I had only landed one solid client.”
Confidence—a belief in yourself and your ability to succeed—is a key ingredient in freelance success.
Like most freelancers with low confidence, Shannon had what it takes to succeed in freelancing. She just didn’t know it.
Build Confidence with Experience, Knowledge, and Work
And like all successful freelancers, Shannon was able to build confidence and her freelance business, STAT Editing LLC. Some of her confidence came from gaining more experience as a freelancer. “With each project and client I gained more confidence, learning from mistakes as well as successes,” says Shannon.
As a BELS-certified medical editor and physician, Shannon helps her clients deliver flawless medical content. She works with medical communications agencies; continuing education developers; pharmaceutical medical affairs, sales training, and marketing divisions; medical device companies; and other healthcare organizations.
But most of Shannon’s confidence came from learning how to build her freelance business and then putting in the work to do this. “You need to be willing to try new things. You may need to get uncomfortable and allow yourself to be stretched in a way that is challenging or a little scary but that will ultimately uncover your resilience, which will increase your confidence, and in turn, grow your business,” says Shannon.
Lack of Knowledge Saps Confidence
Shannon is right. Running a freelance business involves learning and doing many new things. You’re good at writing or editing or whatever you do as a freelancer. But most freelancers never have a chance to learn about how to run a business, including freelance marketing.
And when you don’t how to do something important, like marketing, it’s hard to believe that you can succeed. That’s why marketing is a big challenge—and often the top challenge—for freelancers.
Learning how to run a freelance business is fairly easy. Once you start looking, you can find lots of free content online, and books and online courses you can buy. You can also learn some things from your freelance friends.
But doing those new things, and sticking with them until you get results, takes grit and hard work.
Being determined to keep going until you achieve your goals (having grit) helps you do the hard work and push past the obstacles all freelancers face.
Grit is closely linked to resilience, the ability to meet adversity head-on, and to bounce back. You can grow your grit and you can learn to be more resilient.
What Shannon Did to Build Confidence
Shannon knew that she needed to learn freelance marketing, and she wanted some help doing this.
So she signed up for Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve, my online course based on a proven, step-by-step process.
“In the course, Lori broke marketing down into manageable/doable tasks. As I completed each module, I knew I was making progress. Lori gave me feedback and helped me see what I was doing well. She also highlighted (both verbally and in follow-up emails) the areas that needed attention.
Networking to Build Confidence
Active networking became a key marketing strategy for Shannon. Networking, especially in person at conferences and other events, is the easiest way to build a freelance business. Module 6 in the course focuses on networking.
“Encouraging me to network was the most helpful recommendation,” says Shannon. “Lori gave me the tools to network productively, and she showed me how to have confidence when talking with others so that I could more effectively highlight my experience and areas of expertise.”
Making a commitment to network in person has been a “game changer” for Shannon. While talking to strangers at networking events has sometimes felt awkward and uncomfortable, it’s been worth it. “With every conversation, I’ve gained more confidence in simply talking to colleagues and clients about exactly what it is that I can offer,” she says.
And Shannon’s networking skills have given her more confidence in dealing with difficult clients and situations. “Each time I complete a project or navigate a challenging client relationship, I learn from it and grow. Some of these experiences turn out to be a win-win. Some relationships end, and I move on to better-paying clients who more highly value freelancers.”
Tips to Build Confidence When Work is Slow
Freelancers are especially likely to need a confidence boost when we:
- Don’t have enough freelance work
- Compare ourselves to other freelancers.
Here are some tips from Shannon and me on how to build confidence when these things happen—because they will.
“When the work is a bit sparse, it’s important to recall your successes and celebrate your wins,” says Shannon. “Looking back over the life of my business, it’s gratifying to think about clients who were very satisfied and relationships that flourished through intentional networking and that also led to more work.”
Slow times are also great for learning new skills to build your business, and catching up on your marketing, something most freelancers procrastinate about doing. Just taking actions to build your freelance business will make you feel better about having less work than you want right now.
“Learning how to market my business better by taking Lori’s course during a slow time is a perfect example,” says Shannon. “If you feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all, then break it down and work on a skill that moves you in the right direction. Don’t think you have to do it all yourself. Enlist the help of others or pay for it!”
Tips to Build Confidence When You Think Other Freelancers are Better
It’s easy to feel bad about yourself when you meet successful freelancers or are comparing your business to their businesses.
What you’re feeling is called imposter syndrome, the feeling that you’re not good enough and that other freelancers are better than you are. Up to 70% of all people, including successful people, have faced imposter syndrome at one time or another.
Most of the freelancers you’re admiring have faced the same challenges that you’re facing. And like Shannon and me, most have put a lot of time and work into building the freelance success that may appear effortless to you.
“It’s those times when we need to remember those core foundations of resilience that our parents or mentors (hopefully) taught us: Don’t give up! Don’t worry about what other people think! Be willing to take risks! Trust your instincts!” says Shannon.
Shannon offers these suggestions for dealing with comparisons to other freelancers.
“Take a day off and do something you’re good at or that will energize you,” she says. “I started running about a year ago. I may run like an old lady, but every ¼ mile I add to my distance feels like a huge success—no competition with anyone else but myself.” Shannon can also spend a day quilting and come away “with something beautiful that I created and that makes me happy.”
Helping others, including newer freelancers, is another way to build confidence. “Listening and mentoring are great ways to give back while at the same time boosting your own confidence,” says Shannon.
The 2-Minute Confidence Boost
For a quick confidence boost, try posing like Wonder Woman:
- Stand tall.
- Put your hands on your hips.
- Push your chest out.
- Stand like that for 2 minutes.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy says this high-power pose can build confidence and decrease anxiety.
So pose like Wonder Woman:
- When you’re feeling overwhelmed
- Before you go into a stressful situation
- Any time you want a quick confidence boost.
Learn more about the 2-minute confidence boost and other ways to build confidence
The Easy Way to Build Confidence
Many other freelancers have also built their confidence by taking the coaching version of Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve.
Freelance medical copyeditor Kathleen Labonge, MBA, had been freelancing for 2 years when she took the course, but she still lacked the confidence to approach prospective clients. I saw that Kathleen had a stronger background for and more relevant experience in medical copyediting than she thought she did.
I told Kathleen that she was well positioned for freelance success. We worked together to develop marketing messages to attract her ideal clients. And she began to get the clients she deserved.
Freelance translator and conference interpreter Eva Stabenow, MA, CT, NCPT, had been freelancing for about 2 decades when she took my course. She was doing okay, but had been undervaluing herself and her services. Together, Eva and I developed a marketing plan customized to her business.
Eva began going after freelance jobs that she would have been too intimidated to go after before—and getting them. She too was getting the clients she deserved.
Learn more about how coaching helps freelancers succeed
What You Can Do to Build Confidence
You don’t have to take an online course and work with a coach like Shannon, Kathleen, Eva did to build confidence and your freelance business.
Free and low-cost content to help you build confidence
My free Roadmap to High-Income Freelancing gives you an overview of the 7 steps to getting the clients you deserve covered in my course. 7 Steps to High-Income Freelancing: Get the clients you deserve, my latest book, has more details about each step. You’ll find lots of free articles on those steps, and some free checklists, templates, and other tools, on my Freelance Marketing Blog.
But you’ll have to find the right content, put it together into a process you can follow, and do the work on your own. And you won’t have a coach to guide you or to answer your questions. You won’t have anyone to hold you accountable for doing the work.
If you’re disciplined enough and have grit, you can teach yourself freelance marketing. As you start to do this consistently, you’ll get better at it and it will be easier. So you’ll build confidence.
Learn More About How to Build Confidence
The Mindset for Freelance Success: A collection of blog posts
Book and online course
Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve, an online course in freelance marketing