How to Build Self-Esteem as a Freelancer

Brad Klontz, Psy.D., CFP®, a financial psychologist and associate professor of practice at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business, calls self-employed workers, as a group, “an interesting breed.” On the one hand, they’re incredibly motivated and entrepreneurial. But they often undervalue their work.And a rejection, pay cut, or sudden decrease in business can kick off a vicious cycle. Dr. Klontz shows us how freelancers can build self-esteem, even when things aren’t going to plan.

Understand that it’s not weird to feel this way

Self-doubt is universal. “That’s literally what everyone experiences under the hood,” Klontz says. “We’re all these little kids hoping the teacher gives us an A.” You’re not weak, incompetent, or weird if problems at work take a personal toll. Remember that pretty much everyone, regardless of their industry, salary, or title, feels this way at some point, should help you feel less isolated in your frustration. (And hopefully a little less down on yourself, too.)

Shift your perspective

It’s tough, but Dr. Klontz suggests adopting a more objective view: one in which you see yourself as capable and talented as others in your field. (Repeat after us: “I’m at least as good as everyone else.”) The way you think about yourself has a significant impact on how you present yourself, and the people around you will respond in kind. “Whether you believe you’re really good or terrible [at your work], the rest of the world is going to agree,” Dr. Klontz says.  

Create a “nice” folder

Whenever a client compliments, praises, or commends your work, save that positive feedback so that you can revisit it the next time your self-esteem needs a boost. Plus, according to the Harvard Business Review, keeping a record of past wins should give you a clearer idea of where your skills are needed. If you’ve mostly received praise on editing gigs, for example, you might be better off focusing your efforts on getting more work in that area.

Keep moving forward

When you hit a major professional obstacle, it’s easy to freeze up. “You have to take action; you’ve got to get back on the horse,” Dr. Klontz says. “Action can be journaling. Go consult with somebody. Get some support from another freelancer.” Think about who else might be interested in your pitch or project, or start brainstorming how you can make said pitch or project even more enticing to the next person. When you feel your self-esteem beginning to droop, that’s your cue to move on, continue to hone your craft and to find value in just how nimble you can be.

Your self-esteem shouldn’t take a hit because of a single client, and you shouldn’t feel daunted when it comes to handling the nuts and bolts of your work. Whether you’re looking to invoice with ease or tackle your taxes, Wingspan is here to help you conduct business with confidence.

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