As is true of other parts of life, many of us are our own worst enemies when it comes to making our freelance career all that we hope it will be. We get in our own way far too often with attitudes and behaviors that impede our ability to thrive out on our own.
If you’re not getting where it is you want to be in terms of income, growth of client base, and overall satisfaction from the work you’re doing, carefully consider whether one (or more) of these four behaviors is impeding your success.
1. Analysis paralysis
Do you delay making work-related decisions until you have gathered every last possible fact? Do you often lose sleep because your mind won’t quit going over your various options? You probably have a bad case of analysis paralysis, a condition that causes you to be unable to make decisions in a timely matter because you fear making the wrong choice.
A subcategory of this problem is frequent second-guessing. This occurs when you back away from a decision before giving it any real opportunity to prove itself; the tiniest little blip in the execution of your plan and you reverse directions.
Analysis paralysis can be especially common when you’re just starting out. Never having been the decision-maker before you became your own boss, you may not have a lot of experience in making choices and sticking with them. No matter where you are in your freelance career, however, you have to realize that by not making a decision, you really are making a decision – a decision to stick with the status quo. If that’s working for you, fine. But if it’s not, it’s time to get serious about deciding what needs changing and how to change it.
2. Living in the past
Speaking of the status quo, that is something you can’t afford to cling to when you’re self-employed. The market moves amazingly quickly these days; you must keep up with that, which means not living in the past. Yes, the services you offer, your pricing, the technology you use, and every other aspect of your business may have worked very well for you in the past. But that doesn’t mean they will always work for you in the future. If you fail to keep track of industry trends, you’re in danger of falling behind and not meeting changing client needs.
Yes, change is scary. But if your market is shifting ground, it’s time to figure out how to shift with it. You simply can’t afford to indulge in magical thinking, where you assume that just because things in your business have always gone well, they will continue to do so despite warning signs like client defections or a drop-off in the percentage of new client pitches that you win.
Do you often wonder why this or that competitor seems to gain clients so much easier than you do? Or why their clients are bigger and better than yours? Or even why they can afford to the car of your dreams and you can’t? Time spent on envying someone else is time wasted. It’s time that can be better spent on deciding how to move your business forward, and then doing it.
Sure, a little envy is okay because it might spur you to action. It’s not a bad thing to have a role model in mind who inspires you to try to achieve greater heights of career success. But indulge in envy too much and it can also quickly turn to resentment, a very negative attitude that is nothing but a huge waste of time. And the truth is that you really can’t judge a book by its cover. For all you know, that competitor who drives the expensive car and lives in a house twice the size of yours may also be hugely in debt while you are happily solvent.
4. Never leaving your comfort zone
Being unwilling to take a risk and try something new is perhaps one of the most self-defeating behaviors in which you can indulge. And yet I’ve had conversation after conversation with colleagues and friends who just can’t bring themselves to say yes to a new opportunity that involves something they haven’t tried before.
If you often say something along the lines of “I just wouldn’t be comfortable doing that” or “I don’t think that’s for me,” stop and ask why you’re turning down a new possibility that has come your way. Good opportunities don’t come along every day. And sure, some degree of risk may be involved, but risk-taking is inherent to self-employment. Examine opportunities through a framework of someone who is fully capable of succeeding at taking on new challenges and expanding your skills.
Fear and self-doubt underlie this behavior and, in fact, all the behaviors mentioned above. You overanalyze decisions for fear of making a mistake. You envy others because you worry you might not measure up. You live in the past and huddle in your comfort zone because you fear change or doubt your ability to succeed at something new.
Fear and self-doubt are your worst enemies. Don’t let these emotions and the unproductive behaviors they generate hold you back from achieving all that you can achieve in your freelance life.