Anxiety. Imposter syndrome. The fear of failure.
These bogeymen are familiar to a lot of freelancers.
I’m going to skip over the boring details of my personal work history. It’s not really relevant. Suffice to say that I found myself walking the road to becoming a full-time freelance writer. I discovered I had some talent for it, I enjoyed it, and that it could potentially pay much better than my previous job.
I started this career path on a high with a good paying gig. Unfortunately, it was a temporary gig and when it ended, I had to start looking for new work and learn how to build a client list.
Easier said than done, I soon discovered.
What followed were months of fruitless searches, unanswered pitches and applications, and insulting low-paying jobs which I took because I needed to build my experience and portfolio.
It was taking a toll on me emotionally.
Was my starting success just a fluke? Something to never be repeated?
At best, I was then making $100 a month as a freelance writer. That barely covered a week’s worth of groceries for our family.
I felt like a fraud. Like this whole career choice was a huge mistake and I should suck it up and go back to the salt mines and promise never to stray again.
This fraud does not belong here!
There were some dark mornings while I pondered my present and future.
Many freelance writers feel like frauds — especially when just starting out. They are saddled with imposter-syndrome and riddled with anxiety. I was one. You may have been as well.
Does this seem familiar?
- What made me think I could make it as a freelance writer?
- How long before the world realizes I’ve been faking it all along?
- Am I in over my head? I’m in over my head, aren’t I?
- Et cetera, ad nauseam.
Every morning was a struggle with depression and self-doubt. I felt… dark.
It was not a great time in my life.
I was ready to pack it in. Wouldn’t you?
What turned it around
Six months ago, I stumbled upon something that would turn it all around. It was in front of me all along.
I’d been a fan of podcasts for a few years already. I mostly listened to podcasts related to Dungeons & Dragons and similar roleplaying games. Acquisitions Incorporated, Critical Role, Adventure Zone, and so forth. I also enjoyed story and music-centered podcasts such as Welcome To Night Vale and Jonah Raydio.
What I had been missing were the podcasts about personal and business development.
Now hear me out…
I’m not talking about podcasts where the host takes you on guided visualizations of fields full of unicorns and some velvet-voiced person tells you what a great and powerful person you are over and over until everyone starts feeling a bit silly with the exercise.
I’m talking about podcasts that offer good, practical advice when it comes to being a freelancer, being a business person, and being a professional creative person.
There are a lot of really good ones out there.
I honestly can’t recall how I found the first podcast that changed it around for me. I think I may have just entered a random search under “writing podcasts” on my app just to see what was out there.
Furthermore, I don’t know why I picked Ed Gandia’s High-End Business Writing podcast. It’s very title suggested it was about a level of writing that I didn’t believe I was ready for.
More fool, me.
Gandia’s podcast was about how I, a struggling new freelance writer, could eventually become a high income-earning freelance writer. He did this with practical advice, tips, and even step-by-step instructions. He did this with interviews with successful professionals who have all started on the bottom and found success and who were willing to share their stories and advice.
Ed has done this for 200 episodes at last count.
Just listening to the podcast made me feel more like a professional. That attitude helped keep me going and approach my work with more confidence and determination.
Ruth Soukup’s Do It Scared podcast was another early “discovery.”
Ruth wasn’t targeting freelance writers. She was, instead, talking to people about ways to overcome their fears and anxieties. Don’t make the mistake that she was performing some kind of on-the-couch psychiatrist schtick. She was speaking to professionals and entrepreneurs about how they overcame their early anxieties in getting their businesses off the ground. About confronting and defeating the fear of failure.
She did this through observations, actionable advice, and interviews with people who had successfully broken through their own personal and professional blocks and ended up with success and… yes, I’ll say it… happiness.
She taught me that my feelings were normal, but they weren’t the endgame.
Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative podcast, through tips, advice, and interviews, teaches how to function and thrive in the creative world whether it be as a freelancer or someone working in an office. He talks about how to deal with people or projects that may be causing difficulty. He talks about ways to approach the creative process when you’re stuck. He talks about a lot of things.
The Accidental Creative podcast is where I go when I need to think less about the nuts and bolts of business, and less about my anxieties, and more about my process and development as a writer.
All three of these podcasts have been successful in lifting me out of my funky cloud of self-doubt. I credit all three of these podcasts with helping me find my new clients, my new projects, and my new successes.
I start each day with one or more of these podcasts. No matter how gloomy or anxiety-ridden I’m feeling at the very start of my day, I’m feeling better and more confident in a short amount of time. These people have my back.
I don’t have to do this alone.
My $100 a month freelancing career is now $2,000 a month. That may not seem like a lot to some people, but it’s a promising sign that I’m on the right track and that it’s only going to get better.
By the end of the year, I am confident that the majority of my income will be from freelance writing and that I will feel happier and satisfied with my career.
It doesn’t stop there
There are over 700,000 active podcasts broadcasting on this planet at the moment.
That’s… that’s a lot.
If I really tried, I could find a new podcast that would provide similar support and useful advice each and every day.
Who has that kind of time?
Just the same, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open for recommendations. Often times, they’ll come at unexpected times.
For instance, I was browsing Medium the other day and came across a recent piece by Tim Denning — one of the more popular writers on this platform. He was writing about marketing guru Neil Patel and the power of consistency. It was a good piece and I became interested in learning more about Patel. A lot of his work is on YouTube, but I don’t have a lot of time for videos.
What about a podcast? Did he have a podcast?
I searched the Apple podcast directory and, sure enough, I found several featuring Neil Patel. The most current one looks like a podcast called Marketing School — Digital Marketing and Online Marketing Tips. Each six-to-nine minute episode features Neil and Eric Siu offering actionable digital marketing lessons based on their own combined years of experience.
The podcast itself was professional and to the point, and it was focused on things I can do to improve my digital presence.
I’ve increased my pool of mentors.
And in the process of listening to a few episodes, I felt better about myself and my career choices.
Killing the bogeymen
Today, I have a decent amount of good-paying work happening. In fact, the next couple of weeks are pretty solidly booked. Assuming that I produce some good material, it is very likely that I’ll be looking at some solidly booked months.
Good for my bank account. Good for my confidence. Great for my career.
I’ve done a lot of things over the past six months to turn things around for me.
A lot of what I’ve done was inspired by the friendly and helpful advice I’ve picked up from professional and personal development podcasts. They’ve helped me transition from an anxiety-ridden newbie to a more focused professional who is confident that he made the right decision for him in pursuing a career in freelance writing.
If you’re finding yourself constantly trying to fight off anxiety and feelings of uncertainty about your freelance career, give podcasts a try.
Freelancing can be isolating. Podcasts are a small, but effective way of reminding us that we’re actually a community — a supportive community where we can learn from one another.
And from there, we will all prosper.