You know the voice of doubt that whispers little unproductive nothings into our ears all across our waking hours? For a good number of new freelancers and aspiring self-employed professionals, this anxiety has a specific name — impostor syndrome.
Certified financial planner and New York Times “Sketch Guy” Carl Richards frames this paranoia as the unsettling sense that the world will at any moment see right through you and declare: “You’re a fraud.”
Freelancing has taken off over the last several years, and not merely as an acceptable way to make some extra cash on the side, but as a valid and gratifying career path. And 76% of job seekers at the moment are curious about taking this leap.
Many people, however, think that having proven expertise is necessary for going freelance — that you must already be a recognized leader in your industry to get clients to hire you. This is hogwash.
In truth, impostor syndrome is really us just misunderstanding our own internal drive to continue growing.
If you give yourself the chance, you will find that a passionate expert with boundless potential lies deep within you. The fast-paced and exciting frontier of the gig economy is one of the best ways to access it.
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You (and probably everyone else) misunderstands what an expert is
Frankly I can’t stand this word (and it pains me to use it this much in a post). Most people, whether successful CEOs or solopreneurs, are not “experts.” They simply, as in Einstein’s wisdom , “stay with problems longer” and are “passionately curious.”
People are not experts because they’re “the smartest” — they develop expertise by continuing to learn with an insatiable vigor and do not give up. If you have these traits and feel a burning passion for your craft or niche that kicks you out of bed every morning and keeps you up late at night, then I have news for you: you are an expert, and you can be successful in the gig economy.
The problem is, it’s so easy to let that conniving impostor voice discourage us from doing the things we are most passionate about. I bet you’ve thought at some point: “Oh, I can’t do this. So many people have been doing it longer” or “It isn’t practical now.”
What isn’t practical is sticking it out in a career that doesn’t challenge or motivate you to be the best professional and overall person you can possibly be.
Genuine interest is something many people lack in their careers — something most of your peers won’t be able to compete with. Let’s explore the practicality of harnessing your passion and using it to quiet your impostor syndrome.
There is tremendous opportunity for solopreneurs — if they’re willing to learn
In earlier phases of the gig economy, taking the plunge into a new or different career path was hard to conceive of. But at a time when 79% of surveyed companies are actively looking to expand their use of freelancers, and 84% of them would sooner cancel, delay or extend their projects without them — realize that your passion is in-demand. You simply need to cultivate it.79% of surveyed companies are actively looking to expand their use of freelancers. Click To Tweet
I don’t want to understate the serious time and effort necessary for growing a bustling freelance career and professional network, but the idea that the gig economy is some exclusive club of legacy talents who have “been doing it for 30 years ” is over. The gig economy is now a meritocracy.
Certain positions in the flexible work realm, like the increasingly diverse freelance writing field, have even come to favor individuals with extensive experience and expertise in a specific niche, rather than generalists who just happen to be capable writers.
If you know a lot about finance and business but don’t necessarily like working in finance business, you may have the perfect makings of a freelance finance writer or blogger. The same logic applies for organic food enthusiasts and exercise equipment hobbyists. You might think of a hobby as expertise that hasn’t activated its full potential.
On top of this, more freelance marketplaces like Hubstaff Talent are looking for passionate creatives in a plethora of fields than ever before — and paying good money to get them.
When pricing yourself, it’s not all what you’ve done — it’s also what you can do
Many new freelancers find premium pricing to be a terrifying prospect. Fearing they are not “expert enough,” they undervalue their time, talents, and experience with a hourly rate that sells them short. Freelance e-commerce marketer Katherine Raz sheds an important light on these concerns in her Medium article, “ How to scale a freelance business, I think.”
“Why am I even tying the work I do to hours billed in the first place?” Raz asks. “If I were selling t-shirts, I wouldn’t be pricing them based on the hours it took to make them multiplied by an hourly rate. I would price them based on cost and their perceived value in the marketplace.”
Aspiring freelancers often feel the intimidation of impostor syndrome in their pricing and toss out low hourly rates in a vacuum to mitigate fear of rejection from a potential client. They fail to recognize that price is not what clients care the most about — it’s their ability to get specific results for their clients and project a specific return on the client’s investment.
I wrote about this strategic topic length in a recent post on using problem-solving psychology to build your freelance brand.
If new freelancers can overcome these jitters, they discover that their opportunities for success and regular income are quite extensive. Tapping into product-based revenue streams (as we’ll discuss below) and value-centric price packages are also essential to the success of the modern solopreneur.
You do know what you’re talking about, and other people will care
“I don’t know anything that useful …”
“Who would listen to me?”
Do these phrases cross your mind whenever someone mentions course creation or productized services? They shouldn’t. The gig economy is a veritable buffet of information demand, and you (whoever you might be) can capitalize on it.
Let’s talk numbers for a moment. Quora, the ever-popular question and answer forum, currently has:
- 1.9 K questions for freelancers with a 10.7 K following
- 2.8 K questions about freelance tips with an 18.6 K following
- 4.1 K questions about content marketing with a following of 61.7 K
- 27.1 K questions about e-learning with a following of 231.8 K
Okay, what does this all mean? It means that now, more than at any other point in history, you have the ability and reach to grow an audience around your knowledge .
“But, again . . . I’m not an expert . . .”
Social Triggers founder and online course specialist Derek Halpern recounts an interesting story about a friend who developed a highly lucrative video course on the writing tool Scrivener. This video yields its creator 20–30K in revenue each month. He was not an expert, but he was curious and recorded the little things he learned into small video chunks that were useful to his audience.
“If you want to create an online course about something … anything … and you feel like ‘I don’t know anything that I could teach’ … I have 5 letters for you: learn,” says Halpern. “And as you learn, document the process, and you too can create a course about almost anything.”
No two freelance careers are the same. If you are truly dedicated to your craft and stick with your problems, you will accumulate valuable insights that your clients and peers alike will want to see.
Push past impostor syndrome and reframe it as a strength
So what have we learned?
- Experts are NOT mythic entities — they’re just people who can’t stop learning about their passions
- Anyone can become a passionately curious “expert”
- There is great demand for creative “non-expert solutions” from curious learners
If you are deeply dissatisfied with your current job and are curious about the freelance life, you only stand to gain from your experience in the gig economy. You will liberate yourself from a work environment that stifles you, you will learn a great deal about yourself and what it truly means to be a business professional, and you may even achieve your wildest dreams.
But first, you need to understand that the voice you perceive as impostor syndrome is merely your own acknowledgement that you can always continue to learn and advance in your craft. This is a mark of greatness.
The moment we feel completely content with what we know or have done, we become the impostor. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, and you will thrive as a freelancer and professional of any kind.
Some powerful questions to get you started — Ask yourself:
- What do you really love doing (or thinking about)?
- Is there a way to use your talents or interests in this field? What positions might you be able to use your talents and expertise in?
- What skill gaps hold you back from taking on one of these roles?
- How can you close these gaps?
- How can you make your skills or service offerings unique from anyone else in your specific niche (be creative!)?
- Are there any influencers or people in your network you might be able to tap for advice on how to break into your dream field in the gig economy?