It took me a few years to realise this, but I truly now believe that the greatest decision you can make as a freelancer is the decision to take your mindset seriously, and work on it everyday.
Freelancing is not like a normal job.
There’s nobody there to tell you what you should be doing, and when you should be doing it.
While having nobody watching over you can be liberating, and a perk of this lifestyle, it can also present many challenges.
There is nobody to keep you on track and moving in the right direction. There is also nobody to make sure you are in the right place mentally, and are working on moving towards your goals.
This makes it incredibly easy to get lost, and start drifting as a freelancer.
As a Freelancer You Define Your Reality
Unlike other jobs, your mindset really does define your reality as a freelancer.
If you approach freelancing as a struggle, and believe that you will find it difficult to make ends meet. Then chances are that’s what will happen. Every little action you take will be influenced by this mindset.
If you tell yourself that freelancing will help you to earn more, be more comfortable and live the life you’ve always dreamed of, then you are far more likely to make it happen – because your actions and decisions will reflect this belief.
There is nothing mystical or magical happening here. How we think, and the stories we tell ourselves, have a massive impact on our behaviours and our outcomes.
So as a freelancer, it’s essential to think big and bold.
Otherwise you will slip into the drift, and things will gradually become more challenging.
Simply put – if you expect to struggle, you will struggle. If you expect to succeed, you will succeed.
The Covid Era
This couldn’t be more relevant right now. The pandemic has caused so much sadness and devastation already, and the economic prospects are frightening.
Look at the news, and it’s easy to conclude that going freelance is too much of a risk right now.
In reality this is another are where being freelance with the right mindset can allow you to shape your own reality.
While traditional jobs are undoubtedly under threat, and many companies will be looking to cut costs, I believe that freelancing will actually be given a huge boost, and that now is the best time in history to become a freelancer. Read my why now is the best time in history to become freelance article to find out more.
There are always opportunities for those ready to adapt, be flexible and – especially those with the right mindset.
The current situation is no different. And going freelance allows you to take control of your own destiny, and build a solid, safe financial future for yourself.
Why Mindset is a Key Component of the Compass Rule
The Compass Rule is the system I created, which dramatically changed my freelance fortunes.
It’s a pretty simple concept. To feel fulfilled and successful, you need to define some goals.
You then want to move forwards towards these goals, staying as focussed on them as you possibly can.
As I’ve explained, the main danger when freelancing is losing track of these goals, and starting to drift away from them gradually
Even a minor loss of focus, adds up massively over the course of weeks and years.
Think of an airplane flying to a destination. If it is even a degree off course, this drift will become a huge distance over time.
That’s why airplanes constantly check the direction they are heading in. They make tiny adjustments on a continual basis to ensure they reach their destination efficiently.
This is the key – small adjustments on a regular basis, and checks and balances to keep you on track.
A key component of The Compass Rule is that you must check in on your mindset on a regular basis, as well as your business goals. This will help to keep you moving forwards, motivated and keep you developing.
If you fail to check in regularly, you will drift off track. And as we know, small drifts add up to massive problems if they are not caught early.
So how do you build a good mindset for freelancing in the first place?
How to Build a Rock Solid Freelance Mindset?
Many of us underestimate what it takes to be successful as a freelancer. Probably because it’s hard to see the mindset that drives success.
We look at others and think they are good at selling, or super talented.
In reality, things like talent are actually well down the list in what makes a successful freelancer.
I believe the key skill to have – and the one to work on to get the most gains over time – is mindset.
- Mindset keeps you going when you want to give up.
- Mindset stops you saying yes to projects you should say no to.
- Mindset helps you set your prices at the right level – even if the figures make you feel awkward
- Mindset keeps you growing
- Mindset gives you the motivation to work on your business and yourself, knowing you are working towards goals that are aligned with your values
- Mindset allows you to share setbacks and criticism – and to back yourself
So how do you build this type of mindset, which can multiply your income overnight, and help you to build the lifestyle you’ve always dreamt of?
You have to work on it – constantly. Few people are born with this type of rock-solid mindset. Even fewer of these people are creative freelancers.
Creative freelancers tend to be more sensitive, thoughtful people. We tend to take criticism to heart, and suffer from a lack of confidence.
These can be very beneficial personality traits. They help us care, and strive to do our best for each client. But they can also hugely hold us back.
The Secret to Beating Imposter Syndrome
We all know the nagging feelings of doubt that tell you you’re not good enough. The voice that tells us our work is bad, the client will hate it and we should pack it all in.
The secret to beating the negative forces of imposter syndrome is actually very simple.
Nobody can beat imposter syndrome.
Once you understand this truth, you can look at Imposter Syndrome in a different way. Imposter Syndrome will always be there, you just have to learn to work with it.
Everyone – to varying degrees – feels Imposter Syndrome.
And it doesn’t go away.
In fact, the more successful you are, the more you are to feel Imposter Syndrome.
The key to dealing with it, is to recognise what it is. You mind attempting to sabotage you, but also protect you from putting yourself out there and taking any risks.
Once we recognise what it is, we can thank our minds for the warning, and put it to one side. Ignoring the feeling and ploughing on.
We can also take steps to build and maintain confidence and a positive freelance mindset.
Steps to Build Your Mindset
1. Have a Strategy
One of the most common ways to lose confidence and focus, is when you’re feeling overwhelmed. That’s why it’s essential to have a well thought out strategy in place.
Well defined goals – and importantly – the steps you need to take to achieve these goals, can help you to find the clarity and purpose you need.
Working with this type of clarity and purpose breeds confidence, as you see the progress that is being made, and you know that you are working on the right things for success.
2. Check in With Your Mindset
In the Compass Rule, I recommend a weekly check-in on your goals. This stops you being busy, without actually moving forward, and helps you to focus on the tasks that will actually make a difference.
It’s so easy to get lost in your client work that you lose sight of the bigger picture. This check in stops that problem, but even more importantly, I also recommend at least a weekly check-in on your freelance mindset.
This is a time to look objectively at your emotions and your headspace. Are you feeling motivated, de-motivated, inspired or uninspired?
The first step is to define where you’re at, and to then tweak things to optimise your mindset.
If you’re feeling unconfident, spend some time reviewing past work. Create a file of positive comments, and testimonials that you can browse through for a few minutes.
Look at the progress you’ve made in the last year and be kind to yourself.
This weekly pause, to assess where you are, has huge benefits in the long-term.
3. Be Accountable
No matter how solid your mindset is, it’s so much harder to motivate yourself if there are no consequences.
Build consequences into your work and your goals. Tell a friend or partner whose opinion you care about what you are planning to do and when.
Just this knowledge can have a huge impact on how likely you are to do what you say you will.
You can also find a community of freelancers, who will be able to keep you accountable.
4. Read a lot
There are endless books to read as a freelancer, and they can really help you to develop your mindset and confidence, and to put things into perspective.
I recommend some of my favourite books and other mindset tools in this post.
5. Compare yourself to yourself
It’s so easy in this day and age to log onto social media and beat yourself up because everyone else seems to have it all sorted out.
It’s hard, but it’s completely pointless doing this. Let yourself be inspired by others, but the only person you should compare yourself to is yourself in the past.
Aim for gradual improvement, and look back at yourself to see how you are making progress.
Seeing the progress you are making, even if it’s gradual, can really improve how you view yourself.
6. Find a community
Freelancing can be a lonely life if you let it be. Most freelancers work alone, and that can be one of the perks.
But you don’t have to be completely isolated. Mixing with others who understand the stresses and strains of freelancing, and who can keep you motivated and on-track, can be hugely beneficial.
You can give and receive help, but just being surrounded by like-minded people has a huge influence.
Look for mentors online too – there is so much amazing content available for free which can keep you motivated and inspired.
7. Enjoy the benefits
Another mistake I see freelancers making is failing to recognise the amazing arrangement they have. Freelancing can be amazing, and you can take steps to define it how you want to.
You can tell clients you don’t work weekends, or that you finish at 3pm everyday. You can tell them you are not available next week because you’re travelling, or take a break when you want to, so you can go and meet that friend, or enjoy that coffee.
Freelancing allows you to make the rules yourself. But if your mindset is wrong, you can trap yourself in unnecessary rules.
Working on your mindset will reveal the true freedom you have, and the amazing privileges that can come with being freelance in this mobile, interconnected world.
8. Know your purpose
What’s the point of life? Big question – and most people say to be happy. In reality many psychologists actually believe what humans fundamentally need is actually purpose. A reason to get out of bed, and a feeling that you are doing something that makes a difference.
Being freelance allows you to do this. You can follow your values and what you think is important.
Even if it’s not your main source of income you can work on projects and ideas that are purposeful and meaningful to you.
Following your values and interests like this will build confidence, and create the feelings of fulfilment and satisfaction that we all crave.
9. Welcome Criticism
Learning to separate criticism from a personal attack can also be a massively beneficial thing to do.
It’s human nature to take things personally, but maintaining perspective will help you to learn from experiences, and avoid confidence dips associated with criticism.
This is by no means easy to do, but remember to keep things in perspective, and accept that sometimes things won’t work out. And that’s OK.
10. Get Mindful
I’ve avoided mentioning it so far, but the one habit that you can develop that will help with all of the above, is some kind of meditation and mindfulness practice.
Again this doesn’t have to be anything supernatural or mystical. Mindfulness is essentially great practice for focussing, and being able to separate yourself from thoughts that are unhelpful.
If you’re unconvinced, spend some time researching how many of the most successful people in the world extol the virtues of mindfulness. Entrepreneur Tim Ferris says 80% of the leaders he talks to have a mindfulness practice of some kind. If they’re doing it, you probably should be too.
Also read any focus book like Hyperfocus, and a major recommendation will be some kind of meditation practice.
The benefits are scientifically proven. You will be able to focus more effectively, block out the noise, and deal with criticism and self doubt more effectively.
10 Percent Happier is a great app to get started, or something like Headspace can also be great for beginners.