The other day, a reader came to me with a challenge he had.
After landing a bunch of mediocre projects in his freelancing business, he had just landed a dream project. Great pay and fun work.
He wanted to impress the client but felt unsure if he could deliver because the project was bigger than what he was used to. To put it in his own words: ‘fuck, I hope I can deliver.’
As he laid out the details, he revealed that as he had broken down the process and every step of the project, he logically felt confident in each step but emotionally he felt overwhelmed and concerned if he was missing something.
In the end, he hadn’t missed anything. He delivered, got paid and both parties were happy.
It was simply his mind playing tricks on him. The challenge we always have when starting something new, especially if it is entrepreneurship, is that it is so difficult for us to track and see our own progress.
In reality, he is growing and improving, and this means that as he overcame this challenge he leveled up.
You simply have to complete more projects to change that feeling. It is as simple as that.
Done deal, that was easy- let’s go home.
Jokes aside. I will show you some tactics to help you solve this challenge but first, let’s remind ourselves that this is about them. Not us.
Fake it ‘til you make it?
That’s what some people will tell you. ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’.
What they typically mean is that you might still feel the uncertainness but one way to overcome it is to play along until you feel different.
Our feelings and perception of ourselves can be changed through our behavior and vice versa. Imagine a closed circuit between your body and mind.
You can change one and the other will follow automatically. We can either change how we feel about ourselves by thinking different thoughts or by changing what we do and how we act; our behavior.
Personally, I’ve found it the easiest to change my behavior and the way I feel, follow.
You could choose to look at the saying ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, as that you got lucky and you now have a fantastic opportunity to start elevating yourself to the next level.
In terms of freelance projects, I bet that as you’ve done a few more projects similar to the one you feel overwhelmed by now, they will become second nature to you and so will the money that comes with them.
Perhaps you are putting the project up on a pedestal because you feel like the money is a lot to earn out of what seems like out of thin air (the internet).
It simply changes the more you do it, so accept that this is a temporary phase you have to go through – it means you are growing as a person.
Some readers will feel the need to ‘fake it ‘til they make it’ by manipulating people. You definitely should not but it is up to you to uphold that deal with yourself.
You obviously shouldn’t lie and fake your work- not only will people figure it out but you will also destroy your reputation and trust.
Trust is the most powerful thing we have because most deals (whether freelance or otherwise) are actually done based on trust rather than credentials even though most people will not admit that they make their decisions that way.
If you find yourself in the situation that someone trusts you more than you might have expected, seize the opportunity. I encourage you to ‘just’ shut up, play along and find a way to deal with your feelings later as you figure out why they think they can trust you.
They might have seen something in you that you haven’t noticed yourself. Something you are good at, something you could become amazing at- or perhaps you just got lucky (which is pretty cool too).
You may be doing them AND yourself a disservice by not helping them. Yourself, because this is obviously a chance for you to move forward.
Them, as they are genuinely looking for help. Maybe you are not the world’s best at what you do. Not to make you feel bad but considering there are seven billion people in the world it is likely that there will always be someone who is better than us, right?
They probably know that, and prefer it that way because they might not be able to afford or even need the world’s best.
This is where understanding your clients really comes in handy. They might want someone who is great at that skill while being easy to work with, affordable and good at communicating throughout the project (you).
It is about THEM, not us.
Solutions if things go bad
If it will put you at ease, you can always overdeliver until you feel comfortable or give discounts.
Typically, you always want to overdeliver for your clients- that is giving them a bit more than they ask for whether in deliverables or in hours worked.
If you feel overwhelmed it might be easy to give the work away for free. This is a tactic you can use to help yourself overcome the creeping pressure you might feel when accepting the project.
I recommend that you don’t just give out free work (or even tell them about it!) – you don’t want to attract those kinds of clients. You will just train them to expect more and more free work and you will come to think of yourself as someone who often gives free work to your clients.
The more and more you do this the more difficult it becomes to change it. So if you give out free work now, while it is might be easy to do now it will be harder NOT to do next time (notice the downward spiral coming your way?).
However, if the client is paying you, giving some extra deliverables as a little surprise can be a great strategy to impress them and make yourself feel at ease.
The same goes for discounts. Be careful who you give them to and why but it can help you mentally to know that you can always give them a discount at the end of the project.
In the end, remember that you’ve probably worked hard already to put yourself in this situation, so trust that all you have done has been preparation for this.
You will never be ready until you jump into it.. unless you want to increase your project fee by 1% each time. And at that point, it will take forever 😉
And in the end, most likely nothing will change. Even if your client isn’t overjoyed with your work and just feels ‘so-so’, life will go on and it will be an excellent way for you to evaluate your communication process throughout the project.
The client should never be surprised about your delivery and if you have communicated clearly throughout the project while asking for feedback you will usually avoid this situation altogether.
The best way I’ve found is to simply ask for small pieces of feedback on a weekly basis. It trains the client to give feedback and once your ego becomes comfortable with it, you will learn so much faster than by reading this any other website. You’ll get real-world feedback that you can improve upon.
If you want to nudge it up even further you could catalog all the feedback you get from clients and look for patterns. Sometimes feedback is completely unjustified but if after a while you start to see a pattern, maybe you are doing (or perhaps even worse, NOT doing) something that is hurting your freelance business.
If you don’t think you need any feedback for the project, in particular, you can always expand into asking for feedback on your communication style or other things that allows you to improve upon your freelance business.
Don’t expect them to always answer and give you feedback- they might be shy or non-confrontational and they are most certainly busy.
This is about giving them the chance to do it so that you are confident there isn’t something lurking that you don’t know about. It would make no sense for them to bring it up later as you have clearly asked and they will just look stupid.
Of course, you always have to be cautious about the feedback you are getting. Are they acting emotionally and reacting to something?
In that case, it might not be constructive for you. You’ll also want to consider if this is actually something you can change – and most importantly if this is the type of client you want more of.
Especially if you are starting out, you might be pricing yourself in the lower end and attract non-ideal client which is fine in the beginning.
The challenge is that they typically think in different ways that your dream clients. The most common example is that they focus on cost above all else.
So, if you get feedback related to your price being too high you might be misled as that is true for this type of client yet they are not the client you prefer long term.
If you’ve had a bunch of clients like that it can be difficult to believe that there actually is a huge pool of other potential clients out there who love to pay a premium.
And despite what you might think, they are actually easier to work with. They usually know what happens when you pay a cheaper price.. You usually get lower quality!
So, use the opportunity to figure out what you might have missed this time around. This is just one of many projects you will have in the future if you put in the work.
You might feel imposter syndrome (it’s more common than you think)
Imposter syndrome is basically thinking you are an imposter and you somehow got lucky at something and that people will soon find out that you are not as good as they think you are.
Feeling like that might never go away and sometimes we can’t even drain it out. In some areas, it can feel like a mental muscle we can train. We only feel not good enough in certain areas but it can (partly) go away -or at least be minimized- when we practice it.