Have you thought about this question? Or are you too busy thinking about reasons not to be confident? Do you ever experience fear of failure, imposter syndrome or general insecurity (whether personal or professional)?
If you’re a freelance editor or proofreader (in fact, a freelancer of any type), you often don’t have the same support networks as an employee working in-house. Isolation can erode your confidence and make it difficult for you to work effectively and grow your business. And it’s so easy to get stuck in a mindset where you’re focused on how your insecurity is holding you back, rather than on small steps you can take to recognise the successes you’ve achieved.
I recently attended an event called Confidence Club. The main focus was on speaking in public, both in front of a roomful of people and in one-to-one networking situations. That’s a whole different ball-game, confidence-wise! But it did make me think about the confidence we need as freelance editors and proofreaders. Where does it come from? And is there anything we can do to give it a boost?
I came to the conclusion that it is possible to find, increase and maintain your confidence, even when you’re working on your own for most of the time. And it’s not so much about stepping outside your comfort zone, as might be the case with public speaking, for example. It’s more about recognising and building on your achievements in the course of your everyday work.
1. Keeping your business going
Whether you have a small number of jobs under your belt or you’ve been freelancing for decades, the fact that you’re running your own business is a real achievement.
2. Repeat business
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when a client comes back for more. (“Yay! They were happy with my work!”)
3. Communication methods
If you’re mainly communicating electronically, rather than on the phone or face to face, it’s less likely you’ll be put on the spot. You have time to plan your marketing messages, your emails and your social media output in a way that demonstrates confidence to your clients.
Comments from clients can give you a boost. And remember, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for testimonials.
5. Getting paid
There’s nothing quite like the (virtual) sound of cash hitting your bank account for a job you’ve done. It gives you confidence that you really are running a proper business.
6. Technical knowledge
Confidence comes from having the right professional skills for editing and proofreading – and from knowing where to find things out if you’re unsure.
7. Using tools efficiently
Finding a new software tool or using a new technique can be very satisfying. For a start, you’ve had the confidence to try something different, and it’s even better if you’ve also improved your efficiency.
8. Work/life balance
Although in some ways it’s great to be inundated with work, it isn’t sustainable in the long term. And having too little work can be just as much of a problem. If you can find an appropriate balance between work and life – whatever’s right for your situation – you can count that as a success and feel confident that you’re in control.
Being in touch with fellow professionals – whether online or in person – can help you to gain confidence in your business decisions and technical skills. Whether it’s sharing experiences (positive and negative), asking for advice, or even working together on joint projects, professional colleagues have a lot to offer.
10. Win Jar
Some freelancers have embraced the idea of a Win Jar. It’s a place (actually, a jar!) where you can record your successes and positive feedback on pieces of paper and revisit them when you need a pick-me-up. However small the win, write it down and put it in the jar.
So there we have it – 10 things that can give you confidence as a freelance editor and proofreader without you having to step too far outside your comfort zone.
You can help some of them along: for example, joining the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is a great way to increase your knowledge (No. 5) and develop connections with others in the editing and proofreading sphere (No. 9).
Some of these confidence boosters will evolve over time as you pursue your freelance business (Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 7, for instance). Your task is to notice and appreciate them as successes.
And for No. 10 you’ll need to develop a new, positive habit – that of recording your wins. It’s also an excuse for a shopping trip to buy yourself a funky jar. Retail therapy, anyone?