Leaving Work Behind

3 Signs of Impostor Syndrome for Freelance Writers (And How to Fight Them)

Written by Anne Dorko on September 26, 2017. 0 Comments

Lady in an owl maskImpostor syndrome tells us we’re not qualified to do work we are actually very qualified to do. This can prevent you from forward in your freelance writing careers and being paid what you’re worth.

By learning a few of the signs of impostor syndrome, you’ll recognize it when you see it. Understanding and acknowledging the problem is the first step! Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can take measured steps to combat the situation and allow yourself to reach your full potential as a freelance writer.

In this article, I’ll introduce you to three signs impostor syndrome, along with ways to combat each one. By the end, you should feel much more confident about pushing forward in your freelance writing career. Let’s get started!

1. You Think Only Experts Can Be Writers

If you’re avoiding taking the leap to becoming a freelance writer because you’re not a good enough writer or aren’t already an expert on a topic, this goes out to you!

You don’t need to be an expert at anything to start your freelance career. Worst case scenario, you simply need to know more about something than other people do. Whether you believe it or not, you have topics that fall in that jurisdiction.

There are only a handful of actual experts out there, but the truth is none of us are experts at everything. If you wait to apply for freelancing jobs until you feel like an expert, you might as well admit you’re never going to go for it at all.

How to Stop Procrastinating and Gain Experience

Carrie Fisher portrait

Carrie Fisher

One of my personal favorite quotes is by Carrie Fisher. She says, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway.” I love this because it’s a powerful reminder you’re likely never going to feel ready or completely prepared ahead of time.

Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Focus on what you do know. Build up your research skills so you can fill in the blanks wherever they may pop up. Don’t say you have credentials you don’t have, of course, but focus on the positives at your disposal.

Here are a few things to keep in mind so you’ll quit procrastinating and finally apply for writing gigs:

  1. Remember, everything is about perspective! There are topics on which you know more than others. In their eyes, you already are an expert.
  2. If you aren’t lying about your knowledge and experience, you aren’t faking your way through. It’s as simple as that.
  3. You’re never going to feel like you’ve reached 100% expert status, so if you’re serious about becoming a writer you need to start now.

It’s okay to feel inadequate and scared of rejection, but don’t let it stop you from moving forward. Don’t be your own blockade to success! Give yourself a chance and take action.

2. You Discount Your Experiences and Successes

No matter how many projects you have under your belt or how successful you are, impostor syndrome makes you feel like they count for nothing. This sounds a lot like…

“I’m only successful because I was given opportunities that others weren’t, my skill and effort counts for nothing.”

“My experience is nothing in comparison to other writers.”

“I don’t deserve to get more chances.”

In your work, you may find yourself:

By second guessing yourself and over-researching, you’ll spend a lot of time that could be more effectively spent elsewhere. Editing and research are both good, but be sure you’re not trying to compensate for issues that don’t exist. You risk losing time and money to both of these habits when gone unchecked!

How to Take Ownership of Your Progress

Take a deep breath – you’ve got this. First, remember you have the skills to nail the work. Your experience counts. You’ve earned every bit of it with your sweat and tears. If you can take responsibility for your failure, then shouldn’t you be brave enough to stand behind your achievements?

Next time when you are feeling low on confidence, try to:

  1. Write down five recent successes you have. It doesn’t matter how big or small they were. This exercise will help you recognize how your effort helped you reach them.
  2. Stop comparing your experiences to others. Life is yours to experience, and you only need to be focus on becoming your best self, rather than a duplicate of someone else. Your work and experience is unique to you.

Confidence is one of the key attributes to success as a freelance writer, don’t lose it!

3. You Frequently Pass Up Great Opportunities

The third (and perhaps most significant!) symptom of impostor syndrome is consistently refraining from sending a proposal to promising gigs. At this point, you’ve probably gotten a foot in the door with low-paying jobs, but feel afraid to raise your rates or are terrified of applying for the positions you’d really like.

Impostor syndrome makes you afraid of being ‘discovered’ as the fraud that you are. It tells you that you can only apply for jobs where you are a completely perfect fit. Only, you’re not actually a fraud, and you’ll never find out whether you were a good fit if you don’t apply.

Denying yourself the job before anyone else can holds you back from meeting great clients and takes away your chance to experience something new. You might think you’re waiting for the perfect job opportunity. To that I gently remind you that life is short, and too much of it is already spent waiting.

How to Overcome the Feeling of Being a Fraud

You are not alone in this. Google Trends indicates impostor syndrome is becoming more well-known and researched. Even talented writers like famous American author and poet Maya Angelou or marketing expert Seth Godin question their successes.

Here are a few practical ways to move past the feeling of being a fraud:

Knowing these signs of impostor syndrome will help you actively combat it in your work.


Impostor syndrome is a huge problem that holds freelance writers back from reaching their full potential. Learning to recognize the signs and deal with them appropriately will help you go the distance.

To review, you learned that three major signs of impostor syndrome are:

  1. You think you already need to be an expert.
  2. Meanwhile, you’re constantly discounting your experiences and successes.
  3. Finally, you frequently pass up great opportunities.

Do you think you’re dealing with impostor syndrome? Let’s talk it out in the comments section below!

Image Credits:Emma BackerRiccardo Ghilardi

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