#67: How to Fight Imposter Syndrome, with Kristen Hicks

Today’s guest is Kristen Hicks. Kristen is a freelance content marketing writer in Austin, Texas. She specializes in helping B2B businesses connect with their audience through content. Her work has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs and Fast Company. She has five furry co-workers, an ever-growing book collection and a (usually) well-stocked wine rack. Kristen is here to talk about imposter syndrome. Kristen defines imposter syndrome as “worry that you’re not good enough, even when there’s not actual evidence that that’s the case and often in the face of evidence to the contrary.” For freelancers, it often takes the form of entering into client relationships with the feeling that they’re doing you a favor, rather than seeing it as a partnership between equals. Imposter syndrome can also affect a person’s comfort in charging professional rates, which leads to under charging. Early in her career, Kristen felt imposter syndrome, which showed up by feeling it was too pushy to require a contract or not pushing back against scope creep. Anyone doing creative work will have a client that doesn’t like your work at some point. That negative feedback can make you doubt yourself. Plus, people who have had toxic bosses or toxic clients may wonder if that’s normal and start to doubt themselves. Our society also raises girls and teaches women to be more docile or people pleasing. Women often have to learn how to draw boundaries and stand up for themselves. Trying to charge decent rates is made worse by seeing job ads with pitiful rates. That can deflate freelancers and make you question your self-worth if you don’t know how to find clients who pay well. When coming up with rates, aim for project rates and remember that you can negotiate down but you can’t negotiate up. When you think of setting rates think of all the freelancers in your industry. If you accept very low rates you’re teaching clients that that is OK. You are devaluing the larger market. It’s not just about you anymore. Melanie talks about her difficulties pushing back on scope creep, which feels like conflict and/or a confrontation, which makes her uncomfortable. Kristen recommends thinking about how to reframe this, because it’s about drawing boundaries for yourself. Fight against imposter syndrome, in part, by learning how to pay attention to the positive voices in your life over the negative ones. If you have 10 clients who love your work and one who doesn’t, we tend to focus more on the negative one. You have to remind yourself that those 10 people are smart, professional people and if they like your work it’s probably good work. Building a community and showing your expertise in your field will show you how people respect you as a professional. That, in turn, will help you respect yourself more. Create a “compliments” email folder where you keep all those positive responses (“great job!”) from clients and periodically look at that to boost your confidence or pull you out of imposter syndrome. Ask clients for testimonials to add to your website and LinkedIn, which is something that will help convert new clients. Any time you doubt yourself or the boundaries you’re trying to set with a client, bounce the idea off someone else. Take advantage of the freelance community and ask for others’ opinions. Or, ask a friend, “Is this reasonable?” If you get negative feedback, walk away to give yourself time to get over that initial emotion so you can look at the feedback more objectively later. Perhaps, it’s constructive criticism. Later, you can view it more reasonably, without emotion clouding your view. The pandemic may have manifested or increased imposter syndrome in some ways as people have more anxiety, have lost clients and projects, and have had to seek out new clients. There is a lot of concern and discomfort now about what to charge and if you can raise rates because of the economic crisis. If you’re worried that your work isn’t the best right now, invest in your skills. Maybe hire a consultant to help you out or sign up for courses. Also, if you can afford it, be picky when selecting clients. Make sure they’re a good fit. Don’t work with clients who are always negative or who talk down to you—that could create imposter syndrome or increase those feelings. Leave bad clients. If you can’t walk away right now because of finances, draft a marketing plan to secure better clients so you can walk away in the near future.   Biz Bite: Focus on energy management, as well as time management.   Resources: Kristen Hicks: Austin-Copywriter.com Kristen on Twitter Episode #66 of Deliberate Freelancer: How to Price Your Projects Episode #62 of Deliberate Freelancer: How to Prevent and Deal with Burnout, with Alan Heymann

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