Freelance Files: Failure

Freelance Failure

So, I’ve been gone for a while, and I’m finally ready to step back out. I debated on whether or not I should post this, because I am the type of person who hates showing weakness and vulnerability. Wow, how intense do I sound by saying that?

I had a conversation recently with my good friend Neha, about how it would be great to show a darker side of freelancing. You’re probably thinking, what darker side? Well, there are so many AMAZING blogs out there that I read, that are written by some amazing designers, developers, and businesswomen. Most of them have wildly successful businesses because they are talented, organized, and determined. And then…there’s those of us who have yet to reach our full potential. How often do you read about a freelancer’s failures? Probably not very often. The pitfalls are usually something people share after they have “made it.” Nothing wrong with that at all–because most people really don’t want to hear a sob story–they generally want to be uplifted and inspired.

I haven’t been writing this blog for very long, but I think it’s safe to say that I’m a pretty positive and open person. I think it’s okay to share some fails, mistakes, and faults every now and then. Maybe what I share can help someone else. Maybe someone will learn from my mistakes. Maybe in a couple of years I can look back and say, wow, I’ve come a long way.

I wanted to talk about failure in this post as sort of a way to repent. The last few months have been so rough for me, dealing with my own personal issues. I’ve been up and down. I’ve had great news and bad news. I’ve had yays and I’ve had nays. But, I think it’s safe to say the last 3 months or so have been one big fail.

Here are some of the things I’ve failed at:

Facing your fears
I have a fear of failure. I have a fear of disappointing people. Honestly, I also have a fear of success. Most of you know that as a freelancer, you CANNOT be afraid. You have to have the courage to network, accept criticism, and venture out on your own to be your own boss. You cannot be afraid to try, fail, and then get back up again. And most of all, you cannot be afraid of success–otherwise how will you get anywhere? I know, this sounds stupid. DUH, right? How can you pray for success and then sabotage it when it comes to you? Apparently it’s pretty common.

Doing work that you truly love
I’m guilty of taking on work that I didn’t really want to take on, and making promises to do things that I really didn’t want to do, which is not the best way to go. I can understand taking on a few projects that may not be as glamorous as I’d like, but if it’s something I am not interested in doing I shouldn’t force myself to do it.

Learning how and when to say no
This goes right along with the above. To be a freelancer, you HAVE TO say no to some things. You can’t be everything and you can’t do everything.

Getting paid what you truly deserve
This is a big one. I’ve done a few projects for free or dirt cheap, and let me just say that I regret it 100%. I don’t recommend it to anyone. I’m not saying you should charge an arm and a leg, but I feel like you should have enough confidence in your work to at least be happy with what you charge. If you work for cheap and you’re happy with that, more power to you. If your prices are super high and you (and your clients) are ok with that, more power to you, too! It’s all about perspective. Whatever you choose, you have to make sure you are confident in that decision. I think people can tell when you’re not sure of yourself.

Getting organized
I’ve come a LONG way, but I still have a long way to go. This includes decluttering my email, workspace, living space, and my life in general. I can think so much clearer and work so much better when everything is organized properly.

Accepting things for how they are
I’ve hit a few brick walls by trying to make something happen that that just isn’t ready to happen, or by trying to be something I’m not.

Giving yourself some time
I recently tried to complete a project so much faster than was realistically possible. Was it because I was trying to cram in several clients at once? No way. It was because I was so desperate to provide fast service and prove that I was worth it. Because of my insecurity, I ended up with “over-promise and under-deliver”–a BIG no-no in business. I recently read an article about how being busy is not always better. I understand this now.

I also feel like I’m not giving myself enough time for success. I’m so hard on myself–I set a goal and I expect to reach it ASAP. But some things take more time.

Finding your own way
I think most of us are guilty of paying too close attention to what others are doing. Sometimes you pay such close attention to someone else that you start to lose yourself. Am I good enough? Why haven’t I reached that level of success? This is so counterproductive.

Choosing a niche
I’ve been so reluctant to choose a path. I’m still on my journey to leave my job and freelance full-time, so I feel like I need to cast a wide net to line up clients. This has resulted in me aimlessly searching for clients. Choosing a niche forces you to create a plan, and a plan is something I definitely need.

Staying consistent
I’ve been so up and down emotionally and mentally that I haven’t stayed consistent with things that I normally work on. I’ve been so distracted by all of the wrong things.

Providing the best possible customer service experience to clients
Guilty. But 2014 is a new year and I’m determined to do better.

Staying healthy
I’ve been super exhausted from working way too hard. I’ve also let my exercise and eating habits suffer. Needless to say, this takes a toll.

Opening up
I’ve been working on this one for such a long time and I’m still trying to get it down. Everything, from going to networking events, to reaching out to others, to getting more personal on my blog and in social media. It’s all important to my craft and my business and I need to make more of an effort.

Focusing less on the numbers
I’m still on my journey to leave my job and freelance full-time, so I’ve been really focused on the numbers. How much I need to make, how much I need to charge, bills, number of clients, etc. This is all good, but I focused so hard on it that I missed the point of what I was trying to do. I forgot why I wanted to do it in the first place.

Never giving up
After going through all of this, it made me want to quit. I felt like I may not be cut out for freelancing. But, I am cut out for it. I was just making mistakes that needed to be corrected.

Wow, that is such a long list! But, it feels good to finally get it all off my chest.

Sometimes we reach our goals, and sometimes we don’t. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up. Yes, things have been rough for me, but I feel like I can turn it all around with a simple change of perspective.

I wasn’t around to post my 2014 goals and resolutions, but now I’d like to say that my goal is to change this from a list of failures into a list of successes.


  1. says

    I don’t know if you remember me or not but we came across eachothers blogs awhile back via the texas women’s blogger group.

    I also do freelance design and I couldn’t agree with you more on everything you’ve said!! There are so many ups and downs and I too have a fear of failure and pleasing people to an absolute fault where I make myself sick with worry and exhaustion. The only thing I think to say is that “You can’t make everyone happy”. You will have clients that you can’t please or that things go south with. It just happens and its great learning experience and you have to move on.. (easier said than done. I still dwell on it!)

    I’m also guilty of undercharging, especially when I was first starting out. I was just happy to have a client. And then 80 hours later, I end up making like $4 an hourly roughly. Not fun for anyone so I get ya!

    At least your not giving up and you have a positive attitude! I can’t wait to see where you go!

    • Tanea says

      Yes, of course I remember!

      Thanks so much for the support. I’m NOT that glad you’re going through some of the same things, because I know it sucks, but I’m at least glad you can relate. And same to you! I know you will go far! :)

  2. says

    I think it’s great that you’re talking about failure! Blogs are supposed to show people parts of our lives and failure is unfortunately a part of that! I like to keep my blog positive and open too, but sometimes it’s more honest to show the negativity as well! I don’t think this blog post is negative however, I think it’s realistic and hopeful! You can do it — you’ll reach your goals!

  3. says

    Tanea, it takes true courage to share these things! We will always learn from experience about the things that work and don’t work for our businesses. It’s hard to talk about what doesn’t go right, especially as bloggers.

  4. Neha says

    This is so great, Tanea. I’m so proud of you!! It’s hard to open up about the downs because everyone focuses on the ups and pretends the downs don’t exist. It’s so important to remember that they just help you learn and grow into being a better business woman and that everything takes time, practice, and experience.

    You can do this! Freelancer, here you come!!

    Neha :)

  5. says

    A lot of people don’t really celebrate failures at all, but I personally think they should be celebrated as much as the successes, or at least half as much, because they mean a lot, too — and failures can really knock people off their feet because of the negativity that accompanies failure itself.

    I think what I suffer with the most on this list is the payment one — I’ve done so many projects for free, even when I couldn’t afford to do so, and most of the time the client ended up not wanting it at ALL. It was so frustrating.

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