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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome As A Freelance Copywriter — Connecting The Dots

This article is part of a series called Connecting The Dots, whereby I reach out to experts to discuss a topic of their choice and inspire others.


The first instalment of this series comes from Sarah Jones, a freelance copywriter based in Manchester. Sarah discusses her battle with Imposter Syndrome and shares her tips for other copywriters on how to overcome it.



For a long time, I wasn’t fully aware of what Imposter Syndrome was. I’d heard the term being thrown around by pop psychology commentators, but I hadn’t really gotten to grips with the concept of it.


As someone that’s dealt with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) since their teens, feelings of self-doubt aren’t exactly new to me. My anxiety can manifest in a way that can convince me that I’m not good enough, and it’s something that I’ve had to tackle a LOT throughout my career.


So what’s so different about Imposter Syndrome?



Imposter Syndrome vs anxiety


The Oxford Dictionary describes Imposter Syndrome as “the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.”


And most interestingly, there’s a second description of this:


“People suffering from Impostor Syndrome may be at increased risk of anxiety".


So naturally, I’m a bit stumped. Do I actually have Imposter Syndrome, or is it my anxiety kicking in again?


If I’m being honest, I think it might be a mix of both.


I stress and worry more than most, but since I started my freelance copywriting business in 2020, my anxiety has shifted. There have been times when I’ve felt uneasy about my skillset, and I’ve repeatedly wondered whether my successes have actually been deserved.


As time has gone on, I’ve come to realise that this is something particularly prevalent in the freelance copywriting world. And there’s a big reason why.




Destructive mindset


Freelance copywriters are susceptible to feelings of self-doubt because most of us work alone.

While we can set our schedule and have the freedom to choose how and when we work, I find that I can still spend a lot of time filling my head with nonsense.


When I get ghosted by a prospective client, I tell myself it’s because I’m a bit rubbish at what I do. If I don’t get feedback from a client, I tell myself it’s because I’m not worthy of a response. Or if things go magnificently and I’m smashing high-profile projects, I’m secretly terrified that everyone’s going to find out that I’m a massive fraud.


I know that everyone’s experiences of Imposter Syndrome (or what we suspect is Imposter Syndrome) will be slightly different. And I think my GAD definitely plays its part in fuelling these feelings.


But the fact that freelance copywriters don’t have a team to support them means we can get caught up in this destructive mindset more frequently, which can impact our career progress.




Coming through the other side


While there are tons of “how to overcome Imposter Syndrome” guides online, I feel like a lot of them are fairly reductive. They imply that you can easily overcome feelings of inadequacy in a few simple steps, which isn’t always the case – especially if you already have an anxiety disorder.


That said, I've come across some simple techniques that I've used to tackle my anxiety during my freelance copywriting journey.




Build relationships with other freelancers


When I first started out, I made the mistake of thinking other freelance copywriters were my competition. How very wrong I was. These were people that I needed to form a community with to share experiences and frustrations.


I know Twitter isn’t what it was, but this is probably my favourite platform to connect with other freelance copywriters. It’s fun, refreshingly honest, and a massive help if you’re starting out.


If you don’t fancy jumping on Elon Musk’s sinking ship, try LinkedIn instead. There might be a bit more preening to navigate, but there are still good people out there.


It’s also helpful to look out for business groups in your local area. If you happen to be in the North West like me, I’d recommend The Northern Affinity, as it’s packed full of supportive creatives.




Relinquish your hold on perfectionism


While perfectionism can help us deliver high-quality work for clients, it can also mean we get caught up in tiny details that don’t actually bring anything to the table.


To give an example — I recently spent an extra 45 minutes tweaking synonyms in an article. Did it actually add any extra value? No, it absolutely did not.


This is why it’s really important to evaluate the cost and time of making tiny amendments to client copy. Ask yourself whether you’re actually maximising the impact of your work and using your time in the best way possible.




Reflect on your progress


If I see my pieces performing well, I pop them in a “Achievements” file that showcases work I’m particularly proud of. I take a look at this file when my feelings of self-doubt kick in, as it really does help me take stock of the things I’ve accomplished.



It’s particularly useful after suffering a setback, as this tends to be the time our brains try and make us feel bad.


If you find yourself trapped in that feeling of not being good enough, try to look back at how far you’ve come since you started out. How much you’ve learnt. How much you’ve grown, professionally and personally. And that you’re still earning money in a world cursed with ChatGPT.




The bottom line


Imposter Syndrome is a pain. Combine that with anxiety, and you end up with a cocktail of stress and worry. But that doesn't mean you can't combat these feelings — because you can.


No matter how much our brains might distort things, our motivations, skills and ambitions will always outweigh our fears - even if we don’t feel like that’s the case. We continue to freelance because we love it. And we earn a living from writing because we’re GOOD at it.


So sometimes, it’s just better to tell our brains to shut up. Tell it that you’re great. And have faith that you’re actually doing far better than you think

.

If you want to reach out to fellow freelancers but don’t quite know where to start, drop me a line on LinkedIn. It’s always good to connect with like-minded people to share experiences with.


Sarah Catherine Jones

Sarah Catherine Copywriting

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