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The Freelancer’s Guide to Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

May 31, 2023
(updated: May 23, 2023)
Max 5 min read

Most of us have felt self-doubt and unworthiness at some point in our lives. However, if your achievements are the product of your own knowledge, hard work, and planning and you still feel inadequate, you are most likely suffering from imposter syndrome. 

Here at Indy, we want to support freelancers. This guide aims to help freelancers effectively deal with imposter syndrome and regain confidence in their work goals. We'll cover what exactly imposter syndrome is, the signs, and how to combat imposter syndrome and build self-confidence and resilience.

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Researchers discovered that up to 82% of people, including freelancers, have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. However, the fact that it is prevalent does not make it any less destructive to a person's self-esteem and professional advancement.

Imposter syndrome is characterized by anxiety and a lack of internal success despite great performance in external, objective measures. People with this syndrome frequently feel like "frauds" or "phonies," and they often distrust their own abilities.

Imposter syndrome occurs when a person does not feel confident or competent, regardless of their accomplishments. They never feel the thrill of achievement because they are constantly on the lookout for signs of weakness and insincerity.

Common symptoms of imposter syndrome include:

  • Any success can be attributed to chance or other factors.
  • Fear of being labeled a failure.
  • Feeling as if overworking is the only way to fulfill deadlines.
  • Feeling undeserving of love or attention.
  • Downplaying one's achievements.
  • Refusing to achieve attainable goals.

Imposter syndrome can cause feelings of anger, embarrassment, despair, and a lack of self-esteem. Imposter syndrome has a significant influence on people's relationships, career, and job and life fulfillment if it is not addressed. Trait anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and social anxiety disorder are all commonly related with imposter syndrome.

What are the different types of imposter syndrome?

The Perfectionist: This imposter syndrome is the belief that, unless you were completely flawless, you could have done better. You feel like an impostor because your perfectionistic tendencies lead you to believe that you aren't as good as others believe you are.

The Expert: Because they don't know everything there is to know about a certain subject or issue, or they haven't mastered every step in a process, the expert feels more like a fraud or an impostor. They do not consider themselves to be "experts" because they still have much to learn.

Natural Genius: You may feel like an impostor or a phony if you have this sort of imposter syndrome because you do not believe you are inherently educated or competent. You feel like an impostor if you don't do something perfect the first time or it takes you longer to acquire a talent.

The Soloist: It's also easy to feel like a fraud or an impostor if you have to rely on others for assistance to achieve a specific degree or position. You doubt your skills or ability since you couldn't get there on your own.

The Superperson: This imposter syndrome is the belief that you must be the hardest worker or attain the highest levels of performance imaginable and that if you do not, you are a phony.

Imposter syndrome and freelancers

Imposter syndrome will affect the majority of freelancers at some time in their careers. Freelancing is an ideal option for people looking for a flexible and liberating profession, but without the support that normal employment gives, it's easy to doubt yourself and your abilities. As a result, freelancers are especially vulnerable to imposter syndrome.

As a freelancer, you are responsible for all of the day-to-day responsibilities of running your business—from producing services and products, to distribution and administrative activities. When imposter syndrome affects your ability to complete tasks, as a result of self-doubt and feelings of incompetence, lack of support offered in traditional employment can result in detrimental effects on your career.

Imposter syndrome frequently causes freelancers to overwork in order to establish their worth. Unfortunately, doing so might lead to burnout and feeling overwhelmed by business tasks. 

Recognizing Imposter Syndrome in Yourself

We frequently ignore imposter syndrome symptoms that arise in our daily lives. Recognizing these signs, on the other hand, is the first step toward conquering them.

You may have imposter syndrome if:

  • You feel like you "got lucky" when you actually worked hard and prepared properly.
  • You have a difficult time accepting compliments.
  • You hold yourself to very—and often absurdly—high standards.
  • The fear of failure paralyzes you.
  • You avoid showing confidence because you believe it would be perceived as overbearing or unpleasant.
  • You're persuaded that you're insufficient.
  • People close to you claim you're not as self-assured as you once were.
  • You pass up possibilities for advancement or exposure at work.

If you're wondering if you have impostor syndrome, consider the following questions:

  1. Do you agonize over little errors or shortcomings in your work?
  2. Do you credit your achievement to chance or to external factors?
  3. Are you open to constructive criticism as well?
  4. Do you worry that you'll be discovered as a liar?
  5. Do you minimize your own skills, even though you are clearly superior to others?

Pay attention to your language choices, both when speaking to others and while speaking to oneself, especially when discussing work. If your personal achievement or the praise you receive from others makes you uncomfortable, think about where those thoughts originated from and what they signify in your professional and personal life.

Real-life examples of freelancers who have experienced imposter syndrome

  1. "I was, once upon a time, working for a popular television outlet albeit as a lowly junior freelance writer. I heard that there was to be a big party to launch a brand new show with a young rising star. More importantly there would be lots of free food and drinks. Trust me, to a young struggling freelancer, it was the availability of free food and drinks that made me decide to attend. So I went along to a fancy hotel ballroom and was granted admission. As I surveyed the crowded room I was immediately panicked. Everyone seemed at ease and comfortably chatting, laughing and boasting loudly about their work. I didn’t know anyone and I felt a complete fraud. What right did I have to be there? It was, looking back on it, my worst experience in which I felt the extreme depths of depression and despair caused by 'imposter syndrome.'" – The Born Freelancer, StoryBoard.
  2. "Imposter syndrome caused me to turn down opportunities. It created problems in some professional relationships because my anxiety would make me seem defensive or arrogant. For years I accepted ridiculously low rates. Even with the high-quality content I produce, I fear that I’m not enough and everyone else knows things that I don’t. When it’s time to show up on social media, I freeze. Everyone has so much to say and I struggle to find my voice. I sometimes delay following up with people even if they expressed a clear interest to work with me. When I need to negotiate rates, anxiety chokes me and I end up accepting lower prices than I deserve. Fear of success has definitely been a bigger obstacle for me than fear of failure." – Johanna McWeeney – Copy and Content Writer.
  3. "Impostor syndrome never felt real. I always thought that people with low self-esteem hide behind this term. Fast forward to April 2021 when a founder of a mental health website reached out to me for content. I thought, 'this is gonna be easy to knock out of the park'. But the moment she agreed to my rates, imposter syndrome snuck in and I doubted my ability to deliver on my promise. The next day, I reached out and asked my client 'what if I cannot deliver?' She calmly replied, 'Let's start with half the rate you quoted and see if it works.' I agreed! It’s been 15 days and the results are great. But on the downside, I only received half my rate. I did not take up another project in the past 18 days because I wanted to concentrate on this one but it’s a missed opportunity to get more leads in the pipeline." – Shruti Agarwal – Copywriter for SaaS and Mental Health

Addressing the Root Causes and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

There are several root causes of imposter syndrome. Below we've listed some of the common causes, strategies and tips for overcoming them.

Overcoming self-doubt

Impostor syndrome frequently expresses itself as a voice in our minds, berating us with negative messages like "you're an imposter." Negative self-talk is an awful habit that may have a big impact on our stress and anxiety levels.

Be nice to yourself by changing the way you think about yourself and adopting positive self-talk. It can not only help you become less worried and nervous, but it can also help you have the same self-compassion and courage to accomplish things that will offer you larger benefits.

Begin by attempting to catch yourself anytime you have a negative thought. Then, turn around and refute your own assertion.

Managing perfectionism

Because there is so much competition and you don't want to lose clients, you may feel obligated to overdeliver while freelancing. As a result, you obsess over every minor detail in order to ensure everything is perfect. Yes, such determination may help you succeed—but it can also harm you if carried too far.

Striving for perfection isn't always a negative thing. However, perfectionism is typically accompanied by the concern that things may not go precisely as planned, which is unavoidable when you take on new tasks and engage with new clientele. In actuality, there are numerous factors beyond your control, such as a customer delaying payment and ceasing communication with you, or software malfunction delaying your work. 

Here are some effects of perfectionism on freelancers:

  1. It can impede innovation – You may spend a significant amount of time contemplating new business ideas. However, your need for perfection causes the majority of these ideas to be discarded because they appear to be insufficiently flawless. Perfectionism might cause you to miss out on potentially useful ideas.
  2. It can cause procrastination – Perfectionists frequently procrastinate on their task, waiting for the ideal opportunity to begin. This might cause your job to be delayed or unfinished.
  3. It undermines your worth – Even if a job is finished to the client's satisfaction, you will be haunted with the guilt that things might have been done better. As a result, you find yourself charging far less than your true worth and passing up high-profile jobs even if you possess the essential expertise.

There are a few things you can do if you are a perfectionist and wish to decrease some of the negative effects it has on your life. Among the strategies that can help you overcome perfectionism are:

  • Making a setting in which you feel accepted.
  • Practicing positive self-talk.
  • Avoiding comparisons with others.
  • Practicing mindfulness can help you learn to focus on the present moment rather than the past or future.
  • Using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches such as addressing negative ideas.

Because individuals with perfectionism are typically quite critical of themselves, replacing self-critical or perfectionistic beliefs with more realistic and helpful comments is one of the most effective approaches to overcome perfectionism. It is a good idea to use these helpful phrases on a frequent basis. Even if you don't believe them right away, repeated positive realistic ideas will become a habit. 

Here are a few examples of positive realistic statements:

  • "Nobody is perfect!"
  • "All I can do is my absolute best!"
  • "Making a mistake does not imply that I am stupid or a failure. It just implies that I am human, like everyone else. Everyone makes errors!"
  • "It's alright to not always be polite. Everyone has a bad day now and again."

Dealing with comparison and competition

When you compare yourself to others in a social setting, you will discover some flaw in yourself that feeds the sensation of not being good enough or belonging. Instead, concentrate on what the other person is saying.

We know that excessive social media use is associated with feelings of inadequacy. If you try to project an image on social media that isn't true to who you are or is hard to accomplish, it will just exacerbate your negative thoughts of being a "phony."

Remember, you are not alone. When you have to overcome imposter syndrome yourself, one of the most essential sources of encouragement is realizing how many incredibly successful individuals, both male and female, have developed wonderful careers despite dealing with it on a regular basis.

Celebrating successes and acknowledging achievements

Any milestone, big or small, is a success! It's easy to downgrade these achievements with imposter syndrome, but the most important step is to recognize your abilities and celebrate any and all accomplished goals.

If you have long held views about your inadequacy in social and performance circumstances, make a realistic appraisal of your talents.

There are several methods for tracking these accomplishments, and the metrics you employ will be totally dependent on your profession. If you're a blogger, you may keep track of your posts' monthly average page views and compare them to the team average. You may also have a separate tab where you can insert positive feedback from people who have written to you via email, Twitter, blog comments, and so on.

Seeking validation and feedback

When in doubt, look for evidence of your uniqueness, ability, and qualifications. If necessary, draw on previous experience or comments from others. That way, if you suspect that others think you're unqualified or inept, you may back up your suspicions with real facts. And, if there is proof, consider how you may change the circumstances within your control.

To proactively seek feedback from clients, you can check any reviews, or additionally, follow up with a previous client to check if they were satisfied with your product or service. As noted above, don't stress if you receive any negative feedback—that's common in any industry—work from the feedback and consider how you can implement any changes within your control.

For example, if a client's feedback reflects on the work itself (such as an article was too short), think to yourself "making a mistake doesn't imply I am a failure—I can work from this feedback in future projects." However, if negative feedback is a result of circumstances out of your control (such as a software malfunction resulting in a late delivery), then think to yourself "I did my best, but not everything turns out as expected."

Building a network of like-minded freelancers

Because freelancers do not have office coworkers, they must work harder to create a community around them. Although they may meet individuals as part of their job, these encounters may be irregular and fleeting. Particularly if the freelancer works on monthly tasks. Fostering a supportive network and collaboration among other freelancers can help with dealing with imposter syndrome and understanding you are not alone.

Freelance communities may take numerous forms, from virtual networks to coworking places. In a full-time work setting, a worker creates a community of colleagues for guidance, companionship, cooperation, socializing, knowledge, and training. Freelancers can choose from several community forms to fill each of these gaps.

Coworking spaces can establish an office-like setting where freelancers can grow their networks and meet other professionals. Private virtual networks between freelancers and employers (or solely freelancers) might promote teamwork and creativity. Closed Facebook groups can be used to unwind and discuss the day's events. Freelancer collectives can be formed to complete specific projects or to make a freelancer feel like they are a part of something.

To combat impostor syndrome, consider actively strengthening your hard and soft skills. That way, if that tiny voice in your brain tells you that you're not good enough at anything, you can respond by saying that you're working on it.

Finding a mentor is a fantastic method to do this. Look for someone in your organization or sector who can provide you with practical guidance and help. This might be a senior executive or a leader at another organization that you like.

Seeking Professional Help When Needed

A therapist can assist you in recognizing symptoms related to impostor syndrome and developing new behaviors to overcome them. It's about not becoming caught in the mindset of imposter feelings and negative emotions of 'I can't do this,' but rather taking action and moving forward to overcome impostor syndrome.

Self-doubt can be crippling. However, now that you understand how to recognize and deal with these sentiments, you may make attempts to move ahead rather than becoming trapped in the impostor cycle.

There are several options to reach out to a professional, including:

  • Local therapists
  • Online therapy programs—some of the best therapy platforms include:
  1. BetterHelp
  2. Regain
  3. Talkspace
  4. Talkiatry
  5. Brightside

The best option is to research different therapists and therapy platforms to find the one best suited for you. Some professionals have experience supporting causes of imposter syndrome, such as perfectionism and self confidence—most therapists and platforms list their expertise to help support you in finding the right one!

Embracing a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset means that you thrive on challenge and consider failure as a springboard for progress and strengthening your talents, rather than as a method to define yourself. Simply defined, this mentality implies that you trust in your own competence and potential to improve via hard effort and the assistance of others.

Some benefits of a growth mindset include:

  • Consider obstacles to be opportunities for progress.
  • Limit your talents and abilities no longer.
  • Increase your professional success.
  • Receptive to criticism.
  • Change no longer concerns.

Here are three ways to develop a growth mindset:

  • Accept that you have a choice – You recognize the inner voice advising you not to attempt something in order to shield yourself from failure.
  • Practice – Put yourself in challenging situations to help you practice your new voice.
  • Change the term "failing" to "learning" – You'll stop being nervous of failure once you realize it's just a new method for learning. Accepting failure as a chance to continue learning and improving can help you comprehend what a growth mindset is all about.

How Indy Can Help 

Imposter syndrome can be challenging and often leaves you feeling overwhelmed by tasks—whether that's down to procrastination or agonizing over shortcomings and minor errors. Thankfully, Indy is here to help! With our tasks tool, you can keep track of all of your business tasks, set reminders, and link them to your Indy calendar (which also connects to Google Calendar). Keeping a record of your achievements (which should be celebrated!) has never been easier. 

There are several ways Indy can help with the day-to-day running of your business, helping you rebuild your self-assurance: 

  • Our Time Tracker tracks your hours for you. If you are billing customers based on hourly rate, Indy's time tracking widget shows you how many hours have been billed, or still need to be billed, and can be filtered to your projects for easy timekeeping.
  • Invoices can be created and sent in minutes with our free invoicing tool. You can review your prior invoices and create new ones through your dashboard. Simply follow the step-by-step instructions, enter the required information, and send it straight to your client through Indy.
  • You can also explore our articles and courses, that help freelances overcome everyday struggles. There is even a course about Mental Health for Freelancers.

With Indy, you can manage all of your business tasks, keep track of your time, and safely store important files all in one place! Sign up today and try for yourself.


There are several types of imposter syndrome, and it affects the majority of freelancers at some point in their careers. Imposter syndrome can affect your ability to complete tasks, as a result of self-doubt and feelings of incompetence, and can have a detrimental effect on your career as a freelancer. It can cause you to overwork in order to establish worth, resulting in burnout and feeling overwhelmed by business tasks. 

Remember, you are not alone; 82% of people suffer from imposter syndrome. By implementing the strategies discussed above, you can embrace a growth mindset and stop undermining your worth—professionally and socially!

If you are considering joining a network of freelancers for additional support and guidance, check out our article Top 5 Freelance Groups on Facebook You Need to Know About

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