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Is it natural to doubt yourself?

(8 Posts)
loveisagirlnameddaisy Mon 02-Nov-15 21:02:03

I've recently started a small consultancy business having been employed, a contractor, then freelance, then employed again. I have spent today feeling really low following a call with a client which felt a bit tricky (I've just produced a strategy document for him and he seems to be humming and ahhing over what I've done, although that could be my negative spin on things).

It started a chain of thought that has lasted most of the day, thinking back over the last decade to situations where clients have taken me on for work which in theory could have been long-term, only for it to last for a shorter length of time. And now I'm wondering if I'm less able than I think and a bit crap at my job!

How much of this is natural anxiety and self-doubt, and how much might be true? Or how much is it a case of 'that's the way the world works' and there will always be some clients that don't turn out as you might have hoped. Obviously, there's been plenty of successful work along the way as well.

I've always been given believable explanations about why projects have come to an end, and I definitely overthink things in other aspects of my life. I guess I'm posting for some moral support from fellow self-employed people.

loveisagirlnameddaisy Tue 03-Nov-15 07:58:26


MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 03-Nov-15 22:20:56

Have a flowers firstly. It is rubbish when you have a difficult day and you are sat alone with your thoughts torturing yourself.

It is difficult to know if it is you or them from your post...what is your instinct saying with this current client?

I think one of the most difficult things about freelancing is the fact your clients (and the work you are doing for them) generally matter much more to you than you do to them. It is likely your strategy doc is one of 100 other things he is thinking about/working on. But as you have worked hard on it, it is difficult to receive negative/unsure feedback.

And a wise poster on here Wilson once commented that clients always over estimate how much work there is likely to be....and I have found that. So projects not panning out, could well be them not you.

Twice client's have decided to employ someone instead of me sad

Can you try to 'consult' for yourself and try to think objectively about your current client/project:

- Was he clear what he wanted?
- Did you clarify what was to be done?
- Have you delivered to brief?

As a perfectionist (not something I am proud of, but aware of) I find the idea of not delivering a perfect report/strategy difficult. So I know how you are feeling.

I also feel as they are paying me, I ought to get everything right each time. However, if I was employed I wouldn't feel like that.

So, what to do? Do you need to change the strategy following his feedback? Or can you ask for his feedback?

It could be that he processes his thoughts in a way that sounds negative but is just thinking etc.

Hopefully a good night's sleep will help you feel better.

venusandmars Tue 03-Nov-15 23:48:56

I doubt myself - even in the face of the most obvious evidence to the contrary.

I have been (very successfully) self employed for 12 years. Anyone externally looking at my past and my projected future would think "yup, that going to be OK".

But me... I look at 45 confirmed contracts for next year 2016, and 8 confirmed contracts for the following year 2017, and 3 for 2018. And then one tiny negative comment, and still I imagine that maybe suddenly no-one else will book me. Ever.

That is just nuts, and laughable (to anyone looking from the outside) but for me it feels scary and I doubt myself.

So... yes it is very, very natural to doubt ourselves, and it is also important to use those doubts to refine and reinforce what you do well. Look at the stats of what you do: what are you doing well? can you enhance all the good things? is there anywhere that you could do better? Is it something you really want to do?

DustingOffTheDynastySuit Tue 03-Nov-15 23:55:50

Yes, I think this is totally normal!

I don't know that much about consulting, but I would hazard a guess that "clients have taken me on for work which in theory could have been long-term, only for it to last for a shorter length of time" actually sounds like you are bloody good at your job - you identify and solve problems, rather than creating an unnecessary role for yourself.

I'm also feeling super-nosy about Venus's work that means you take bookings so frequently and far in advance - I often don't know what I'm doing the following week!

loveisagirlnameddaisy Wed 04-Nov-15 14:16:35

Thanks ladies (or men), it's lovely to have support like this. I spoke to a RL friend yesterday who has run her own business successfully for 8 years and she constantly doubts herself, so we had a good therapy session!

MrsMargo you raise a lot of very valid points; my client is an academic and scentist and has stumbled upon something he wants to market (I work in marketing). A lot of marketing is creative and interpretive, not always based on data or hard facts and I think he struggles with that.

I'm sure it was more a case of me being negative than him genuinely not liking it as he's the sort to say so; it's just a horrible feeling when you're alone at home feeling insecure. And YY to getting EVERYTHING right, I am a freak perfectionist, down to berating myself for a full stop being in the wrong place (although as a copywriter and proofreader, I feel there is no excuse for this!).

LonnyVonnyWilsonFrickett Wed 04-Nov-15 14:36:00

On a good day, I use the self-doubt positively - how can I make my work better, how can I give them something they didn't even know they wanted, because if I don't they'll never book me again.

On a bad day, it's clearly just they'll never book me again.

The other thing is you only really get one shot to persuade - like in your case with the academic type, if you worked-worked with him you would plan to influence him over time about the power of marketing and how it all works - and there would probably be a company structure saying 'we need help with marketing this because it needs marketing.' Obviously you don't have this in that particular situation so he's gone 'give me a plan' and you've gone 'here's a plan' and he's gone 'fuck me, that looks like loads of work and I don't really understand it anyway so I'm going to run for the hills for a bit.'

Not your fault flowers. As a wise poster once said... blush

KittiesInsane Thu 05-Nov-15 21:44:06

Yup, totally natural to doubt yourself. I'm another editor/proofreader, and was cast down for weeks after I read a review of a book I'd worked on that said 'could have done with better copyediting', citing a couple of weird sentences -- until I gave my head a wobble, and reminded myself just how truly, truly dire it had been before I'd started.

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