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How do you keep your professional self-esteem healthy as a freelancer without the appraisals/feedback/peer contact of an employee?

(12 Posts)
hattyyellow Mon 14-Jul-08 15:47:21

I worked with a client at the end of last year who did some major damage to my professional confidence.

Up to that point I'd had largely positive feedback about my work and any negative feedback was reasonably constructive.

The client I worked with was consistently unhappy with everything I wrote for her. I found it very frustrating as nothing was ever good enough, everything was sent back to me to endlessly rewrite without a single piece of work being accepted.

I needed the money from the contract but I called regular meetings with her to suggest that perhaps I wasn't the best person to work with them if she was so consistently unhappy. But she would say that things were fine and that she wanted to continue with the work.

Having spoken to other people recently who worked at the organisation they reported exactly the same thing. And mentioned how relieved they were moving on to other jobs to feel that their work was met with approval again.

She admitted herself that she was a very controlling person and as CEO should be delegating but ended up wanting to rewrite everything herself that other people wrote for her - in an ideal world she would have cloned herself and taken on all our roles.

We ended up parting on fairly positive terms, she was a positive referee for me for my current client. My client in between were perfectly happy with all the work I did for them.

But now I'm writing for another quite difficult client and I can feel myself doubting my own work. I've got my first major report to do and I am dillydallying, feeling terrified that I am actually rubbish.

How do you get over this when you're largely at home working, alone, just submitting finished pieces of work? How do you recoup your self-esteem?

I know that my work has been acceptable to others. I just can't quite move on from this bad experience .

I really should concentrate on the good feedback I've had, rather than the bad - I think it just wore me down and being freelance and based mainly at home, I didn't really have any colleagues internally to discuss it with so it gradually eroded away at my confidence.

Sorry for long me, me, me. If anyone is still awake and has any words of advice/experience to offer I'd really appreciate it!

WestMidsAccounts Mon 14-Jul-08 21:58:35

Take a copy of the reference, frame it, put it up on the wall above your PC monitor and look at it every time you get downhearted. And thank your lucky stars that you only meet these people fleetingly - it's not as if you were a Mon-Fri 9-5 employee who has to put up with them all day, every day.

MarsLady Mon 14-Jul-08 22:02:03

We all have a terrible habit of forgetting the 99 positives that people tell us and focussing on the 1 negative.

You know that you do good work. You also know that there are control freaks out there that'll you'll never make happy.

Take it from me... you are the mother of twins (which makes you blardy special in my eyes). You do GOOD work! Don't doubt yourself because of ONE person. Recognise that you are good at what you do and you produce GOOD work.

Should you need reminding... post again! grin

hatwoman Mon 14-Jul-08 22:03:55

is there a network of people doing similar work you could link up with? my db is a photographer and he's in a couple of professional associations that have monthly meet-ups/evening lectures and he really enjoys them. Also is there any chance of doing joint bids/contracts with others? I've managed to do my first s-e contract as part of a team - working as an "associate" (ie sub-contractor) with a small (very small) consultancy firm which has been less lonely than working entirely on my own. It is hard though - I don't know my team well and it's been difficult to assess how well we work together.

hatwoman Mon 14-Jul-08 22:06:20

I didn;t really finish that - what I meant is that I think you might find contact with other consultants working in the same field a good source of support - technically they're your rivals but they;re in the same boat so you can share you winges a bit...

hattyyellow Tue 15-Jul-08 10:05:12

Thank you so much everyone - it's so kind of you to be so supportive .

Feeling much better and will take your words to heart.

Submitted my first report to new client late last night (after hours spent wringing my hands over it) and client reported back this morning that it's fine, just a few minor changes. Phew! Have got over the first hurdle!

Cheers all, I really appreciate your kindness.

Threadwworm Tue 15-Jul-08 10:13:35

I find this really hard too. I work alone, from home, and all of my contact with clients is online. I find that being at arm's length from the company I do most of my work for means that I never really feel confident that I am well regarded, or producing work in the best possible way. I've never had negative feedback, but I find myself perpetually reading between the lines for covert criticism. It is very damaging to my productivity.

hattyyellow Wed 16-Jul-08 12:20:56

Sorry to hear you're experiencing the same thing Threadworm but reassuring for me at the same time!

I always open client e-mails with one eye closed, just in case it's bad news!

I used to find it much easier in the office with colleagues to share things with.

But am trying to remind myself of all the positive things about freelancing - no office politics, no commuting, flexibility etc..

Threadwworm Wed 16-Jul-08 14:16:20

It's true that the absence of office politics is joyful: just me and the dog, and he never plays power politics (except in the winter when we silently compete for position closest to the fire).

I know just what you mean about opening emails with one eye closed. In a busy office, you can talk over a problem, and dissipate your anxiety.

WideWebWitch Wed 16-Jul-08 14:26:20

Hello, I do sympathise, it's hard to bounce back when your professional confidence is knocked I think.

I'm a contractor too although I work at client sites, not at home (although I do sometimes work from home as I am today) and the following keeps me going:

a) it is VERY easy to get rid of a contractor/freelance person. If they are keeping you you must be doing a good job. They mostly have no obligation to you and therefore if you're no good you wouldn't be there.

b) You KNOW it wasn't you in the last role, it was her. Others told you so and I think you just have to try to accept this.

c) my ex dh once said to me when I was moaning about a boss "you're a contractor, do as you're told" and I think it's not a bad attitude in the main. I DO offer my professional opinion but if my client wants to do X and I rthink Y is the right thing I accept that they're paying the bill, they get to make the choices. So what, it doesn't matter to me on the whole (as long as it's not illegal or anything). My current boss spent 2 hours gossiping with me the other day. I don't care, she's paying the bill, she gets to choose what she wants me to do. So what if it cost her £x?

I rarely get told I'm doing a good job but I know I am because otherwise I just wouldn't be there, really I wouldn't. As a fairly expensive employee (compared to perm person) they must be getting value or they#d let me go.

Threadwworm Wed 16-Jul-08 14:31:45

Your first point is a very good one WWW. I tend to think fearfully 'If I do a bad job of this they won't call on me again', instead of turning it the other way and thinking 'They keep on calling me, so they must like what I am doing'.

hattyyellow Mon 21-Jul-08 13:18:38

Waterwitch you're very right with the points you make - I know if I was that terrible I would have given up freelancing by now due to not having any clients!

Thank you!

Threadworm glad I'm not the only one-eyed e-mail opener wink

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