One of the things I hear the most from people after reading something I wrote is “That’s all well and good for you, but I could never…”
They could never…
- charge what I charge for web design.
- get super specific with who their audience is (and ignore everyone who’s not).
- fire a client because they aren’t respectful.
- price by the value of deliverables instead of by the hour.
The massive problem with someone telling themselves these sorts of things is that at the surface they’re believable, and then horribly self-limiting.
Every single thing on that list is something I thought I could never do until I actually did them.
If you think you could never charge more for the work you do, you’re not going to raise your rates. If you think you’ll have no work because you get super specific with defining your audience, you’re never going to do it — regardless of how many articles or courses you take that show the benefits or reasons or rationale behind changing up your work to be more beneficial and rewarding to you.
If you’re a person who likes reading about those things but personally “could never” do them, then you’re right. You won’t. Our desire for being right is so strong that chances are if we convince ourselves of something, we’ll stop questioning it.
We all have self-imposed limitations. We all have stories that we tell about ourselves — to ourselves — that are true only because we make them true. We look up to others who do things the way we wish we could do them and respect that they didn’t limit themselves. But we have a hard time making the connection between admiring them for something and making the same changes ourselves.
The more I have the opportunity to talk with budding freelancers, the more I notice that the mark of working for yourself and succeeding (where succeeding is being financially and emotionally rewarded) doesn’t come down to having the most skill, being the best salesperson, having the biggest ego, or even being the most driven.
A successful creative freelancer is rarely limited with “I could never…” thoughts.
Sure, talent and intelligence are important, but they’re also grossly overvalued. More important is a willingness and mindset to push against the unknown and talk yourself into taking action.
It’s difficult and I’m not immune. For the longest time I told myself that I could never write or have a business that was more than just designing websites for clients. It took me almost 15 years to get over that. Sure, I still have days when I feel like “I could never” continue pushing against my fears. But then I stop myself. How?
- I try to question conclusions that I come to in my own mind. Why did I reach the answer I reached? What is it based on? Can I test this conclusion instead of accepting it as fact? Making a conclusion based on assumption versus testing an idea to see if that conclusion is right is a gap as wide as an ocean. Byron Katie writes a lot about this.
- I consider my habits of speech/writing. We automatically discount ourselves when we talk about ourselves in certain ways — in our minds and to others. When I say, “I could never…” do something, and give myself a reason — I think about what and how I tell my story.
- Anytime I assume I can’t or shouldn’t do something, I take myself out of the equation for a minute. I imagine someone else doing what I think I can’t do, seeing what happens when they do it and thinking about how much it benefitted them. Then, I think through the same scenario, but with me in it.
- I communicate. Sometimes the limiting beliefs we have need to be talked through with others. That’s why I’ve got a tiny group of friends I trust, along with a mastermind group I talk through these thoughts with on a weekly basis. And even, to some degree, why I write (like writing this for you, right now). Are you surrounded by people who help you question those thoughts? Who help push and inspire you?
Next time you assume that you could never do something, challenge it. The only thing stopping you right now could be the story you’re telling yourself. Stop what you’re doing and duke out that limiting belief until you come to a conclusion that’s based more on reality or tested actions instead of assumptions.
I’ll do the same.