Living the life of a freelancer has its own benefits and disadvantages. Undeniably, it offers less long-term certainty when you’re still starting out. You might even experience long droughts in between jobs and opportunities. But it exchanges all that for more flexibility to pick your projects, set your schedules, and set your rates.
When you’re starting out, you will most likely have a hard time looking for clients. You will want to make every opportunity to count. It’s not enough to get paid. You will have to make sure you’re rewarded fairly, while building a reputation that will help you get more clients in the future. This is where assertiveness comes in.
The Importance of Assertiveness
Aside from helping you get paid, being assertive and confident will help you grow as a freelancer. It doesn’t matter if you’re working as a writer, designer, or any other job. Being more forward and upfront about your feelings will help out with your career. After all, getting along with other people can help you negotiate better contracts and collaborate more easily with other people.
Remember that compared to having a regular job, you’ll be having more direct contact with your clients as a freelancer. In this kind of setup, you will have less leeway for mistakes. This makes it more essential to have great interpersonal skills.
At its core, being assertive is about learning to speak your mind. Keep in mind that, as a freelancer, you’ll have no one else to speak up on your behalf. There won’t be an account executive or managing supervisor to look to for leads or assign tasks for you. So you have to get used to sticking up for yourself.
Unfortunately, not everyone is born with a naturally outgoing personality. For some, interacting with other people can be a source of incredible stress and tension. However, even for them all is not lost. With the right mindset, you can stave off self-doubt with plenty of practice.
Change From Within
Among passive people, a common trend is to place a greater weight on the desires and feelings of others. This is usually rooted in an intense need to be liked by and appreciated by others. The problem is that, you can’t always make others happy. If you always prioritize other people’s needs, you might be seen as indecisive—or worse, as a pushover.
If you really want to try a more confident and assertive approach, then you first have to change how you see yourself. You have to realize that every person—including you—has the right to express opinions.
To repeat the cliché, you are your own worst enemy. If you find yourself doubting your own skills, you’ll find it harder to properly voice your opinions. In effect, other people will find it harder to appreciate your value. On the other hand once you’ve developed your own sense of self-confidence, you’ll find that learning how to be more assertive is easier than it first appears.
But Don’t Take It Too Far
You should never make the mistake of equating assertiveness with aggressiveness. When you act overconfidently, you will probably end up offending your clients or partners. However, being overly timid will prevent you from taking chances or getting concessions from your client.
Admittedly, drawing a clear line between aggression and assertiveness can be hard. Getting the right balance can be even harder when you’re on your own. However, don’t give up. Communicating assertively is a practical skill, after all. So practicing in real situations and then reviewing how it went afterwards is a good approach. However, if you are finding that you are making very slow progress it is worth reading up on assertiveness in articles like this one on assertiveness for freelancers for faster results.
After all, knowing how to fix a problem is more important than knowing why you should fix it. To help you out now, here are some simple assertiveness tips to get you started:
- Be conscious of your body language. You will want to use a firm and confident approach. In addition to helping complement your message, this will also help you appear more credible and knowledgeable in your field. During initial negotiations, this might just help you bargain for a higher rate.
- Use short and concise requests. When you speak, speak directly and clearly, you leave little room for misunderstanding. Avoid long-winded explanations in the hope of “softening the blow.” Just make sure to avoid sounding disrespectful or bossy.
- Speak in the first person whenever appropriate. Using the pronoun “I” allows you to better hold yourself accountable for your own words and actions. In moments where you might be expected to offer an apology, it also has the added benefit of making you sound more sincere.
- Keep your emotions in check. When you act with visible hostility, you can end up souring relationships or make negotiations harder. However, you have to remember that it’s okay to feel frustrated when things don’t go your way. If you stay honest about your feelings without letting them get in the way, you might even win concessions or re-negotiations.
- Finally, learn to say no when you must. Remember that all you’re asking for is fair treatment. There will always be clients that you won’t be able to please. They could have unfair expectations or you might just be a bad fit for them. The bottom line is this: if you feel you’re not getting your proper dues, then don’t be afraid to walk away.
It all takes a lot of effort to become a better version of yourself. But by becoming more assertive, clients and colleagues will start to see you as more confident, decisive, and confident. Once you’ve incorporated a more assertive approach to your work, you won’t just end up being better rewarded. You’ll also be able to forge better business relationships and improve your long-term security.
In the end, the most important point about learning assertiveness is to train yourself to be more confident and clearer when expressing your own opinions. Though it’s easy to overlook, it’s more than just a handy ability for maintaining personal relationships. It’s a vital career skill that can help you grow as a hard working freelancer.