freelancenevyPicture the scene: your morning alarm goes off and you roll over to pick up your phone (everyone does that seconds after they wake up, right? RIGHT?). Squinting your eyes and opening your inbox, you find a tastefully-designed newsletter from a freelance friend you did a course with a couple of years ago, who has launched a brand new ecourse. Isn’t that fab? They’ve basically turned into Marie Forleo overnight, and you’re totally chuffed for them. Really. You are.

Oh, hang on, what’s that uncomfortable feeling in your tummy? Maybe it’s just last night’s Dominos…

You flick open the Twitter app.  A funky lifestyle blogger you know, who appears to have achieved overnight success with her quirky but totally adorable way of combining food and fashion in one post (let’s call it fooshion), happily tweets about a new collaboration with a brand you’re dying to work with. That feeling in your gut grows. It could be hunger, but you’re pretty sure you’re still full from last night’s Dominos. What kind of human being says no to their Chicken Kickers? (Possibly your blogger friend. They’re all about the vegan diet. A clean diet for you involves not eating that slice of pizza that fell on the floor for 4 seconds after a few beers which were definitely not organic).

Bad news, freelancer. That feeling in your tummy? It’s envy.

It’s not that you’re not happy for them or feel they deserve it. You are and you do! But there are times when every freelancer looks at another freelancer, and compares their success to their own experience and success record. And it’s easy to feel like you fall short. Especially if that person started freelancing around the same time as you, or worse *gulp* after you.

But freelance envy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I quizzed my freelance friends about it, Cathryn Clarke said the following:

“I see what they’re doing and how they’re living their lives and am jealous because I want that. I want to be making more money, be more confident and being able to mix client work with my own seamlessly. It makes me push harder and focus on what I want to achieve so it’s really good to see other freelancers being successful. I just wish more freelancers would share their successes and tips so that those of us who still feel relatively new to it wouldn’t feel so lost and alone. ”

Couldn’t agree more.

I think freelance envy exists for a number of reasons.

  1. We perceive others as being perfect, forgetting they edit their life online just as much as we do. Notice how a lot of people don’t actually mention income? Maybe they’re working with amazing brands or travelling the world while blogging, but there’s a good chance they’re having to weigh up whether buying a ticket to that swanky business conference in town is worth living on pasta alone for the next two weeks.
  2. We don’t give them enough credit. The inconvenient truth is, most people get to that point because they worked their arses off.
  3. We underestimate our own situation, or lack confidence in our own skills.
  4. We work on our own, which means it’s harder to see the realities of how others are doing. .We also don’t get that workmate who says ‘That freelancer? PLEASE! She totally got to do that project because her boyfriend works with the boss’, which is totally bitchy but also really comforting.
  5. We don’t know how they’ve become this mega successful person. Where was I when the ‘how to be totally rich and successful and a size 12 on a diet of chocolate alone in three easy steps’ rulebook was given out?
  6. We’re never happy with what we’ve got. Seriously, name a time when you were like ‘I’m 100% happy’ for more than a day. Sober happy.

But one of the points Cathryn made, is that it makes her ‘push harder and focus on what I want to achieve’. With that in mind, here are three things you can do to turn that envy to your advantage.

Swap competition for collaboration

Instead of quietly kicking yourself for not being as awesome as the fortunate freelancer you see (which, fyi, is bullcrap), why not see if there’s anything you can work together on? For example, my blog series A Day In The Life Of A Freelancer came about because I was having a crisis of confidence, and wanted to learn from other freelancers. You could turn that ‘competitor’ into a collaborator, by interviewing them, offering to work with them on a project or even approaching them to be a mentor.

You might even realise, when speaking to them face to face, that they feel the exact same way you do!

Repeat the mantra

Every time you find yourself looking at a friend’s blog or latest newsletter and feel that flutter of envy, I want you to repeat after me – NO ONE IS PERFECT! Sure, they might have landed a mega amazing client, but they probably have a bundle of other problems going on that you don’t know about. Maybe they yearn for more time with their families, dream of a regular paycheck or miss working with small companies and charities.

Compete….with yourself

The only person you need to worry about competing with, is yourself. Revisit your goals and objectives. Do you even want the same things as others? How are you doing compared with how you did last year. As long as you’re doing the best you can in the circumstances, you’re succeeding.

I’d also recommend mindfulness (who doesn’t at the moment, eh?) Every day, make a list of the things you’re grateful for. I love the app My Wonderful Day for this. It’s a good reminder when you flick back, that life is actually pretty good.

So, how do you deal with freelance envy?

P.S Emma-Louise sent me these two perfect posters for this post. How perfect are they?


12 Comments on How to deal with freelance envy

  1. Yeah that sounds like me with blogging, art, writing, parenting… it’s so damn hard not to have that grass is greener feeling isn’t it?
    I’m still working on it at the moment, but thanks for the timely reminder!

  2. Love the subject of this post. As a freelancer I often hear how ‘amazing’ others are doing and used to suffer massive envy. Now I just think they may not be totally honest and doesn’t mean they’re rolling in it and remind myself to not compare!

  3. I wonder how much of this is from being in an environment where it is expected to feel certain emotions. After spending 2 days in a business context with 2 successful (and not arrogant) men with their own businesses, they have the same issues as I do, but didn’t get caught up in it like I do.

    It made me think how while I love that we can share what is going on, since the majority of sharing is usually about what isn’t perfect yet, how bad we feel, need more confidence etc, I do wonder if it creates a perpetual circle as then that’s what we are all exposed to, so unconsciously feel we ought to feel (because that’s how human work).

    It’s got me pondering, and saying this comment instead of my usual ‘oh yes, Emma is one of those people who have it all sussed’ is how I felt when I first met you.

    No-one does, especially not the corporates. Even a new freelancer has it more sussed that they do.

    PS. May is a month when I have extra time for new clients as most people are sensibly choosing to enjoy newly minted sunshine and not considering their tax return.

    If you’re in a full time job, want to start freelancing or get serious, I have 70% off my new Make The Leap Pamper package in return for feedback. Cake included of course! 🙂

  4. Your article rocks, you say things exactly the way they are. A translator colleague of mine once wrote “Don’t compare your middle to someone else’s end” and she was right.

    You just give what you can, the very best. Sleepless nights? You are on. What’s next? 🙂


  5. We have all felt that envy. Totally. It’s really hard when you’re feeling particularly down not to look at someone else’s perfectly curated instagram feed and wonder why you don’t have some rosy filter over your whole life. But your tips are spot on. Especially the collaboration not competition. I’m all for that!

  6. LOVE this post! it’s so true – but what you say about mindfulness and being grateful for things we already is absolutely key! I have found that even a little bit of meditation every morning makes me so GENUINELY happy for the success of others!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.