As a young freelance graphic designer, many people have told me how proud they are of what I’ve done and that I’m “going places.” But I rarely feel like I deserve any of it. Below are 10 fears I frequently have about my career. Being a young entrepreneur is scary, even when things are going well.
I have received minor local press coverage for my work starting a graphic design company, but I don’t feel like I deserve any of it. At an event last Friday for the award I was nominated for, a (rather eccentric) lady came up and congratulated me:
“Are you 14? 15? 16? That’s so cool!”
“I’m actually 19 today, and thanks!” By coincidence my birthday was the same day as the event.
“It’s so cool that you started your own business! I’m so proud of you!”
“Thanks!” I had never met her before in my life, and the smile I’d had on all night was hurting my face. I was happy when she left to get food.
Frankly, I’ve become annoyed by all the congratulations, and not in a humble brag way. Why?
I am afraid of receiving attention from my town’s business leaders because I feel like I don’t deserve it.
Over the past month I’ve received dozens of congratulation, and I appreciate them all. But I want people to understand that being a young entrepreneur is scary, even when things are going well.
Here are 10 confessions.
1. I don’t always believe I deserve my clients
I’ve worked with some really great companies on fascinating projects. Right now I’m working on a CD packaging project for the first time. Packaging! Super fun, but I’ve never done packaging before! Probably a fourth of my projects right now are for types of projects I’ve never done before, and I wonder if my clients should trust me with their design projects. (As a note, in case any of my clients are reading this, you should.)
2. I hate asking for money
Although I charge less than other freelance graphic designers (since I’m starting out), I still hate asking clients for money. I’ve discovered the joy of invoicing, but especially with new clients I’m worried that the value I gave them was not worth their money.
3. I procrastinate
I get things done by the time I say I will. But often I’m finishing a project a few hours before the meeting where we’ll be discussing it.
4. I wonder if I can ever fit into the business world
When I go to business events I’m thinking about how all the other ladies exude confidence while I’m just an awkward teen who doesn’t wear makeup or fancy clothes.
5. I don’t have a career goal
Once someone asked me if I wanted to leave a legacy. I thought for 15 seconds, said “um” a few times, and said “that’s a deep question, I’m not really sure. The only life goal I have is to live for Jesus.
6 Sometimes I want to run as fast as I can, jump high in the air, and land on a beanbag in the break room
But I don’t (when other people are around) to protect my professional image.
7. I wonder if it’s all worth it
Do my designs actually contribute to society? Am I just another rotation in the currency exchange machine?
8. I might go home and cry after a long day
A year ago I was going through a very stressful project, and I would cry myself to sleep a few nights a week. Once my Dad mentioned me crying myself to sleep in front of 30 business people, and I hope they took it as a metaphor. But it wasn’t. (In case you’re wondering, the project is over now and I’m much better.)
9. I don’t introduce myself to people
I’m an introvert and meeting new people at business events is hard. I keep telling myself that I need to consciously make a decision to introduce myself to people, but I haven’t yet.
10. My biggest fear is pretension
I learned the word pretension a few years ago, and it’s been my biggest fear that I would inadvertently be pretentious ever since. The fear of appearing to know more than I actually do is at the root of all my business related fears.
Now, of course, I have the fear that one of my clients will read this and either 1. fire me or 2. comment below about how great I am. Funny how fear works.
Gaining confidence is an item on my to-do list. It’s slow progress, but I take it one day at a time. Feel free to join the war against fear with me.