Your Self-Employment Mentality: The Real Reason You’re Not Making Money

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Erin Millard

January 29, 2015  •  6 min read

self-employment mentality This post is from Credit Signs contributor Erin, who owns the blog Journey to Saving. Over the next six months she’s documenting her backwards journey to self-employment. You can read her next steps here.

Having the correct mentality when it comes to self-employment seems easy when you first think about it, but like many things in life, it’s much more difficult when put into action. If you’re not mentally prepared, you might be taken by surprise.

In the short time I’ve been self-employed, there have been a few large mental hurdles I’ve overcome in order to avoid business depression. I love that Carrie has highlighted this issue because it’s certainly real, and something that we don’t often think about when starting out as a solopreneur.

If you’ve found yourself in a funk with your business, I want to let you know you’re not alone. Self-employment is hard, and takes a thick skin and attitude of perseverance to keep going.

There will be many times you want to quit, give up, get a “real” job, and find work that easily pays the bills but makes you unhappy.

That’s why I’m sharing the wrong mentalities of being self-employed, that I’ve discovered for myself, and how you can overcome them, too.

Wrong mentality #1: Lost in self-doubt

Self-doubt is by far one of the biggest struggles faced by solopreneurs. Imposter syndrome is brought up a lot, and I think I’m in good company when I say it’s because we’re sometimes in disbelief that, as artists and creatives, we get paid to do things we love.

As a result, we wonder if we’re good enough. We wonder if our work really matters. We wonder if we’re making the right decisions.

All this self-doubt can eat away at you, and negatively affect your work.

  • If you think you’re not good enough, you won’t try hard enough to get clients.
  • If you don’t think your work matters, you won’t have the motivation needed to grow your business.
  • If you’re questioning your decisions, you’ll be holding yourself back from taking risks. (You won’t grow as a person or as a business without taking some risks.)

Worst of all, if you’re already doubting yourself, then the doubt of others can seep in. I’m very grateful my friends and family have been supportive of me, but I know that’s not the case for everyone.

Overcoming this mentality: Have confidence. Confidence, direction, passion — these are all important characteristics solopreneurs need to have. Without them, you’ll feel lost, depressed, and possibly worthless.

Those are harsh words, but they were very true for me in the beginning of my self-employed career. Since I began a backwards journey, with no clients, it was difficult to derive feelings of worth when I was making next to nothing.

The best solution that I found is to go back to your “why”. Why did you start on this path in the first place? Figure out if it has stayed the same, or if it has changed.

When you know your purpose and you’re driven, self-doubt rises to the surface less often. It’s not always a question of knowing what you’re doing, but a question of why you’re doing it.

Wrong mentality #2: Feeling guilty

Have you felt guilty for such amazing opportunities coming your way? For being able to get paid to do things you enjoy? This is likely because self-doubt is telling you that you don’t deserve it.

It’s easy to let the guilt get to you, and guilt can often leads to self-sabotaging behavior — which isn’t good for you or your business.

I’m not quite sure where this mentality is manifested from, but I know I’ve felt similarly many times in my life. When good things come my way, I tend to dismiss them. I rarely celebrate. I don’t take time to record what I’ve accomplished. Where’s the fun in that?

Overcoming this mentality: As solopreneurs and freelancers, we work our tails off day in and day out. Whether we’re hustling on the side, or working 60+ hours a week, we’re constantly focused on growth and making a living.

So who are we to say we don’t deserve it?

It’s time to give yourself credit and simply enjoy the opportunities you’ve been given. Stop questioning them, and asking why you’re one of the “lucky” ones, because it often has nothing to do with luck, and everything to do with dedication.

Wrong mentality #3: Thinking work is scarce

Before I explain this one, I want to say this is a perfectly valid mentality to have. Freelancing is often characterized as feast or famine, whether you’ve experienced it yet or not.

But staying in this mentality is only going to do damage, and hinder you from going to the next level. Nothing good comes from mentally closing doors to opportunities.

That’s exactly what happens when you start to say;

Work has dried up. I wonder if I’ll be able to find other clients. There are so many other freelancers out there who offer the same services as I do. What makes me any better?

That negative self-talk is only going to make you less likely to pitch your services confidently, or want to go out and try at all.

Overcoming this mentality: Be a go-getter! Take a leap and the net will appear. Have faith that there are enough opportunities to go around. I’ve recently started to turn down work, and I’ve only been at this for about five months.

There’s been a huge shift to developing an online presence for businesses, and that means there are plenty of opportunities for those in content marketing, social media, web design, SEO, copywriting, etc.

Instead of locking yourself into the scarcity mindset, take stock of the work you have had over the past few months. Realize you’ve been able to make things work so far, and that’s no small feat.

Then realize there’s no reason you can’t keep going with it! Make your own opportunities. Reach out to people in your network — if they don’t know you’re looking for work, how can they send it your way?

Wrong mentality #4: Having limiting beliefs

Have you ever had an idea you were excited about, but brushed it off as unrealistic? Have you thought, “There’s no way.” “I can’t  — that’s impossible!”?

Have you been 100% positive you were meant to do something, but can’t pull the trigger because you don’t think it will work out? (We’re all guilty of this one.)

These are all examples of limiting beliefs. You’re directly limiting your opportunities and closing yourself off to possibilities because you don’t think they’ll translate to reality.

Not everything goes according to plan in life, sure, but how many times are you going to let that stop you? That’s not what makes a successful solopreneur.

Overcoming this mentality: The best thing to do is to get over it! Accept that things might not work out, but it’s worth a try anyway.

Many of the successful entrepreneurs you see in the media had crazy ideas at one time, too. The thing is, they acted on them.

If you feel called to do something important, to make a difference, or to help others, then do it. I’m not saying go all-in blindly, but stop letting limiting beliefs hold you back! All of us have amazing potential, we just need to unlock it.


I hope that addressing these wrong mentalities has been helpful to some of you. It’s so easy to get caught up in our thoughts at times.

But the important thing is to keep barreling through the negativity to get to where you want to be. Don’t be the obstacle that stops you from trying.

Have you ever been guilty of any of these mentalities? How do you get out of your own way?