6 Ways to Overcome Failure and Achieve Freelance Success

Many successful people were failures before they succeeded. And failure is an opportunity to try again. Here are 6 ways to turn failure into freelance success.

Does failure mean you’re not smart enough or don’t have what it takes to succeed as a freelancer?  That’s what many of us believe. So why do so many famously successful people, including Seth Godin, say that you can’t succeed unless you fail first?

“The person who fails the most will win,” says Godin, an entrepreneur, best-selling author, and speaker. Along with launching one of the most popular blogs in the world, Godin’s written 18 best-selling books, and founded two companies: Squidoo and Yoyodyne (which Yahoo bought).

“I think it’s fair to say that I have failed more than most people,” says Godin. “And I’m super proud of that. Part of the rules of this game is, the person who fails the most wins.”

That’s because “in order to keep failing, you’ve got to be good enough to keep playing,” says Godin, who considers failure a skill. “If you never fail, then you haven’t done anything.”

Successful People Are Often Failures First

Many other famously successful people were failures before they succeeded, including J.K. Rowling.

Like Godin, Rowling believes that failure is a good thing. “Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all,” says Rowling. When she wrote her first Harry Potter book, which 12 publishers rejected, she was divorced, raising her daughter on her own, and unemployed.

Failure as a Freelancer 

Succeeding as a freelancer isn’t nearly as hard as being a best-selling author or launching major companies. But failure is also part of freelancing—even for me.

While trying to build my successful freelance business, I made a lot of mistakes. And my mistakes were all related to freelance marketing, which is really embarrassing.  I’m supposed to be the expert, right? Well, I am now, but I wasn’t then.

Failure is an opportunity to try again.

1. Don’t Take Failure Personally

Treat failure like a scientist does: as another data point, says James Clear in “Treat failure like a scientist.” A negative result doesn’t mean that the scientist is a failure. “In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Proving a hypothesis wrong is often just as useful as proving it right because you learned something along the way.”

“Your failures are not you. Your successes are not you. They are simply data points that help guide the next experiment,” he says.

Learning from mistakes is how we do better next time.

2. Don’t Let Failure Consume You

It’s okay to be upset when things don’t work out. Just don’t let failure consume you.

There’s a lot more to freelance success than being a talented writer, editor, or other type of freelancer. It takes time and work, and trial and error, to build the skills you need to succeed. Mistakes are how we learn. Keep moving forward.

3. Word Hard

Success in freelancing—or any business—takes hard work. But if you put in the work, you will see the results.

It’s especially important to work hard during the first few years of freelancing, and when you’ve been freelancing a while but aren’t doing as well as you’d like to be doing.

Massive action is a more explicit term for the hard work freelancers need to do to succeed. “If you commit to taking serious, focused and MASSIVE action, you’re virtually guaranteed success,” says Ed Gandia in “Massive Action: The Unspoken Ingredient of Freelance Success.” Ed, who used to be a freelance writer, is now a business coach and strategist for freelance writers and creative professionals.

Good things happen when you put in the work (or as Ed says, take massive action). There’s no logical explanation for this. But Ed and I have both seen this. “Over and over again, when I’ve acted boldly, with confidence and a great sense of calm, things have happened that I just can’t explain,” says Ed.

These good things can include:

  • Past clients you haven’t heard from for a while give you an assignment
  • Colleagues refer work to you
  • A client finds you through LinkedIn
  • Your marketing reaches a client in that 10% window when he/she needs a freelancer right away.

Clients and colleagues can sense confidence—or desperation. Good things happen when you combine the right actions with a positive attitude.

4. Do What Works Best for Freelancers

Hard work and massive action only work if you focus on what works best for freelancers.

Here’s the proven 7-step process that’s helped me and hundreds of other freelance writers and editors find great freelance clients and build high-income freelance businesses:

  • Step 1. Develop the Fearless Freelancer Mindset
  • Step 2. Stand Out in a Sea of Freelancers
  • Step 3. Build the Marketing Habit
  • Step 4. Choose Your Moneymaking Specialty(ies)
  • Step 5. Find the Right Prospects
  • Step 6. Reach and Attract the Right Clients with Direct Email
  • Step 7. Develop a Client-Focused LinkedIn Profile
  • Step 8. Develop a Client-Focused Website
  • Step 9. Meet People Who Can Help and Hire You
  • Step 10. Be First in Line for Freelance Work

Want my free ebook:
How to Get the Clients You Deserve?

Send my copy


6. Adopt the Growth Mindset

Hard work is easier when you believe that you can develop your talents and ability. This is called the growth mindset.

But if you believe your talent and ability are fixed, and doing better is beyond their control (a fixed mindset), you won’t be able to overcome failure.

You can develop a growth mindset. Here are 4 steps to do this:

  1. Take small, repeated actions.
  2. Focus on small wins.
  3. See challenges as opportunities.
  4. Grow your grit.

Learn more about how to develop a growth mindset.

5. Grow Your Grit

Also called determination or mental toughness, grit is what gets you through obstacles to success and failure. Some experts say that grit is more important than anything else, including how smart you are, in achieving business goals.

Like a growth mindset, you can grow your grit. Here are 3 steps to do this:

  1. Achieve small wins (also part of developing a growth mindset)
  2. Develop good habits
  3. Be positive.

Learn more about how to grow your grit.

Succeed as a Freelancer by Making Failure Work for You

Whether you just make some mistakes or actually fail in freelancing, you can achieve success.  Instead of letting failure consume you, change your attitude and work hard until you overcome the inevitable mistakes, obstacles, and failure.

Click here to subscribe

Learn More About Failure and Freelance Success

 From The Mighty Marketer

The Superhero Power You Need to Know About: Grit

4 Easy Ways for Freelancers to Develop the Growth Mindset

4 Ways to Become a More Positive Thinker

What You Need to Know About Freelance Failure

More Mighty Marketer blog posts on the mindset for success

Other Resources

Seth Godin: ‘The Person Who Fails the Most Wins’

James Clear, “Treat failure like a scientist”

Ed Gandia, “Massive Action: The Unspoken Ingredient of Freelance Success”