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How to Get Over Your Fear of Finding Clients

Updated: June 2, 2015

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  1. This reminds me of my Journalism instructor. One of the first things I remember her saying when I attended her class was that you could not write news articles without first knowing the rules, mastering those rules and then learning when, and how to break them. In point, specifically, she used this when asking us to uncover 100 synonyms for the word “said.” While there were colorful synonyms such as shouted, announced, hollered, spouted, ultimately the main word that a reporter must use is “said.” Mastery first, then you can start expanding, she taught us.

    Neil Gaiman reminds me that failure is also a part of things, that when I have sat and stared at something in frustrated contemplation, that sometimes a change of view, change of topic, change of anything, really, is necessary. Confidence does not come from a magical fairy, but through experience and belief in oneself. Fear is both an obstacle, but it is also one of my greatest motivators, because fear, in and of itself, makes me angry. I dislike fear so much that I have a tendency to run at it full force and climb up whatever it is I am worried about without stopping to look at why it makes me fearful, I’ll understand more when it is gone. Fear can also stop me, for it is when I stop and doubt myself and my intelligence, my diligence, my spirit that I won’t climb over the obstacle. Learning how to overcome is probably one of the most frightening, but necessary lessons I believe I’ve had to learn and sometimes, I require relearning that once more.

    1. Way to go. I’m also attempting to stop letting fear cement me where I am. Good for you! Keep on keeping on!

  2. I love the video clip! So many tidbits of good advice gained from valuable experience. I come from the medical field. I have over 15 years of experience as an RN in Labor and Delivery and Neonatal ICU. I can tell you my first days, my first months, on the L&D unit were riddled with fear. I second guessed every thing I did and didn’t do. I went to work hoping my patient wouldn’t deliver on my shift, wouldn’t hemorrhage, wouldn’t need an emergency c-section. I worked myself into anxiety and ulcers by focusing on my fears. But, when you work 50+ hours a week, it doesn’t take long for all of those things and more to happen. Sometimes more than once in a shift. I had to learn to compartmentalize my fear, so as not to let it paralyze me in an emergency. When you embrace your fear you are able to use it to your advantage. Instead of living in fear of that possible hemmhorage, I was able to realize the warning signs and do everything in my power to keep that from happening. I still don’t desire to be in that situation, but fear does not overtake me now because I know what to do if it happens. The scary part for those of us just starting out, regardless of the path you’re starting down, is that you only tame that fear through experience. And experience can be painful! But it helps us grow. I know, because now, instead of living in fear of what might happen, I’m the head nurse running in to the emergency to help out.

  3. WOW – (Words of Wisdom) that are so inspiring. I can relate to what others have experienced with fear. Stepping out of our comfort zones is scary. Not stepping out of the zone is even scarier. In taking an entrepreneurial path, stay focused, surround yourself with “like-minded” people (PA Facebook Group is a great example), don’t take the naysayer negativity personal because not everyone will understand your passion/destiny, and, more importantly, always have faith in all that you do.

    1. Yes!! It’s all about letting it become a part of you. I’m writing a book right now about becoming a proofreader, and who knows how long that’ll take, but it goes into some extreme depths about letting your new skills literally change your identity, and recognizing when negative beliefs may be preventing that from happening.

  4. What a wonderful video! After being in the workplace for over 40 years (okay, I started when I was 3!), I can attest to the truth of Neil’s advice to act as if you are someone who can already do what you fear. I have reinvented myself in my career several times and fought the fear of failure each time. I went back to school in my 30’s to become a paralegal. My first job was as a corporate paralegal and I was terrified my bosses would realize I had no clue what I was doing! But if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you realize that, more often than not, you DO know what to do. And, when you don’t, the horrific consequences you’ve imagined, never happen. Those times are called learning experiences and they are just a part of life!

    Even though I still have a hard time turning off my professional perfectionism, I can now look back and remember I’ve been successful in all my positions – no matter how big my initial fears and insecurities were. Neil Gaiman is so right! Just think of what someone who is already successful does and do that.

    Thank you, Caitlin, for the great reminder and, since I’ve never done anything on a freelance basis, I’ll be back to reread this blog after I take your course!

  5. This article is very informative and encouraging. In fact, what you need to do is create a separate module for the course on the fear topic and add the article. That way, students can read this article while taking the course. If fear is so common among those who want to take advantage of this opportunity, it would make sense if it becomes part of the course, right?

    1. Yes 🙂 I can add a link to this exact blog post, as a matter of fact!! I do have to be careful, though: I don’t want to duplicate content too much. If someone enrolls and sees a blog post used as a course unit, that could rub someone the wrong way 😉

  6. This what just what I needed right now!! My fears were starting to get to me and I am not very far into the course. I know that I love to proofread, so this just makes me more motivated that I can and will succeed. Thank you again for this great post!

    1. 🙂 So glad it “got” to you!! Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are amazing proofreaders!

  7. What a timely post. Thank you! When I first learned of your job as a proofreader, it was the first line of work that I KNEW I could do part time, hopefully allowing me to quit my career as a teacher and spend more time with my family. I was nothing but excited about it, but oddly enough, since I signed up less than two weeks ago, I have been plagued with nothing but fear and anxiety! I have had to work hard to not let those feelings consume me. But as I read through your post, I realized my main fear results not from the unknown of finding clients, but more like what Megan said, the (debilitating) perfectionism that has me convinced I’m going to mess up and not do a good enough job proofreading. While I’m looking forward to getting to the marketing part of the course, it is the practice transcript module that has me shaking in my boots, and I’m still one module away! I had a professor in grad school who said when you’re writing, you have to turn off your inner perfectionist, and I think that’s the approach I need to take with the practice transcripts. While I want so badly to get it all right immediately, your reminder that they are there for practice, and that through practice I will learn how to proofread transcripts well, is just what I needed. So look out, PT1 (which I’m totally dreading because of everyone’s FB comments), here I come!

    1. 😉 I struggle with perfectionism, too! Even when it comes to building this course. I think to myself, if I don’t spend all of my free time trying to make it better, doesn’t that make me uncommitted? UM, NO. LOL. It’s definitely been a learning experience for me and I’ve had some hiccups along the way. Thankfully everyone knows I’m a human, too!! As you may have heard, regarding the PTs, we are going to be adding MORE on July 1!! You will have PLENTY of practice. We have to look at practice as moving us forward, not holding us back.

    2. Angie, we need to chat sometime! I am currently a substitute teacher (after leaving the field to stay home with my children) and am very much a perfectionist! I am just getting ready to start my PT1, so we will see how that goes. I would love to hear how it went for you.

  8. Great blog and very inspiring video. Time for me to feel the fear and do this course anyway.

    Time to start searching for an iPad and giving this my best shot.

    Thank Caitlin you are truly inspirational .


  9. What a great blog post and discussion, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Neil Gaiman speech. There were so many great lines and thoughts in all that!

    Yes, I so agree that mastery is the key. I may not ever completely get over that niggling feeling of dread, waiting for “the fraud police” to show up, it’s been with me for a lifetime. But … mastery is like a badge I can flash when they come a-knockin’. My papers to prove that I really belong in the world of proofreading!

    (I hadn’t heard about the additional practice transcripts coming. That’s awesome — thank you!)

  10. The video was awesome. Loved how he stated at the end to just pretend to be that person you’re not. Some of our fears are rooted from years and years of wrong thinking. Changing those thoughts and fears won’t come overnight. I am hopeful that my negative thinking and behaviors will be reversed as I step out and try this thing called proofreading!

    1. YES! New ways of thinking and doing can always be learned; old ways of thinking and doing can always be unlearned 🙂

  11. Oh yes, Go and make mistakes!
    that’s my mantra for the month of June.

  12. Thank you, Caitlin, for publishing the speech. It made me cry, but they are tears of relief, and it made me smile as it was so well delivered.

  13. What a fantastic video!! That was some of the best advice I have ever heard & I will be bookmarking this page so I can reference it later. Thank you for posting it!!

    1. Wow! I am so glad to hear it impacted you positively 😀 It’s definitely something I have to repeat to myself on a regular basis, especially when I catch myself in self-doubt!

  14. What great and encouraging advice! This whole topic of fear reminds me of one of the most important, if not THE most important thing to remember that I’ve learned from my personal achievement coaching, that there is no such thing as fear. Fear is a concept of the future, thinking or believing the worst of what may happen ahead, out of the present moment. While creating the most of our life and fulfilling every dream and goal, we must live in the present moment, always deciding to move forward toward those dreams and goals, as time never stands still. So believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, and pursue what you want to accomplish. Live in the present. That’s all there really is!!
    Thanks, Caitlin, for the reminders we can all use, some of us on a daily basis! 🙂

    1. Wow!! I can see you’ve benefited a lot from your coaching 😀 😀 Thanks for sharing it on the blog with us!

  15. I am currently enrolled in the 7-day free introductory workshop. I’ve been clicking almost every link to every article on proofreadanywhere.com. I love this article and I love the video with Neil Gaiman!

    First, the article. I am a jack-of-all-trades sort of individual. I have mainly worked in the sciences in laboratories mixing chemicals, repairing machines, billing, administrative tasks, etc. My ‘hobbies’ would include that I’ve done home plumbing (ripping out 60 year old metal piping and replacing it with PEX), several re-roofings, automotive tinkering (I recently rebuilt my car engine! I’ve never done that before, but I had a manual that told me how 🙂 ) and I’m sure much more than my wife would care for, haha. I’ve always been a fan of editing others’ work and learning new things. I think this article helped solidify that I am going to become a PA. I want a technical mastery in a specific field and this is going to be a great way of achieving this!

    Second, the video. “And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine.” I love that segment of the video! I know I can at least manage two of the three at any given time, although I will want to provide all three to better market myself.

    1. Hi, Chad!! This comment made my day! I come back to this article and video on a regular basis just to check myself, especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed or like I’ve forgotten what I’m doing 😀

  16. All of the feedback here is so encouraging! Life is really short! I have decided to reinvent myself, move forward, and invest in the course.

  17. Caitlin,

    Every day’s material of your Introductory Course has left me thirsty for more. Thank you! The information you provide in each day’s nuggets is opening a brand new world for me and I can’t wait to dig deeper. I so appreciate the great links you include in your material. It’s like going on a scavenger hunt.

    Today’s eMail is the best so far – Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” address left this old gal breathless. I’ve been down many roads in my professional life and have encountered many of the situations Mr. Gaiman so brilliantly addresses. I can relate and I am humbled. I certainly got a good dose of inspiration from it and it reminded me of the many times I’ve gone down a path without really knowing if I would travel it successfully. The fear was there, but way, way, beneath the excitement of learning and doing. I’ve bookmarked this page already and will revisit many times.

    I think it’s time to open a new chapter in my life and travel a new road. Thanks for your very unselfish effforts and contributions.


  18. What an amazing and inspirational speech. I love when he said “You have something that no one else has, you have you.” Fear of failure has always been an issue for me and a major factor in holding me back. I have been excited everyday reading each of the emails I have received and truly can’t wait to get started on the program.

  19. Such an inspiring speech. I’ve done so many things past the point of enjoyment, but eventually stopped those activities. Many times in my life I have pretended to be a person who can do such and such, and amazingly I became that person! It was a matter of just being confident in my abilities. Thanks for this!

  20. I’ve listened to a lot of commencement addresses, and Neil Gaiman’s is exceptional. And potentially life changing. His focus on “good art” and creativity is interesting in light of the usual perception that proofreading is more about enforcing rules than creating. I think, however, it is possible to conceive of excellent proofreading as a highly creative activity.

    Caitlin is right in stating that “mastery allows you to gain confidence.” Well-known psychologist Albert Bandura’s four sources of self-efficacy are personal performance accomplishments, learning from role models, social persuasion (encouragement), and physical and emotional reactions. Of those four ways to build a sense of efficacy, personal performance accomplishments are the most important source.

    So trust Caitlin on this. Without mastery, confidence doesn’t happen. And that’s one of the reasons her teaching approach intrigues me.

    1. Thank you so much for your participation and insight, Ranee! 🙂

  21. I love Neil Gaiman so I was quite excited to get to the end of this post and see his jovial mug. 🙂 There are so many wonderful points in his address and I think there is something to learn for everyone in his words.

    I have been discouraged from making “good art” more than once in my lifetime up to this point. I am so looking forward to nurturing what has always been innate talent of mine and use it to get me closer to my mountain.

  22. My comment above is a good example of why you should ALWAYS proofread your work before putting it out into the world. I could have sworn I wrote “…has always been AN innate talent of mine…” and immediately saw that was not the case after hitting “submit”. Grrr…

    1. It happens to the best of us! And I get a little excited about Neil Gaiman, too. I understand getting flustered! 😉

  23. I enjoyed this address immensely. I loved his points about fear. I think I will pretend I am someone who acknowledges fear and then continues moving forward. I believe that if I pretend enough then I will become that person.

    I have not yet really become fearful about getting clients. My fear was whether or not I will master the art. This is in essence fear of failure. I realize that I have a degree of control of the success of any endeavor. I certainly do not want to relinquish that control to fear. In other words, I don’t want to ever fail because I was too afraid to try.

    Thanks, this recording was quite inspiring.

  24. My “fear” is not about the ability to get clients, but as an old-timer, it is more about the technical aspects of the job. I work on a computer in an office every day, but switching over to a tablet and learning to download/proofread/forward on a device without a person standing by to help is making me doubt my ability to do the job. How can I build my confidence in this area without spending the $1000 + for the course?

    1. If you’ve never had the opportunity to use a tablet before, you can go to an electronics store and try out a display model. I think you’ll find they’re less of a mystery than it seems. 🙂 You’ll also find a lot of help in the student community in addition to the course resources. We help each other out!

  25. What an insightful speech! I wish someone had delivered that address at my graduation. His message reminds me of a quote by Henry Ford. He reminded us, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

  26. Nuggets gained: Practice makes perfect. Be authentic. Take action to get to the place where you need to be. Do the work you are proud of and success will follow. Learn to say NO!

    Remember, the one thing you have… is you. The hardest lesson in life is to let go and enjoy the ride. Be wise, as the world needs more wisdom.

    Whatever discipline you are in, you have the ability to make art …the lifesaver. When things go bad, make good art. Go and make interesting mistakes. Make the world more interesting. Make good art!

  27. I'm interested in proofreading e-books. I am retired, and I read a lot. Almost every book I read has grammar errors, wrong words used, etc. I'd like to offer my services to these authors. What would I reasonably be able to charge them? Do we charge per page, per book, per hour? What would be a reasonable amount? I'm not sure if they would even be interested in this service, since people are obviously paying to read their books as is.

    1. Hi Sherry, all of the information is within the course.

  28. I love this commencement speech! I am sure I am at the opposite end of the spectrum from most of your students. I am not concerned about replacing a full-time job, since I am 70 years young and already retired. I had three careers in my working life – elementary teaching, mental health counselor and lay pastor. The part of the commencement speech that resonated most with me was his words about enjoyment. I have enjoyed all three areas I have been involved in, and I fully intend to enjoy my season of proofreading. I have always corrected spelling and grammar, either silently or vocally. Now I look forward to learning the nuts and bolts that will make proofreading my fourth career choice. I love quiet enthusiasm, and that is how I feel – quietly enthusiastic.

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