Making the Switch to Freelancing: How Your Bid for Perfection is Sabotaging You

“How do you switch from doing corporate work to freelancing?” is something I get asked a lot. Whenever I get asked that, I made sure to never skimp on advice since you never know if it could make the difference in someone’s decision. But the thing with advice is, it won’t be helpful unless you make the decision to help yourself. I noticed that if there’s one thing that commonly sabotages a person’s bid for change, it’s often the need to get everything right.

I knew someone who always told me how he wanted so badly to make the jump from being an employee to being self-employed. He frequently spoke of his plans of what he wants to do once he’s working for himself or to finally build his dream of having his own practice.

A year has passed, and two, and three, and he was still stuck in the job he claimed he despised like a rabid dog detests the sight of water. He said that just thinking how long he lasted in his job sometimes makes him want to throw up.

To my ears, it seemed like a legit reason to finally quit your job. I mean, passionate hatred check, work that left no room for vacations check, what else could you possibly stay for, right? Maybe he just had the forbearance of a saint or he’s a chicken when it comes to following through.

And it struck me that it could also be his plain perfectionistic tendencies keeping him from pursuing the things he really wanted.

To keep the same thing from happening to you, below are just some of the reasons why you don’t need every single thing to be perfect in order to make the jump to being your own boss.

Getting Every Detail Right Can Be Costly


The need to have everything “right” actually boils down to one thing—the need to be in control. To work for yourself successfully, you don’t actually need to control every possible factor. Not just because it’s not possible, but it’s a one-way ticket to get yourself into an asylum. You know what I mean? 

If you ever want to take the leap to being self-employed, you have to reconcile yourself with the imperfection of things. Whether it’s with yourself, your work, or even your clienta.

Realize that perfection is not always synonymous with success, winning, or even fulfillment. On the contrary, perfection is an anathema to all of those. It’s costly and takes away a fundamental bent on how work should be approached.

Not to mention that striving for perfection is a taxing chore—emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Willpower is not an endless reserve. Sooner or later, you’re bound to burn out if you always put all your energy on making everything ideal first. You have to ask yourself if a specific thing is really worth putting off your decision to leaving your job.

Not having everything perfect doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re settling for mediocrity. It’s just that you have the wherewithal to look at the bigger picture of things and not be bogged down by details that might not really matter in the end.

So many people think that perfection is synonymous with being the best. Not at all.

Perfection at its truest, purest form is, in fact, unattainable. This is why practice does not make perfect, it makes a skill permanent. Taking the leap to being self-employed is hard enough as it is for many. Add the cost of perfection and what you get is a recipe for missed opportunities and regrets at the end.

Perfection Doesn’t Always Equate to Success


This is perhaps the most common myth regarding perfection. Success and perfection don’t always go hand in hand.

The good thing about being self-employed or life is that you can be successful even without getting everything right. Imagine if perfection was a prerequisite to working for yourself. There probably would be no successful entrepreneurs or freelancers in the world right now. Because the truth is, no one is perfect and no one will ever be.

You might think that if you do everything right or if you never make a mistake, then you’ll surely achieve the exact outcome you’ve envisioned for yourself. 

But reality hardly ever works this way. There are things outside of our control that also affects the results we get. No matter how seemingly faultless your plan is, there might be incidents outside of your control that can always happen.

The difference between success and perfection lies in putting in your best effort. You have to enjoy the wide array of experiences and knowledge the freelance or entrepreneurial life offers. Not just when you got everything you wanted.

If you always second-guess yourself then you’re getting caught up in a vicious, endless trap of pursuing perfection.

If life was all about perfection, no business would ever be put up, no romantic relationships would ever be formed, no scientific papers would ever be published, and no one would ever be remotely content or happy. All of us would be probably be always aiming for something “better” to come along.

So ditch the thought perfection is required to make the leap to being a freelancer or entrepreneur. You can be very much successful even if you’re less than perfect.

Perfection is an Anathema to Growth and Progress

freelancing perfection success

The thing about having perfectionistic tendencies is that it closes you off to alternative ways of doing things. Many refuse to listen to the feedback of others who are trying to help them because they want to do everything their way regardless of what really needs to be done. 

This just goes to show how very limiting the idea of perfection can be. It’s rigid and absolute. And anything that leaves no room for flexibility for unexpected developments has a high chance of failing.

In reality, growth is crucial for success, but progress cannot thrive if perfection is always your goal.

The view that there’s only one singular way when it comes to doing things leaves no room for learning. And with nothing new to learn, you’re stuck in the same cycle of doing things.

As the oft-quoted Einstein saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.” Setting the bar high is an exemplary thing, but should not be at the cost of your improvement and development.

A perfectionist only cares about one type of result and that is to meet his or her flawless ideal. It’s a heavy yoke to put upon yourself and you’ll perennially be stuck in a constant cycle of re-doing things without any forward movement in sight.

Perfection is Not a Form of Preparation

Being perfect will not necessarily prepare you for each and every unexpected situation that may arise along the way. In reality, you’ll be less prepared than ever because you have a set of expectations that may not necessarily happen. This all boils down to a need for control.

The common thread of thought here is, “I can’t function until everything is absolutely perfect.”

The minute things take an unexpected change, you’ve become invested in the way you want things to turn out that you can’t adjust your actions according to what the current reality is presenting you. Inevitably, you only fail to get your desired outcome.

Some people tend to narrow their focus on just a specific picture or outcome. On the contrary, there are those who have a broader mindset when it comes to achieving results.  The goal is to prepare without being lost in the loop of needing every aspect to be perfect.

Preparing is just a form of practice. And practice is aimed at teaching you the value of what meaningful work entails, not whether you got each and every detail accurate. 

Perfectionism Damages Self-Esteem


Self-esteem that depends on a shaky foundation can easily crumble. It’s not sustainable and is far from healthy since it’s much likely to result in poor performance and higher levels of anxiety

Case in point is when you hold off leaving a prestigious job in fear of what your family, colleagues, or friends might say. As a result, you try to act in a certain way in order to retain their good esteem of you. You never say what you really think and you only do what is expected of you.

This detaches you from your own feelings and desires. You are a version of what others want and not the true, unique version that you are. This weakens your self-confidence all the more.

When you’re not open to the possibility of making mistakes in pursuit of what you really want, then you’re just setting yourself up for a long road of frustrations and disappointments.

Perfection is a well-crafted illusion that’s meant to spur you to do better, not to be consummately flawless in reality.

Fighting Perfectionistic Tendencies With This Belief

The belief that you don’t deserve to be happy with your work unless you did it perfectly is an antithesis to one of the most basic human characteristic—that we are flawed beings. And this is why many find their progress at a standstill; they feel that they don’t just live up to their or society’s standard of perfection.

All these things lead to thoughts such as: “I’ll probably be a failure” or “I don’t just think I have what it takes.”

In the end, I know you want to be happy with your work, but if your quest for happiness hampers your results, you might want to re-assess what really matters for you in the long run. 

Try to remember someone you know who’s a perfectionist and who is happy. Chances are, that all the people you know who are happy with their work do what they like and do it often. They don’t base their happiness or sense of worth on the illusion of perfection.

They take chances, and they’re open to feedback on how to do things. None of these traits match the model of perfection that we are taught to believe.

Why The Right Time is Now

If you’re waiting for the perfect time to start freelancing, it might never come.

Unfortunately, job security is no longer a sure thing these days and you can’t base your decisions on outdated career notions if you want to truly live the life you’ve always wanted.

One of the leading trends that’s set to shape the next decade will be the rising shift to freelance employment. This Intuit report predicts that by 2020, there will be a 40% increase in self-employment as more companies are set to hire contingent workers such as freelancers and contractors.

The report has also predicted that typical full-time jobs with complete benefits will be much harder to find.

So if what keeps you staying in your job is the belief that job security would be better in the future, then it’s high time you reconsider your options.

Tere’s nothing wrong with preparing for your planned shift in career. However, too much of that can put a totally unnecessary and destructive pressure on you. Know that you don’t have to s yourself on a never-ending chase toward the illusion of perfection.

Yearn to challenge yourself and to see things in a new light. Having a profound understanding of the different possibilities out there will lead you to a better quality of life—not perfection.

A worthy life philosophy is one that sets a challenging, attainable goal for you to achieve without impairing your ability to grow as a person. Do you think a career in freelance or entrepreneurship can do this for you?

Would consider yourself a perfectionist? How does it help or hamper your career decisions?

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Also published on Medium.

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