How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome In Freelance Editing

We’ve all experienced moments of doubt, but how do you overcome Imposter syndrome so you keep moving forward? In my 20 years as a freelance editor, I have experienced Imposter Syndrome a few times. It happened when I landed a job for a big client, which was a government agency. Or whenever I edited a new kind of content. 

I’ve also helped new proofreaders and editors overcome Imposter Syndrome. Most of my students come to me with zero experience in editorial work or marketing. Many don’t know anything about proofreading and editing and what is involved until they discover our site!

When you are learning a new skill like proofreading or editing, or if you’re starting a business, feeling like a fish out of water is normal. It is what you do to move past that feeling that is important. In this post, I’ll discuss Imposter Syndrome, what causes it, and how you can overcome it with some strategies and tips you can use right away. Check them out at the end of this post!

Overcome imposter syndrome

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people believe they’re not good enough. This can lead you to believe you are incompetent or even a fraud. Usually, people feel this way when doing something new, like starting a new job.  

There are varying degrees of Imposter Syndrome, and if you want to find out where you are on the scale you can take the Clance Imposter Scale survey.

You Are Not Alone

Even though Imposter Syndrome makes you feel alone, the truth is that it’s a very common condition. Most people have experienced it at least once in their lives.

Studies have shown that 70% of people have experienced feeling like an imposter at some point. An article in Psychology Today lists some contributing factors such as:

  • Friends who aren’t supportive
  • Having more responsibility
  • Experiencing a lot of stress in your life
  • Doing something new, like learning a skill

What It Does To Us

Imposter Syndrome can affect our performance and self-confidence. It makes us feel like we’re not good enough, and if you let it, it can even impact how you function.

Overcome imposter syndrome

When I first started editing, I was petrified with the thought that I didn’t know what I was doing. It was a ridiculous thought because I had just finished a post-graduate program in publishing, and was working as an editorial assistant for a travel magazine.

Obviously I was good enough, otherwise I wouldn’t have graduated and been hired by a publisher. However, I still felt like an amateur who had just lucked out.

I didn’t know there was a name for what I was feeling, and that there were ways to deal with it. In hindsight, if I had known there were strategies to overcome Imposter Syndrome, I would have enjoyed my time at the magazine more.

I remember I was so excited when I received my first article to proofread, but I was also scared at the same time. The article was a 1000-word piece on backpacking in Tibet, but it seemed like a book to me. I was so scared of messing up that I looked up words in every sentence I came across because I couldn’t trust myself to know the correct spelling.

What should have been a one-hour proofread of a travel article turned out to take three hours!

Your Biggest Fears As A Freelance Proofreader And Editor

What I felt isn’t uncommon when you’re new to proofreading and editing. As an editorial educator and coach, I’ve heard from many people about their fears and doubts. Here are some of the biggest fears new proofreaders and editors have shared with me:

Overcome imposter syndrome

1. You worry you’re not good enough to work on content.

I think everyone has felt this at some point whenever undertaking something new. When it comes to proofreading and editing, you worry you’ll come across something you won’t know how to fix. That leads to thinking no one will work with you again or refer you to their network.

The fact is, as long as you strive to do your best, you are good enough. Keep your mind sharp by always learning, reading lots, and asking questions. As a proofreader or editor, you can take quizzes and practice your editorial skills whenever you can.

2. You don’t know all the things about language.

This is a common fear. No one can know everything, though, right? The truth is that you don’t have to know everything about language and writing rules to thrive in editing.

Don’t expect yourself to have some superhuman level of knowledge and skill that’s unrealistic. Thinking like that will hold you back from starting and succeeding.

3. You’re going to make a mistake.

Are you going to mess up, make a mistake, forget something? Maybe, and if you do, that is okay. Did you know that publishers have an error catch rate for books? Book publishers know that editors and proofreaders are only human and that things can be missed. 

What if you miss something in your work and someone points it out? Well, that happens, too. That still happens to me sometimes. The best way to deal with it is to apologize, learn from the situation, and move on from the embarrassment.

4. What if they think I’m a fraud?

Remember, you know more than the client. They’re hiring you to do what they don’t know.

When you’re starting out as an editor or proofreader, you may worry that a client will ask a language-related question and you won’t know the answer.

But you know what? Even if you don’t know the answer, that’s okay. It is impossible to know every rule or guideline about the English language. To deal with this, just let the client know you will get back to them with the answer, and then you research it if you need to.

5 Tips You Can Easily Do To Overcome Imposter Syndrome: 

Imposter Syndrome doesn’t discriminate. You can have a lot of clients and impressive projects in your portfolio, but if you don’t know how to overcome it so you can move forward with your work, it will haunt you daily.

So How Do You Move Past It?

1. Positive Affirmations

It’s been proven that it’s never too late to change our thought patterns. If you say out loud or silently in your head a mantra or positive statement, you can reprogram the neural pathways in the brain and alter its tendency to latch on to negative thought patterns.

Keep your affirmation short and simple, like “I know how to edit like a professional” or “I am very capable.” Whenever a negative thought pops up, repeat these statements to yourself until you feel more in control.

2. Own Your Achievements And Successes

You are doing what you’re doing because of your choices. Did you land a proofreading gig out of pure luck? No. You got it because the client trusted you were the best person for the job.

Own your success, even if you consider it small. Maybe you reached out to twenty people in your network and got two responses back. It may not be a big number, but you made connections and that’s what matters. Celebrate every win, and you will start to feel better.

3. No One Is Perfect

Did you hear that? No one is. And if you make a mistake you learn from it and move on. Don’t look at these moments as failures, but as ways for you to grow and expand your experience.

4. Keep A Journal

I write in a journal a few times a week. I find it therapeutic and confidence building. It allows me to reflect and gain insight. I record my setbacks, failures, and successes big and small.

I also include in each journal entry what I’m grateful for. It reminds me that life is a journey with twists and turns, and no matter what happens, everything will be okay because I have things in my life that make me feel good.

5. Accept That You Cannot Know It All

I know I’m repeating myself here, but really, you do not have to know it all. You don’t have to be a walking style guide or dictionary. Thinking that you have to know it all sets an unattainable goal that is impossible to achieve. You risk disappointing yourself repeatedly.

I’ve trained people whose only experience proofreading was in school or not at all. They’ve gone on to become successful proofreaders and editors who have built businesses that let them create their ideal lifestyles. 

Some work from home on flexible schedules while raising families, others have editorial side hustles that bring in reliable extra income every month. Others travel the world and work from anywhere.

If you want to learn how you can start freelancing and overcome Imposter Syndrome, I have a free masterclass on freelance proofreading and editing you’ll want to check out.

Join our free masterclass now – sign up here!


Over the years, I’ve had my own experiences of Imposter Syndrome, and have helped others who have felt the same. To get over the self-doubt, I use all of the tips I shared above.

When you are experiencing Imposter Syndrome, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by it. The trick is not to give those negative feelings too much time in your head. Distract yourself with an activity or call up a friend. After you’ve done that, use any of the five tips I shared. Remember, you can overcome Imposter Syndrome. What is important is you know that it is possible to move forward and to thrive in anything you do.

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3 thoughts on “How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome In Freelance Editing”

  1. I suffer from this ALL the time. I started writing in a journal things I’m good at, and I find that to be helpful, too. Thanks for the tips!

  2. If you’ve never been grilled at a party, or expected to validate your credentials–just you wait.
    In this increasingly Narcissistic world, more people feel entitled and insecure.
    Having health problems? Be ready to be questioned on every personal detail of your life and body.

    Parenting? Weight Loss? Who do you think you ARE??

    I know you mean to be positive, but “people don’t do that” isn’t true. And some who do can be your own family or friends.

    The best response is usually, “Thanks for coming to me, but I don’t mix work with Me time or I get crazy tired. I’ll be glad to call you tomorrow and answer any questions. ”

    Or of they’re being jerks, say “It’s too much information to sum up (or make easy for you). How about you do some real research on your own, then call me when you’ve caught up.”
    Not as nice, but it lets people know they’re going to need more than criticism and an opinion, to put you down. The Burden is on Them to prove Themselves. Not you.

    Bottom line: Respect is Earned. Its not given with a Diploma or Title.
    And people don’t hire you because You know more than them, they may just not have the time or they are short staffed.
    But when you’ve put more time and energy into something than anyone else, then you can say with confidence that you are the expert. Not them.

    True Self-Esteem comes from Experience and Hard Work.
    And No One can take that from you.

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