The way you think about yourself affects everything. It affects your personal life as well as your professional life, your relationships with colleagues, clients and potential clients. It determines whether you will succeed as a freelancer or causes you to give up.
Let me take you on a journey: from NEEDY to NEEDED!
First of all, let me define what I mean by "needy". Needy freelancers are people who have no control over the work they do. They let others (mainly clients, PMs, etc.) call the shots and determine rates, deadlines, working conditions and so on. They have a passive attitude towards managing their business and feel like any change could be to their disadvantage. So they desperately need their clients to survive and pay their bills.
There are various reasons why you might be needy in the translation world. Perhaps you are inexperienced and new to the industry and don't have much confidence in yourself and your work. Perhaps you have been stuck with low paying clients and are afraid to change the status quo, or you have slacked off on marketing and feel like you don't have much choice.
Whatever the reason, you feel like you need the clients more than they need you. Yes, without clients there is no work. However, if you think that way, you will let them run you over without standing up for yourself. In addition, that needy mindset creates a slave attitude of "I have to do whatever it takes, accept any rate they propose, work night and weekends and never speak up for myself. Otherwise my business is dead! Oh poor me!". That is a very unhappy place.
Good news: there is a way out. When you decide you are tired of this predicament, you can roll up your sleeves and get to work. First of all, you have to make sure you are offering top-notch quality. Do your research, specialize, learn as much as you can. You can use free online resources, podcasts, or take more formal classes. Don't focus just on languages. Branch out. Learn how to run a business, how to market, how to communicate effectively.
Then, be realistic and evaluate your skills. Make a list! Know what you can offer your clients and how you can help them reach their goals. As soon as you start believing in yourself and become more confident in your work, your Debbie Downer attitude will also change. You will finally realize that it's not you that need them. It's the other way around.
The hard work pays off. Clients will recommend you to others, praise your work or let you set the rate. At that point, you feel like a professional. You are finally NEEDED. You have something other people want. This is not a position to take advantage of. It is a place where you can help others succeed, do your work and feel accomplished and satisfied, knowing you are giving your best and getting paid what you are worth.
When you go from needy to needed, you can have a peer-to-peer relationship with your clients. You can communicate and negotiate without feeling intimidated. You work nights and weekends because you want to accommodate their needs not because you are scared that they'll go elsewhere, you go the extra mile because you care and want to provide the best service you can.
As Marcela Reyes said on Tess Whitty's podcast on Marketing Tips for Translator: "You're in business because someone is in need of what you offer". Let's go find that someone and meet their needs!