I love that there is so much less stigma than there was around this subject than even just 10 years ago.
Of course there’s a long way to go but we are getting better and there are so many more resources out there.
One of the reasons I became self employed was because I genuinely believed it would be mentally healthier for me than my high pressure job. I wasn’t wrong, it has been one of the single best decisions I have ever made but it’s not without it’s own pitfalls.
Starting your own business, going freelance or simply branching out can come with a plethora of triggers that you *could* feel blindsided by.
The great news is that these are all things you can overcome. The bad news is that you should be prepared to do the work. These examples are my own and the improvements have been based on my own experience. I’m not a medical professional – I just know what works for me and wanted to share that with you.
This one is a right bastard. It creeps up on you when everything is going swimmingly and often I find it’s at it’s worst when I spend too much time coveting other peoples business success or lifestyles.
So first things first. Remember who you are. You are an expert in your own experience, in your own point of view and your own business dreams – ONLY YOU are an expert in this area!
It’s this self awareness of your own skill-set, knowledge and experience that has people coming to you. If you walk into a room with someone who is doing something different or someone who is much more experienced in your chosen arena that does not negate your own individual experience, you’re the right fit for people too, this is when you should consider it an incredible opportunity for you to learn, not for you to shrink.
I know, easier said than done. There are a few things I do to make this less of a thing (and we all get it from time to time)
Reduce my mindless scrolling – yep I uninstall IG or take a couple days away from the socials. I always take little breaks during the day or week anyway – I don’t have notifications on because it pulls me in and whilst I’m working or with the family/friends I don’t even pick up my phone. It really does help.
I keep a file with all of the positive feedback I get and look through it from time to time. Reminding myself of the good I’ve done really makes a difference (I actually have a thank you card on my desk from a client who sent me the most beautiful flowers. It really helps)
Dedicate a bit of extra time to do the thing I’m really good at in my business – it always makes me feel good when I have been productive and creative.
Even in my old school reports my teachers would say ‘Amy is her own worst enemy’. I have been known to put things off or cancel things because they aren’t exactly how I think I should have made them. My standards of myself are higher than any anyone else has ever placed on me and less than I would ever place on someone else. It’s a crippling belief and behaviour pattern that can really negatively affect my mental health.
I believe it’s linked to low self esteem and I think that the key to overcoming this is accepting that you wish to be perfect but that there really is no such thing.
Things I do to help:
I give myself realistic deadlines and commit to them
I have a phrase I live by when I am in this mental space and that is ‘done is better than none’
I ask myself outloud in the mirror whether this is just my perfectionism talking. This makes me feel a bit silly and in effect creates a diversion
I wasn’t actually sure what to call this stage. It relates to other peoples opinions and how they affect us. I still remember to this day the boy that told me my teeth were orange and even now I hate smiling and showing teeth. For him it was a throwaway comment (I had just eaten a bag of wotsits) to me it was the gospel truth because it was someone elses belief and I therefore have orange teeth.
When I went self employed I was thrilled and then people started saying things like ‘I must be mad’ or ‘That’s a brave step since you’re probably not going to earn much for a while at least’ and I felt my fear kick in and motivation dwindle. This is so so hard. With the advent of social media and the onslaught of opening ourselves up to other peoples critisism it is really tough not to be brought down by it.
There was a client (a small tech start up) who I had been so excited to work with but ended up having to ‘fire’. As we progressed they wouldn’t share relevant information and made it clear that they thought I should be selling their business to my family (who are very successful in their own fields in silicon valley) when I said no – any pitches would have to go through the normal channels – they told me I wasn’t committed to their business. It hurt because I 100% was committed in the Virtual Assistant role I had but they were asking me to cross my own ethical and moral boundaries by leveraging a familial relationship for their business (they also consistently paid 60 days late!)
I ended our working relationship but I felt bad because they said I wasn’t committed enough. This plays on my mind even now at times because it’s how I’m built.
I certainly don’t have any real tricks to make this easier and I definitely still struggle with wearing the weight of other peoples opinions but I think the best way to overcome is to try to work on your self confidence everyday. That will partly mean taking action and being more decisive, staying authentic and living a life of integrity and to strive to continually grow and build our qualities and strengths. Here are a few things I try to remember when it feels too heavy a burden.
In the words of the great Rachel Hollis, ‘Other peoples opinions of me are none of my business’
The way people talk to or about you is a reflection of them not you.
As long as I am doing right by myself, my son and my family then I am ok regardless of what they think.
This leads on nicely from the last one because self doubt is part of all of us however can be easily combatted if you work on it. My top advice for working on yourself doubt are:
Take action and be decisive (it doesn’t give you the time to slip into the ‘what if’, train of thought)
Accept compliments and actually respond. When someone tells you you did something well say ‘thank you for noticing, I’m glad it was a positive experience for you’ or something along those lines reflective of their compliment WITHOUT justifying what you did or being self deprecating (it’s harder than you think if you’re like me!)
Help other people. This is my go to, firstly it takes me out of my own head but mainly because helping other people is bloody awesome and that makes everyone feel great.
This is going to happen whether you live in meditation on the beach in fiji or whether you’re starting a business from scratch, have screaming triplets and need to milk your own cow.
It is a part of life.
Stress is our body and brains response to an external influencing factor for example, I have to get 50 orders packed tonight and I’m running out of time and the kids need me.
This one sees me ask myself some questions – if the answers don’t help I will call a friend and talk it through.
Am I being honest with myself?
What can I get away with not doing to better support what I MUST do?
Is there anyone I can ask for help
This is much like stress however, it is generally triggered by internal feelings and doesn’t need an outside stresser to trigger it. This one I find hardest to manage of the two because it creeps up on me. But here are a few things I find help reduce my anxiety
Changing my space. If I’m on the sofa watching TV or at my desk writing content and I begin to feel anxious I stop what I’m doing and go to make myself a cup of tea or walk the dog or hang the laundry. Sometimes that is enough of a disruption.
Accept that I am feeling anxious and ask myself why this may be. Sometimes it’s trigger is a real thing and that may need addressing. Sometimes the trigger is just in my head and that may mean I need to change my internal talk and work extra hard on positive affirmations and my internal talk for a little while.
Ask myself – Have I slept enough? Have I drank enough water? Have I spoken with my best friends lately? Normally if I make sure I do one or all of those things I can reduce the level of anxiety dramatically.
Don’t forget I am just at the end of an email firstname.lastname@example.org and if you need more support then you can click NHS MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTand you’ll find a list of all sorts of UK based support services that can help.
The thing I’m learning about business and more importantly about being in business is that we all believe to some extent that we can only be successful if we are 100% confident in ourselves and in our businesses.
As a woman with a lot of personal ‘baggage’ in the hold I can’t help but get caught up in this mentality from time to time and whatever you coin it, it’s when the sneaky old imposter syndrome creeps in.
It’s no secret that confidence is a phenomenal selling tool.
You just have to look at the Kardashians to know that confidence has been a cornerstone of their success, this is the evidence we are seeing all around us and so our brains tells us ‘see, confidence is key’.
The difficulty is that we also have that deep desire to just wake up one day with a gut full of self confidence. We think ‘tomorrow it will be different, I’ll feel different and when I do, I’m going to…’
I believe that’s exactly why confidence is such a phenomenal selling tool. Because it’s something we all want more of.
It’s a commodity that often feels a little out of our reach, and what is business if it’s not based on the supply and demand principle somewhere along the line?
Confidence has been a bit of a buzzword for the last few years and in particular as social media has boomed. There are a shit tonne of books, podcasts, courses and trainings all designed to help you boost your confidence.
It’s brilliant, I want EVERYONE to feel more confident so anything that supports that – I’m down for it!
My experience is that confidence is a side effect.
It’s the same as losing weight and feeling healthier after changing your diet and exercise regime. Confidence comes from doing what we weren’t sure we could actually do.
A great example I have is back in September when I was on holiday in Turkey. It was a lovely holiday and we took a boat trip with friends and family (as you do). As is pretty normal the boat stopped in a gorgeous bay and everyone started jumping into the water from the various decks into the crystal clear blue waters below.
My then 14 year old desperately wanted to jump form the top deck. I was swimming in the sea below watching as he came to the edge (mama bear wanted to be at the bottom to do the proverbial catch) and it never occurred to me he wouldn’t be able to do it.
You see Josh climbs jumps and throws himself into and off of anything he can find on a regular basis, he’s THAT fearless kid but…
He just froze.
It was a horrible moment. There were other boats in the bay and their passengers were shouting at him to just get on with it, everyone on our boat was trying to egg him on and encourage him and I could see him just convincing himself that he couldn’t do it.
The more people pushed, the more he froze.
I was beside myself. I understood 100% because I absolutely knew I couldn’t have done it either, I’d never be able to, it’s not in me and to have that feeling made even worse by everyone else around him, to have that watched by so many people. Well it really hurt my heart and I could see his face burning with his unnecessary embarrassment.
I swam back to the boat, climbed to the top deck and shoo’d everyone away, grabbing Joshs hands I asked what he needed from me and he said. “Mum, I think I’ll be OK if you do it first”
As I walked towards the edge I felt like crying. I couldn’t do it, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it, after all it just wasn’t in me. I wasn’t confident enough and then…
Apart from being absolutely petrified as I flailed uncontrollably through the air only to hit the water and have my swimming costume wedge itself so far up my bum I could floss my teeth with it, I realised, I could do it. I had in fact I had done it and I was fine.
I didn’t need to be confident to do it. I just needed to take a leap of faith (literally), the confidence came AFTERWARDS as a side effect.
For those of you wondering Josh didn’t jump.
He said a few choice words to the people on the other boatsand went and had a good cry on his sun lounger with his sunglasses on.
When everyone was having lunch I took him to the middle deck and we jumped off together and he realised jumping off the top deck wasn’t the challenge – simply jumping off the boat into the lush water was what he wanted to do.
He then did it about 100 times because as a side effect of doing it the first time he created the confidence to do it again (and again and again, getting more flamboyant with each jump).
When we feel ‘stuck’ or frozen we often wrap this up with lacking confidence and not being good enough. There’s also a natural aversion to ’embarrassment’ or shame in there too which I think is one of the reasons we aren’t all ‘more confident’ – we want everyone to think their highest of us at all times and the thought that we might be laughed at or liked less makes many of us very uncomfortable.
But, if confidence is a ‘by product’ what do you need to do to get it?
The truth is that we create confidence by having the courage to have a bias toward action.
Doing something we weren’t certain we could do is exactly how we build our confidence. The more we do it the more confidence we build up.
When someone else, your child, a friend, a loved one wants to do something that they are finding hard, you don’t encourage confidence, you encourage being brave, having faith in themselves and the very definition of that is not knowing the outcome but doing it anyway.
It’s why so many people say things like ‘start before you’re ready’ or ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’
Because confidence is not a commodity you can buy. It’s a trait you can learn and you can only learn it through doing.
Of course, it also helps when your reason for having to ‘do the thing’ is bigger than your worry. Just like me jumping off the boat, I did it because in that moment it’s what my son needed. In my business the reasons are multi faceted but they’re all bigger than my fear of the thing.
Helping women just like me build their own businesses
Creating financial security
Being healthy and happy
Showing my son you can build your dreams in your chosen image
Setting women who feel like ‘this is all’ free to reach their greatest potential
Building my own dream rather than someone elses
never having to request annual leave
Being the captain of my own ship and showing other single mums with no money they can too
Fear is normal. In fact it’s hardwired into us as an evolutionary safety net to prevent us from dying. It’s important to remember that fear is designed to stop us from literal death but the way we react to certain things will mimic that – for instance speaking in public or going live on Facebook.
We all know we aren’t actually going to die from doing these things but the chemical and emotive reactions are the same and that’s why we freeze or struggle or put it off.
There is no difference between logical and illogical fear so our response is perhaps disproportionate.
How can we change it?
For us as adults it’s exactly what I mentioned before, having the faith and courage to have a bias towards action and that is easier with a strong reason.
But it’s also important to show our children, peers and audience this so that we encourage them to be more courageous too and thereby helping them evidence that they have confidence to show up for themselves too.
I’m super lucky, I was raised by a ‘doer’ but my innate personality means I struggle with this every single day. Even in so much as writing and sharing this blog post.
But I practice (and I mean practice) having an action towards bias and can honestly say the more I do this the easier it gets, the more confident I become. I have to do it over and over and over and over.
It’s like learning anything. You watch, learn, practice, rinse and repeat until eventually it’s second nature. Then you keep on doing it.
Catch you later, Amy x
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I have shared a little about this before but I wanted to talk to you about what it meant to me as a teenager (14 going on 15) to leave school and how that has affected my life so far.
When I was 14 we relocated, moved 150 miles away to a whole other county. My baby sister wasn’t quite 1 and my brother was in his first year of UNI. Everything was pretty great, new home, new school new friends. Only it really wasn’t.
Unfortunately, there was an issue with matching where I currently sat in the curriculum with the place they were currently teaching from. They didn’t match and I would have to pick up a year of work I was never going to get the opportunity to do in a guided classroom environment. On top of this my chosen subjects from my previous school weren’t even available in my new county so again, I had a whole year to catch up on in new subjects.
It was hard but doable though, in all honesty I didn’t think this at the time.
Unfortunately, I think when you added that pressure to my emotional wellbeing through several huge life changes all happening at once I just stopped. My anxiety went through the roof I could barely leave the house without a panic attack.
I had insomnia and was diagnosed with clinical depression at which point they put me on Prozac. I still had no idea how I was going to get the grades I needed to be able to do the next stage of my journey which I had planned would lead me to university to study English and become a journalist.
After many discussions between the school, local authority and my parents it was felt that it would be best if they deregistered me with a view to doing the ‘resits’ course at our local 6th form college, this never transpired and just months later my parents decided to move back to the town we had originally left.
I was devastated.
Oh don’t get me wrong, I was perfectly happy not having to go to school anymore considering I wasn’t learning anything that I needed to progress. But I still had my heart set on those plans and I was, believe it or not, thrilled to be living in the new town which I loved.
As I had started to get better mentally, I had also gotten myself a job at TK Maxx and I loved that too. Yet another upheaval
It was a pivotal moment in my life.
I discovered that sometimes, the world around you spins differently to your expectation and knocks you off your intended course. It’s had some real effects both positive and negative and I believe that it has been instrumental in where I find myself today.
The discoveries I talk about here can be applied to your freelance business, small business or pivot in your career. Here is what I learned.
Don’t limit yourself to just 1 type of education
It’s not necessary to follow the path traditionally laid out and well trodden by others all the time. You don’t have to stick to only knowing what you know or only learning what you’re innately talented at. Particularly now, the digital world has opened up a plethora of learning opportunities that mean you can diversify your knowledge and expand your joy at the click of a mouse. Learning is available for everyone in everything, you can and should explore different things.
It’s good practice to self reflect
Sometimes, like in my situation, there are circumstances beyond your control. It’s absolutely normal to get caught up in the frustrations of this whether it me a ‘big deal’ like my situation or lots of small day to day ones like most of us experience. It’s important to set some time aside and really think about who you are and who you want to be and when you do reflect, you’ll find you know exactly what you need to let go of in order to do so. It’s a way to recharge AND recalibrate.
Figure out what and who inspires you
When things are up and down like a wild wave it can be hard to see the safety of dry land. It’s this time when you most need to feel engaged and inspired. I hope that you all find things within yourself that inspire and motivate you and ignite your spark but undoubtedly there will be times when that’s too difficult. It’s important to have a medicine bag of things, places, people and activities that inspire you so that when you need it you have easy access to it.
Be open to unusual opportunities
When you have been pivoted of course in the way I was you really learn to open up to possibilities. It has been allowing myself to be open to doing something different that ultimately has led to some of the most amazing experiences of my life. So stay open, you never know what’s around the corner.
When in doubt, action it out
I’ve written about having a bias for action before but this is key. When you are pivoted for reasons beyond your control it can feed into your self esteem and raise the ugly head of self doubt. I find that always, this is lessened by simply doing something. The act of doing is the medication for self doubt.
I needed more help than I got when I was trying to find my way, and now in a much more digital world than even 24 years ago, there is so much white noise around everything you might have an inkling to do. I created this FREE epic guide to freelancing and small business. Sign up for your copy below.
I try to share all the good, bad and ugly of building a business in this online world as a woman, mother and self confessed introvert. When it is going well I cannot find the words to share how amazing it is.
You wake up ready to take everything on, you’re productive, fun and full of that kind of charisma you see on Oprah from incredible business women. YOU HAVE GOT THIS.
But, it would be remiss of me not to discuss with you some of the oitfalls too. Like the fact that I realised I hadn’t left the house for over a week except to walk the dog recently. Or the lack of understanding over your schedule with the ones you love (Yes, often I have to remind people that I am actually doing my job at 11am in the morning – even though I’m wearing leggings and share the desk with my Jack Russell)
Lets kick straight into the money talk because lets face it, it’s normally the thing that either holds you back from or entices you to start working for yourself. There are a few key points to remember about money.
Nobody and I mean nobody is an overnight success. Anyone selling you a get rich quick idea needs to step off so that you can build a get rich well business.
Taxes, these aren’t as scary as you think BUT there are ways to make that process better. Leaving them till the last possible second and then realising you can’t login and have to request access and are then past the time limit is not one of them (guilty!). No, preparation and organisation may not be sexy but both of those things are sanity savers and will prevent you from getting unnecessary fines. Look with love at your simple system and let that bad boy look after you the way he should.
You wont be able to draw the exact same money every month as a salary for a while. It will be up and down and will only really start becoming regular when you’re better established. That’s not to say you can’t be established in 3 months it’s just a reminder that you don’t have a boss therefore it’s not someone elses job to pay you.
You should always know 2 things a) your survival budget – you know that base amount you need to cover each month to live and b) that you may need to do other things at the start to help you support your business dream (for example side hustles.) and that’s ok.
You will have to put yourself out there
My first 3 clients were all people I had previously worked with, after that I realised that clients were not going to fall into my lap. I am naturally quite shy and whilst I mask this very well, the process of putting myself out there is still something I find really bloody hard. If you want to establish yourself quickly this will be one of the biggest keysto your success.
In person networking
You Tube videos
Telling everyone you meet what you do and leaving them with a way to connect with you
None of these come naturally to me and yet I still have to do them. If you really can’t face them then I think your only way around building an authentic presence is to throw money at ads and even then it’s not guaranteed.
This is something that is essential to your success but is also one of the hardest things to sort out. I cross out every Wednesday and make sure I have that off. I also make sure that I do the same if we are going away BUT often in the early stages of business it feels impossible. For one you are constantly thinking about the business and just don’t switch off and two if you’re not working you may not be earning.
This might mean that at the start you have to front load time off (do an extra piece of paid work leading up to the time off in order to cover the lost income whilst you’re off) or you may have to still work whilst you’re away if so you’ll need to set yourself strict guidelines around this.
Either way, time off can be challenging but it is essential!
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Have you ever been in the space where you just don’t know what to do with your work and your life and you’re finding it a super tough decision?
Boy do I feel you and I am so happy that you’re here today.
There are a lot of times in life when this issue comes up, in my experience it is incredibly common when you have small children though I know that I experienced it (and will continue to do so throughout my life).
Getting a bit morbid maybe, but when I get the collywobbles about being in business for myself I often think about what I will be looking back on at the end of my life.
I wonder whether I will regret going for it, giving it my best shot and I am of the deep seated belief that whilst it may not always look how I imagined, and yes I suspect that the path will have some bumps in it – I would almost certainly regret not trying more than giving it my all.
I can only speak as a woman and as someone who was a single mother for a long time but life has hurdles, for each and every one of us. Sometimes they can bite you in the arse so hard you feel it for decades but it doesn’t have to end there for you.
You don’t HAVE to stay stagnant. After I hit my mid 30s I realised that there are some circumstances and situations I can only change by making change.
It’s this part that’s hard though isn’t it.
The making change. For me it meant I was even poorer than I started at times (which was bloody poor I don’t mind telling you) but you see, ultimately. Changing my life simply became about making decisions.
Making the decision to move on, and it was the process of that decision that freed me and propelled me to a future that I have been stunned at.
As a mother my overriding mantra is ‘what will the impact of this decision have on my son’ and whilst that’s an awesome way to be, particularly as the sole carer, it also meant that where I might have tried and failed fast (or succeeded beyond measure) I was too scared to make a decision.
But the time passed anyway. 1 year of wondering turned into 10.
My sons life didn’t get any better, in fact sometimes it got worse, but the minute I chose to go for it things began to change.
I wont lie and tell you it’s all been plain sailing because it hasn’t, I had to make sacrifices and yes so did my son BUT the truth of the matter is that, that small sacrifice has allowed us to build a different kind of life together and it’s amazing and going from strength to strength.
Decision making followed by taking action is the way to free your shackles and boost your confidence.
The key is that if you fail you fail fast and learn from it. It might mean stopping or it might mean adjusting but lady, you can do it.
Honestly, what worries you about it?
The time it will take (the years will pass whether you’re doing the thing you want or not)
So here’s the thing, if you can imagine yourself in the future both ways, plodding on doing what you’re doing and then differently having achieved the this thing of yours, which one do you really want most?
It’s completely ok if it’s just a pleasant fantasy (like winning the lottery)
The truth is that what causes us the most unhappiness is simply indecision.
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Following on from talking about brainstorming the next step is understanding what works.
I’m a massive advocate for doing things your way, I believe that’s what will make the business joyful for you however, I also believe in learning from others and there is no more appropriate time to do that than when you’re in the process of creating your foundations.
After all, your foundations are what will create an environment in which you (and your business) will be able to thrive.
Research is what comes next..
Step 1 – Pick the idea that you want to research
It is important to research people and businesses who are in your industry or relate to the idea you’re brainstorming. Finding people that are doing what you want to do, achieving success in the ways that you also want to achieve success. It’s good practice for you to research them and to learn what resonates with you.
Once you’ve chosen, this is what we will focus your research on. With that in mind you research is about asking questions, here are some example research questions you should ask when you look at each of them.
What products/services are they offering?
What are their price points?
What about their business would you like to model?
Step 2 – get organised/prepared to research
Of course you *could* just read and then try to remember it all though I suspect you’ll forget most of what you find.
Before you start doing any research you have to set yourself up for success. You should create a way to save and organise the sites that you’re researching. The easiest way I find is with the bookmarking tool. However, some people set up a google sheet and link everything – it’s really whatever floats your boat.
This is also good ongoing because you’ll have a system where you can save things that you come across that you like for future reassessment.Of course you need to label these i.e. pricing structures / services this will make it much easier when you want to come back to it.
I always create a parent folder and name it something related to what I’m working on. For example it could be ‘coaching business 2020’ or ‘copywriting 2020’ within that create the other folders such as pricing / content / services..
Step 3 – what to write in your search
This is otherwise known as choosing your search terms. It basically means the words that you are going to use to search in order to find businesses/information that are similar to your idea.
So for example if you’re planning a location based business such as a physiotherapist you may just search ‘physiotherapist’ on Google, alternatively you may choose to search physiotherapist + South London (your area).
It’s also important to expand this further so you could search ‘causes of knee pain’ or ‘why do people need a physiotherapist?’ or ‘what are the benefits of physiotherapy?’ Search terms like this will broaden your scope and results.
I would also suggest looking at all of the relevant results on (at least) the first 3 pages of google search results – it will provide the broadest spectrum of results whilst giving you a limit so you don’t end up procrastinating.
Step 4 – Save your work!
Do be selective what you choose to save, only save the sites that reflect what you want to achieve, model or like and of course, make sure you’re saving them in the right folders!
Don’t forget this is a glance, you’re not supposed to drown in the rabbit hole of research!
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