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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What I learned by leaving school at 14? I’ve shared about this before but today, I’m writing about how it helps business.
The background to why I left school at 14 (in 1997)
At 14 we moved 150 miles away from Haverhill to Cheltenham, it’s beautiful. My sister was 10 months old and my brother was in his first year of Uni.
I did not cope well.
Why I struggled
I missed my brother and was disconnected from my mum. My relationship with dad was always terrible and I was far away from friends and family.
Here’s the kicker. There were some major differences in the curriculum. This meant I had a whole year to catch up on in all my subjects new and old without any teacher guidance.
Exhaustion was overwhelming. It felt insurmountable.
At this time my anxiety went through the roof. Even leaving the house caused panic attacks.
I now understand that I had a breakdown. When I was in it, I just thought I was broken.
Symptoms: Insomnia, over thinking, withdrawing, crying. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and prescribed Prozac. At 14 I was on Prozac
How would I be able to follow my plan? Would I be able to go to Uni, study English and become a journalist? (Want to see what I did with my life? check out my about page.
After many discussions between the school, local authority and my parents I was de-registered 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.
Truth time; I was happy not having to go to school and I loved the town. But, I still wanted to become a journalist.
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.
What I learned was – 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, here’s what I learned
Sometimes, there are circumstances beyond your control.
It’s absolutely normal to get caught up in the frustrations of this. Whether it’s a ‘big deal’ like my situation or lots of small day to day ones like most of us experience. 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 re-calibrate.
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.
What I learned? 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 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. But if you want to go freelance, here’s a few things to think about.
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 pitfalls 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)
Money and what it means when you want to go freelance
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 if you want to go freelance
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.
If you want to go freelance make sure you schedule time off
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!
None of these tips will come as a surprise to you really. I think if you’ve been planning or are in the process of starting your business you’ve probably been following a fair amount of business minded people, either on their social media, listening to their podcasts or reading their books. Maybe you’ve done all of the above.
I don’t claim to be an expert, I just know what’s worked for me (and my clients) so here goes, my top 5 tips for staying on the ball as you build your business.
Staying on the ball doesn’t mean that life won’t sidetrack you like a mofo from time to time, what these things have meant for me though, is the ability to bounce back, regain focus and maintain my motivation.
Start your day right
I used to be one of ‘those’ people that woke up at 5am – this started as a side effect of having a child that never slept BUT when I first started my business it really served me well. Now though, my body clock is changing, Josh is a teenager and 5am isn’t so fun. Now I make sure I start my day with these 3 rules:
Don’t go on my phone for at least 30 minutes
Drink, drink, drink I usually go for a glass of water first then have a lazy cup of tea (if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I share my morning mugshot and bed hair most mornings.)
I have a shower. This is such a simple powerful thing to do and I’m not judging you if you woke up today looking like somebody dug you up and haven’t yet had a wash. I just know that on the days where I shower first thing I feel better, and if I feel better, I do better.
This is something we hear all the time for various reasons. I find it’s really good for my mental health. I take my son Josh to the gym twice a week where I just do a bit of cardio and a few weights and on a Sunday I try to go to a class. The rest of the days I still try to increase my heart rate for at least 20 minutes and I do this when I walk the dog – we get a proper power walk on for the last leg and it really helps my mind clear. Again, it just makes me feel good.
Surround yourself with the right people
This is another big one in the land of self development and business coaching but there is a reason for that. The people in your circle will either raise you up or they will drag you down. This is your choice and if you choose right you will feel AMAZING and you will really leap forward.
This isn’t all about business success either, when you have the right people around you you will find that your passion grows, your enthusiasm grows, your confidence grows and as a result you provide those growth areas right back to those people.
Focus on the quality of your work and commit to excellent customer service from the start
This is actually one of the tougher than you think ones. I have a great phrase that I use when I find myself being a bit of a perfectionist (Done is better than none) but when you are starting in business things can feel a bit thankless, it can be hard to keep the motivation and things *can* slide.
Do what you do really really really well. Be the best at it that you can be and you are already halfway there. Don’t forget, your clients/customers are the biggest asset in your business and exceptional customer service doesn’t take much effort from you but it will mean return customers, referrals and recommendations and we all know how we feel when we feel looked after by the people we buy from.
Be the one they remember for the right reasons.
Remember that marketing is social
This is something that I have to remind myself frequently. So much of our marketing is digital nowadays but the conversation is so often one sided. What keeps me on track is remembering that I don’t just want a random purchase, I want ongoing relationships with my clients. If I want a relationship I have to build it and that means being social.
So don’t forget to show yourself, who you are, what your values are, what the customer means to you and how much you value what they’re doing.
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I wanted to talk to you today about the times when a huge pivot starts to take shape in your life and what that means you need to do – especially when you’re over 30.
I am a firm believer in everyone being able to pivot should they need and wish to.
But, I definitely appreciate that in many ways the older you get the tougher it can feel. After I had my son at the age of 22 everything had a bigger bearing because the level of my responsibilities had increased. That being said, I do believe that there are a couple of things you can keep in mind to help you through such a transition particularly if you are over 30.
Your mindset is the biggest blessing or barrier to the success of your transition.
I found myself chatting to my boyfriend last night and we were discussing things we felt we had changed because we were now ‘too old’ well that’s a really tough mindset to have if you want to change your career, pivot your business or start building your empire.
After all, if you keep telling yourself you’re too old to do something, you’re probably going to feel too old to do something!
Age is not the important component to this change right now. If we look at the retirement age now compared to 30 years ago it’s increased. Yes, I realise there’s a governmental thing there but also it’s because capability does not suddenly disappear when you hit a certain age. We recognise in others that they can still do life no matter their age, give that courtesy to yourself.
It’s also about reminding yourself that you have so much more experience than you did at 19. Your career, life and personal experiences make you so much more ready to take on change – it’s not your age, it’s your fear that holds you back.
Just google ‘people who became successful later in life’ and you will find a plethora of stories about breakthroughs that you’ve probably heard of but put to the back of your mind. Use these to reinforce your evidence of change success.
It can be done and you can do it. Just remember to disrupt that negative mindset of ‘I’m too old’ when that nasty bugger creeps in.
You need to open yourself up to expanding your education.
Some of you will actually be thinking about going back to school so that could really be quite literal but, I’m also talking about learning all you need to learn about the career/business and pivot that you’re going to make as a broader thing.
For example, I quit my job and set up as virtual assistant but I had never been my own boss and so, I invested some time with a local training provider to get free training on starting a business which included basic bookkeeping / marketing / website creation etc. and then I invested in a program that taught me some of the other stuff I didn’t know well enough like identifying my ideal client and working on my money mindset.
It’s important to remember that if you want to do a thing, it’s not just the thing that you will be doing, right? For me I was doing the virtual admin – of course I was, but I was also marketing, design, customer service, lead generator etc etc.
No matter your pivot there’s things to learn outside of the actual part of the job that your going to be doing.
You have to actually do something about it.
This seems obvious right but sometimes we get caught up in the dream, in the thought process, in the research and planning that we don’t ever actually do the doing.
All of the big gurus and thought leaders will tell you this but you have to take action. A lot of them call it having a ‘bias towards action’. Mel Robbins has coined the 5,4,3,2,1 method and there are many more out there with their own spin on it.
It’s simple, if you take small incremental steps everyday regarding that change then you will get there. When you’re feeling meh, ask yourself ‘what is the right thing for me to action today, what is the step I can take right now to move me a tiny bit forward’
It could be to listen to a training audio on your lunch break instead of chatting with Joanne in the cafeteria about Carolines wedding plans. It could be to reach out to people for mentorship etc.
It’s the ‘doing’ of these things that moves you forward.
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So you’ve started your business (or are thinking about it) and it all feels a little out of your comfort zone.
You’re on the socials and may even have your social media strategy in place yet… something is holding you back.
You feel ‘wooden’ and you want to enjoy what you do without appearing unprofessional.
So, how do you stay professional AND allow yourself to be, well, you?
It’s a strange transition going from employee/stay at home parent/high flying corporate leader/underachieving coaster to – freelancing, becoming your own small business owner and not having a boss.
It’s easy to stick to the approved of uniform (joggers/leggings/suits/cocktail dresses) and adhere to a certain professional etiquette when you’re in that role you’ve been living in for a while (and yes SAHMs and coasters do have their own etiquette) but what about when YOU become the focus of your business?
I struggle with this daily, the weight of the online judgement made by potential clients a thought every time I post. So, when I was talking to a friend recently he said that my USP (unique selling point) is me. It’s my winning personality – his words and no I didn’t pay him. I had to think about this a bit more.
If you’re feeling like an imposter, like you’re not good enough, if you’re second guessing everything you post then you’re not alone.
Last year I really fell out of love with my online presence. I just felt like it wasn’t me, not really. Nothing online felt like it truly represented me and as a consequence, and I think quite a logical one, I began to disassociate with my online persona.
I felt professional but hollow.
Call it imposter syndrome if you like but out of everything in this freelance world this feeling has had the biggest impact on me and whether you’re thinking about freelancing, have just started up or whether you’re a more established entrepreneur, I think we can all agree that this happens to each and every one of us.
What are the signs?
For me, this negativity manifested itself in the following ways:
Procrastination – I just dithered and dallied over everything – I even stepped away from social media entirely for around 6 months.
Loss of self confidence in my abilities – this is a doozy if it gets hold of you.
Attracting clients./jobs that you don’t actually really want to do – I found this a lot and began to notice that like attracts like. I.e. I was getting enquiries from people who were wooden, weren’t valuing my business and were wasting both our times. Whilst I wasn’t being a time waster online I had to come to terms with the fact that without showing who I was and with that underlying lack of confidence not being me was creating, I was devaluing myself, my hard earned and high quality skills and my business as a whole. After all, like attracted like.
I was bored and miserable and didn’t have a clue where to start to get myself out of the funk.
So again, how do you stay professional AND allow yourself to be you?
Here’s the thing, I can give you half a dozen steps to take and suggestions for doing this but I think the main thing is this:
You know what you’re doing, it’s why you felt you *could* do this in the first place, that little stirring of something in your gut. It’s not your ability that’s the problem it’s how you choose to showcase yourself and your business online.
When you share be yourself – talk like you, use words you would use, laugh if you would normally laugh etc. Be proud of your skills, talents and knowledge.
If you feel the most comfortable being made up do that, if you don’t then don’t (you don’t have to look like anyone else online, even if you fear they’re doing it better. You just need to look like you)
If you live in gym gear then bloody go for it, if I see you turn up in stories wearing a tutu and converse, if that’s your style then I’m there for it because, and this is most important, you will be bringing to the table the person I will be speaking with, giving money to, be recommending, be anticipating their next story and whether you’re a quirky Queenie or Straight Laced Sally then I’m there for it..
Tell me how your ninja skills can help me better yet show me, all whilst being you and I will more likely buy off you. The energy you give off will resonate almost more than the actual post itself – it’s certainly what will linger longest.
Most importantly, just don’t be a dick with it – if you’re uber professional that’s ok too, own that part of yourself and make the most of it.
The key to not being a dick on social media is to not take yourself or it too seriously. Try things, multiple times, see whether you enjoy doing them and whether they enable you to feel like yourself.
If you find yourself avoiding posting more often than not then the answer is that this is not the right method for you. But that’s not indicative of your business success, it’s simply about your style of content.
Would I speak like this if the client was sitting with me having a conversation?
That’s what I’m asking myself everytime I create my content (including this post).
When I look back at older content I appreciate it but there’s an air of disconnect because it’s not quite fully me. That’s ok, it’s normal as we change and grow.
Now my content will be a little smoother in style, will be a bit cheekier and will definitely have some more playful elements to it. Because business can be hard but it should also bring you joy and satisfaction wherever possible.
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