As an entrepreneur and mom (a "mompreneur"), I am well aware of the daily hits confidence can take. Motherhood and entrepreneurship bring you face-to-face with every insecurity you never knew you had. Each make you wonder if you're good enough even though you love it. Each will bring out aliveness, fears, passions, emotions, stresses, wonderment, highs, and lows. Try doing both at the same time like I am (with a toddler, no less!), and you're probably gonna struggle with low confidence sometimes and question if you're cut out for either one and why the hell you ever thought you could do a good job. A business is like another child, and both require a great deal of nurturing and responsibility. Sometimes it all gets a little overwhelming.
I worked in the corporate world for a long time and was severely unhappy. But I kept sticking with it because it was good experience and because I was afraid that I couldn't make it on my own. Entrepreneurship runs in my blood from both sides of my family, and I knew "someday" I would be one. I struggled along in misery waiting for the day that would magically feel like "someday." Then I got laid off. I got hired again but decided to amp up my freelance business I'd had going forever and see if maybe I could take it further. But I got burned out after a while. I decided I couldn't have a regular job, be a mom, and have my own business, so my own business had to go. Two days after I made that decision, I got laid off for the second time. WTF?! I took that as the ultimate sign that someone was not gonna allow me to get out of it so easily! My husband - who had kept telling me all along not to give up on my business - and I decided I would not look for another job, that I would instead devote that time and energy to my business. After a couple days of quaking in my boots and being afraid I couldn't do my part to take care of our family, I jumped in with both feet even more seriously than I had ever been before. I'm no longer doing it on the side or "hoping it will work out." I am making it work out. Shiz got real. I have myself a full-fledged marketing strategy, design, and writing business that lights my fire like no job I've ever had - and guess who I am helping? Other entrepreneurs. Clients are falling in my lap without all the traditional "trying hard" - clients that light my fire too, awesome people that I care about helping. Not to mention one stressful day working for myself makes me a million times happier than one good day working for someone else.
But even with all of this, I have down days. I have nights where I lie awake with my hamster wheel spinning in my brain, telling me that maybe it wasn't really a sign from the universe when I got laid off…maybe all this is just a fluke…seriously, who am I to think I'm capable of doing this?!
So here is what is working for me. This is not really new information, but maybe the way I'm packaging it will resonate with you. If you are thinking of launching your own business or already have one and wonder if you can do it, I promise if you follow these three guidelines, it will catapult you in the right direction!
1) Hire a coach already!
I love to tell the story about how I met my coach, Francoise Everett with Guilt-Free Mothering. We attended the same networking event for women, and I "happened" to sit next to her. It's customary at these events for everyone to say their name and what their business is, and when she stood and said the words "Guilt-Free Mothering," I had absolutely no idea what she meant or what she does, but I turned to her and said, "I need to talk to you." So, afterward, we did. I found out that she coaches entrepreneurial moms to help them not only launch or enhance their business but also release guilt from their role as a mom and find real ways to manage all the responsibilities without losing sanity or sacrificing yourself or your family. I was an easy sell on the one hand because I instantly realized the value in something like that. I'd been freelancing on the side for several years, but actually trying to make your own business your livelihood is a whole other ballgame, and getting some professional guidance made total sense! I also struggle a lot with guilt as a mom, and knowing she could teach me to overcome that would be a gift to my daughter and to me. Business coaching + mom coaching = a two-fer! Plus, I instantly liked her. I knew we'd hit it off and that she would be able to get through to me. And if you're going to pay someone to coach you and spend oodles of time with them, you'd better like 'em as a person.
The part that held me back was cost. I was afraid I couldn't afford it. But do you know that when I decided it would work and that the investment would go right back into my business, that was when the universe recognized I was taking my business seriously…that was when things began to open up. Quickly. It's kind of like how hiring someone to do your marketing for you (such as myself) is an investment back into your business. Sometimes we need an expert in their field to hold our hand and guide us to where we need to be. It might be a lifestyle coach who helps you figure out what you want to do with yourself. It might be a parenting coach. It might be a business coach. It might be a confidence or happiness coach. Whoever it is, when you take that step and realize you don't have to handle it all yourself, it opens up great things in your life. Even my coach has a coach. No one on this earth is done growing. We can all use strategy from someone who's been there. Someone to get straight with us and drill down to the root of whatever holds us back (that we didn't even know was holding us back). Here are some coaches you can look into, and this is only a sampling of what's out there.
Guilt-Free Mothering with Francoise Everett - for entrepreneurial moms and women
Stratejoy with Molly Mahar - for women in transition (relationships, motherhood, business, etc.)
Mara Glatzel - for self-love and growth
Hey Shenee - business and branding coaching
Cash and Joy with Catherine Caine - business and branding coaching
Moxie with Elizabeth Malone - to get your sexy back
Passion Fruit with Wendy Watkins - getting you in touch with your purpose and passion
2) Comparison is an evil joy-sucker!
This is Self-Confidence 101 for any area in your life. I'm always preaching that we need to stop comparing our looks and lives to other women and stick together because everyone struggles. I've gotten better about that, but running a business is quite a responsibility, and looking at what others in your field are doing, while often valuable, can make you wonder if you're as good as someone else. The main thing to remember here is: you have a story only you can tell. No one else in the whole wide world can bring your experiences and your particular gifts to the table. You don't have to cater to everyone - and, in fact, you shouldn't. You only have to cater to the kind of people you specifically want to help and who are a good fit. Something about you and the way you view the world will be the best fit for the right type of client. They like your approach, and you don't even have to sell them too hard. The clients who aren't the right fit go elsewhere, but that's good, because they leave space for the right ones to fill. It's a little like the day you meet your BFF...you get this feeling inside that a partnership with that client is going to enrich both your lives.
Most days, I feel confident in my talents and abilities to do what I do. It feels not only like a passion but a compulsion, like I simply must do it. But it's so easy to let doubt creep in when my defenses are down. I recently ran across a website for a super talented designer - and I admit that when I was first looking at her site, I felt intimidated until I realized her target client is completely different from mine. And until I found this blog post she wrote (You are gooder than that. Just keep going. And going. And going.) where she discusses her own insecurities that pop up. I thought, "If someone that talented struggles with self-doubt, every entrepreneur probably does." And you know what? They do! Even the best of the best at the top of the entrepreneurial totem pole of success and fame still goes to bed occasionally wondering why they ever thought they were cut out for this and what they could possibly have to offer that isn't already being done. It's okay to be scared and feel doubt. Acknowledge the feelings; don't run from them. But remember what we feel in one moment in time does not have to define how we feel overall.
3) Come from a place of authenticity and love.
I did a target client exercise that my coach sent me that really drilled down into the specifics of the "ideal client" I can best help. It really got me thinking about one particular client of mine who is often stressed and burning the candle at both ends. We hadn't done any work on her business in a little while because she felt she couldn't take on anything else. I asked myself how I could try to make her feel a little better. So I texted her and told her that I hoped she would have some time to relax over the weekend and that she deserved a break. I wasn't trying to get back on her radar. I was coming from a place of genuine compassion for her. Another example is that I sent someone I met an email telling her tactfully that her website was not reaching its full potential. I wasn't trying to win her over as a client; I simply wanted to help her in some way, whether she hired me or someone else to handle it. She's in her business partly to make a living - as we all are - and was incredibly appreciative of my being willing to be honest with her.
What I do for people is more than a marketing plan to make them more money; it's getting to know them and trying to make their lives easier in some way, to make them feel supported. In just about any line of work, you're offering people some kind of service beyond just what your business is about. If you're an IT professional, you're maintaining networks and workstations so they run smoothly - and your clients' lives and jobs run more smoothly as a result. That's a service within a service. Even if you feel there is no possible service within the service for your line of work, simply being nice and smiling at people makes people's days better. When you can connect with that feeling of higher purpose, when you focus not only on what you can do but the WHY behind what you do (the passion, the drive, and making a difference in some way), that's when the magic happens. Always come from a place of truth and authenticity. That is what will attract clients to you. That's who people like to be around. And besides that, I am in love with my business, and I love my clients. I love seeing their faces light up; I live for hearing their sighs of relief when they realize I'm going to help them through.
I questioned for a while if I wanted to write this post and have it associated with my business in any way. It's easy to feel like you have to present a perfect image to your clients 100% of the time or run the risk of them thinking you're not professional enough or qualified to be advising them. But what I am finding more and more is that people just want the freedom to be real and to work with people who are real too. Being vulnerable enough to admit my insecurities and struggles doesn't make me less qualified for anything at all. It makes me a real, accessible, relatable human being. The designer that wrote that blog post about her own insecurities? If I were the type of client who needed what she does, I'd hire her any day over someone who tried to look like they have it all together because she was authentic.
So here's my challenge to you.
Try out these three guidelines for at least six weeks. Then see if you aren't in a very different place from where you started.
What are your own strategies for kicking entrepreneurial self-doubt out on its ass with its ratty suitcase?