So true story…
At my first ever business networking event – after introducing myself as Cat Townsend from Not Pretty (my then business name) – a sincere older lady patted me gently on the shoulder and with a compassionate look told me:
“You could be pretty… with the right clothes… and hairstyle.”
The person beside me near pissed herself laughing, and I seemingly took it in my stride. But deep down it cemented the belief…
I need to be someone else, if I am going to make it in business.
Boy, was that a damaging belief!
I spent the next three years feeling completely uncomfortable and out of sync with the business I was building and the clients I was working for.
I signed up for course after course… trying to learn how other people ran their business. And filling my vocabulary with jargon and other nonsense that I thought would impress my clients.
I attended event after event studying how other business owners dressed, talked and acted; and did a horrible job of copying them.
Following the crowd worked to a degree. I secured clients, but it was dreadful on so many levels.
I hated myself. And I hated the work I was doing.
Which kind of defeats the purpose of working for yourself. If I was going to hate my work, I may as well go back to having a day job.
These ladies had built highly successful online businesses just by being themselves. They worked when they wanted to and where they wanted to. They swore, they laughed, they wore jeans or kaftans or whatever the hell they liked… without apology!
I had found some better role models.
I’m ashamed to say my first thoughts were “I want to be like them” and “how do I copy this” in my own business? And for a while I joined the the millions of hopeful business owners out there devouring and religiously applying their every word.
But it didn’t take me long to realise the flaw in this approach…
The very thing that made these people so successful – so lovable! – is that they were all so decidedly different. And themselves.
And the very thing that made the ‘groupies’ so unsuccessful is that they were spending their time trying to be someone else, instead of applying their energies to being the best version of themselves they can be.
So back to the drawing board…
Maybe the problem was thinking I needed a role model?
I was still intrigued by these people. But I realised that what I needed to model was less about their actions and more about their approach.
They knew who they were. And although they were open to learning new things, their business decisions were ultimately based upon what they enjoyed or felt was right.
So what I needed to do was:
get very clear on who I was,
stay open to learning and growth,
but ultimately base my decisions upon what I enjoy and feel is right.
Wow. How obvious!
But sometimes it’s the stuff we think we know, that we don’t actually do.
These days I am incredibly clear about who I am.
I know what I do, what I care about, how I talk and who I want to talk to. I know what my mission is, and what my values are. I know exactly how those things need to show up in my marketing or when I’m working one-on-one with a client. I know what things I can be flexible about and which things are non-negotiable for me.
I am also clear about who I am not.
I realised that staying clear about who you are, also requires being very clear about what you are not. So I got clear about what I don’t know. And what I DON’T WANT to know.
I am no longer obsessed with having to learn the ins and outs of everything and keeping up the pretense that I am an expert in ‘everything’. Because the truth is that I am obviously not.
What I do have to back that up is curiosity, and a kick arse network of people who are experts in their thing. And those two things are very liberating. I’m either interested in something and go find out more. Or I defer to someone who has more interest or knowledge than me. Either way, there is no pretend.
There is definitely no worrying about someone else’s “ultimate formula for building a 6 figure Instagram business” – or whatever the hell the latest Facebook ad in my newsfeed is selling.
Knowing all this has made me “not the right person” to help a lot of people. And sometimes it feels like I turn down a lot more work that I take on. But that’s okay with me. Because me pretending to be someone else doesn’t help them or me.
But equally it’s made me “right person” to help a lot of other people. Because what you see is what you get. And if I say I can help you, then I really can.
So who are you?
What do you care about? How do you speak and act? Are these things visible in your business? Or do you sometimes find yourself trying to be someone you are not?
Brand Strategy & Design
With a background in branding and information design, Cat setup The FeelGoodAgency, to help passionate solopreneurs to understand their brand and how to wield it effectively. Oh, and to make the world a better place. It always comes back to changing the world!
Find someone to hold you accountable
As a solopreneur you have a lot of things on your plate. And things like marketing can fall by the wayside if you don’t have someone to hold you accountable.
Balancing expectations and experience
If your brand promise is better than your brand experience, your customers will be disappointed. But if your brand promise is poor you won’t have any customers in the first place. It’s all about balance.