Have you ever had any of those thoughts pop into your head about your business or some other part of your life such as crafts, sports, public speaking, or tutoring? I know I have and still do battle with these sorts of doubts. Almost all of us do at some point, and this is known as Imposter Syndrome. The feeling that we are pretending to be better than what we are or that our success is not due to our own hard work and skill, and therefore is not deserved.
If you have felt this way before, it’s totally normal and something that almost every entrepreneur has to overcome at some point. Every expert starts off as a beginner. There isn’t a point where a switch flips and suddenly you are an expert. Building authority and expertise is a lifelong journey, so waiting for a moment when you can call yourself an expert will be a lifetime of waiting unless you start living that identity.
Show me your badges!
I remember one of my first jobs out of college (so I was 22), I was working as a professional soccer coach in a small club up in Rochester, NY. There was only 6 of us on staff and we had to run the business side of the club as well as the coaching side, which was a wonderful experience in terms of all the different roles I got to fill and skills I learned. However, I also had ideas about how to improve different parts of the business and I felt I should be getting paid more (looking back I was making below minimum wage and what they were doing was illegal, but let’s not go there). When I proposed my ideas, and laid out the reasons I should be paid more I was met with “show me your badges”.
This may not mean much to you, but it refers to the coaching qualifications that a soccer coach can earn as they move through their career. Having moved from Ireland, I had only the lowest qualification that the US Soccer Federation offered since each one takes a couple of months to do, but my experience and qualifications from Ireland were much higher. My boss was basically saying, you don’t have any formal qualifications, degrees, or letters after your name so why should I listen to you or pay you more. It stabbed right through the heart of all my imposter syndrome insecurities!
At no point were the validity of my ideas considered or the logic behind my plan to increase our earnings and justify my increase in pay. It was all about me not being an expert yet.
It took me a long time to realize that my boss’ way of seeing the world was incorrect. While qualifications, certifications, degrees, and letters after your name can help you to signal authority in your space, what really matters at the end of the day is what you know and what you can do.
As entrepreneurs and small business owners, very few of us are going to have any formal certifications in the area we want to start a business in. There is no qualified lemonade producer license, or certified tutor. You certainly can go get a masters of business administration or a teaching license, but those don’t necessarily guarantee that you will be any better at the job than someone without them.
What can you do better than those around you?
All it takes to be an expert is to be slightly better at something than the people around you. You only need to be a few steps ahead to be able to teach someone what you know or provide a service for a fee. People are paying you for something which solves a problem in their life. Either they don’t have the skill and experience to do it themselves yet, or they don’t have the time to do it, or can’t match the quality of work that you produce! We are willing to pay for those solutions.
My challenge for you right now is to think of things that you can do which the people around you can’t or ask you for help with? What are topics you know a lot about and your friends ask you for opinions about or as a reference? These are areas where you can start developing a business!
Will there be someone out there who knows more than you, has more experience than you, or can produce a better final product than you? Absolutely, and they will be able to charge more for their time as a result. There is still a market for people like you though. We don’t always need to hire the top person in any field. Often we just need someone with a bit more skill and experience than ourselves. This usually offers a price point that we are willing to pay as well.
If you are not sure what skills you have or what you are an expert in, ask those around you. Your friends, family, teachers, and coworkers will be very quick to let you know what they think you do well.
Write these things down and refer back to them when you are feeling those moments of doubt.
Put a business idea out there and let your market tell you if they think you are good enough at a skill or product to warrant them parting with their cash. That is the ultimate test. Once you know people want to buy what you are selling, who cares what qualifications you have?
If you need reminders, ask for reviews and recommendations from your customers and keep those in places where you can see them. There is the proof that people value your time, skills, and knowledge!
What are you struggling with?
What are some things you have or are currently feeling imposter syndrome about? If you feel comfortable, please share it in the comments section wherever you find this article! For me, I’m releasing a children’s book soon and I am still fighting the internal voices saying “you don’t even teach kids that young”, “you don’t have a child that age”, “you’re not a literacy specialist”, “you only got a C in high school English!”. At the end of the day, I know one thing I am very good at is researching the best ideas and methods out there, learning new skills, and breaking down concepts into easy to understand bites of information. That’s what makes me a good teacher no matter what the subject area or age range. I can learn all the information I need to know about releasing a children’s book and writing something that is age appropriate from those who have done it before me. I don’t need a degree in elementary school literature. My market will tell me whether what I have produced is a high quality product or not! Plus I can always hire a proof reader.