Imposter Syndrome as an entrepreneur

Jaz Broughton

It’s urgent that you handle imposter syndrome so it isn’t allowed to be a reason your business fails. Especially as a solo founder and even more so as an entrepreneur with a team your leadership and way of being in your business will dictate what you do with your business. Setting all the sexy goals and wimping out at the last minute will never be the path to progress and one of the key reasons for wimping out as an entrepreneur can very easily be imposter syndrome.

Let’s frame this.

Imposter syndrome is defined as …. and is incredibly likely to occur when you are in fresh territory, you may have provided the service before but not in the format, you may have provided this format before but not charged at this level, you may have done all-the-above before but never for a dream client. Either way, the pressure is on and your brain can easily start the list on all the reasons why your a fraud, aren’t able to deliver on what you think they want etc.

‍Under-charge or no charge

Whoop! What an amazing way to lower expectations right?

They won’t complain because I’ve basically turned my valuable service into a favour. They won’t even notice that money leave their account, they’ll think it’s their Zoom subscription. You didn’t start your own business to fund it entirely with your savings, and becoming profit actually means charging something that at least covers your costs.

Say no to opportunities

Dream client. Dream brief.

You’re available the times they need and can do it in your sleep. Except one part of said-brief which will cause you to learn something or do something for the first time. Balk. Gulp. Ugh.

The idea of even putting yourself forward feels stressful because this takes you into a zone of stress where you may have to confess your inexperience, or worse. They find out through the sheer sub-parity of what you deliver. 1 bullet point out of 12 and you don’t pitch. Quick math.

Failure to launch

Literally. How many years have you held onto that idea? Or better yet delayed a decision? You said you want to shift to more DIY offerings ahead of maternity leave…however…your DIY offerings still remain a secret. What will they think? Who am I to think folks can get results without 3 zoom calls with me? Who am I to detach my value from a particular format and create the freedom that allows me to enjoy my family?

All these questions pop up and you never press publish, you just slowly disappear. No newsletter with the changes, no launch of the courses/templates and a lowkey obsession on when you will need to sneak clients into your post-birth schedule.

Procrastinate on the proposal

You had the call, discussed the deliverables, and now it’s time to actually send the proposal INCLUDING the rate. Gulp. Bottom of the pile. You’re excited for the work but the dread of actually moving forward even if they are unicorns who want to pay upfront…gulp. Similar questions to the above come up but now, even more so than ever, it’s blocking your growth.

You start to wonder what’s wrong with you because you definitely can do the project and need the money but you’re also nervous about the expectation. So the email that was meant to be sent the following morning starting with “I’m so excited to work with you, please find proposal below” gets sent a week later starting with “Sorry this email is reaching you later than planned, {insert plausible yet fake reason for delay}, please find…”

What to do instead:

Recognise what’s really going on!

Literally. Ask yourself when specifically imposter syndrome is showing up in your business. Because once you do, you’ll be able to resolve it quicker. It’s very easy to think you just “procrastinate” or “are disorganised” but if this is a trend around risk-taking, decision making and next-level-you moments…reflect again.

Set a timer

Yep. Create your own non-negotiable SLAs (service level agreement). If you are going to reply the next morning, do exactly that. Lean on things like Mel Robbins 5 second rule or other techniques but commit to it so you train yourself to know it’s not acceptable.

Make it easy for yourself

This one is from the tech side of my brain but…automate and template the sticky bits. Let me be more specific; procrastinating on the proposal? No problem, have a template email and template document that you just need to plug in the figures and deliverables and hit send. Dream client in your inbox requesting a time to speak? Swap the email form to a scheduler so you don’t freak out and schedule a call in 3 weeks when you’re available on Thursday. Scope creeping? Provide client updates that refer back to the deliverables in the contract language; literally a little list at the end of each email with each deliverable and “in progress” “complete” “waiting for your review” and send to the client. Or even better, find a tool with a client portal or create your own.

Cultivate a growth mindset

At some point in life you didn’t know all the things you know now. You had to embrace the discomfort of learning and continue to believe that through effort you could improve. A growth mindset is all about accepting that through effort you’re can change your outcome and that you’re always learning.

Stop imagining the expectations and just check

List of deliverables, terms and conditions, agreement, scope of work. All of these sound like they are superfluous or just legals but they really should be a foundation for your service/product. Write it in as much detail to make it clear to the client and yourself (keyword: yourself) e.g. the deliverable = 5 blog posts of 1000 words each with at least 3 backlinks in each delivered by xx date and review within x working days following submission with 2 rounds of edits to be complete within the following x working days.

This is a gorgeous deliverable and I made that up completely. But what makes it gorgeous is gives you something to refer back to when your imposter syndrome rocks up and tempts you to do any of the following:

Write 6 blog posts

  • Get on a call and say you can do it faster
  • Add 5 backlinks to each
  • Add an extra 2 rounds of edits and a further 2 weeks to submit them

Now, this is not me saying you shouldn’t delight your client if you want to. This is me talking about the middle-of-the-night, this-isn’t-enough, I’m-not-enough, panic-induced, imposter-syndrome-induced overworking (or scope creep if you want to be fancy).

Stop it.

I literally don’t have enough space on the page to explain the ways this doesn’t serve you. The consequences of this behaviour include having less time, less capacity for clients, betrayal of your own boundaries, increased stress, reduced confidence…

Moral of the story, write, it and make it as detailed as possible so when you second guess their expectations of the work and you… you don’t stay there long because you remind yourself of their signature on the page alongside your detailed spec. They are on board and you just need to deliver that.

About the Author

Jaz Broughton

Meet Jaz Broughton, a certified coach, tech community manager and ambitious careers expert, and lover of tea and R&B. Jaz is on a mission to create phenomenal careers without limits and burnout so they can avoid the Sunday-night dread and dream big instead.

You can find out more about Jaz and her business here.

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