It’s totally natural to feel unsure when you’re thinking of starting something new. Whether you’re hoping to start a business (whatever that business may be), expanding your business with a course or a podcast, or even shifting your business into something new, here are some tips to help you beat the imposter syndrome and start that thing you’re dreaming of doing.
How I Started My Business
As some context to this, I used to be terrified of starting anything. I’m what you’d call an idealist. A dreamer, if you will. So over the years I’ve had countless ideas, and on a few occasions I have actually acted on them. When I first considered starting Grey & Gold Creative, I was telling myself: “You can’t be a brand designer. What qualifications do you have for that? There are plenty of people out there who are way more successful than you’ll ever be. So why bother?” And I think most people know that feeling or have that thought pattern.
But then out of seemingly nowhere, an opportunity presented itself to me. And I look at it now as the biggest blessing because all of a sudden, I had a different decision. It wasn’t: Am I or am I not going to start a business? It was: Am I or am I not going to seize this opportunity that has come up for me?
I think it’s important to note that had that not happened, I probably wouldn’t be here. But since I made that decision to take that opportunity, all of the decisions that have followed since have become so much easier. When they say the first step is the hardest, they’re 100% right.
Now it’s been a little under a year since that first decision to take the leap and design a website for someone (the first one I ever did freelance-wise), and I’m making big decisions all the time. And now it’s like, why not just try it? I’m already here. I’ve made it this far. I haven’t fallen flat on my face yet. So I might as well just try something else out and see what happens.
I think if you’re in a spot where you’re worrying about making a decision, or you’re not sure if it’s the right thing to do, know that this decision you’re facing right now is probably the hardest one you’ll make.
Tip #1: Start Small
Now say you make the decision — you know in your soul that this is what you want to do — but you just don’t know where or how to start. My first and favorite tip is to start small. Dip your toe in, if you will. I think when you don’t put so much pressure on yourself, you’re much more likely to take something as an opportunity rather than a potential death sentence.
For me, dipping my toe in was reaching out to a photographer I follow on Instagram, offering to design and build her website for a really low rate. And it was still scary as hell, I won’t lie to you. After I did it, I wanted to run in a room and hide and never look at my phone again. But there was more room and space to fail or to decide that it just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t this big step that I couldn’t go back from.
So if you’re trying to decide whether or not to start a business, maybe just make the Instagram account or reach out to one or a handful of people and ask them to try your service or product. Or if you’re thinking of maybe starting a course or a membership, try starting with a small group of beta testers or film a couple of the course videos, just to see if you like it.
Don’t worry right now about whether or not it’s going to work, how you’re going to sell it, or whether it’s a waste of time. Position this first step for yourself as, Is this something that I really like? Is this something I can see myself enjoying and sticking with for a long time? Because if it’s not, then the other stuff doesn’t matter.
And if it is — if you find you love this thing and you’re passionate about it — then selling it is a problem for later. The more passionate you are about it, the easier it will be to sell it down the road.
Tip #2: Start With A Purpose
My second tip is something that I wish I would have done sooner, which is making sure that you’re differentiating yourself. And this is a slippery slope, so I want to be clear that this is not something that should stop you from trying. When I first started, the first thing I did was follow a bunch of brand and web designers on Instagram. I tried to pick out what styles I liked or how they were doing things. I looked to these other people that were already doing the thing that I wanted to do as the gold standard of who to follow and who to look up to.
But what happened from doing that is I spent more time than I would have liked just trying to be like them rather than figuring out how I could stand out as me. And in some ways I do think this is kind of hard to avoid. If you’re going out as a newbie in a market that already exists, there is inevitably going to be some time where you’re just learning and absorbing and figuring out where you fit in.
So if you’re not sure how you’re going to set yourself apart yet, I think that’s fine. Don’t let that stop you from starting. I just wish I would have started thinking about it a little sooner and stayed out of the Instagram bubble a little better, because my first instinct was that if this is what everyone else is doing and they have 20,000 followers, then they must be doing something right.
And then, of course, Instagram’s algorithm shows you more and more people with their exact same style, so I started to think that that’s all that was out there. But that’s not the case. That’s never the case. There’s always space for you, space to forge your own path, and to go left when others are going right. Even if you don’t know what that is right away.
Tip #3: Learn As Much (If Not More) Than You Do
My last tip is to learn from others as much as you can. There’s so much great content, advice, and courses out there that will help you not only to accelerate, but to avoid a lot of those common pitfalls that others have made. So find people who you trust and admire and look to them for guidance.
The two things I feel like moved me forward so much in my business were finding good and quality investments either 1) to learn or 2) to work with others who knew more than I did and could look at me and my business from an outside perspective. As business owners, we’re just so close to our own work and it’s difficult to see it from the outside. I think making investments in people — whether it’s coaches, copywriters, photographers, or brand designers — who can look at your business from a different vantage point, see all the different elements, and pull it together into one picture that you don’t see is extremely valuable.
Just make sure you’re doing your due diligence to choose the courses, mentors, and collaborators who you trust and know will provide the most quality advice for you. If you haven’t already, you’ll probably start seeing advertisements all over the place for all sorts of courses, worksheets, and whatnot from people who claim they can help you have $10K months, make six figures, and all of the other fancy claims that people are making everywhere you turn these days.
My rule of thumb now, after getting burned one too many times, is to only buy from people that I have some knowledge of. Often I’ll see a course that looks great, and it’s an investment, but it’s something that I really want; something that I think will be great for my business or hits on a pain point that I’m experiencing right now. Instead of buying it right away, I will follow that person on Instagram and see what they have to say for a while. I’ll see if they’re someone who I want to learn from, or someone who has the same kind of values in business that I do. Because there are very few cases where I’ve purchased a course spontaneously and it ended up working out well.
And I know when you’re new, it’s really easy to get pulled into that stuff. These advertisements hit on your pain points so well, so just be careful. When something feels a little too good to be true, it probably is. So just make sure that you’re only purchasing from people you trust, who share your values, and who you believe will take your business in the right direction rather than becoming a payment that you’re pissed is coming out of your credit card every month. Because you can’t take it back.