Entrepreneurs are the rocks stars of our time. Wherever you look you see them splashing about in all their entrepreneurial glory. They take every opportunity to tell us: How they started with nothing and built an empire. How they’re living the four-hour work-week dream. How they succeeded in business by taking risk, dreaming big and reaching high. And it all feels a little bit fake, writes Kate Toon.
All these attractive business-types, with aggressively white teeth and some kind of secret formula which has earned them millions (while they sleep).
But the truth is we are all entrepreneurs.
In dictionary terms being an entrepreneur is simply ‘a person who sets up a business or business taking on financial risk in the hope of profit.’
So by that definition, almost 2 million Aussies fit the description, and it’s a safe bet they aren’t all out there feeling like a business success story, ready for their TIME magazine photoshoot.
I’m all about embracing the misfit entrepreneur approach.
I never set out to be an entrepreneur, I just wanted to survive and make enough to match my ‘big corporate job’ salary.
I’ve stumbled, bumbled and fumbled my way through running a business. There have been moments of both utter joy and terrible crushing misery. I think I’ve experienced every emotion possible, and discovered a few new ones I never knew existed.
But over the last 12 years, I’ve built three successful businesses, memberships, courses, resources. Passive income and podcasts. Speaking opportunities and award wins.
More important than revenue and lifestyle, my business gives me the freedom to work on my own terms, without answering to any ‘boss man’. And without burning the midnight oil, or burning out.
And I’m the first to admit that a lot of my success happened by happy accident rather than detailed design.
I’ve never had a business plan. Or a business coach. Or angel investors.
And honestly, I don’t believe you need any of the entrepreneurial fluff and fanfare to be a success, so that’s why I wanted to bust some of the entrepreneurial myths and instead learn to embrace a ‘misfit’ approach to success.
Myth 1: You have to struggle before you succeed
If you’ve ever clicked on one of those long-form Facebook ads telling you to join the next Masterclass or coaching course to make leaps and bounds on your business journey, then you know what I’m talking about.
Although they all look unbelievably shiny and polished now, (and are earning 7 figures while they sleep), those entrepreneurs all seem to have a rock bottom story. Of how they had a major downfall or life struggle. Had only $4.53 in the bank account. And how they turned it around and can share their secrets with you.
Well, I didn’t hit rock bottom, and you don’t have to either.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of bumps and wobbles along the way, but just in the normal ‘human attempting to build a career and then start a business’ sense.
I’ve had crappy jobs, clueless bosses and stressful projects. But I’ve also had some great mentors and opportunities.
Truth: Think about your own business journey and the jobs you’ve had. Write them down and you’ll start to see you’ve learnt your own lessons, in your own way, even if you haven’t hit ‘rock bottom’ you can still be a success.
Myth 2: You need a master plan
Procrastinating over writing an ideal business plan? Stop.
I know it’s not a popular thing to say in the ‘business world’ but I’ve never had a business plan. I’ve grown based on instinct rather than well-crafted intent.
And that’s OK.
I don’t believe you need a fully formed business plan to get started. It’s absolutely fine to follow your gut, and let your business get going organically. It keeps you open to opportunities and new ideas, rather than keeping you stuck on growing your email list by x% and focused on vanity metrics,
People out there will tell you to have a master plan. A lofty goal. And clear steps on how you’ll get there.
But really all you need is a ‘why’. And my why is simple: I want to work from home, and I want to make some money.
I started with a basic website, an even more basic ‘headshot’ and an ABN. I didn’t do a fancy course to ‘level up’, define my ideal customer avatar or spend thousands on a brand specialist.
Truth: You can start with the basics and figure it out along the way. Don’t wait until you have all your ducks in a row, because by the time you get started some of those ducks will be dead (or at least incredibly elderly).
Myth 3: You need to win friends and influence people
When I first started, I wanted to ruffle as few feathers as possible. I wanted everyone to like me, so I tried to be a people-pleaser, keep my opinions to myself and stay as vanilla as possible.
But in business, just as in life, you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And by being honest about who you are, your personality, your opinions, you’re going to attract your ideal customers and reject the people who weren’t a great fit for you, without even trying.
The more ‘me’ I’ve become in business, the more my business has grown. I’ve accepted that not everyone is going to like me or my way of doing business, and that’s fine. The people who do love what I do are an amazing network of cheerleaders and social proof sharers.
Truth: Don’t try to be everything to everyone or be a perfect 100% likeable human at all times. Share your quirks and what makes you different. Be honest about your highs and lows. Your audience and potential customers will thank you for it.
Myth 4: You need to love to hustle
Worried that your fear of sales is going to hold you back in business? Don’t be.
It might surprise you that selling isn’t something that comes naturally to me. Although I’ve sold truckloads of memberships, templates, courses and resources over the years, the idea of a hard sell and sales makes me shiver (and not in a good way).
The thing I’ve learnt is, it’s really hard to sell a crap product you don’t believe in. The flipside: if you believe in what you’re selling and genuinely care about how it can help make other people’s lives better or easier, then the sell becomes easy.
Try asking the big questions:
What problem are you solving?
How does my thing make someone feel?
Why is it better than the other things out there?
The answers to these questions will become the backbone of your sales pitch.
And although it sounds counterintuitive, I’ve also learned to sell by giving and helping. I know freebies can be a slippery slope, but my general approach is to give something away for free, so that potential customers can dip their toe in my pool (before submerging a whole limb).
I also share my knowledge freely online where possible. I answer questions. Share advice. Give practical tips.
It’s helped me build trust, and you buy from people you trust, know and like.
Truth: You don’t need to be able to sell beanies to hipsters to be successful in business. Be human. Be real. Think like your customer and be genuine.
Myth 5: You need to look a certain way
For a long time, insecurities about how I look held me back from putting myself out there in business.
I told myself if I was 20kg lighter, with dewy skin and beautiful styling, then I’d be winning the business race and attracting big-paying clients with just a toss of my beautiful hair.
From the outside, you might think I have my crap together. But you don’t see the days where I’m in my pyjamas all day, or the last minute dry-shampoo hair fluff before the Zoom call starts.
The truth is, no-one looks that beautiful or polished all the time. Just like the images we share on Instagram when we’re looking our best, it’s not really real.
Giving up on having the ‘right’ look has given me an immense feeling of freedom. And on the few occasions people do comment on my slightly frazzled appearance, it’s about how it makes me seem more real. And because I can do ‘the thing’ while being scruffy, it means they can too.
Truth: While it’s important to be your best self when it comes to putting yourself out there – put on make-up for that Facebook live, invest in some good lighting and have some decent photos of yourself to share – you don’t have to be a glamour model or impossibly perfect to succeed.
In summary, and I know it sounds a little woo woo, I’ve found that by being true to yourself and learning to be comfortable in your own skin – you’ll find it easier to find people to connect with you, respect you and relate to you.
Even those entrepreneurs you admire, and who seem impossibly successful, have their own moments of imposter syndrome and self-doubt. I promise.
We’re all just humans after all.
If you’re feeling like you don’t fit the mould of ‘successful entrepreneur’, don’t fret.
Embrace your misfit qualities, make mistakes, and create your own version of success.
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