Everyone always says you should be yourself in business, but it’s hard to figure out just what “being yourself” means! Below are my tips on being yourself in business that helped me go from timid ex-teacher to confident OBM in just three years.
Authenticity is a huge online biz buzzword. Everyone and their mom is always telling you to be authentic. Be you and the sales will come! Say what you mean! Inject your personality and the right clients will flock to you!
But it’s not always easy! #amIright?
When I started my online business as a Virtual Assistant in 2015 I was coming directly from a background as a teacher, a career I had been academically and emotionally preparing myself for since I was 10. No joke.
Because I had played such a long game in becoming a teacher, I was really used to censoring myself online. I didn’t post pictures of alcohol consumption (even when I was legal!), I didn’t use my last name on my Facebook profile so that parents couldn’t find or friend me, I didn’t share anything overly political or controversial. Because as Facebook grew, you heard more and more instances of teachers losing their jobs over the optics of what they put on their personal accounts.
And when I transitioned into online business I found it really hard to drop that ultra conservative and reserved facade I was so used to maintaining. I didn’t know how to be myself online because I was simultaneously trying to figure out who I actually was and getting mixed messages from the online space. It’s not hard to find people who still think that even business owners need to be ultra professional. No swearing, always put together, airbrushed and filtered everything.
The real valuable message here is that there’s something for everyone.
So below are the 3 things I wish someone had told me way back in 2015 when I was first starting out.
#1: Be true to who you are
I’m not gonna lie. When I first started out I just wanted people to like me. So I molded myself to whatever the person I was talking to at the time might want. I was worried about getting clients, so I didn’t want to be too polarizing in any one direction.
Big mistake! Because I tried to please everyone, I a) burnt myself out and b) attracted a verifiable ass ton of people who drained the life and the creativity out of me. If I’d started dropping f-bombs and been my unapologetic political self when I first arrived on the online scene, I might have avoided all the prim and proper clients who didn’t light me up and made me dread sitting down at my computer every day.
I’m not saying swear because you think swearing is the “in thing” or using a bunch of woo-woo terms like manifesting and meditation because you think it’ll get you noticed. Just be who you are. And be patient with yourself while you figure it out.
The more YOU you allow yourself to be, the more people you’ll attract who you love working with. Period.
#2: Just say no to external validation
Fuck the haters. There will always be some in every walk of life. It doesn’t matter WHY they don’t like you; their opinion isn’t important to the success of your business. Only yours matters.
For a while there I was seeing posts on Facebook every time I turned around about how swearing in your business copy is terribly unprofessional and everyone should stop it immediately if they wanted to be taken seriously.
Mind you, this was right after I had changed my entire website over to include authentic-to-me swear words and started using well-placed “fucks” in my Facebook copy. First, I was angry: “How dare THIS random person tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing in my business!” Then I was hesitant: “Well, what if all that swearing is the real reason I’m not signing as many clients as I like?” (Spoiler alert! It wasn’t.)
The point is whether you swear or don’t, talk politics or don’t, advocate manifesting or don’t, nothing is right or wrong. Nothing. If it’s authentic, honest, and aligned, then it’s exactly what is best for you and your business. No matter what the haters say.
#3: Share your mistakes
Despite all the beautiful, filtered stock images you see online, we online business owners are NOT perfect. When you take the giant and uncomfortable and awesome leap into authenticity it can often be hard to share the messy parts of your business.
But everyone makes mistakes. People connect more if they know you aren’t a perfect, unattainable version of who they want to become. They want to know that you’ve failed, that you’ve been there, that you know how they feel, that you continue to make mistakes.
For instance, I run teams like a pro but I was (am?) a hot fucking mess in the onboarding process for my Virtual Assistant. Bless her and her patience.
Share the real person behind the screen, the polished website, and the branded photos. People want to know that you’re a human being and not a robot. In fact, I’d venture to say that our bad habit of NOT sharing the messy stuff has led to people believing there’s such a thing as an overnight success story.
You have permission to show up as the best version of yourself every day. As the truest, most amazing version of you. As the real-deal boss babe that will bring all the clients to your yard!
I could share some cliché here like “be you, everyone else is taken!” but we’re better than that 😉
There is no one right way to run a business. Just be yourself. Find your secret sauce and share it with the world. You’ll not only run a more successful business when you do, but you’ll actually enjoy doing it.
Where have you given yourself more permission to be authentic in your business?