Picture it; Austin, December 2012.
I had been laid off a month earlier and was desperately trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go in my work life. I talked to a few people in my network and cobbled together a few clients. I told myself that if I wasn’t able to support myself within six months, then I would go back to working at a company. I didn’t want to. Being a person that lived with both chronic illness and mental illness, I had no illusions about how ill-suited I was for a regular 9-to-5 job. So I wanted to make it work.
Fast forward to today. Next month, I’ll be celebrating six years as a solopreneur. I have grown and rebranded my business, learned new skills, survived tough times, gained clients, lost clients, and learned how to be accountable to myself and my work.
But one lesson that I never managed to really grasp was taking myself seriously.
For the longest time, when people would ask me, “So, what do you do?” I would answer with one of two self-deprecating responses.
“Nothing. I stay at my house all the time. Sometimes I play on Facebook for other people.”
“I sort of work for myself. It’s just social media.”
Do you know what those two answers have in common? Yeah, they are COMPLETE LIES.
For the first five years of my business, I treated it (and myself) like it was a joke; like it was no big deal. I would often tell people that I fell into it by mistake, that it was just lucky circumstances that led me to do what I do.
But this year, I started getting serious not just about my work, but as me as a business owner. Because let’s be super honest here. Who is going to take me seriously if I don’t even take me seriously?
It hasn’t been an easy shift to make. I struggle with negative self-talk CONSTANTLY, so downplaying my achievements and my strengths feels totally natural to me. Being honest about my work and accomplishments feels like bragging and brings about raging Imposter Syndrome. And that triggers all of my insecurities and self-doubt. It makes me want to crawl into a shame hole and go back to pretending that I don’t do anything.
But the reality is this:
I started working for myself almost six years ago.
I started my business from nothing but my network, and my intense desire to create a life that gave me the time I need to attend to my physical and mental health.
I have been in business continually since December of 2012, and have supported myself ever since.
I’ve learned new skills, had some major success, and some epic failures.
I own a company. I’m an entrepreneur. I am the HBIC of my work.
And dammit, I’m going to own it and be proud of it. Because I accomplished it, and I continue to accomplish it every single day. I may get new clients, and I may lose clients. I may see campaigns go down in flames, or strike gold with an idea. But at the end of the day, it’s still my work and my company.
Yes, even this face should be taken seriously!
And you know what? I’m pretty damn proud of it. I’m proud of the work I’ve put in, the relationships I’ve created, and the evolution of my work and my brand.
That’s what I want people to see when they think about working with me. And that’s what I will say the next time someone asks me what I do. I run a business and I run it well.