I’ve noticed that entrepreneurship comes with it’s own unwritten rulebook. A list of dos and do nots, shoulds and should nots, to bes and not to bes. And while I’m sure that every new business owner, man or woman, mentally flips through this book before any decision they make, I’ve found that it’s the women that take it most to heart. You might not even realize that you’re doing it. Recognize any of these gems?
- Only use the words "we" and "us", not "me" or "I". No one wants to work with a solopreneur, I must make myself sound bigger than I am.
- My about page has to be written in the third person. It sounds more professional.
- My brand and my personality are two different things. The look of my business should be corporate and serious, otherwise no one will take me seriously.
- Don’t rock the boat. Having a unique voice or vision will make me an outlier, and no one wants to work with a rebel.
Now that we’ve called attention to some of these outdated rules, I’d like you to do me a favor and chuck ‘em. They’re complete poppycock.
Chances are, living and working by this list has left you feeling constrained, resentful, and uninspired. The skill and talent that used to bring you joy, is now sucking the life out of you. You might find yourself working with all of the wrong people, and have a serious case of imposter syndrome going on. It feels downright yucky, and it’s certainly not sustainable.
Imagine what it would be like then, to present your business to the world in a way that was uniquely you. How good would it feel to show people who you really are, knowing that doing so would attract the clients who are the perfect fit? Your fresh ideas and unmatched voice would be heard by people just dying to find someone who’s saying what you have to say.
This is the reason you went into business in the first place. Not to be someone else. To give what only you have to give, in a way only you can do it.
When you operate from this place of freedom, you can love your work and love your clients. Not to say that everything will be sunshine and rainbows 100% of the time, but when you do run into challenges, you’ll bust through them without the soul crushing resentment that comes with being something you’re not.
We’re all special snowflakes, so being authentic will look different for everyone. From one lady entrepreneur to another, here is my best honest advice on how to build an authentic brand.
1. Own it
So you’re a solopreneur, or a very small company. Say it loud and proud. Write your about page in the first person. Speak in language that you’d actually use in a conversation, not stiff corporate jargon and buzz words. Let people know who you are and what you’re passionate about.
People are looking for connection, especially since we don’t seem to have a lot of it in our everyday lives lately. They want to meet the person that's going to give their project their all, or the woman who’s poured her heart and soul into creating the product they’re about to buy. They want to know they’re not just another name or number to you, they matter.
2. Let your brand be an extension of you
There’s a lot more to the formula of building a brand than this, but it is a critical element.
If you’re a gal who has fun with their work and their clients, is spontaneous, and has an eclectic personal style, then having a conservative logo with somber colors and a rigid font creates a disconnect. A may-be client will go to your website, give you a call, and within seconds realize that you’re not at all what they were expecting.
Remember that time you went on a date with a guy you met online? His profile said he was 6 feet tall, and when you met he was actually a much shorter 5’5”. It feels something like that.
Better to draw the right clients in from the beginning with an honest representation of yourself. The ones who decide to contact you will be closer to that ideal client that you want to work with, and no one’s left disappointed.
3. Be brave
Do you have an idea that you haven’t taken action on because “No one else is doing it”, or you're afraid of what people might think?
That, my dear, is exactly why you need to do it.
Allow your distinctive voice to be the one that rises above the drone tones of the masses. Standing out is exactly what's going to make you a success.
Where would we be if women like Oprah, Arianna Huffington, or Martha Stewart were afraid of what their friends might say?
Think of all the brilliant things that wouldn’t exist had their inventors let the fact that it had never been done before stop them. Thank those brave people for things like electricity and indoor plumbing.
Lists aside, there’s only one must-do at the very top of my entrepreneurial rulebook. To thine own self be true. (That Shakespeare guy knew what he was talking about.)
Allison Biggs is a graphic designer and co-founder of Business Betties. Along with her business partner, photographer Suzanne Larocque, she works with women entrepreneurs across the country to develop their own unique and authentic brand. Their latest adventure is Better Than Stock, a monthly subscription service providing natural, authentic, relatable photography perfect for bloggers, social media mavens, and content creators.
In addition to being a Betty, Allison is also a coffee snob, the queen of cardigans, font fanatic, color enthusiast, cat lady in training, and total design dork.