As a business owner, you get to set the rules. Hurrah, freedom! But, after a lifetime of being told what to do and when to do it at school and work, figuring out what your rules are going to be can be hard. In this post I share some strategies to learn to trust yourself when it comes to your business. I also give a peek behind the scenes as I share how I learned to trust myself as a business owner (and a human).
forging your own path as a business owner
For much of our lives, we are told what the rules and expectations are. At school, we are told what to do in order to achieve certain grades. We are often told which career paths are worth pursuing. At a 9-to-5, we are told what we’ll earn, when we’re supposed to be present, and what our tasks are.
The amazing thing about running your own business is that you get to set the rules. Working in your pyjamas! Daytime walks! Working from your favourite cafe!
It also means that you have to figure out a lot yourself. When do you work? And how much do you charge for that work? How do you arrange for contingencies like falling ill? And what about a pension?
Running your own business means figuring out a lot of things yourself. And that can be really hard.
I’ve been talking a lot with clients lately about forging your own path. About taking inspiration from other places and people, but deciding on your own framework or scaffolding.
Because we are often not taught to do so, this can be really hard. And the voices out there–of capitalism, productivity culture, other business owners, family, friends–can be so loud.
How can we still hear and discover our own voice? How can we be confident in the decisions we make in and for our business (and our lives)?
an experiment: trust yourself as a business owner
I’d like to invite you to pay attention to how you feel when you make decisions in and for your business. Take some time to think or journal about these questions:
- What kinds of stories are you carrying? Whose stories are they really? Is this your own story, or a story that you’ve inherited from your family, friends, or elsewhere?
- What kinds of feelings come up when you ponder a decision or path? How does thinking about the alternatives make you feel?
- When are you second-guessing yourself? At what moments do you have an idea for your business or life, but catch yourself thinking, ‘oh but it will never work’, ‘no one else does it like this’, ‘this is against the business advice I’ve read’, or ‘what will [person XYZ] think?’
Below, I’ve included two strategies to practice trusting yourself. First, however, a bit of a deep dive into my own answers to these questions. Hopefully they inspire you, and show you how you can learn to trust yourself as a business owner too.
my experience of learning to trust myself as a business owner
I would describe myself as a pretty confident person. I’m definitely an introvert, but I’m not generally insecure, I’d say.
However, creating and running my own business has thrown up some unexpected curveballs around trust. Mainly: how do I figure out how to do this thing?!? Where is the manual?!?
Contrary to what some business advice has you believe, there is no manual. There’s only inspiration, things that have worked for other people, and that might work for you. The benefit of this, is that there’s lots of room for you to make your own rules ✨
Some areas in which I’ve practiced trusting myself more are marketing, business focus and money.
This is a big one for me. When I started my business, I listened to all the podcasts, read all the blogs and inhaled all the content I could find about running a business. Most of this content was great, and I certainly don’t regret consuming it.
From the beginning, marketing the way I was learning to market from courses and podcasts felt off for me. Before I started my business I wasn’t on Instagram a lot, and had deleted my Facebook account years before. But building a business seemed to require me to ‘get out there’ and ‘show up’ so I started posting. I experimented and, like many people, realised that the more I posted on Instagram, the more likes I got. Success?
But it burnt me out fast. All the things I’d dreamed of doing–running workshops, creating materials, working 1:1 with people–suddenly had to contend with my other ‘job’: creating posts for Instagram and figuring out the right hashtags. Pre-pandemic, one of my favourite things was to read in coffee places, but now those sessions became moments when I needed to create Instagram-worthy pictures.
It took me nearly two years before I figured out how to change my relationship with Instagram. And, at the time I write this, I’ve further minimized the role that Instagram plays in my business. I haven’t been on Instagram in five months and it feels amazing.
Making that shift wasn’t just about changing my marketing strategy. It was about learning to trust that what I felt inside was true. That what I felt about social media wasn’t a matter of pushing through or getting outside of my comfort zone, but a sign that this was not the right channel for me.
It’s my business, and I get to decide where to market my business. Even if that includes staying away from one of the most popular channels out there.
are you ready to build a slow, gentle and profitable business?
When I started my business, I envisioned it as a local business. I pictured myself giving workshops to small business owners mainly around how they were spending their time in their business and lives. I was on Instagram (and even ended up running two accounts, one ‘local’ Dutch one, and one English one), but I also used old-fashioned flyers to market my business and workshops.
I had some success, and ran three local workshops before the pandemic. The pandemic coincided quite neatly with the moment where I decided to take my business online and international. I returned to my focus on small business owners, which I’d let go a bit in favour of the broader ‘everyone’ in the year before (read more in this blog post about how I niched).
But again and again, well-meaning people in my life suggested that I get myself hired by companies. ‘So many people need help with how they spend their time, so many people are burnt-out or have a wonky work-life balance!’. ‘This is where the money is!’
I did have one or two conversations with companies about the possibly of working for them. One of them was so particularly cringe-worthy that it still makes me uncomfortable to think about.
What they were looking for wasn’t me. And what I said I wanted to offer, wasn’t really true.
I love working with small business owners. I’ve had my fair share of working in organizations where burn-out, busyness and pressure was the norm, and at least right now, I have zero interest in returning to that environment.
No longer reaching out to large companies to offer my services wasn’t hard. What was hard was responding to well-meant advice from people I love. Having to say ‘no, this is not what I want’ when someone suggested that I try this route. Saying ‘no’ when someone suggested that if I wanted to make money, their suggestion was the way to go.
I needed to remind myself again and again that this is my business. I get to set the rules. And, again, what I feel is true.
Getting the focus for my business crystal clear has certainly helped with this. That has been a longer process, but I feel more grounded and secure in my business now than I have ever before.
This is another big one. I’ll probably write a longer post about money at some other point, as there’s so much to unpack.
Learning to trust myself around money was not so much about trusting that I could make money and have it magically flow my way (that hasn’t happened).
It was more around recognizing the stories I carried around money, and learning to tap into what is important to me. To put all the stories and the rationalizing aside, and tap into how I wanted to feel in my business.
Even though I’m fortunate enough to never have experienced financial scarcity either growing up or as an adult, I definitely grew up with ideas of scarcity around money.
Money, I learned, was stressful and unpredictable. There would never be such a thing as ‘enough’ money. You need a large buffer. You need to be smart with money. You need a good pension and a steady job and hold on to those for dear life.
Starting my own business and decreasing my part-time job has meant confronting a lot of those stories head-on. Writing down the stories, and then practising putting them aside to discover what I felt really helped. It also helps me to see many of those stories for what they are: other peoples’ stories, that are rooted in their experience, not mine.
Many of those expectations and stories are also subjective. I come from a family in which pretty much no-one had their own business, and many people had government jobs. If my background had been different, my ideas about my business and the money related to it would no doubt have been different.
I’m reminding myself that there is no such thing as 100% security. There are no guarantees. And while that thought has in the past made me fall deeper into scarcity mindset, now this thought feels very freeing.
two strategies to practice trusting yourself as a business owner (and a human)
#1: When you have an idea for your business or life that feels good but scary, let it percolate a while. I often take 2 or even 4 weeks to keep things in the back of my mind. In that time, I tend to think about the idea first by myself, and only then share it with two or three trusted friends.
#2: Tap into how it feels inside. This becomes easier once you’ve identified the stories that you’re carrying: for instance what society says about how you should be working, how you were raised in respect to money, what you think your partner might think. Write them down if it helps, and then write down the alternative next to them. Meditation has also helped me connect to how I feel, especially this Headspace course.
Remember: what you feel is true. You can trust how you feel and the decisions you make.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you want more strategies, experiments plus free resources in your inbox, sign up for my newsletter below. And: I’d love to support you if you want to practice trusting yourself more as a business owner. I’m here if you crave that slow, gentle and profitable business that truly nourishes you. Discover how we can work together here.