Start Where You Are, Use What You Have
I recently had the great opportunity write a guest post for the Redstart Creative blog and wanted to share it here with you.
But first, a little bit about Redstart Creative:
Redstart Creative is a Baltimore-based creative communications agency serving those who are driving positive change in the world, run by my friend, Rebecca Teaff.
Rebecca was featured on episode 22 of the podcast, talking about the ten years she’s spent growing Redstart Creative and how she’s shifted her role from solopreneur to team leader.
A big thanks to Rebecca and her team for inviting me to share my voice! Now onto the article…
FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD
If you’ve seen Bohemian Rhapsody you know that part of the reason that Queen rose to fame was Freddie Mercury’s fervent refusal to blend in.
He wore grandiose outfits, found a party in any room, and always vowed to stay true to himself.
“Fortune favors the bold.”- Freddie Mercury
When he met his would-be manager for the first time Freddie Mercury was asked, “What makes Queen different than any other wannabe rock star?”
“I’m exactly the person I was always meant to be,” Freddie responded.
If I’m honest, it’s not that easy for most of us. There are expectations, stereotypes, and imposter syndrome that we struggle with daily.
And when you’re building a business those things are compounded.
I didn’t grow up dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur. I didn’t even really know it was a possibility until I was almost 30. Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt behind.
Spending the first dozen years of my career in nonprofits I was taught that standing out was a bad thing. You’re too opinionated, too direct, too impatient. These were the messages I heard about myself reflected to me by leaders.
If I wore lipstick to the office or a new blazer, I’d immediately be accused of having an interview somewhere else.
So I decided to hide the things about myself that felt like ME.
When I started my business, these behaviors bled into my systems and sales. If a client questioned a price I lowered it. If they asked to have just one extra thing in their package, I relented.
I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be trusted. And I had learned that to be those things I had to hide my true feelings.
This didn’t end well, as you might expect.
I resented my clients – wouldn’t you if you were making pennies on the hour? – and was feeling burned out.
Flash forward to 2018. I had been operating a new business for several years and was again stuck.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to make it full-time in my business and thinking about how to position
So I did what most business owners do when they aren’t sure how to move forward: I hired a coach.
After five months working together, I dialed into our monthly call. I wasn’t prepared and wasn’t expecting to get much out of the call.
As I spent the first ten minutes rattling off all the reasons that things couldn’t work and felt so hard, she interrupted me.
“Kim, you know the answers to the questions you’re asking. You’ve got to let go of that old story you’re believing about yourself. The exact things that worked against you in your 9-5 are what will draw people to you in your business.”
I held this notion with me over the next few days. I reflected on my clients that had been most successful
They looked to me as the expert. They wanted to be told what to do. And they took comfort in knowing that I was confident leading them in the right direction.
Never in my seven years of business ownership have I had a client that told me I was too opinionated.
Slowly, I started writing more with a point of view.
I entered consult calls with excitement, not fear that the person on the other end of the line might think I was too expensive.
I shared more about my business, knowing some of my friends and family might not understand.
And I set my prices for profit.
I’m still not sure all of my plans will work out – in fact, I know some won’t – but the only way to succeed is to start.
DEFINING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
If you’re struggling to take risks, show up as yourself, and use your rare talents, it’s time to ask yourself a few questions.
What story am I choosing to believe about myself?
For me, it was that I was too much. I needed to quiet down to be successful. I’ve realized that for some people it may have felt like a lot to have someone confident working for them. “Business as usual” worked for them and was much more comfortable than thinking about what could be. I pushed them there and maybe they weren’t ready. But in the end, that wasn’t about me and I couldn’t hold onto that story any longer if I was going to meet my true potential.
Where are you now compared to where you were a year ago?
Last June I wasn’t sure I was going to keep my business open. This past month I announced to the team of three that I manage at a national nonprofit that I’m leaving my position to go full-time in my business. And while there are many goals I still have for my business, I’d consider that growth in one year pretty fantastic.
What do you do exceptionally well?
This doesn’t mean pinpointing the one thing that you can do better than anyone in the world. It means what is the thing that your colleagues or friends come to you for? These are the things that come easy to you, that you could spend hours doing. That’s your area of genius. And you don’t need any more courses or certifications to deem yourself an expert. You’re already there.
What’s the one thing you’re scared to share about yourself?
For too long I shied away from sharing my career trajectory because my path didn’t make sense on paper. I had a master of social work and a master of public health but I owned a wedding planning business? And then I shifted into grant writing during the day and moonlighting as a brand strategist for entrepreneurs? Holy confusing. Only when I stopped feeling like I had to justify why I was the right person to do the work did I begin to feel comfortable sharing my journey. And when those walls came down, connecting with others became easier.
So often we’re hesitant to take a stand because we know we’ll alienate people. But in these times of extreme divisiveness, even if you think you aren’t standing for something your silence signals otherwise.
Be bold in your presence and perspective. There’s someone who’s looking for exactly what you bring.
Act on the ideas that have been swirling in your head.
And rest easy knowing that you don’t have to appeal to everyone to be successful. How exhausting would that be?