The one thing you're doing that's blocking your success (and how to... y'know... not do it)
"In what ways are you being cheap with yourself?"
I vividly remember the day that my coach asked this question.
I was sitting in my flat:
- Drinking tea from a mug I don’t-really-like-but-was-bought-for-me-as-a-gift
- Sitting on the sofa that I bought from my sister for £100 (after she’d carefully wiped the 5 years’ worth of child-raising off of the faux leather seats) and
- Wearing a top that I’d bought from Primark some two years before (you know the one; nondescript grey t-shirt, plasticky jewelled neckline) which I wore to virtually every social event or out-of-the-house occasion during that time period, despite having a wardrobe full of (equally sh*t) clothes that I never wore.
At the time I though “Pah! Easy for you to say love.. you’re clearly raking it in (and I know this for a fact having just handed over a considerable amount of money to you for business coaching, thankyouverymuch!)”.
I couldn’t quite get to grips with what she meant, and interpreted it as some kind of call to action to go out, credit card in hand and splash the cash. (Which, as anyone who has ever had crippling-wake-up-in-the-night-sweating-consider-changing-identity debt will know, was not something I was prepared to do… tempting as it was).
So, somewhat characteristically, I dug my heels in, plumped it up to a privileged ‘from-the-top’ perspective and lack of insight as to what it’s like to try and build a business with zero capital, and carried on sipping my tea from that-mug-I-hate.
But as the days rolled by, I started thinking about this a little more. See, the wider message was about ‘becoming the kind of woman you need to be to have the kind of business that you want to have’.
At first, this seemed upside-down to me. I thought that I would build the business, earn the money, then start getting manicures, massages, drinking champagne, wearing great clothes, getting my hair cut more than twice a year… y’know, living the life!
But first, I needed to put in months of solid graft, sitting cross-legged on my hand-me-down sofa in my joggers, chewing on my split ends.
Thing is, when you’re in that place, you don’t feel like a woman who owns a legitimate business.
You feel like some dodgy imposter, who is basically nothing more than a stay-at-home-layabout with a laptop and a distant dream. So when you start thinking about going live, making online videos and booking discovery calls, you feel like everyone will know it's all BS. Cue: charging less than you want to charge, not putting yourself out there at all, or giving off such an air of ‘oh-my-god-what-am-I-even-doing’ that your potential clients can practically smell your desperation through the webcam!
So, ok I needed to get myself together a bit. This revelation didn’t come to me all at once, but in little dribs and drabs. I realised that having something I liked to wear for a livestream or discovery call would make me feel more professional and legitimate, and that would make me talk about my products and services in a different way. And looking at my nails all groomed and polished as they rattled across my keyboard, rather than chewed and gnarly, might make me feel like I actually had something valuable to type.
So, I started changing things by degrees.
Rather than buy 20 things in Primark, I bought two beautiful things in French Connection.
Rather than scrawling in my notebooks with a crappy free promotional biro, I spent a few pounds (ok…. like, 10ish.. but who’s counting) on a gorgeous on-brand high quality pen which writes like a dream.
I got a haircut.
I started taking care of my stuff, because I was proud of it.
And I threw away that fucking mug.
It did take some time. The human brain is a stubborn ol’ thing, and there were moments of what I can only describe as pure (borderline excruciating) discomfort as I handed over the money. But gradually, I started feeling more like a legitimate business owner. I started feeling a little prouder when I looked in the mirror. I started feeling more confident showing up on videos, and holding the space more on discovery calls, talking about my services with pride, rather than practically begging clients to work with me.
Because, frankly, how could you not want to work with me? Have you seen my freaking awesome pen??
And you know what? Surprise surprise. I started getting clients. Actual paying clients.
To my big packages. To my small packages. To a side hustle that’s not even part of my main business, which has earned me more in just the last week than the cost of my French Connection purchases, my haircut, my manicure and my pen put together!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we all go out and do our weekly shop in the most pricey supermarket in town, or pack out our schedules with spa treatments.
Unless you have a rich uncle/trust fund/several hundred quid stashed under your mattress, it might mean prioritising for a while.
It’s just about deciding what’s important to you.
So if you love great coffee, buy an amazing cup of coffee, and enjoy the hell out of it without guilt. But if you don’t care about coffee, take a flask and save your money for a great sandwich. (OK, don’t get me started on the food examples… we’ll be here all day!)
If you love fresh flowers in your home but are spending all your money on takeaways, cook beans on toast and buy fresh flowers instead! (Oops… I tried)
If you love great shoes but aren’t fussed about fancy skincare, keep using your trusty budget face wash and save for those Louboutins!
It’s not about upgrading everything or spending money that you don’t have. In the words of Marie Kondo it’s about "surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy", and being able to take yourself seriously as a powerful, legitimate business owner!
And my coach was right... you have to stop being cheap with yourself and
'become the kind of woman you need to be
to have the kind of business that you want to have’.
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Lizz Summers is a voice & presentation skills coach, helping entrepreneurs to attract a following of raving fans, grow their businesses and sign paying clients by getting clear, credible and confident on camera.
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Photography: Vanessa Adams Photography http://www.vanessaadams.com/