A few weeks ago, our weekly Clubhouse meetup was supposed to be about money management for creatives. It quickly became focused more on making money than what to do with the money we’ve already made. Everyone was interested in how to set rates, be confident in charging what they’re worth, and how to avoid the all-too-common epidemic called “Imposter Syndrome.” It seems to be a rampant issue in creative fields, especially in those who are just starting out in business.
What is imposter syndrome? It’s when you feel like a fraud for charging people for your services. It’s that internal doubt that you aren’t worth as much as you are. It’s tricking yourself into thinking you aren’t as competent as others think you are, even though you are. It’s undermining your talent and crediting luck for your accomplishments instead. It’s a lack of confidence telling you that people are going to find out you don’t actually know what you’re doing and everything you’ve worked for is going to disappear.
Sound familiar? I hope not, but if so, you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome is affecting business owners everywhere. There is so much pressure, often self-inflicted, to be the best. And if you’re not the best in the world, then somehow you don’t deserve success at all. But that’s not true.
I know I’m starting to sound like a PSA, but I don’t like hearing how many talented people are feeling like phonies instead of being proud of doing what they’ve always wanted to do. So, if you’ve ever dealt with those feelings, or are feeling them now, this episode is for you.
I want you to know a few things.
You are not a fraud. Stop thinking that you are. If you were a true fraud, you probably wouldn’t be listening to this podcast, so I’m going to trust that you aren’t ripping people off or claiming you can do things you can’t. I know those people are out there, but you know if that’s you. It’s not, right?
No. You’re charging for your services because they have value. You are making other people’s lives easier in one way or another. You’re doing something they can’t do, don’t have time to do, or don’t want to do. You’re helping them personally, or their brand or company. You’re doing what you do so they can focus on all the other things they need to do. They pay you because they need you. An imposter pretends. You actually do.
You are worth more than your doubts may tell you. Don’t let them win. And by worth, I mean not just your rates, but also your value as a human. You have boundaries in place for a reason, and if someone isn’t respecting them, you can and should end that relationship. There is a respectful way to do it, of course, but any client who acts like they pay you so you should do whatever they want when they want it isn’t a client worth having. Let them go and make room for someone who appreciates what you have to offer and understands the price tag that goes along with your skills.
You absolutely should be doing what you’re doing. If you’re just getting started, that only means that you have plenty of time ahead of you to learn and grow and build your confidence. If you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ve earned your place. Why are you questioning it now? It’s okay to accept success and to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Don’t let doubt, fear, or other people hold you back from saying, “I deserve this.” Because you do.
The time and energy you’ve invested into your talent is valuable, and it’s your right to stand up for yourself. If there are people who are condescendingly questioning you, or trying to bully you into working for less, they aren’t worth your time. Working with them only takes away your opportunity to work with the right people. Those people won’t question your rates or expertise. They’ll gladly pay you and breathe a sigh of relief that they have you on their team. Anything less is not worth your time. If those demanding and demeaning people are making you question yourself, stop. If anyone is a fraud in that situation, it’s them, not you.
If you’re having trouble believing in yourself sometimes, how about believing your clients? They aren’t stupid. They’re not giving you work or money out of pity. They’ve hired you because they believe you’ll do a good job for them. They will let you know if you’re not living up to their expectations. So If they don’t doubt your abilities, why should you?
Some people feel all of their success is a fluke and is going to disappear at any moment. But that isn’t going to happen to you. You’ve worked hard to build your client base and your reputation as an expert. You will continue to do so. People are going to notice and think, wow. Look at what you’ve accomplished. That’s amazing. Remember that those who don’t, those who might put you down or try to minimize your success, those people aren’t really criticizing you. They’re criticizing themselves. They’re disappointed in themselves for not being brave enough to do their own thing. They’re scared to take the risk and they’re making up reasons to justify it. Don’t fall into that trap. You’re better than that.
I don’t know why people treat themselves so much worse than they’d treat other people. Think about that internal voice that’s making you feel like an imposter. Would you talk to someone else the way it’s talking to you? If your friend came to you and said they were feeling insecure about their business, would you respond with something like, “Well, you clearly don’t know what you’re doing and shouldn’t be getting paid for it?” If you wanted to hire someone for services you need, would you respond with, “Wow. Those rates are stupid and no one should ever pay you that much?” If your family member had been working hard on her business for months and was excited about the momentum she was building, would you shut her down by saying, “Well, you’ve just gotten lucky because most people aren’t going to pay you to do that?” No! You wouldn’t say any of those things to others, so don’t say them to yourself either.
You don’t need validation from anyone but yourself. Be honest. Are you proud of the work you’re doing? Do you find fulfillment in running your business? Do you appreciate the freedom you have since you’ve taken control of your life? Do you acknowledge that you are a successful business owner? Or if you haven’t started yet, do you believe you are good enough to pursue your passion and make money doing it? If you can honestly answer no to any of those questions, take a step back and think about why. What can you do to turn it around? And if you did answer yes, as I’m sure you all did, then ask yourself why do you feel like an imposter?
I don’t know why it happens, but I don’t like it. Part of me wonders if so many people have been programmed to be falsely humble that they don’t know how to accept their accomplishments. It’s not considered good manners to boast or talk about yourself positively, but I think that idea is antiquated. It’s one thing to let your ego run wild and think you’re the greatest human to ever exist. It’s another to claim that you are better than anyone else. But it’s completely different to acknowledge that you are doing good work and have created something special. I think it’s important for us to allow ourselves to be proud.
We are not imposters. We are self-employed creatives, we love what we do, and we deserve every bit of success we earn for ourselves.