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Slaying Self-Doubt


Creating stuff is hard.

After all, why create when consuming is so much easier?

Distractions are everywhere.

On a daily basis, I’m told about another 9-season series I need to binge on Netflix.

Twitter and Facebook want any excuse to ding my phone.

could sit in front of my computer and write something like what I’m doing now… or I could do something else. And, more often than I’d like to admit, something else wins.

But creating is also scary.

It’s easy to say that you didn’t finish your book because you didn’t have the time or “life happened.” But few are willing to admit that they’re scared to death.

“What if people hate it?”

That fear, that nagging feeling that tells you your work is junk, that self-doubt, that imposter syndrome… it never seems to go away.

We fear criticism, though we want praise. (Have you ever shown something you’re creating only to people who you know will tell you it’s awesome?)

For many of us, that fear is what keeps us from leaving our comfort zone and doing something radically new.

How many times have you followed up with someone months, or even years, after being told about something they want to create, only to be met with “yeah, I’m still working on that.”

Or how many of you have had clients who always find a reason to delay completing their project? Clients who always need another tweak, another adjustment, another do-over?

And how many times have you opened up that folder where you keep all of your side projects, only to realize that you’re staring at a cemetery of half-baked ideas?

Raises hand.

Here’s what I learned yesterday (thanks, Facebook’s “On This Day”!): four years ago I had just released my first book, Double Your Freelancing Rate. And exactly one year ago, I hosted my first conference to 100+ attendees.

onthisday

It might seem like creating is easy for someone like me.

That four-year-old book is now a full-fledged course, with over 8,000 customers. I’m hosting my third conference next week. Two weeks ago, I soft-launched my new course on Drip and it’s already done over five figures in revenue.

Creating now is a lot easier than it used to be…

But it still scares the crap out of me.

Four years ago, I almost didn’t ship Double Your Freelancing Rate. I was going to refund all the pre-orders. I almost gave up.

And had I given up you wouldn’t be getting this email — Double Your Freelancing wouldn’t exist.

Next week, no one would be converging on Norfolk, Virginia from all over the planet for a conference on the business of freelancing.

The profiles we’ve published here wouldn’t exist, and many of the students profiled on that page might have thrown in the towel by now.

I doubted myself then but, fortunately, I had a lot of friends who convinced me that I should do it anyway.

“If no one buys, figure out why they didn’t buy, and launch again,” said my good friend and mentor, Amy Hoy.

This was one of those business truisms that so many people don’t ever end up internalizing.

If it doesn’t work, figure out why it failed and try again — don’t just give up.

Maybe you won’t position your business because you think you’re not good enough / skilled enough / whatever enough to actually serve a particular niche.

Maybe you don’t want to write that book or create that course because you don’t think you’re capable or expert enough to teach anyone anything.

Maybe you think of yourself as just a run-of-the-mill designer, developer, writer, marketer, or whatever it is you do.

That’s your lot in life, c’est la vie.

Look, tough love inbound:

You run a business selling your skills to people.

People hire you because you have something of theirs that they want. They have an expensive business problem begging to be solved.

If they didn’t value you (or more specifically, what you can do for them), they wouldn’t hire you.

Plain & simple.

The only thing that separates you from successful creators is that the latter decided to beat down their own doubts. These are people who had jobs, small freelancing businesses, or whatever else before they became known.

They had experience that they distilled into content that people could learn from and grow from. They allowed themselves to step out into the public square and show whoever’s listening that they wanted to help. They built in the open and made creating their first product more of a dialogue than a monolog.

These aren’t all A-types who love the limelight. They’re often self-conscious introverts like me.

But what they did, and what I encourage you to do, was to start small and limited their dreaming.

Focus on one thing that addresses a specific need.

Before I had a multi-layered business like I do today, I had a small $29 ebook that I sold on e-junkie. It responded to, and solved, one problem that people told me they had.

This ebook was the net summary of dozens of conversations I had that propelled me to write this book.

That book led to me deciding to write to customers weekly with new and interesting tidbits, and eventually I made it so anyone could join that list. (It’s at 34,000 subscribers now)

Those weekly emails led me to start chatting with customers and subscribers, and I realized many of them wanted to grow a bigger business, so I started my (now tentatively-defunct) workshop on building an agency.

That led to a podcast. And then another book. And then the tearing down the first book and redoing it as a full-fledged course. And then learning from about 500 hours of live workshops to create the DYF Academy.

Listen, research, and respond.

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing — niching your consulting business, creating a course, or throwing a conference. That’s the formula.

It might look like successful creators have it all figured out and went into this with a meticulous business plan.

Instead, what you’re more likely to find is that those who spend all their time planning their future business remain forever at the business plan stage… and those who listen to people and create are the ones running 7-figure businesses.

What’s one thing you know that you’re good at and can help people with?

How can this help you create new avenues and greater success with your consulting business?

Or how can you turn that knowledge into something that helps a few people solve a particularly annoying problem that they face?

The rest of the business. The growth. The employees. The millions in revenue. All that stuff comes later.

But you need to just start somewhere. And there’s no better time than right now.

  • Appreciate this. It’s such a mental game, and any self-doubt can be overcome with small actions.

  • I found that the best way to overcome the “What if people hate it?” feeling is to write specifically to answer a problem or a question you know people have. It allows you to ditch the “is this interesting ?” bucket and jump right into the “it will help at least one person” bucket. Much more fulfilling.

  • Iva

    I usually don’t follow anything of this kind, because I’m this cynical outgoing introvert who’s bound to get aggressive once she gets that notion that people are, want to or could be making money out of her. However, your newsletters – which I need to binge on because, yes, distractions and inability to follow through on to-do lists – speak to me in a way no series of e-mails and not many things in general ever did.

    In this one, you have described a problem that many people just…won’t see as real and would assume is an excuse. You have touched the topic of procrastination caused by fear of the end result, constant comparison to others and how those two create a vicious circle of chaos and self-doubt. I don’t feel offended. On the contrary, I feel like I have identified the pattern. So, thank you.

  • LondonVikingE1

    As always, great stuff, as a reminder for me to put the “procrastination” in the cupboard today and get on with closing stage 1 on some of those great ideas occupying the desk right now 🙂

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