I know this topic is very specific to coaches or consultants, but I think it’s actually applicable to almost anyone who’s doing any kind of business. Imposter syndrome is real and we all know that. At least for me, for a very long time, I felt like I couldn’t be successful in business, because I wasn’t ‘an expert’.
So if you’re someone who resonates with this message, and wants to move forward in the journey, feeling confident in your abilities, then I hope you’ll keep reading this piece until the end.
Let me first share with you my mindset about being an expert. I do understand that being an expert could require ten years or ten thousand hours, or whatever all the other resources mention. However, I also believe that you don’t need to be an expert in order to take the first step. The first step could be to launch your own business, start whatever you want to start, or begin to educate people on the things that you know. I really do not think that you need to be an expert to take these steps.
Even I wasn’t an expert when I started. And personally, I don’t think that I’m an expert yet, compared to the other peers in my industry. Now obviously, for some of you guys who are reading my posts or are familiar with me, you probably think that I’m an expert in your eyes. But what I want to illustrate here is that being an expert is a little bit subjective. There is always going to be someone who knows more than you, and there’s always going to be someone who knows less than you. In your eyes, I could be an expert. However, I myself don’t think that I’m an expert compared to the other people I look up to. And those people probably don’t think that they are experts either. So if you keep going down this path of feeling like you need to be an expert in order to even take the first step in your business, then you are going to be waiting forever.
On top of that, what I also want you to realize is that the expert was once the beginner. Everybody starts at stage zero. It’s the people who actually took that step forward to gain the experience, to start working with clients; they’re the ones who after some time actually become the experts in their industry. On the other side, if you’re just sitting there, waiting and not taking any action, and thinking that someone’s going to knock on your door one day and say, “Congratulations, here’s your certificate!” – it’s never going to happen for you. Hence, you cannot use the stance of not being an expert as an excuse to not start at all.
This is why I also believe that you need to master your mindset first. You don’t need another certification; you don’t need another exam; you don’t need another book or course. You just need to master your mindset around feeling like an expert. You just need to feel good enough about yourself to be able to serve your audience and clients.
Let’s take a look at some specific tips that will help you feel like an expert.
Acknowledge your results
When I first started as a digital marketing specialist, I worked for clients for free. The reason was I really didn’t feel like I was an expert in what I was doing. I didn’t really know what I was capable of. I’m actually really glad that I went down this road of not charging the clients I initially worked with, because it definitely put the edge off and allowed me to be confident in enhancing the online presence of my clients’ businesses, without thinking that I needed to deliver in order for them to get their investment back. I really wasn’t certain on what I was truly capable of.
As I was working with these clients, I realized that I actually knew a lot about marketing, business and the digital world. I didn’t realize this until I met people who knew less than me. As I continued to coach some clients as a strategic marketing advisor, I also started to publish more articles on my blog, teaching people the things that I knew. Based on their reactions, I realized I was actually good at what I was doing. My greatest happiness began to come from people telling me that they found value in the results that I had produced for them.
This experience taught me that there are a handful people out there who know less than you, whether you realize it or not. If you know how to edit videos, for instance, there is someone out there who doesn’t even know how to pick a software. If you are someone who lost 20 pounds on your journey, there is someone out there who doesn’t even know the fundamentals of basic health, nutrition and exercise. If you are someone who has finally nailed a niche in your business, there is someone out there with 20 million ideas but doesn’t even know which one is going to be the winning one.
That’s why it is very important that you acknowledge the results that you’ve gotten for yourself, and start taking the steps to coach others on the things that you know.
Be honest and have integrity
One of the biggest pieces of advice that I can give is to set clear expectations from the people you work with or the people you serve. Also, be transparent about the things that you can do and things you cannot do, right from the start.
When you’re serving clients, even if you’re just a startup firm or a freelancer, you need to remember that you get to be the boss in terms of choosing which clients to work with, and not the other way around. That’s why all the applications processes, discovery calls and interviews are in place. You don’t want to be agreeing to work with someone you cannot seem to be able to help.
I feel like sometimes, we as coaches, consultants or business advisors put way too much pressure on ourselves to get results for our clients. We often forget that the client is also just as responsible to get results for themselves.
I can tell you right now, as someone who’s worked for a lot of clients, I generally give the same roadmap and strategy to everyone. But there’s always a handful of people who get their results, and another handful that don’t. Now that has nothing to do with the program that I’ve given, the budget I have proposed or the marketing plan I mapped out for them. The difference lies among the clients themselves. For instance, some clients are too afraid of marketing to begin with. They’re so risk-aversive that they’re not willing to allocate any budget for marketing expense. I have written about such clients in another article on 7 common mistakes all startups should avoid. Thus the results that they get are far less than clients who are resourceful and willingly approve reasonably calculated marketing budgets.
Share your advice online
If you want to accelerate your authority in a certain space, or want to be regarded as an expert in your field one day, you have to start sharing your advice. Let’s take me as an example once again. I started my own publication site this year to share the tips and tricks that I know about different aspects of life, just the way I would share my stuff with a friend. Suddenly my posts started gaining traction. I started getting views, clicks and followers as I became consistent in sharing my lessons.
Eventually, I started to be seen as an expert in the digital space. Did I intend for this? Not really. But if I were to reverse engineer the things that I have built for myself, I realize that those content pieces were true pieces of inspiration that led to acceleration of my authority in my areas of expertise.