Giuletta’s a pretty cool person. She’s bold, she’s brave and she submitted her post fearlessly. Nice.
But truthfully, Guiletta didn’t start off bold and brave or even close to fearless. Fearful is more like it, as I read her story. I couldn’t help but grin, though, when she hit on something near and dear to my heart – can you figure out what it is before you reach the end of the article?
I felt excited yet overwhelmed when I started my graphic design business seven years ago.
Various fears reared their ugly heads — a fear of not being good enough, a fear of not having the courage to market my services, a fear of not attracting the right kind of clients. When I worked for a corporation, the sales and marketing force ventured into the scary customer world on behalf of the team and brought business back for the rest of us.
Now I had to do the marketing myself.
Unfortunately, these self-doubts became self-fulfilling: I attracted clients who pushed me around, bargained me down and forced me to chase them for payment.
Worse, I viewed every sales call as a trip to emotional hell. The thought of revealing my price threw me into a mini-panic, so much that I often didn’t call prospective clients back because I couldn’t face that awful pricing moment.
I seriously questioned whether I had the emotional fortitude to continue on this self-employment journey. And I was just about to throw in the business towel when a friend suggested I read a book on Leonardo da Vinci and genius.
It never occurred to me that I might have genius. I thought genius was reserved for Leonardo da Vinci, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Emily Dickinson. This book suggested otherwise, which lead me to other books on genius.
I spent months combing through them, devouring their exercises, trying on different geniuses. A few came to mind, but none felt quite right. Yet I stuck with it, scribbling down potential geniuses and one day while hoofing it around the neighborhood, the big, “A-ha!” I’d been waiting for hit me like a genius brick.
Challenger of the status quo. Rebel.
Now, you might laugh at that conclusion based on what I just revealed above. Being a business owner forced me into new emotional territory – specifically the lands of money and self-promotion – and it was a place that caused me extreme discomfort.
But you need to know that I have a long history of fighting convention, of asking questions others are afraid to ask, of standing up first even if no one else has agreed to line up behind me.
I decided to grab my newfound genius and face my business fears.
So what did I want to confront about my own business?
First, I disliked my company name – I’d called my business Designing Words. Nonsensical. Generic. Conventional. Dumped it.
New name? Fearless Design. Loved it.
Second, I disliked sharing my price on command in a vacuum. Dumped it.
New pricing philosophy? Reveal price only when I’ve developed mutual trust with the individual.
Third, I disliked the conventional marketing philosophy and the way it made me feel. Never liked walking up to folks at networking events and answering, “So, what do you do?” with “Hi, I’m a graphic designer. I create logos, brochures and annual reports.” The reaction was usually a semi-glazed look. Dumped it.
Now I answer, “What do you do?” with, “I encourage business owners to find their Fearless Why. That’s what clients buy.” The response, “Oh, tell me more about that. What’s a Fearless Why, and how do you find it?”
I ditched conventional “what” and replaced it with rebellious “why”. I now had a business adventure that spoke to me so that I could help others ditch their own adherence to business convention.
This Fearless Why allowed me to connect with my own business emotionally.
Without a Fearless Why, a small business owner can feel lost in a sea of marketing sameness and Simon Says-isms. It’s not good for the business psyche. If you sound like every other “fill-in-the business-blank,” how can you stay excited about your own business and share that enthusiasm with potential clients? How can you be in love your own business?
Sameness deadens excitement. Most business owners with a heart want to bring something new and useful to the client table, something only they can bring to the world.
That’s their Fearless Why.
By this point, you’re probably chomping at the business bit and wondering how the hell you can find your own Fearless Why. But let me forewarn you – it’s not for the faint of heart.
You need to stick with the journey until your Fearless Why feels brave enough to reveal itself. The conditioned part of you will want to give up and return to status quo. Don’t give in!
Here are three places to begin your journey and find your Fearless Why:
- Self-Surveillance: Don your private eye cap, buy a small notebook and follow yourself around for a few days. I know it may sound silly, but it isn’t. Where do you go? What do you do? What catches your eye?
- Volunteerism: What do people ask you to do – especially hoping you won’t charge them – that has you gleefully saying, “I’ll do it!”?
- Crime & Punishment: Think back to the K-12 years. What crime did teachers punish you for doing? (Think about after-school detention, standing in the corner, or being sent to the principal’s office.)
Thinking about these questions starts the internal excavating to find your Fearless Why.
And don’t be so quick to leap on your “passion” as the answer. Interestingly enough, what a lot of folks call their “passion” isn’t really their passion at all. It’s just a vehicle for their passion – a “what”. A “why” weaves its way through any number of “what’s”.
And that’s the reason many of the self-employed feel emotionally disconnected from their own business – they’ve been trained to revolve around the generic “what”: “I’m a graphic designer. I’m an accountant. I’m a makeup artist.”
Steer clear of the canned responses and it-must-be-done-this-way edicts. Keep digging until you have your Fearless Why in hand. It’ll change how you feel about your business… and also how you feel about your life.
About the Author: Giulietta “Julie” Nardone is the Fearless Branding Rebel at Fearless Design. She also sings at karaoke nights, saves historic buildings and writes personal essays about self-liberation.