Helping Solo Professionals Develop and Grow Their Businesses and Effectively Serve Their Clients
The purpose of this blog is to provide information to help consultants and solo professionals. Please contact us if you're an active SPC member willing to provide content for our blog.
Imposter syndrome is a debilitating pattern of thinking that inhibits optimal functioning. Not only does it undermine confidence, but it also produces a need to prove yourself by achieving unrealistic standards —standards that you, the person with imposter syndrome, create for yourself. In the process, imposter syndrome reduces creativity because the person sees taking risks or trying new approaches as threats to his or her image of being the best. At best, imposter syndrome creates stress and pressure. At worst, it builds to a level of dysfunctional anxiety.
So how can you learn to control imposter syndrome?
Most people believe imposter syndrome is a feeling. It is not. Imposter syndrome is a series of irrational and illogical thoughts. The beauty of this fact is you can learn strategies to control your thoughts and by doing so, you can reduce or eliminate imposter syndrome. Here are five steps to help you think, feel and function at your best.
Our brains will focus on what we tell them to focus on. With imposter syndrome, our brains are functioning from an illogical belief system and will search for any information to support the imposter syndrome. To eliminate the dysfunctional thoughts, we must replace those thoughts with facts, logic and evidence. Resumes, professional evaluations and concrete accomplishments are all sources of reality-based data to replace the thoughts creating the imposter syndrome.
For individuals with imposter syndrome, there is often the belief that they need to create new ways to accomplish tasks in order to be successful. They spend their time worrying about how to do things better or in unique ways to distinguish themselves. The reality is that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Employing skills, behaviors and methods that have been successful in past situations can create success in current and future situations. Why not use validated success strategies rather than creating new ones that have no data to support their efficacy?
In many articles I have read regarding imposter syndrome, a common piece of advice is to talk to someone about your feelings. Often the articles reference talking to your boss, colleague or a friend, and this advice is faulty. These individuals might be valuable when you want to vent, but they are not trained in approaches to help you reduce or eliminate imposter syndrome, nor are they regulated by confidentiality guidelines. Seeking out an executive coach, trained in areas of brain or behavior functioning, will ensure you receive expert support in a safe environment.
Perfectionism is the energy source for imposter syndrome. The idea of being perfect or doing things perfectly creates some of the irrational and unrealistic standards that contribute to imposter syndrome and, ultimately, undermine goals. Some perfectionistic individuals focus so much energy and time on doing things perfectly that they never finish the goal at hand. Doing things well, using your strengths and accomplishing them within the designated time can be your focus and a way to reduce imposter syndrome.
Writing down your goals is a strategy towards goal achievement, but it also clearly establishes your measurement of the goal. It creates the boundary to maintain your focus so it does not stray towards something bigger or better. By writing down your goal, it also becomes a tool to measure your success based on the stated goal, not something more perfect. If you compare your outcome to the written goal, it becomes the litmus test for success and can prohibit your brain from spinning in the direction of imposter syndrome.
For many driven and successful people, imposter syndrome is a common occurrence. Recognizing the signs and knowing you can control it allows you to prevent it from blocking your progress. By applying concrete strategies, and refusing to accept the illogical belief system as a habit or norm, you can maintain a level of optimal performance in your personal and professional lives.
Dr. Robin Buckley, CPC, is the owner of Insights Group Psychological & Coaching Services in Rye, NH. Robin is an author, public speaker and certified coach (drrobinbuckley.com). In her work as an Executive Coach and Couples Coach, she helps high-achieving individuals and couples thrive in their careers and relationships. Her proprietary coaching model uses a business framework and cognitive-behavioral strategies to support clients in executing concrete, strategic plans to achieve the professional and relationship lives they want.
We’ve all had to wrestle meaning out of poorly written material. Perhaps it was a report that highlighted a series of problems but failed to provide a clear and actionable path forward. Or maybe it was that email from a client responding to what you thought was a simple question with an ambiguous and only vaguely related answer. Or that blog post that promised a solution but only added to the confusion.
Poor writing costs time and money.
According to The State of Business Writing, a report published in 2016, bad writing costs businesses an estimated $396 billion a year. That has undoubtedly increased along with the popularity of asynchronous communication tools such as Slack. More recently, Erica Dhawan, author of Digital Body Language, found that the average employee wastes up to four hours each week on poor, unclear, and confusing digital communication, most of which is written. As an independent consultant, your writing has a direct and immediate impact on your reputation and income.
There are two types of business writing: traditional business writing and marketing communications. Below we’ll define each type of writing, examine its purpose, and give you a few tips on how to increase the effectiveness of both your traditional business writing and marketing communications.
Traditional business writing includes everything you write in the course of business, such as proposals, reports, emails, and messages in Slack. The purpose of this type of writing is typically to convey information about a specific topic. In many companies, traditional business writing is the engine that drives the day-to-day activities of the business. To increase the effectiveness of your traditional business writing:
Marketing communications is writing that is in service of business development, such as websites, email newsletters, case studies, white papers, social media posts, blogs, and articles on third-party platforms. Its purpose is to demonstrate your unique value proposition to your prospective, current, and former clients. To increase the effectiveness of your marketing communications:
If you truly want to be of service and improve the effectiveness of your business writing, treat your reader’s time as more valuable than your own.
Next month, we’ll talk about the importance of knowing your audience and dive in to how your brand influences your writing.
Sophie Michals is a writer, editor, and writing coach who helps brainy, image-conscious subject matter experts deliver clear, concise writing with a consistent brand voice. Learn more at (SM) Edits LLC.
Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications, a collaborative of writers and editors partnering with executives, consultants, and coaches to transform their ideas into published articles.
Everyone writes. Whether you’re writing an email to a client, putting together a proposal, preparing a report, or crafting an article for publication, your writing reflects your company’s brand and either builds your credibility and authority or diminishes it.
Everyone writes. But not everyone writes effectively.
In this series of articles, we will share tips for effective business writing, including practical tools you can apply immediately to improve your written communications and guidance on how to find the help you need.
We’ll cover one tip each month — and, as a special bonus, we’ll share a list of our favorite writing resources to help improve your writing:
Check back in early October for Tip 1: We will talk about the differences between traditional business writing and marketing communications and the goals of each type of writing.
How do you set priorities when you start a solo consulting business? If you focus on these three tasks, you’ll improve the chances of making your business successful.
It’s difficult for a new consultant to compete in a crowded field. Thought leadership activities will help you establish authority and get clients to find you. Creating blog posts, magazine articles, YouTube videos, and newsletters will help position you as an expert. If you produce content that’s relevant to your potential clients, you’ll establish authority and be able to win contracts over more experienced consultants.
When you start a solo consulting business, you become the director of sales, marketing, finance, contracts, IT, and PM. The more time you spend on these tasks, the less time you can spend providing consulting services. Outsourcing some of these business responsibilities will give you more time to do the consulting work you enjoy. You can end up hating consulting if you try to do all the required operations tasks yourself.
Asking for Help
The Society of Professional Consultants offers networking, mentoring, and education to new consultants from around the world. We’re a diverse group of new and experienced consultants that encourages our members to collaborate, share best practices, and learn from each other. The SPC provides a supportive environment where new consultants can ask questions about launching and growing their practice. You can view our free resources for people considering a career in consulting at https://spconsultants.org/consultant-resources.
Rick Pollak is president of the Society of Professional Consultants. He’s also the founder of Presentation Medic, a consulting company specializing in curing boring presentations. He specializes in coaching speakers for TEDx talks, executive presentations, and technical workshops.