“So what do you do?”
It’s a pretty standard question, regularly asked at parties, club meetings, family gatherings and networking events. But ever since I started my business, this little question has given me big anxiety. Because I don’t know what to say.
The easy answer is to tell people that “I work in a drapery workroom”. It’s true, it’s short, I feel comfortable saying it, and it doesn’t generally illicit more questions: a definite plus for my introverted self.
Buuuut, this answer is really me hiding. Hiding my insecurities of starting a business behind the cover of having a day job to talk about. I could tell people that I’m a small business owner, but when I say that I feel like an imposter. I feel like Owning A Business is a Big Deal, and that when someone hears that I have a business, they probably have certain expectations. Like that I’m making a profit. Or I have employees. Or I don’t have a day job. All of which are not true. At least not yet. So I have this reluctance to tell people that I am a business owner. I feel like I’m not big enough, I don’t know enough, I don’t have enough experience, I’m not good enough yet.
This is no good. I DO own a business. And I can’t grow my business if I’m constantly hiding the fact that I have one. So I made it a goal for 2016 to self-promote, and even wrote it up in a blog post here. But even knowing what I need to do, it’s not easy.
Early on in the year, I met my sister and her friend for breakfast one day, and her friend asked me what I did. And I gave the cop-out answer “I sew…” and got put in my place by my big sister!
“I thought it was one of your goals to not say that anymore! Aren’t you supposed to talk about your business??” Yikes! Apparently people do read this blog! But she was right, and she gave me the accountability kick I needed to get serious about this goal.
I actually practiced with my husband, pretending to introduce ourselves, to try to get comfortable with what I had to say (and he is my hero for not making fun of me for this). And we cycled through a few answers to see what fits me best.
"I’m a fashion designer" – For me, this gives the wrong idea. I’m not at some couture fashion house in New York.
"I have an Etsy shop" – True, but my business is more than Etsy. And some people have no idea what Etsy is anyway.
"I’m an entrepreneur" – this sounds like I really like to start lots of businesses. I don’t. I just want this ONE business, because it is my passion.
"I’m a business owner" – I don’t like just saying I have a business without saying what I do!
For now, I’ve settled on: “I own a design business” or “I run an online sewing business” or something along those lines. But it’s still hard to say.
After settling on what to say, the next step was to put myself in situations where I would need to introduce myself. The only way that I am going to become confident with my self, and my abilities, is if I see that my fears (ridiculous fears of people yelling at me, telling me I’m an imposter) are unfounded. So here we go, out of my comfort zone.
I started an Etsy team. I wanted a group of like-minded people in the area, to meet up with and talk about our businesses. To help each other through problems, and celebrate each other’s successes. A group like this didn’t already exist, so I decided to just make it myself. This means that I get to meet new people who come to our meetings! On the scale of imposterism, this was pretty low, because we are all Etsy business people, so I felt more at home.
I went to other club meetings. I’ve been visiting some local sewing clubs, like the American Sewing Guild, and the Sewing Professionals Network. This is a little harder to introduce myself at, because there are lots of women with a whole lot more experience than me at these meetings. But I’m trying. I have one more to check out.
I contacted store owners. Thank goodness for email, or this would be a truly terrifying process. Still, meeting in person to discuss selling my products in stores definitely takes some self promotion! And as of next week, I will have two local businesses selling my wares!
I taught a class. This one was very nerve wracking. I taught a class at the Indy Trade School, all about digital sewing patterns. This was very nerve wracking because teaching someone something means you are telling people that you know a whole lot more than them on that subject. Which is possibly not true at all. But I survived, and my class was very nice to me, and I’m going to submit another class proposal this week.
The next step in my journey of self promotion, (aka self confidence) is to ask people to model for me. This would be super helpful, but I’m a very novice photographer, and asking people to be in my photos (that may or may not turn out) is almost laughable to me. But it is something I need to do eventually.
Because hey, I can’t let myself get too cozy here in my comfort zone, right?
creative business owner. designer. hoosier. crafter. runner. sewer. swing dancer. outdoor enthusiast. entrepreneur. wife. material hoarder.
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Madeline Stage firstname.lastname@example.org
Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will