With only 1 in 3 entrepreneurs in the UK being women, there’s not much of a roadmap for you to follow (yet) on how to run your own business.
Sure, there’s tons of advice out there about all these aspects of business:
- legalities and insurance
But where is the advice about truly feeling like you ‘own’ your own business. We know that people resonate with people but how do you show up as yourself when you’re surrounded by, let’s face it, networking hosts trying to be ‘wacky’ or white men in grey suits and trousers that are too short.
Ok, that last one, as I come from a tailoring family, is a personal bugbear of mine when it comes to businessmen in the UK :).
What worked in the corporate world as ‘professional’ doesn’t work so well when it’s you leading the business. Saying Yes to every opportunity sucks up your time; dressing a certain way starts to feel restrictive; answering the phone within 2 rings is a pain in the ass!
So you probably didn’t start your own business so that you could continue to wear the suits and act a certain way that you had to be in corporate life, right? And, if you come from a working class background like mine, you might still imagine a business owner in a certain way (see the grey suited example above!). If we want to see more diverse businesses, it’s up to us to be what the future generations can see!
So, where’s the messy? Where’s the colourful? Where’s the diverse?
Even where imagery is changing, such as some fantastic photos for “business woman” on Pexels.com, there’s still a lot of suits and a heck of a lot of seriously beautiful living rooms and kitchens that these women are working from! Where’s the cluttered bookcase? Where’s the edge of the coffee table in a shared house? That’s what I want to see as that reflects reality.
You see messy, colourful, diverse doesn’t mean ‘unprofessional’, it just means being human and we’re all that, right?
So, why am I blathering on about this? Because it’s one of the topics that comes up with my women business owner clients again and again. Stuff like this:
- “If I don’t respond to my customer straight away, they’ll think I’m not professional.”
- “I can’t speak at that conference, I’m not an expert.”
- “I have to look perfect for that Zoom call.”
- “I can’t chase that invoice payment just yet.”
Perfect, professional – words we as women attribute a heck of a lot of meaning and stories to as well as have a lot of meaning and stories thrust upon us by patriarchal systems.
So, here’s the thing.
Give yourself a break!
Remember what I just said about people resonate with people? There isn’t a perfect, cut-out version of what running your own business SHOULD look like so get away from that SHOULD immediately!
You’ve started or you run your own business – YOU ARE PROFESSIONAL, YOU ARE AN EXPERT IN YOUR FIELD, YOU LOOK FABULOUS JUST AS YOU ARE.
This goes back to what I always say in my Scaredycat Skills training – YOU ARE THE STORY.
What does ‘professional’ mean to me?
‘Professional’ for me as a business owner means:
- having systems in place so that I chase invoices on time
- providing fantastic client service
- having boundaries – not everyone is meant to work with me and it’s ‘professional’ for me to say No.
- as a coach, keeping to the Global Code of Ethics. For you, it might be the ethics and legalities of whatever Association or membership body you belong to.
- turning up on time, prepared and ready.
- Being honest and empathetic.
- Living my values.
- Keeping up curious communication with my clients and network.
Nothing in there about what I wear or how I look or my qualifications (women often get stuck in the “I’m not qualified enough, I’m not an expert” mindset).
I’m not for everyone and that’s okay, I don’t want to be for everyone! I want to help women 40+ gain confidence and get clear on what they want from their lives, businesses and careers. The grey-suited white men can go elsewhere!
So, can you take some time to show up as yourself in your business? The more diverse and inclusive the role models we can be, the more young girls will see becoming entrepreneurs, becoming freelancers, running their own businesses as a distinct possibility rather than a “it’s not for me.”
If you’re not your own fan, I highly recommend working through John Niland’s book, The Self-Worth Safari, so that you can feel more confident in being ‘professional’ as fabulous YOU!