How to beat imposter syndrome

Feb 26, 2020

I recently had a huge realization about the clients I love working with. They’re smart, view me as a thought partner rather than teacher, know what they want and are willing to go after it, and challenge me to show up and do my best co-creative work with them.

Some of them have PhDs and MBAs (letters I do not have after my name) and have, between you and me, always intimidated me a little.

It’s only recently, after having successfully coached several of these clients, that I’m allowing myself to believe our work together is not some terrible mistake. That I am the right person to help these clients clarify their vision, chart a clear path to their desired outcome, and support them every step of the way.

Can you relate?

If you’ve ever resisted…

  • raising your rates because you think your clients would never pay that
  • up-leveling the target client you serve (and actually telling the world that’s who you work with now)
  • setting clear boundaries and expectations by asking clients to sign a contract, honor your process, and pay your full fees on time
  • reigning in scope creep, asking for more money for additional work requests, or taking crap from a client who treats you badly

…you can probably relate!

Imposter syndrome is insidious and it’s real. But there’s good news! Once you learn to spot your imposter syndrome in action, call it out for being the jerk that it is, and replace it with better thoughts, you can actually get on with the work of up-leveling your business, charging what you’re worth, and landing great projects and clients.

If you’re in a growth stage in your business and life, chances are you’ve got an imposter complex waiting to get its ass kicked. Here are 3 ways to overcome yours:

1) Discern what’s true

Imposter syndrome usually kicks in when we’re on the brink of doing something new, big, and scary. Thoughts that arise might include:

  • I don’t have enough expertise to position myself as an authority in this field.
  • Budgets are getting smaller and smaller. What makes me think people will pay MORE for what I do?
  • I’m too old/young/far from a major city/etc. to build the business of my dreams.

When you notice one of these mean thoughts sneaking into your mind, ask yourself the following:

Is it true?

Now the feeling might be real, but is it actually true? It’s a little-known fact, but if you feel like an imposter, it’s because you have integrity and are committed to delivering (scratch that—over-delivering) on your promise. People with integrity usually aren’t imposters.

What would I need to do to feel I’ve got this?

Maybe there is a gap in your knowledge that might be bridged by a few great books on the topic. Or perhaps you need to up-level your personal or professional brand to build connection and trust with your target audience. Identify what actions would bridge the gap for you and take them.

2) Button up your process

One of imposter syndrome’s favorite scripts is that you don’t have your sh*t together. After all, why would high-caliber, high-paying clients want to work with someone who is all over the map? Why indeed!

One of the best antidotes to negative feelings is taking positive action and creating a process that delivers an incredible client experience. This is one of the best imposter-busting, business-building actions you can take.

To do:

  • Write down every step a client takes in your working relationship, from first contact with you to getting final files. Include everything from your initial sales call to proposal creation, negotiation of fees and terms, project management, and client care. (It’s going to be a long list.)
  • Next, see how you could streamline and systematize the process so it’s the same each time. I like a flow chart for this step.
  • Finally, research software, automation systems, CRMs, etc. that could streamline and systematize these tasks, freeing you up to do your amazing work.

3) Surround yourself with business owners who are further along than you

One of my best qualities is my laziness. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard, but if I can find someone who has already done what I want to do, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel; I’m going to ask them to tell me exactly how they did it, and I’m going to do that. And it goes both ways. When people a couple of steps behind me ask for advice, I give it freely and without fear.

To do:

Find at least three people who are further along than you and meet with them regularly. This might take the form of a mentor, a group coaching program, or mastermind. Meet with these people regularly, check your ego at the door, and absorb their wisdom while sharing freely of your own (because you have tons to share, too!).

Imposter complex is real and it’s not going anywhere, so learning to recognize and handle it is an entrepreneurial life skill. If you’re in the process of up-leveling and experiencing growing pains that threaten to slow your roll, now might be the time to get support.

Justine Clay

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Sign up for her free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth, above.