Your Authentic Self Has No Competition in Business
This was originally published on AllBusiness.
When I started my content marketing firm as a solopreneur in 2006, I made a deliberate effort to make it look bigger than it was. I used “we” instead of “I” on my website. I donned a corporate look that said, “We’re serious about business and you should hire us.” I kept myself at a distance, not getting personal or sharing too much of my authentic self.
That approach worked for 16 years. But recently, I did away with the mask of being bigger than I was, and I will never look back.
If you feel like your business persona isn’t really expressing who you are, join me in taking off the “corporate” mask and selling your authentic self to customers (but still, y’know, wearing a protective face mask when required).
No One Can Sell Like You
Part of the reason for my small, but massive shift, was because instead of serving more of the corporate clients in fintech and management consulting I had been working with, I felt pulled to open up to a new audience: female entrepreneurs like me. I asked myself if I would hire someone who had my website, and the answer was a hard no. If I wanted to attract a new audience, I needed to be more personable and relatable.
Bigger businesses often buy B2B services based on experience and price; solopreneurs more often make purchase decisions based on whether they like the service provider or not. I hired people in the past because I felt some connection to them. When you’re the only one making these kinds of decisions, intuition comes more into the picture.
So if I wanted to connect with this new audience, I was going to have to open up and make myself the selling point.
What about you? Do you know that you are the selling point in your brand? Do you hide behind your brand and accolades, or do you let your personality shine?
Your Authentic Self is a Valuable Business Asset
A few months ago, I wrote about why we all need to be more authentic. I think this surge in the value of authenticity stems from us working from home during the pandemic, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
It can be uncomfortable to remove that mask we’ve been wearing, can’t it? It was for me when I started writing about taking a spiritual approach to business (a topic, by the way, that I’ll be covering more of in the future). Talking about manifesting and oracle cards … it’s not everyday conversation with my clients, but it’s a part of who I am. It has felt incredibly scary to share this, but it’s been so rewarding when business contacts come out of the woodwork to share their own spiritual interests.
You don’t have to be into crystals to be authentic with your clients. Maybe you have a nerdy love of Star Wars just itching to get shared. Or an unholy love of brewing Belgian sour beers. There’s absolutely no reason to hide this side of your personality from others, and, in fact, sharing it can open the door to stronger connections that can lead to more business. So, go ahead—let your crazy hair down.
Warning: More Business May Ensue
I will also tell you that when you’re more true to who you are and let your light shine, you’re going to attract more business and clients you really enjoy working with. It’s science. More or less. The Law of Attraction says that like attracts like. So if you’re showing up as your authentic, awesome self, you’re going to attract more authentic, awesome clients. And then it’s just a joy to run your business.
You may also shed some of the clients you don’t love working with. That can feel scary, especially from a financial perspective, but trust me: new (and better) clients will quickly fill the void. You’ll also be happier not working with people who drain you energetically.
There’s Only One You
I’m not sure why we started wearing suits and ties or pantyhose and skirts to work decades ago, or why we left our personalities at the door. I’m under no delusion that this will change overall any time soon, but I do think that solopreneurs like you and me have the unique opportunity to change how we do business for the better.
Remember that you’re human and that your clients are, too. Get curious about them. Ask questions. What might your client relationships look like if you opened the door inside your head just a little?
A few years ago, I timidly told a woman I used to work with that I wanted to move to Italy. She got so excited for me, and since then we’ve shared our love of travel. It’s cemented our friendship as well as our business relationship, and she’s quick to send me potential clients.
Selling Your Authentic Self is Smart for Business
Being authentic isn’t a selling strategy; it’s simply being human. When you take away the layer of professionalism we’ve all painted on ourselves, what’s left is the good stuff. It’s the quirky personalities, the cool interests. And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather play with those as I run my business.