How To Be An Authentic Entrepreneur
We've all gotten them: the automated Twitter DM with a meaningless greeting. The spammy email. The pushy sales Facebook message. The Instagram DM advertising their services which are exactly the services I offer to people (obviously they didn't check out my business).
These types of messages are 1) super annoying, and 2) clearly sent by people or bots just to make a sale. Makes you want to buy their service or product, right? (Um...nope).
People can spot a fake a mile away. They aren't afraid to air some dirty laundry and anything you put out there will be scrutinized. If it doesn't measure up to "genuine" it WILL get called out. Scary thought, huh? More and more, making the wrong move in marketing can be catastrophic to your company and have negative effects on your business.
Well, what am I supposed to do?
I've got good news! It's not all doom and gloom!
But here's the key...authentic businesses inspire and prosper.
A bold statement – but one that is very hard to argue with.
The more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger after something genuine. With all that's going on in today's world, people have become more cynical about the behaviors and motives of corporations. What people really want now is not just a product or a service, it's an experience.
An experience that is more honest and transparent...more authentic. And you, as a business, are going to have to give it to them if you want to succeed.
How do you be an Authentic Entrepreneur?
When I first started my design agency, I tried to be like everyone else. I designed my website to look like other agencies. I tried to market my business on social media by doing what they did. I basically made myself a clone of their business.
It didn't work. And I was miserable. It wasn't me. I wasn't being my authentic self, sharing MY story, and MY personality, in my business. I was the same as everyone else which meant I got lost in the noise. Nothing made me stand out or encourage anyone to do business with me.
Not ideal as an entrepreneur!
So I did some soul-searching, bounced some ideas off some badass friends and entrepreneurs, and took the leap of faith.
I PUT MYSELF OUT THERE.
What you see is what you get. It’s my personality, my design, my thoughts, my beliefs, my vision. And it’s unique and different.
It’s not easy, as being authentic is as much about revealing your flaws as playing to your strengths. It’s often tempting to put up a front of total competence rather than risk looking vulnerable.
Simply put, being authentic means staying true to who you are, what you do, and who you serve. We want the “human part” of your business. Not just the pretty dressing or the sales-speak.
I believe that authenticity is a key ingredient in running a successful business and leading a great team. If you want your business to stand out and become leaders within an industry, you have to be more authentic.
5 Steps To Becoming an Authentic Entrepreneur
1) Are you being an authentic person?
Are you being true to yourself everyday? To be an authentic entrepreneur means you must first be an authentic PERSON. What you portray in your life is what your business will reflect, especially if you are a solo business owner and the face of your brand.
If you’re unsure of yourself as a person, your brand will also be unsure and reserved. This makes it difficult to stand out among the competition. You’ll drown in the noise just like I did.
It’s your little quirks and personality traits that make you different from anyone else in the world. Likewise, it’s these differences that set your business apart. Don’t be afraid to share them with the world!
2) Explore Your Business Personality
If you could describe your business in 3 words, what would they be? Ask a business mentor or close friend, how would they describe your business? Do these words line up with how you want your brand to be perceived or do they surprise you (maybe not in a good way)?
If you don’t know where to start, consider taking small steps and showing more of your personality in a social media post and in person. We’re not robots! Even if you make robots, you’re still not an actual robot. So don’t act like one.
Show more of the behind-the-scenes in your everyday business activities. Take photos of events and projects you’re passionate about. Share videos of how you’ve impacted someone with your business and how that makes YOU feel. Tell your story of how you got to where you are with your business. Why did you start it? What inspired you?
3) Throw out the networking rules.
I’m going to get something thrown at me for this one, but that’s okay. Bring it on! This step can feel like a big deal for many of you because generally we’re taught to put ourselves out there when networking and seal the deal. If you’re not an extrovert or at least acting like one, you’re never going to make it, right?
Wrong. These days, people just want someone to relate and to talk to on a personal level. It’s all about building relationships. We have enough noise and shouting at us all day through ads, TVs, radios, news, and other media, that we don’t want to be stuck in a room full of business owners who only push their business and exchange business cards. (booorrriiinnngggg….)
Not all of your networking connections will stick, but the connections you do make will be of higher quality. And you might actually start to enjoy those networking events (gasp!) because you’re having fun instead of worrying about trying to push your brand.
4) Be true to yourself on social media.
This is where some people get stuck, myself included. You have to be careful what you put out there on social media because sometimes it can backfire if you’re not careful. But your customers are a lot more perceptive than you realize. They can tell if you’re not being genuine, and if you are genuine, they’ll likely have your back if you do make a misstep.
So take a breath. Be transparent...to a degree. You’re not a Kardashian. There’s some things we just shouldn't know about you. But that baseball game you went to the other day? Sure. Share it with them! It opens another avenue of being able to connect with your customers and build relationships.
5) Love what you do.
Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But too often people start a business for the wrong reason. Lots of successful startups result from the founders solving a personal problem.
Take what I do. After working with several small businesses redesigning their websites, I was so frustrated by the errors, poor design quality, and difficult user experiences. Taking the time to do it right, with a design that stands out, and a simple, pleasurable user experience, their websites went from duds to studs! (I know...sue me). Thus, my business was born! To create standout designs and branding that break that status quo, tells your brand story authentically, and has an easy flow to the user experience. All of which helps creatives and businesses grow to the next level.
Your passion for the solution helps your story in an authentic way that engages audiences. That said, not every passion translates into a business. Just because you have something you really care about in your personal life doesn’t mean you’d enjoy it as a form of income, so do a gut check. See how you feel when you think about living and breathing that passion as your life’s work.
When you genuinely love what you do, regardless of what it is, it shows. And you’ll enjoy it.
If there’s a key ingredient to becoming a successful entrepreneur, it’s simple: BE YOURSELF.
Do you struggle with being authentic in your business? Tell me your struggles below!
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Glad you’re here! I’m the web designer and founder of Kat Collins Design, based in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania.
I’m a designer that builds powerful and modern Squarespace websites and branding for creatives and small businesses who don’t want to be like everyone else.
I’m tired of boring. Are you?
On the blog, you’ll find a variety of topics that help you succeed in online business, such as website design, branding, being authentic online and in business, Squarespace design tips, and more.