Have you ever noticed that it’s often easier to do something on behalf of someone else than for yourself? It’s a lot easier to sell someone else or a sell for a brand than to sell your own work. Showing up and selling our work and ourselves can tap into our deepest anxiety. As a psychologist, I was trained to put my attention on my clients and keep myself in the background.
It hasn’t always been easy or comfortable for me to step into the spotlight and do what it takes to grow my business. It’s easy for me to run a WordPress Meetup group or write a technical blog post. But when I write a personal blog post or have to speak to a group on something dear to my heart, I have to fight that little voice that rises with a litany of questions such as, “Who do you think you are? Is this too much? What will people think?”
There’s a great documentary film about backup singers, 20 Feet from Stardom. In many cases, the backup singers have just as much talent, if not more, than the lead singer. What most of them lack is the courage to take a risk by putting themselves out in front. To be a lead singer you have to be willing to be a performer and lay it out there.
I know that to be successful, I have to get out in the world and take risks. So I make myself go out on that skinny branch and speak and write blog posts where I share my stories and experience, in spite of my fear.
What I find is that this is when I have the most impact on people. These are the posts that move people to comment. These vulnerable posts cause people to reach out and let me know that what I said or wrote was exactly what they needed to hear that day.
Last weekend, I was at WordCamp, New York City, where I had just presented my fourth WordCamp talk in the past few months. Over lunch, I was talking with several people who had been in my session, How to Sail Through The Bermuda Triangle of Web Designer Hell. During my presentation, I mentioned that, in the past, I did a talk where I offered rapid-fire website critiques for sites submitted by members of the audience and that experience had been the impetus for my developing a course to teach web designers and developers how to create effective websites.
One of the women at the table shared with me that she was a web designer, in business with her web developer husband and she told me about how they made the perfect team. She asked if I would give her feedback on their business website and I said, “Sure.”
She fired up her laptop and opened her homepage. I took a look and told her that their logo, colors, typography, and portfolio images looked good. But I asked her to stop because something essential was missing. I said, “What’s was missing is you!” There was nothing to connect with on that website. It could have belonged to anyone. I knew that their website wouldn’t offend anyone but it would never bring them new clients.
She got it immediately. She explained to me her fear that people online would be put off that they were a husband and wife team. So they didn’t mention that or any other personal information either. I told her that I loved hearing her story about their creative relationship. I suggested that she tout the fact that they were a great couple in the hero image of the site. Then she piped up, “Yeah, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers! And by the way, we’re also ballroom dancers!”
We talked about how they could use dance metaphors in some of their copy. When her husband returned to the table, she was busting with excitement about how they were going to redesign their homepage. She’s a great designer, and I can’t wait to see it.
So, now it’s your turn to take a look at your website. Ask yourself, “Am I hiding?” Then go further with the what, where and how.
And, remember: Not everyone has the guts it takes to start a business, but if you’re going to do it, go all in. Show your website visitors who you are, what makes your company special, that you have what they need and that they can trust you to deliver it.
If you want your business to be a lead singer, create an irresistible brand story and step into the spotlight fully. It’s essential.