I’m now a freshman in college, and I must have started and abandoned at least a dozen projects since that first blogging business venture. This try-fail-try again process was the theme of my high school career, but I never quite felt that anything I was doing was actually going to be successful. It’s not that I wasn’t able or equipped to make it happen— rather, it’s that I held myself back. I was too afraid to put myself out there, too afraid of criticism, and so used to not being taken seriously. I would get a brilliant idea, plan it out so perfectly, buy all the materials and make all the things... and then never tell anyone about it.
I failed before I even started.
I followed the social media accounts and subscribed to the email lists of all the best female entrepreneurs out there, but I didn’t think that I could actually be like them. For starters, they had 200k+ followers, which is 200k+ more followers than I had. I wanted to get serious about running a business like they were, but I started to fall into the “maybe you should just wait” trap.
Wait until you’re older.
Wait until you’re smarter.
Wait until you have more followers.
Wait until you know what you’re doing.
I was tired of my projects failing and I thought that maybe I just wasn’t ready to be an entrepreneur. After all, I was only 18. All those successful people must have just learned something from some part of their life that I haven’t gotten to yet, right? It was probably better to wait until I was older. I’d have both the age and college credentials under my belt for people to finally take me seriously. Right?
All of those “reasons” for waiting are just excuses. You should never doubt yourself (or let others look down on you) because of your age or Instagram following. Most entrepreneurs will even tell you that you’ll never be “ready”, that you’ll never really know what you’re doing, so there’s no use in waiting.
The truth is that wisdom comes with trial and error and success comes with improvement of skills... things you cannot begin to develop if you won’t even let yourself start your business.
I knew this in my heart, that I could only learn by doing, so I soon abandoned my period of waiting. Like most creatives, I couldn’t stay away from the creative scene for long anyways before my restless heart drug me back in. At the start of 2017, I came back to that first passion I started and let die not too many years ago: my blog.
I must have thought for months before actually letting anything go public. Believe it or not, I was still waiting! Despite my self-promise to just go ahead and go for it, the “waiting” mentality was so pervasive it kept me from being all-in. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t release my blog to the public until it was perfect, or until I had a noticeable style and my skills were up to par with the other blogs out there. That maybe if I released a perfect blog, I’d immediately get the followers and subscribers I needed to make this thing, well, a thing. I went on like this for weeks.
But then I just decided to throw all caution to the wind. I published my blog, and I told everyone about it.
This is what I learned:
1. YOU HAVE TO LET GO OF YOUR FEAR /
I was never really interested in the idea of an office job or a corporate ladder. I was much more attracted to the creative world— I dreamed of developing content and being a social influencer— but that was never presented to me as a valid life path. It was reserved for “those few” who had made it big in the internet world, and it was not okay for me to pursue such an impractical goal. Young people are being convinced that it’s better to go to school for a “real” career and then maybe do that other thing on the side.
Randy Komisar describes this as the most dangerous risk of all, “The risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”
We know the risk, but we take it anyway because we’re afraid of what will happen to us if we end up not being successful on the “impractical” route. I hear stories every day of women who are dissatisfied with their corporate jobs, yet too afraid to leave them behind.
It’s fear that lets us rationalize this decision to hold ourselves back, and fear that drives this kind of need for security or people-pleasing.
I know that I don’t want that and that you don’t either.
Good news is that we can overcome— first, we have to believe that we are worthy of our dreams and able to achieve them.
Then, it’s absolutely essential that we let go of our fear and step into our potential.
2. YOU HAVE TO START RIGHT NOW, WHEREVER YOU ARE /
Don’t give in to the waiting lie. There is never a day that you will be more “ready” than you are now, and there is never a time that will be more “acceptable” for you to start pursuing your dreams (no matter if you are 12, 22, or 82).
Even if you really feel like you have no idea how to run a business, there is no better way to learn than by doing. I know it’s hard to put yourself out there before you have all the SEO and social media algorithms figured out, or graduate to the status of a professional photographer, or own all the best equipment in your field, etc. But eventually, you have to learn to value the learning process and realize that the only way to build something that your audience responds to is to actually to let them respond as you build. Believe it or not, it has been such a blessing to let my blog grow with my viewers, even if it's not the most put together website out there (yet).
Stop postponing your dreams for a future, “better” situation, and just be present in your journey today.
I promise you, your photography/SEO/marketing/ you name it skills will get better with each and every client, post, or sale.
3. FORGET ABOUT THE NUMBERS /
I know it’s discouraging to see startups with what seems like an infinity larger following than you, but you have to stop chasing those numbers. Instead, focus on your brand: create valuable content for your viewers and build your know/like/trust factor by being authentic from the very beginning.
If you’re genuine and providing value, the right people will come to you!
This kind of slow, organic growth often seems like the opposite of “success” thanks to the overnight billionaires of our day, but you should never underestimate the power of a small base of crazy dedicated fans. The Technium’s 1000 True Fans theory tells us that you don’t need millions, but rather 1000 people that know, like, and trust you so much that they’d buy anything you’re selling. Focusing on finding and attending to these true blue followers is worth much more of your energy than collecting “potential” or “one-time” customers. When we lose sight of this, we start bending over backward trying to bring in anybody and everybody that will click our little blue follow button! Current stats tell us that only 0.02% of followers gained like this will actually be fans that buy our product.
0.02%! So why dedicate your time and energy on expanding your social reach to the ends of the world, collecting people that may never buy your product, when you can focus on just finding and engaging with that 0.02 % from the get go?
Stop treating your fans as mere numbers and start treating them as people that you’re truly thankful for— respond to their comments, go like their pictures and support their projects if they have any. Forget about the big numbers and learn to value (and invest in) your loyal few!
Let go of your fear, give yourself permission to start right now wherever you are, and don’t discount yourself by playing the number game.
You’ve got what it takes, babe, no matter your age or experience level. Don’t let these little stumbling blocks stop you from creating something great!