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cognitive bias neuromarketing

Cognitive bias and how it’s used in (neuro)marketing

While neuromarketing is a relatively new term, using cognitive bias in marketing is not a new practice. While some business owners will believe that neuromarketing is “dirty” marketing, many will actually not be aware that what they believe is normal or best practice is actually using the cognitive bias of their audience through neuromarketing.

There are almost 200 cognitive biases and heuristics, heuristics are rules-of-thumb that can be applied to guide decision-making based on a more limited subset of the available information, that people use in their decision-making and behaviour. I’ve gone through them and have identified ten that are readily used in marketing as part of neuromarketing.

The following cognitive biases and heuristics have a definition and how they are commonly used in marketing and neuromarketing. I have previously written two articles on neuromarketing in pricing and you can read more about that in this article on how odd and even ended prices impact sales or this article on how 9-ending pricing influences sales.

So which biases have I identified:
– anchoring bias
– availability cascade
– bandwagon effect
– choice-supportive bias
– confirmation bias
– end-aversion bias
– herd instinct
– ingroup bias
– rationalisation
– Von Restorff effect

Definitions have been gathered from the American Psychological Association Dictionary at

Anchoring bias

Definition:  Anchoring bias is the tendency to form a belief, perception, or judgement when uncertain based on the first piece of information we receive be it information, the starting value, or initial judgement.

Example: A product or service is presented at a cost of $400 and the client believes that it’s too expensive, a similar product or service is presented at a cost of $300 will be seen as cheap based on the initial $400.

Example: Discount pricing where two pricing points are given on a website, the most expensive is placed on the left (in cultures that read left to right), or as the first presented price, and then other and the preferred option for the business is put next to it.

Use this bias: The anchoring bias is used on sales pages, shops (including online), and in other sales marketing.

Availability cascade/heuristic

Definition: Making judgments about the likelihood of something occurring based on their memory of something happening in the past and the availability of information about the same thing happening around them, such as on social media.

Example: A client believes that a business will run a discount or sale campaign because they have in the past and other businesses are running discounts or sales campaigns.

Example: A lead believes that a product or service is a good purchase because they see posts and ads for a particular product or service online.

Use this bias: This availability heuristic is most easily activated with retargeting ads.

Bandwagon Effect

Definition: the tendency for people in social and sometimes political situations to align themselves with the majority opinion and do orcognitive bias neuromarketing Daniel Kahneman quote believe things because many other people appear to be doing or believing the same.

Example: A client is presented with an ad for a product or service saying that they have “millions sold”, “join our thousands of happy customers”.

Example: A customer sees their friends adding frames to their profile pictures to say that they have voted, been vaccinated, supported a cause, bought a product and they believe that they should do the same.

Example: A customer is on an eCommerce site looking to purchase. The site tells them how many other people are looking at the same item and who has just purchased what item.

Use this bias: The bandwagon effect is best used where you want to elicit a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) through social pressure. Place multiple pieces of social proof on sales pages, use them in your social media posts, or label products or services that are your most popular as the most popular.

Bonus: Read this article on social proof.

Choice-supportive Bias

Definition: once a decision is made, there is a tendency to focus on the benefits of the decision and minimise the flaws.

Example: A client is asked to provide a review of the product or service they bought shortly after the purchase is made will be more positive than if they provided a review days or weeks later.

Use this bias: Automate an email asking for a client review to be received within a few hours of a client receiving a service, downloading a product, or receiving an item.

Confirmation Bias

Definition: the tendency to gather evidence that confirms pre-existing expectations, typically by emphasizing or pursuing supporting evidence while dismissing or failing to seek contradictory evidence.

Example: A client has decided to purchase a product or service after going to an eCommerce site. They then look for reviews and see ads on their social media, reinforcing their decision to purchase.

Use this bias: A confirmation bias is best activated through retargeting ads to people who have visited your website.

End -Aversion Bias

Definition: the tendency for individuals to avoid the choices at either end of a scale or number of options given side-by-side and instead select a choice in the middle of the scale.

Example: On a sales page, a lead chooses the middle pricing option of the three available.

Use this bias: Place the pricing option you most want leads to choose in the middle of a selection.

Herd Instinct

Definition: a drive in nonhuman animals to congregate in flocks and in humans to form social groups.

Example: A business sets up a Facebook Group for their customers to provide support and community around their offer.

Example: A business sets up a Newsletter list and tells subscribers to “join the tribe to get exclusive offers”.

Use this bias: This bias is best used to gain subscribers to a newsletter list or to join an online group and develop their affinity with the brand.

Bonus: Read more on why affinity benefits sales.

Ingroup bias

Definition: the tendency to favour one’s own group, its members, its characteristics, and its products, particularly in reference to otherblind cognitive bias quote Daniel Kahneman groups. The favouring of the ingroup tends to be more than the rejection of the other groups outside (outgroup), but both become more pronounced during periods of intergroup contact.

Example: A client buys a product and joins the company’s Facebook group. The owner of the Facebook Group continues to offer a variety of products to the group and they buy from the group owner over a competitor.

Example: A competitor makes defamatory remarks against the group’s owner or offer, the group will publicly defend the group owner or even criticise the competitor.

Use this bias: Use this bias to boost sales of your items within your followers, either through some online group or newsletter.


Definition: Rationalizations are used to defend against feelings of guilt, maintain self-respect, and protect oneself from criticism.

Example: A client purchases an item and uses a number of arguments, social proof, and other rationalisations to remove any sense of guilt and to convince themselves (and others) to protect themselves from criticism regarding their purchase.

Use this bias: Frequently Asked Questions and social proof on sales pages provide a variety of rationalisations to support their purchasing decision.

Von Restorff Effect

Definition: the finding that people tend to have superior memory for odd or unusual information.

Example: Most of the words in a list are printed in blue ink, one word printed in red will be better remembered than the blue words

Use this bias: Use a different font type, style, or colour to highlight the price or feature of an item on its sales page.

I hope you now see how neuromarketing is used in very standard sales and marketing practices. These are only a few examples and there are many more ways we can use cognitive bias through neuromarketing to attract, engage, and convert our audience.

Further resources:
how odd and even ended prices impact sales
how 9-ending pricing influences sales
the psychology of engaging social media content
understand the psychology of your audience
propaganda on social media
use the psychology of reviews to improve your social media marketing

If you would like to discuss the specific psychology of your audience, please book a time for a free initial consultation.

  • July 23, 2021
How to put in client boundaries

How to put in client boundaries

A lack of client boundaries leads to stress, burn out, resentment, and little to no work-life balance. You teach people how to treat you, including clients. This is why putting in client boundaries is so important to your business success and the health and welfare of yourself and any staff.

So how do you put in client boundaries around your work, business, staff, and clients? What are the main success factors needed in your business processes and what do you need, personally, to make them a reality?

Set expectations early

We all like to know where we stand. A client is no different. Knowing what they will receive, when, and what input they can have can give them a sense of control and ownership early on in the purchasing process (yes, even when they are buying one product online).

While the following list shouldn’t be conclusive, it certainly has the most common things you will want to cover off with your client as you start to put in boundaries.

  • Deliverables – what you need from each other to get the work done
  • Deadlines – when things are needed by (include some wiggle room)
  • Channels of communication – what methods you will use to communicate
  • Response times – when you will both agree to respond by (hours, days)
  • Scope – what is the general overview of the work
  • Additional charges for out-of-scope work – how much will be charged (generally by the hour) for extra work
  • Number and timeframe for revisions

Be consistent in maintaining boundaries/expectations

put in client boundaries quote Brene Brown

Once we know the rules and what is agreed upon, we like people to stick with in them. No one likes moving goal posts as it creates uncertainty and can damage trust. So what are some of the ways that you can maintain boundaries?

  • Stick with agreed communication channels
  • Stick with agreed response times
  • Charge for out of scope work
  • Charge for additional revisions

I know it can be challenging at times, especially if we are people-pleasers. If this is you, then I suggest outsourcing some of this work. If you can’t do that then consider why you have the boundaries, what you gain from them and what you gain from breaking them. Alternatively, look at the story you tell yourself around why you need to keep people happy at your own expense, I can help you with this.

Change with agreement but within your own boundaries

Sometimes we need to change things that are wrong or not working. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are better ways to deal with it. There are some key things to remember when renegotiating:

  • Done by mutual agreement
  • Done within agreed values, limits, and terms
  • Done respectfully

Letting clients down gently

So you’ve been asked to do something you don’t want or enjoy doing. Perhaps you’ve realised that the client is no longer a good fit for your or your business. Perhaps you took the client on, ignoring the red flags that were raised, doubts you had, or gut feel that it was wrong. How do you tell that client, while maintaining your boundaries and not destroying a relationship?

  • Be honest
  • Give a short reason (what I call “Just the fact, Ma’am”)
  • Don’t be apologetic
  • Be polite
  • Offer an alternative, if possible

Please understand that you have permission to say no to:

  • work that isn’t your favourite thing to do
  • clients who won’t respect your boundaries
  • clients or work that “feels wrong”
  • yourself for working late
  • yourself for having work emails on your phone

Put in client boundaries quoteRespect your own time

A big part of putting in place client boundaries is having respect for yourself. It’s something that I have taken a long time to learn and unfortunately learnt mostly through burnout and near misses. Sadly, hustle culture has a lot to answer for; so does social media and posting “perfect” photos and idealising what we believe we should do and have (mostly we believe is a result of hustle culture).

Some of the key things I see missing when we forget to respect our own time and don’t put in client boundaries is:

  • a lack of respect for our own work hours and personal hours
  • not making time for downtime (sleep, play, fun, being, hobbies, friends, family)
  • not keeping explanations simple because we don’t respect our time (or value)

Know and respect your value

Last and by no means least, it’s respecting you and your value. As business owners, our business is so much of who we are, every little extra we give to our business and our clients is a bit we don’t have for ourselves/family/friends. Too often I hear of my business friends feeling burnt out and exhausted. I also know some incredibly productive business owners who aren’t. So I wonder what the difference is? It’s a clear knowledge and respect for their own skills, knowledge, and boundaries and relying on their staff/support network to help them. Knowing their limits and honouring their value sees them being incredibly productive and incredibly happy. So what is their secret? How can your emulate this in your own business?

  • Keep explanations simple
  • Get an accountability buddy
  • Try to automate or outsource places where you know you struggle
  • Expect to be challenged, by the client and by yourself for maintaining the boundary
  • Be clear on what lights you up and do that
  • Understand that there are more people around you, other than clients, that are counting on you
  • Make time for things that you enjoy and recharge you

So I’m still a work in progress, I still get it wrong, I still get lured into doing things I don’t always want to do. But that’s life. I hope you’ve found some ways to help put in and maintain client boundaries in your business. Don’t forget to download the list and if you need help with being a people-pleaser please get in contact because I can help with that.

  • July 15, 2021
How to understand the psychology of my audience

How to understand the psychology of your audience

Psychographics and neuromarketing are terms used to describe parts of our psychology as they apply to marketing. Understanding the psychology of our audience means that we can move past features and benefits to engaging what really drives our audience to take action.

Understanding the psychology of our audience means understanding the science of “Know, like, and trust”. In business we often hear that our clients will buy from us if they know, like, & trust us/our brand. But how do we make it happen? If we look at why, as people, we know, like, and trust people it comes down to a few things. Similarities, bonds, and a mutual exchange. So what about your audience? How do you develop the know, like and trust and understand their psychology?

Understanding audience psychology on social media

When it comes to social media, there are three key chemicals in our brain that are triggered when we are online: oxytocin, dopamine, and cortisol. These chemicals are all involved in our emotions. They all have an effect on the part of the brain responsible for motivated behaviour – the centre of what we do what we do.

When we want our audience to do more, it’s important to understand what activates these centres and how we can influence that.

Let’s quickly run down what each of these chemicals do.


Responsible for bonding a parent and child. Often called the love drug. Oxytocin is involved in empathy and trust. It has been shown to decrease the release of cortisol and anxiety related to social stress. It’s also seen in jealousy, gloating, and discrimination against those outside of a group (Out-group discrimination).

So it seems that oxytocin is what brings us together and keeps us together.


I often refer to dopamine as the “drug of addiction” as it’s responsible for forming addictions, but that’s a rather simplistic view. It’s released when we experience pleasurable activities, released when we are seeking pleasurable activities, and it’s what keeps us addicted.

Dopamine helps us focus, pay attention, and store things in short-term memory.

Dopamine also helps us in social situations.


We commonly know cortisol as the “flight or fight” hormone. It also has a role in attention and memory. Its primary role is to increase the energy available in the body.

There is some evidence to show that there is a greater impact of cortisol when we are in familiar situations than new situations.

understand audience psychology quote neuromarketing

So now you know what is happening in the brain of your audience, how do you use it to impact their psychology?

Sociologists discovered that the audience’s engagement with a brand is dependant on their needs, motives, and goals. I’ve expanded that to fears, needs, beliefs, values, and goals.

I included fears because we know that cortisol and oxytocin are related to fear and that fear marketing does work.

I included beliefs & values as they are the construct that guides many of our actions. It could range from religious beliefs to buying local. Neither are needs but they are motives.

How do you discover the psychology of your audience?

When you are doing this research, it’s important to remember that this is what their psychology is in relation to your product or service. Your aim is to get them to buy more with you and so it’s important to focus on their psychology in relation to what you do.

In the first instance, go back through your notes, emails, reviews, testimonials, and feedback. Look at comments on your blog and on your social media channels. Gather it all together and categorise it into a fear, need, belief, value, or goal.

What are their fears?

When it comes to your product or service, what do they fear? Are they afraid it won’t be good quality? Afraid it won’t be delivered on time? Afraid that it will be lost or broken in transit? Afraid that it won’t help? What are the frequently asked questions you receive or in your industry that relate back to a fear around what you do? How do you solve it?

You may see a lot of these fears written on landing or sales pages. Marketers will often put these up the top to agitate an audience. They then go on to demonstrate how the business solves them.

We commonly think of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and Limited Time/Edition as fear marketing, but there is more to it than that. Not to mention that most audiences are tired of this tactic because it’s not always true.

What are their needs?

This is where features and benefits traditionally “fall”, but it goes deeper than that. I tend to use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: safety, physiological, love/belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualisation (being all you can be). I use it because it’s broad and widely known.

Using these broader needs doesn’t discredit features and benefits in marketing, what it means is that you’re able to show your audience that you understand their broader needs and they no longer have to guess if you will meet them.

How do you know what their needs are? They will tell you, you will hear it in their feedback, or you can survey them.

What are their beliefs?

Does your audience like to shop small or shop local? Are they vegan or vegetarian for religious reasons? Do they have any other religious beliefs that govern what or when they buy? These are just some of the beliefs that can dictate our behaviour as shoppers.

What are their beliefs about you, your brand, your product, or services? Do they believe they can’t afford it? Do they believe that it’s a luxury purchase or holds status?

Beliefs are thoughts that we hold as truths and are based on our lived experiences.

How does this apply to your audience and what you sell?

How do you know what your audience’s beliefs are? You could ask, but it’s easier to listen to the types of questions they ask and from there you can either start a conversation about their beliefs or you will be able to work them out.

What are their values?understand audience psychology  a quote by Jeff Bezos

You’re probably wondering how a value differs from a belief. They’re universally understood, which means that our lived experiences do not influence them. Think of honesty, integrity, trust, courage, family (remember family is what you make it). These are values.

Does your audience value timeliness, honesty, quality, family as it relates to your brand, product, or service? Is integrity important to them? There are many other values.

So how do you know what their values are as they relate to what you do? Like beliefs, they will tell you – subtly. You could tell them what values your company holds and see how they react. Do a poll. Remember that values are verbs and are best demonstrated rather than mounted on the wall.

What are their goals?

What are their goals when it comes to what you’re going to provide them? Do they expect it to be durable? Do they want to feel a certain way? There are so many things they can want from what you do, but it has to be what they say they want.

Not sure? Read the 2 & 3 star reviews of competitors, industry books, or even your own reviews to see what customers said was missing.

Key takeaways about understanding the psychology of your audience

  1. It’s all about them as it applies to what you do. They need to be at the centre as they are the people you need to influence to take the action. Understanding what drives that action, their psychology, is key.
  2. The answers are all around you. You don’t have to survey. Look at the data that’s already there.
  3. Colours psychology, copywriting, pricing psychology and other neuromarketing tactics rely on you understanding what motivates your audience first.
  4. The more closely aligned a client is to a brand, the more they will buy from them.
  5. Start with what drives their action, understand and build on what drives their “know, like and trust”.

Want a deeper understanding of the psychology of your audience?

Here are some additional resources:
The psychology of engaging content

Checklist for writing engaging social media

How to get inside your client’s mind without a psych degree

A neuromarketing case study

How psychology is important to online business

The psychology behind staff & client drivers

Ethics & the psychology of Facebook

Why fear marketing fails

20 ways to deliver exceptional customer service – with free checklist

Psychology of odd and even pricing




Cochran, D. M., Fallon, D., Hill, M., & Frazier, J. A. (2013). The role of oxytocin in psychiatric disorders: a review of biological and therapeutic research findings. Harvard review of psychiatry21(5), 219–247.

Mandal, A. (2019). Dopamine Functions. News Medical Life Sciences.


  • July 9, 2021
my business year in review.

2020-2021 – My business year in review

I do all of my business planning around the financial year and I thought I would take some time to review what I had achieved and what I have learnt.

My money in review

Ok, let’s start here. I did it. I reached my baseline achievable goal by the end of March 2021 and I’ve reached my ‘stretch’ financial goal just as the year closes out.

The good thing about having tiered financial goals is that when one level is achieved, I not only feel accomplished but I know I already have something to aim for.

Ok, so I need to be grateful for JobKeeper and how it helped me achieve my financial goals.

What JobKeeper really allowed me to do was to pay more contractors to support my business to achieve the goals I had. It also allowed me, in conjunction with reading Profit First, to pay myself more.

Paying myself more has meant that I am happier. It also made things easier when the tiler we employed in our new home, made suggestions for a feature wall in our kitchen.

While some may think that I didn’t really achieve my financial goal, I look at what I paid myself and spent vs what I was paid in JobKeeper and I can say I contributed to supporting the economy and other small business owners through a hard time.

My goals in review

The top of my goals list for this financial year was to have 4 paid speaking events – I’ve achieved this goal. The next was to write my book draft, well I still haven’t done that three years running. I wanted to hit 100+ web hits/week, so I did an SEO course and bazinga I blew it out of the water (ave. 250). I wanted to increase my sales, well I didn’t do that how I’d hoped. I wanted to take holidays all of December & January – done and done.

I also bought myself a new phone, but I didn’t buy myself a new office chair. I set up my office so I could get back on YouTube, I bought a course I’ve been stalking for 2 years – and I’m still doing the course and still yet to get back into YouTube.

I did get some new consulting clients, reignited old ones, and lost others. All of this taught me that while I like the idea of having regular fortnightly clients, I actually prefer to work with clients for 4-6 sessions. It was an interesting realisation and one I’m still grappling the implications of.

So what have I learnt from this? Goals change. I want too much. I still fall victim to ‘shoulds’, I’m looking firmly at you book draft!

My social media in review

2020 saw me end my focus on Instagram. I really knuckled down on the platform and tried a lot of things. Then I analysed the results – it was a resounding thumbs down. First of all I thought I hadn’t done enough and then I looked at my audience and what they want from me on Instagram and where my clients came from. And then I dropped the effort on Instagram because what I was doing wasn’t what they wanted, even though it was what I was told I ‘should’ be doing, and none of my clients came through there. Good bye time sap, hello automation. And you know what? I’m getting better interaction and more followers now that I’ve automated the content than before.

I’m still gaining clients through participating in Facebook groups and so I’ve continued to invest time, not too much but enough to staysimon sinek infitie game business quote relevant, in groups. I’m focusing on a few key groups rather than spreading myself thin. I’ve also stopped participating in promo days in groups because no one really reads them. I’d rather offer support and guidance where I can and build a relationship than be a Group seagull.

My group has stayed around the same. I’ve seen an increased number of spammers trying to join. I’ve also seen an ebb and flow in engagement. This has me thinking about the value of the group and how I run it. At the moment, the content from my blog becomes content for the group. The thing is, I know that people read my content, that it provides value and they ask questions when needed. So I often just question if I’m falling foul of ‘should’ again and what a group ‘should’ be and behave like.

I’ve started posting more publicly on my personal Facebook profile. I’d noticed that many of my business friends do this and I’ve decided to give it a go. I understand that being a business coach means that people need to know and trust me and open posting of what I believe in helps this. I’m not posting all the time but I am sharing what I believe. I’ve realised that I’ve stopped posting the quote images from my blogs and I’m wanting to start that up again, I just need to work out the best way as the other automated posts using these images won’t work.

This year saw me buying into a syndication service for my blogs. I use Missinglettr (affiliate link) to distribute my blogs over social media and this year saw them bring out a curation (syndication) service. I submit my posts to the service for others to then share with their network. My content has been scheduled 250 times, shared over 400 times, and received over 350 unique clicks. Not bad for the 40 posts I have active on the system. I’m definitely keeping this service as my blog generates clients.

My self-care in review

My self-care plan included time off, running a retreat, and continuing to have regular treatments. Well I didn’t run the retreat and that’s probably been a good thing, but I am getting away on a business retreat before the end of the financial year.

This year has seen me return to my psychologist and experiencing extreme fatigue thanks to super low iron levels.

I have given a lot of time to mentoring students and supporting excellence in social media. I get a lot of enjoyment out of this but I am coming to realise that I am reaching my limit on how much I can give.

The low iron levels has made me slow down, a lot, and so I’ve had time to think and reassess. I even considered getting a regular job. I realised that I love what I do and that I need to ask for more help and allow others to fail/pick up their own pieces. This is a difficult task when your default is to fix things, but I just don’t have the energy for it.

What helped

What helped this year was being part of two very tight-knit and supportive communities. Syndicating my content has helped, as has working on my SEO.

Working more closely with my VA and with subject matter experts has helped me streamline my business. This focus on specific expertise rather than generalists has helped me reduce costs and keep focus on achieving goals.

My content plan has helped me create engaging and relevant content for my audience. It’s reduced my stress around what I’m going to write and post.

I went through all of my client notes and collated the issues and reasons why they came to me for support. I’ve now started to use this in my content marketing and it has improved engagement. I’ve also started to use more SEO tactics in my posts and this has improve my keyword rankings.

What didn’t work

My automation of content has meant that my posts don’t always line up with the items I want to promote at particular times, however I can adjust that by scheduling specific posts for launches and tie specific posts to promotions.

I’ve learnt to be ok with people not doing things when they said they would. I’ve prepared things to keep up my end of the bargain and if they haven’t followed through then it’s not on me. It’s hard because it’s an impact and impost on my time but I need to see the silver lining.

I’m not getting as many free calls booked as previously but those who do are all converting to clients. So something is and isn’t working there.

I’m not promoting my downloads as much as I should and that means I’m not meeting sales goals.

In the past quarter I’ve not been able to chip away at any of the projects I’ve wanted to advance. This means my fear and imposter workshop isn’t online, I don’t have a good way to sell the downloads, and I haven’t been able to meet with the people I need to get them moving.

What went well

I’m really proud of the work I’m doing with Flinders and Adelaide Universities. I’m also proud of the speaking engagements I’ve had andabraham maslow quote doing the business we love that I am now asking for a budget for payment.

Implementing Profit First has seen me happier with the time I’m investing in the background, rather than feeling resentful for the non-consulting development work I need to do.

I’ve enjoyed having more flexible arrangements with my new consulting clients. And while it might seem counter-intuitive and unsupportive of both businesses, it actually fits better with my beliefs and values.

I love the feedback that I’ve received from my clients and knowing that I am making a difference.

I loved taking time off over Summer and being able to provide ongoing content to my group which I knew met their needs.

What are my plans for the coming year?

I need to work more closely with the businesses I need for support.

I need to take things more slowly and ditch the ‘shoulds’.

I want to continue to focus on Facebook Groups.

I want to support my increased website rankings with YouTube videos, but in a manner that also doesn’t create a huge burden.

I need to get more strategic.

If I was a client, what would I say

Ouch. Taking a dose of my own medicine.

Kara, what’s the story you’re telling yourself that’s feeding the ‘shoulds’, who are you comparing yourself to, are they in your arena?

Kara, go easy on yourself. You’re expecting so much of yourself and continue to pour from an empty cup. Who do you think you’re helping when you’re not doing your best? Are you always behaving in line with your values or is something else driving you?

Kara, you’re not in this alone. Lean on the others around you.

Plan but realise that it’s ok to change them. What you decide now may not serve you in the future, that’s not failing, that is actually change and growth.

Thanks for reading my ramble, I hope you’ve taken something from it and it helps you grow your business moving forward.

  • June 22, 2021
Why it's important to overcome imposter syndrome

Why it’s important to overcome imposter syndrome

So often people come to me in the depths of imposter syndrome, they book a time to have me help them overcome imposter syndrome and they cancel before we get started. Why? Generally, it’s because they believe that it’s no longer a problem. The reality is that they are no longer in the depths of it and it’s not causing them issues.

Until it rears its head again.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

I get asked this a lot and I clamber at an answer because how it presents can be so personal, however at its root it is the same:

“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve all they have achieved.” (

Impact of imposter syndrome on business

The most common way I see Imposter Syndrome impacting a business is a lack of marketing. A fear of putting oneself “out there”, fear of criticism, fear of getting it wrong, fear of embarrassment, fear of competitors, not being good enough, not getting any sales. So instead, they don’t market, they don’t promote, they don’t send newsletters. Nothing.

The next way I see Imposter Syndrome appearing is not asking for the sale. I often hear, “but I’m not good at selling”, “selling seems slimey and sleezy”, “what if they say no”, “what if I’m pricing too high”, “I don’t know what to say”. So they don’t. They don’t send the proposal, they don’t put calls to action in emails or social media posts. They don’t sell.

The final way I see it turning up is not achieving goals, and then what’s worse, ‘bashing’ themselves up for not achieving them. They hide behind perfectionism, dreaming too big, leaving it to the last minute, not getting started (which is really a symptom of it all).

So how do they overcome imposter syndrome and repair these gaps in their business? Sometimes automating social media helps, removing the need to post every week or write a call to action on every post. If we set and forget we avoid the pre-post jitters. Getting the business owner to realise that asking for the sale is not about them, it’s about the person receiving the service or product and how it will benefit them. We discuss time management and realistic goals that match their personal drivers and the mission they have for their business; having this alignment brings the goal back to a personal level rather than being at an unrealistic arm’s length. For the biggies, we look at the story that feeds the imposter syndrome and deal with it once and for all. While strategies to overcome blips help along the road, charting a new path that’s based in fact and not belief sees business owners done with the imposter syndrome story that stops them for being that tall poppy, tooting their horn, being pair their worth, stepping into the limelight, and reaching their goals.

Impact of the boss’ imposter syndrome on their staff

I totally understand how overwhelming having staff can be. When I was in my mid-30s I went from being the most junior member of aovercome imposter syndrome quote samuel johnson team to the boss – overnight. It was my first role managing more than one person and I was the second youngest. I was as green as can be! I second-guessed every move I made and wondered how in the heck I was going to achieve all the things my boss wanted me to do. Lucky for you that I did work it out because it was how I came to the system I use to motivate people, it was this role that had me motivating a team no previous manager could.

A boss with imposter syndrome lacks confidence and a boss without confidence struggles to instil confidence in their team. (You can’t pour from an empty cup) When staff lack confidence in the person they are meant to look to for guidance, they can feel unsupported and that there’s no one at the helm and the business lacks or has insufficient leadership. Businesses will be fortunate if staff stay in these situations, it’s likely that they will if they believe in the mission of the business and serving the community.

So how do you overcome imposter syndrome as a boss? Well, you could try faking it until you make it but that is a temporary fix, you’ll likely tire, and it’s likely that your staff will catch you out and you can further damage their trust. Unless you also work on yourself at the same time.  (Like I mentioned in the previous section)

Impact of a business owner’s imposter syndrome on their clients

Much like staff, imposter syndrome can erode trust and confidence. Clients may stay in the long-term because they believe in the business owner and can see past the imposter syndrome. Some will leave because they no longer have the energy or patience to support the business and its owner. Regardless of if the money stays or goes, the trust and confidence has left and what stays is a sense of duty (not the best foundation for any relationship).

The other issue relates back to the business and the lack of marketing, the lack of sales, and the lack of communication. Imposter syndrome can prevent a business owner from undertaking these tasks, as previously discussed. A lack of communication with clients definitely breaks trust, confidence and a sense of being reliable.

So how do you overcome imposter syndrome with your clients? If you can, be honest. Apologise for dropping the ball. A dedicated client will be able to understand, they are the ones you want to keep. If there are particular tasks like invoicing, emails, follow-ups that trigger Imposter Syndrome then look into outsourcing them. There are people out there who enjoy all of the tasks you don’t. And keep working on yourself.

Impact of a business owner’s imposter syndrome on their family & friends

Let’s assume that the friends and family are behind the business owner, wanting them to succeed, supportive, encouraging. Bring in a beloved business owner who they see putting blocks, obstacles, not carrying through with things – it’s heartbreaking. It’s hard to watch someone you believe is so capable hold themselves back. You try to encourage, help, goad, beg, bug, in the end you wonder if it’s all worth it because it all seems to fall on deaf ears. And if the business owner isn’t prepared to do anything about it and they don’t seem bothered by it then why would friends and family continue to be bothered and invest all their time and energy?

So how do you overcome the impact of imposter syndrome with your friends and family? Talk to them. Be honest with them. Ask for their help. Ask for them to call you out when they see you getting in your own way. Ask them to help do the things you struggle to do. You still need to do the work in overcoming your own imposter syndrome, they can be there for you through it but it’s your story and you need to unpack it.

Impact of a business owner’s imposter syndrome on themselves

You’ve got all these grand plans and once again you’ve gotten in your own way and it’s not happened. Social media isn’t being posted.overcome imposter syndrome ellen goodman Emails aren’t sent. Sales proposals aren’t done. All because of the creeping doubt that holds you in your tracks. It’s frustrating, disappointing, infuriating, crushing. It can be a self-fulfilling prophecy that you’re not any good and you’re set to fail, all because you stop yourself from actually doing what you’re more than capable of doing – all thanks to that niggling self-doubt story.

So how do you overcome the impact of imposter syndrome on yourself? Firstly, you’re not alone. Many ambitious people get in their own way. We can be our own worst enemy. Extend yourself the compassion you would to a friend, family member or close colleague. Arm yourself with a toolkit to get you through the bumps. Realise that all of these steps do not resolve the cause of the imposter syndrome and to truly overcome imposter syndrome you need to address the cause – the story you tell yourself about you, your abilities, your worth. I won’t lie, it can be tough and confronting work but when it’s resolved there’s peace.

When a business owner overcomes imposter syndrome

When I talk to business owners about their imposter syndrome and we resolve their story they find confidence, peace, a strong sense of self and their abilities, surety they’ve not felt in years (decades, or ever). Sure some may ‘relapse’ but they can recognise it now and have the skills to walk themselves out of the situation (I relapsed twice).

It can take time learning the skills they’ve avoided for so long. It takes patience building new habits. It takes courage and vulnerability to address the underlying issue rather than sweep it under the carpet.

A business owner who overcomes imposter syndrome is a powerful force, determined, resilient, and capable of achieving more than they ever imagined because their imagination has previously been clouded.


  • June 18, 2021

10 ways to stop feeling overwhelmed

I openly admit to feeling overwhelmed from time to time. Sometimes it’s short-lived and other times it hangs around, as I write this it’s hanging around. I wanted to share the top 10 easiest things I do to stop feeling overwhelmed.

1.      Breathe

It might sound silly but a few good, deep breaths can work wonders. In fact, a recent chat with my psychologist had her reminding me that I had forgotten how to breathe.

Too often we take quick and/or shallow breaths. This can add pressure to our heart and reduces the available oxygen to our body and importantly our brain.

Taking slow, deep breaths helps us to feel calm – an important factor to help us stop feeling overwhelmed.

2.      Change the scenery

A change of scenery does wonders for our health. It can disrupt our thoughts long enough for us to forget what was concerning us. Being outside with a cuppa, going barefoot in the grass for 5-10 minutes, or even taking a 30-minute walk can all act as circuit-breakers for mood and thought patterns.

The benefit is that exercise and being outside are shown to increase the happy endorphin hormones which can help stop you feeling overwhelmed.

The other way you can change the scenery is by changing room, task, or getting up and taking a dance break in your office. All are great ways to break out of the pattern you find yourself in and can be the circuit-breaker you need to get back on track.

3.      Boundariesstop feeling overwhelmed quote

Are you saying ‘yes’ to things when you should be saying ‘no’? Are you up late (or early) answering emails or doing work because it’s what you believe is expected?

Boundaries help you to keep the time you have available in check and not overscheduled. Boundaries teach people how to treat us. Boundaries aren’t mean, they’re self-care.

(Did you know that I don’t have work email on my phone, that’s a boundary I’ve had for many years)

4.      Reconsider expectations

We are our own worst enemy. We put the highest expectations on ourselves. So, it’s no wonder that we become overwhelmed when we put this pressure on ourselves.

As business owners, we often feel like we need to do “all the things” but do we? Would we expect a friend, loved one, or staff member to do all we do?

I know that too often I expect too much of myself, more than others do. It’s a key to Imposter Syndrome and reducing my expectations of myself has helped me to stop feeling so overwhelmed.

The other side to this is ensuring that the expectations others have on you and what you do are fair and reasonable. You have the right and should set clear expectations with your clients. Not managing expectations can lead to resentment as well as overwhelm.

5.Time management

Proper time management, including boundaries around procrastination and distraction, was key to me no longer doing things at the last minute or feeling under the pump.

Another thing that has helped me is using a bullet journal and scheduling work for particular days. Rather than one long to-do list, I assign tasks to particular days. This means I can work better with deadlines and it also gives me flexibility. It’s much nicer to see two things scheduled for one day than 10 things for one week.

6.      Schedule time for things you enjoy

Honestly, I’m pretty bad at this when I’m feeling fine, it’s when I’m feeling overwhelmed that I tend to step it up. While it’s not exactly too late then, it would be better if I was consistent. Pre-covid I used to take 3 trips, either interstate or overseas, per year for business; I love to travel and it gave me something to look forward to. Now I’m scheduling time to catch up with friends, time to go to the theatre, time to take myself out for a meal (I highly recommend taking yourself on a date), and I’ve even got a business trip booked in.

Regardless of what you enjoy, book it in! Book that time for you. You need that space where the life pressures are different or minimal and you can just be.

7.      Ask for help

Yeah, I used to be bad at this one too. I always thought that I was better off doing things myself and that the money was better spent elsewhere. Wrong! There really are people out there who love doing the boring jobs you hate and that will do it faster than you would because of it. I also discovered that most of the time, it’s a better use of my money because it frees that time up for me to do more productive tasks that I enjoy.

The other part of this is asking for emotional and psychological help. I’ve done this a lot lately and it has helped me stop feeling overwhelmed personally and consequently in my business. This doesn’t have to mean booking in for counselling, though it can, it can mean reaching out in your community for help. There’s a good chance that someone can help you.

8.      Next best step stop feeling overwhelmed quote Timber Hawkeye

I learnt about this two years ago. I was so caught up with planning, strategizing and doing ‘all the things’ that I was often overwhelmed by the enormity of what lay before me. What I didn’t realise is that all I was required to do was to take my next best step. The beauty of this is that when you take that step, the next will appear before you and then you take that one. It’s also how you eat an elephant.

9.      Reduce comparison

In the early days of my business, I used to watch and learn. The problem with that was that I would compare. I would look at where these other business coaches were at and I would not only feel inadequate but totally overwhelmed with what I believed I should be doing and how to get there.

It eventually got to the stage where I had to stop watching. When I stopped watching, I had nothing to compare to and so I eventually stopped feeling overwhelmed about where I wasn’t at in my business compared to others.

10. Talk to someone

You’re not alone. Running a business can be a lonely business, especially when you’re the only one in your friendship group and/or family (me) who runs a business. They just don’t understand and honestly, why would they. But you’re actually not alone. The best thing I did was to join two communities of business owners, one local and one global, where we lend an ear and guidance to our fellow business owners.

Talk to a professional. Too often I see posts in groups looking for free advice. Did you know that most professional services, designers, web developers, accountants, lawyers, bookkeepers, and coaches, will offer a free initial consult? Ask them!

Talk to a professional. When you can’t stop feeling overwhelmed, please seek professional help from your medical practitioner, mental health professional, or mental health helpline. You don’t have to keep feeling this way.

  • June 11, 2021
Lessons in self-reliance from a business consultant

What over five years as a business consultant has taught me about self-reliance

The tyranny of being a small business owner is that we want to be self-reliant and at the start this self-reliance is pretty much all we have. At the start of my own journey I had to do it all. Over time I’ve seen and learnt many things about being self-reliant and I wanted to share them with you.

What is self-reliance

Self-reliance is generally understood as our reliance on our own abilities and resources than those of others.

As a small business owner, this has self-reliance looking more like us wearing many hats. To be honest, that was me in the early days. I felt like I had to do all the things. As I looked around myself, all my business friends were also doing all the things. It was normal, almost expected.

What self-reliance isn’t

What I’ve realised over time is that self-reliance is more than what you do, it’s understanding your skills and your time; trusting these and making the best use of them. Self-reliance is deeply knowing yourself and your abilities and where your time is best spent.

This means that self-reliance when you’re a small business is not doing it all.

I learnt this in my time as part of group coaching. Every fortnight we went through what we did and every time my colleagues were surprised with how much I got done. I was exhausted but I somewhat wore it as a badge of honour. I was surprised how far they were able to grow their businesses and a lot of the time it was because they were outsourcing tasks and concentrating on what they did best (and earning handsomely to boot).

Why it’s needed

Over my time as a business consultant, I have watched business owners grow and develop their self-reliance. As a result, I have seen them develop a core of skills that not only helps them on a personal level but also in their business. Self-reliance quote Robin Williams

Self-reliant business owners are:
– reliable
skill builders, and
– trustworthy.

They know who they are, know what they need, and have the skills to get what they want. It’s not arrogance, it’s a sure confidence in themselves. It’s not surprising that self-reliance is a goal most of my clients have for themselves and their business.

What you need for it

When it comes to what I’ve needed my business coaching clients to have and draw on when we are working on self-reliance, what is it that we work on?

First of all, they need to have a willingness and ability to learn and change. Self-reliance is a journey, it’s a muscle you work at and develop. That also means that it needs grit. Business owners wanting to develop self-reliance need grit, meaning having courage and resolve, to grow not just their business but themselves. Resolve benefits greatly from reflectiveness, you can’t just want to be better you need to understand what needs to change and how you could do better. The issue with reflectiveness is that it requires us to be honest with ourselves, not only critically but caringly. We can’t grow and change without being honest with ourselves. It’s also difficult to be reliant on someone who you know isn’t honest with you, including yourself. Finally, we need boundaries – we need to know when enough is enough or we are out of our depth. That takes many of these qualities and if we know we are boundaried and they are there to support ourselves it is easier to become self-reliant as we know where we stand, we trust it, and we know why.

The negative impact of a lack of self-reliance and its skills has on small business

Self-reliance quote Patricia Sampson

Ok, so we think a lack of self-reliance means that we’re unreliable, won’t get things done, and will probably be doomed to hustle and grind to get what we need done. Probably, but what I’ve seen a lack of self-reliance in my business consulting show up as is:
– not getting the help or support you need
– not managing out time/procrastinating
– not valuing ourselves or our time/energy
– a worsening of imposter syndrome

In all it can lead to a horrid spiral of doubt and inaction, all because we can’t trust nor rely on ourselves.

Impact of Imposter Syndrome on self-reliance

I want to dig a little deeper on self-reliance and imposter syndrome. People with imposter syndrome, myself included, feel like we need to do it all, do it alone, and do it right. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than others do of us and because of that we feel like we have to be some sort of Superhuman/hero. We often don’t want to let people down, often for fear of being caught out as a phoney (another aspect of Imposter Syndrome). In the end we end up expecting too much of ourselves and we break down because we are overwhelmed and burnt out.

Self-reliance is not doing all the things. Remember, it’s also knowing yourself so well that you know when it’s not appropriate or worthwhile for you to do various things. This is not a failing or a weakness, it’s a strength.

Self-reliance helps you know, trust, and have confidence in yourself. It’s a powerful tool against the thoughts you have with imposter syndrome, though I’m finding it a hard habit to crack.

Self-reliance helps with boundaries. I find boundaries can be tricky business when it comes to building them for my coaching clients, we want to help ‘all the people, all the time’. Except we can’t and when we try we can burn out. When supporting people through imposter syndrome, I often work on a boundary of who they need to listen to for feedback and input as they often try and please everyone. Boundaries stop this and focus on whose feedback or opinion really matters.

I hope you can see how self-reliance can help your business, and perhaps even how I might be able to help you and your business. If that is the case, please contact me or as a first step, grab my free resource to help you with imposter syndrome and then look at growing your self-reliance.

  • May 28, 2021
effectiveness small business

Reminder: Your effectiveness in Small Business is NOT a reflection of your competitors’

I remember my first debate on effectiveness. I was doing post-graduate study and the question was if it was better to be effective or efficient. At the time I thought effectiveness was more important to business, most of the class said efficient. Effectiveness is, at its essence, doing the right thing right. My clients and broader audience value this in their business. The thing that we tend to think it depends upon is the effectiveness of our competitors and how our small business measures up to theirs. It doesn’t. I wanted to remind you why and what is important to determining the effectiveness of your small business.

Why your competitors’ effectiveness doesn’t matter to your small business

You competitors rarely put money in your pockets or pay your bills. While for some, competition can spur them on, your competitor will be looking back at you trying to replicate or beat them and continuing on their way.

When you look to what your competitors are doing, you are relying on what they want to show online or tell you in conversation or comment. Is what they show you all of their reality? Is what they show really showing effectiveness?

What they show you and lead you to believe is a function of how effective they are, however what you don’t always see is:effectiveness small business
– advertising
– hours/how they spend their day
– revenue is not the same as profit, and that
– metrics don’t always equal money.

While your competitor is in your industry, there is a good chance that you both service a different type of client. While they might be exceptional with their client base, it may not translate to your own. Not to mention that your clients are yours because of you.

What is effectiveness for your small business?

Effectiveness for a small business is more than just making sales and meeting targets. It’s having a business that meets your (and your business’) drivers – your needs, beliefs, values, and goals. An effective business also doesn’t feed the remaining driver – your fears, but it does help to overcome them. When a business achieves these, they are profitable and meet targets, not only because your goals are achieved.

When your business is effective for you, you can feel more confident, less fear, less imposter syndrome. Why? Because your business is doing the right thing right. It’s doing what you set out to achieve. It’s successful in more than just a financial way. And your business is a reflection of you.

What is effectiveness for your clients?

Earlier I mentioned that many years ago I chose effectiveness over efficiency, doing the right thing right. But who determines what is ‘right’ and what makes it right? Each and every client, each and every time. So how do you know what’s right? I often get asked this when I’m working on engaging social media (neuromarketing) with my clients. They want to know how they can discover what is right for their clients. The good thing is that once you work out what engages your clients for one thing, you can use it for so many others – like what they believe effectiveness.

So how do you know what is effectiveness for your clients? Hopefully they tell you in their feedback, reviews, or testimonials. They can say in their comments, shares, or recommendations when describing what it’s like to work with you. They will tell you your effectiveness and it will fit into one of the following five categories, which also happen to be what drives their behaviour at a deep psychological level:

  • Values
  • Beliefs
  • Goals
  • Needs
  • Overcome fears

Let’s have a look at some of them:

Fears Needs Beliefs Values Goals
Cost less than expected On-time Good quality Kind Felt supported
Didn’t waste my time Worked first time It was worthwhile Honest Felt good about myself
Made me feel safe Reliable Good service Knowledgeable staff It improved xyz
I felt heard/understood Trustworthy Approachable Clearly explained Felt welcomed
I didn’t feel stupid Straight talking Enthusiastic Professional Value for money


While all of these may not be ways your clients see effectiveness in your small business, they are some of the ways that businesses showeffectiveness small business john maxwell quote their effectiveness. Not all clients are concerned with getting the cheapest or best value for money and not all clients who see that as effectiveness are your best clients.

I hope you can see that these are the outcomes you should be aiming for to show and know the effectiveness of your small business. They are how your clients see you and your brand. Do you notice that in some cases they can be in direct opposition to how your competition services the same marketplace and that they rarely have anything to do with your competitors?

While Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room,” I think it’s a measure of the effectiveness of your business and not just how good your marketing is. While good news travels fast, bad news travels faster (and further). It is what your clients say that matter most. They are the best gauge of your effectiveness as they become repeat customers and brand advocates.

If you would like to understand more about how your clients see your effectiveness and how you can use this to your advantage, you can book a free call with me and I can give you a personalised insight.


  • May 21, 2021
Community and how it helps small business

The parts to a successful business community and how it helps small business

When business owners talk about community, they often think of a Facebook Group they run for their business. I want to expand this to show how the various types of community help, even to sell and not be a Facebook Group. I wanted you to know that you are not alone and that there is community around you. They say it takes a village to raise a child, many of us see our businesses as our baby and that still takes a village.

Community in front – Your clients

Your clients are integral community. Your clients are in front of you, across a counter, the floor, a phone call, a video call, a website – they are in front of you. They are looking to you to solve their problem but don’t forget that they are your community and can also solve your problems.

Your clients can be mobilised to advocate on your behalf, they are the best unpaid sales staff you will ever have – word of mouth sells. They are perfect for market research as they already know and trust you and are generally willing to help you help them.

Your clients deserve your attention and your efforts as it’s easier and cheaper to retain a client than to gain one. The aftercare you offer them, be it a direct follow-up, blog, social media post, Facebook group, or other outreach deserves your care and attention as if they were a first-time client. Your communications should always meet their needs but remember that their needs don’t stop once they are in your community. All of your communication with them needs to address their needs so that you demonstrate with your community that you are still engaged, interested, and prepared to act on their needs.

Community beside – You peerschris brogan community quote

I fully admit that there is competition, but there can be a community. Your peers understand the trials of your industry. Your peers can offer guidance when you need help. Good peers want you to succeed because they understand that you each serve the public in slightly different ways (and that’s how they like it) and that there is enough for all. Your peers also act as sales staff, referring clients when their books are full or they aren’t quite the right fit.

Community beside – Your peers who aren’t in your field

If peers are your right-hand support, then other business owners are on the left. They understand the trials and joys of being a business owner. They will refer clients, cheer you on, and pick you up when things get rough. You might have friends who are business owners, clients as business owners, or network with other business owners.

While other business owners might not be able to understand precisely what it’s like to be in your industry, we all have different pressures and issues with staff or clients. The benefit of your business peer community is that they can offer a different perspective to industry issues that you might not have considered.

Community behind – Your business support

As business owners, we have a variety of businesses watching our backs, supporting our businesses, and helping us move towards our goals. They applaud us, even if we don’t hear, when we succeed and dust us off when we fall. These are the coaches, accountants, bookkeepers, lawyers, VAs, and other businesses that help us run our business.

These people are often an invisible cheer squad. Just because you don’t always see them, don’t forget them. Turn to your backup crew for guidance, after all that’s why you initially engaged them.

Community surrounding – Your wellbeing groupSeth Godin Community quote

All around us are our friends, family, and those we turn to for support (including medical professionals). These people are our community, they are our village. While they may not understand what happens in our business or what it’s like to run a business, they can understand us and what we need as a person.

The community around us will often pull us up, give us a reality check, wipe our tears, help us heal, and generally mend and soothe when we are broken.

The community around us will celebrate us even if they don’t understand why. They celebrate because whatever it is, is a big deal to us and we are celebrating. This is why I celebrate wins in my Facebook Group every week.

I hope now you realise that you’re not alone, that others in your field can be your support team, that your clients are your community (outside of a Facebook Group) and that there are people cheering you on – even if you don’t hear us.

If you are looking for a community of business owner peers who value the psychology in business, I would encourage you to join my free Facebook Group. I hope to see you soon.


  • May 14, 2021

Avoiding overcommitment and burn out

You’ve done it again, promised to do something you didn’t particularly want to do. You’re shuffling time in your calendar like it’s deckchairs on the Titanic. Your eyebags are considered excess baggage. You’re worn out, looking for a break, and on the edge of burn out because you’re overcommitted – again.

It seems no matter who I talk to people are worn out and many because they’re doing too many things, some they don’t want to do. Perhaps it’s because in this post-COVID life we’ve become self-reliant or perhaps we’re scared that we won’t have enough money, clients, etc to pay the bills.

What can we do to prevent overcommitment and potential burn out?

Fear of letting people down

As a recovering people pleaser, this is one that I’ve been working on for many years. It can be sticky and complicated. Mine comes with a lot of childhood baggage.

If the request is from a long-standing client, I will bend over backwards to accommodate their needs. I will also feel bad if there just isn’t a possible way to do it.

If the request is for a new client and I’m not going to hit sales targets, I will often take on a client who doesn’t quite fit my business. The flags might even go up beforehand, signalling we’re not a good match, and I’ll generally ignore them – because money.

I have had to learn not to let other people dictate the terms of my business. When I say yes to someone, especially when I’m feeling overcommitted, I’m saying no to someone else. That someone else is often me or my family. When you run your own business so that you can prioritise your family or choose the life you lead, saying no to yourself or your family is a cardinal failure.

It’s in these times that we need to value ourselves more. Value our time more. The reality is that the people we say yes to are often not our best or ideal clients.

Boundaries and burn out

Emails at 10 pm. Phone calls at 7 am. The whole hustle culture makes us believe that if we’re not doing something every waking minuteSam Keen overcommited burn out quote then we’re wasting our time and slipping behind. Throw in social media posts from our competitors making us believe that they are “winning at life, doing the grind” and we can feel utterly inadequate.

Thing is that the more we give, the more people take – and keep taking. In the end, especially when you add it to any other reason why you’re burning the candle at both ends, you end up burnt out with nothing to give.

I used to be that person who worked school hours and then after the kids went to bed until 2 or 3 am. Then one day I went to pick my kids up from school, I was exhausted, and I couldn’t remember if the lights at a pedestrian crossing I went through was red or green. It was then I knew I needed to stop.

Putting in boundaries shouldn’t come from hitting rock bottom. Boundaries aren’t there to penalise or punish you or your clients. Boundaries are there to show others that you value your time and yourself and you are prepared to stand up for both. If you’re not prepared to stand up for yourself, why should anyone else?

The key to boundaries is knowing when to have them set in stone and when you can make them stretch, like a rubber band. When I say “when”, I probably mean for whom. You know those pushy clients, the ones who want stuff for peanuts and yesterday? Yeah, they’re not the ones who get the rubber band boundaries, especially not when you think you need their money.

Personally, I find boundaries are best when they come from a solid place. Mine comes from my reason for starting my own business, flexibility and to be there for my family, and from my values, courage, integrity, honesty, family. Boundaries should support not only why you’re running your own business but also what keeps you running your own business, your values.

How values can stop overcommitment

I know I harp on about values, a lot, but to be fair they work. Working within our values keep us true to ourselves and our business. Values guide and ground us.

Our core value is the one we use when our back’s to the wall and we really need to take action. We then have other values we use to guide our actions. Most of us have three to five values we rely on.

As I mentioned earlier, values support the boundaries we need to be able to continue to do the work we want to do. Values can also work as their own boundaries. For example, if like me, you have family as a value then family time and flexibility for your family will form boundaries.

Values, such as integrity, especially when you decide enough is enough protect you from overcommitment. If you decide that you no longer wish to feel stressed because you’re doing too much, it’s hard to have integrity and break promises to yourself.

Not sure what your values are, grab this list and choose your top one and top three.

How who you’re attracting leads to burn out

Let’s be honest, the quickest thing to have you overcommitted is clients who are wrong for you and your business. Let’s call them time-Burnout quote Najwa Zebianwasters, cheapskates, and “well I can help them” clients; in the end, they’re the ones that really aren’t for you.

I’ve had them. The social media management client I took on because I felt like I needed the money, even though I’d promised myself not to take any more social media management clients. The person who wanted to be done with their fears once and for all, who bumped bookings, asked for multiple freebies at the last minute and when presented with a contract never signed because “I’ve spoken with a girlfriend and it’s all good now” (let’s see how long that lasts).

It was actually this last one that had me looking at the person I was attracting. Was I targeting people too early in their journey through fear? You betcha. My marketing was targeting a person who was too early in their journey. I was attracting the person who couldn’t pay and didn’t value the results I gave. Sound familiar?

While I know that your marketing needs to address the issues each person has at the stage they are in in the buyer lifecycle, it should still be attracting the right client.

It’s not fool-proof, the wrong ones still get through, but you need to know the flags and warning signs for your industry and yourself and respect yourself and your boundaries and not work with them.

If you’re still feeling burnt out, then the other thing I can suggest is my toolkit. It’s full of resources to help you top up your cup and it’s a free download.

  • May 6, 2021
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