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Playing Small

When I celebrated my six month anniversary of business ownership, I spent a lot of time reflecting on all the lessons I have learned leading up to starting my own business and during the first six months. These lessons can apply to anyone, regardless of age, gender or even where you are in your career. 

On the same token, I recently attended an “Incredible Women Party” hosted by Gina Skinner Thebo with the Atwood Center for Women. This event happens quarterly and brings together 50 women to explore a topic, network, and to champion each other. What makes this even unique is that each woman (yes all 50) has to talk about the topic for 60 seconds standing up and into a microphone. The intention is to help women learn how to articulate and promote themselves. And it is awesome.  

I had the honor of sponsoring this most recent event focused on businesses you own or would like to own. As such I was allotted 5 minutes to share whatever I wanted about my business. Instead I took the time to share with this group all of the ways I used to limit my possibilities and play small.  

Several women told me how much my list of five resonated with them, even asking for a copy of the list. So, without further ado, here is an improved and expanded list of all the ways I’ve played small. May it inspire you to play BIG! 

  1. I didn’t always invest in myself. Sure, I took full advantage of every program or experience I could through work, but I didn’t always put my own money into me. The first coach I ever worked with was this incredible Master Coach from San Francisco. Needless to say her fees weren’t Iowa Nice. When we met she asked me the question, “What does it feel like to invest in yourself in this way? What could be possible?” It honestly brought me to tears, because I decided in that moment I was worth the investment.  
  2. I didn’t charge my worth. When you first start working for yourself, whether it’s a side hustle or full time, the first thing you must decide is, “How much will I charge for this product or service?” It isn’t an easy question for many of us. But as I grew, and my skills grew along with demand, I wasn’t charging my worth. Fortunately, I had a client push back on my price and tell me to resubmit with a higher amount. His company wouldn’t take me seriously at that price point. I now own the impact my company is making and not afraid to charge accordingly. 
  3. I presented myself as I thought I “should” versus who I am. I thought I had to dress a certain way to be considered credible. And while yes, first impressions do matter, what matters more is confident authenticity. I would wear clothes that didn’t fit me, my brand didn’t feel like me, and I ultimately wasn’t showing up as me. Now I show up in clothes that make me feel powerful and authentic, my brand is a direct experience of who I am, and I couldn’t be happier. What’s even cooler? People ask to buy my t-shirts all time or send me photos in their Sarah Swag.  
  4. I didn’t invest in my company. When I first started, like so many, I tried to do things as cheaply as possible. Even going so far as to ask for someone who was “affordable” to design my logo. Your logo is the first experience many people will have with your work and I wasn’t willing to make it the best possible first experience. I realized if I won’t invest in me, how can I ask others to?  I started working with Project 7 Design. That investment was not only a game changer for my company, it was a game changer for me and how I showed up. If you love the look of the brand, know that emerged from me asking myself the question “Do I build a brand that I “should” or a brand that makes me happy?” You can figure out which way I went! 
  5. I tried to go it alone. I tried to do everything I could on my own. Which isn’t the smartest idea for anyone, much less someone who works to manage severe ADHD. This meant balls were dropped, emails were delayed, and client experience wasn’t ideal. Yes, it is scary to hire someone when you don’t have steady income. But there is also a cost, personally and professionally, to going it alone. Hiring my team has been a game changer for me on so many levels. But most importantly it helps to know that others have my back when I need it the most.  

Those were the five I shared at the event. I’d like to add a few more quickly: 

  • I said yes to clients who weren’t ideal.
  • I didn’t believe I could be successful or was fearful of the possible success.
  • I was afraid I couldn’t live up to other people’s visions for my success.
  • I compared myself to others.
  • I said I would start a business 2-3 years from now for 8 years.
Last year I vowed to stop playing small and to help others do the same. This world needs us to play big, our family wants us to play big, and you deserve to play big. 
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