My Client with 100,000 Instagram Followers
Start With Small Career Counselling + Coaching provides career support for accomplished women in their 40s + 50s ready to lose the overwhelm, guilt, + second guessing. You don't need confidence to do hard things. You need a decision, some tools, + lots of support. You can do this. I can help.
We're all able to cope with what life brings us better than we think or give ourselves credit for. We are truly a resilient, adaptable bunch. That doesn't make it fun or easy. That's for darn sure. Remember you can go back to basics any time. Hit the "survival mode" button. Do what it takes to get through the day and nothing more then congratulate yourself on knowing and giving yourself what you need. That's a big win in my books. You'll get back into a groove when you're ready. There will never be a shortage of things to get done.
This leads me to what I want to chat about tonight. About what we create for ourselves.
Let me start this off with a story about my client and her 100,000 followers on Instagram.
She’s what some might refer to as an “Influencer”.
She’s self-employed, a “solopreneur” and initially created her social media accounts as a way to market her services and products.
I had nothing to do with that. This all happened before we met.
But we did meet, I became her coach and she’s invited me to share this story…
This client and I started working together when she became convinced it was time to get a “job” fearing her business was not sustainable. In fact, by her account, the business was not producing any returns that made it feel worthwhile at all.
She didn’t want to get a "JOB" and this felt devastating to her.
But her 100,000 followers, the likes, and comments on social media weren’t translating into customers, connection, or value for her.
Let me back up a little bit about how we met. We didn’t find each other because of social media or websites or advertisements. She found me via old fashioned word of mouth.
We had a little chuckle about this during our first conversation. She shared that word of mouth was the way her business had started. She had all but forgotten that it had evolved quite organically. She had built up a small following of loyal clientele over time that she provided services to with great love, care, and attention. She had created a thriving business she adored, born out of love and had been steadily building momentum.
She shared a couple of things that had happened in her business since that beginning that she believed had shifted its trajectory.
At the start of the pandemic, her husband’s work changed and she was going to be the “breadwinner”, at least temporarily. She shared that she and her husband were both “freaking out” a bit about their new situation. They agreed that this could be a good opportunity for him to come on board the business to help grow and support it. So, he did and they agreed to start implementing some new “tactics”.
This is exactly how she shared what had happened, in an email to me:
“Tactic #1 – failed, Tactic #2 – failed, Tactic #3 – failed”
She also shared with me that this was the first time in the history of the business that things felt like they weren’t working.
She explained that this was the point where the self-doubt had trickled in, along with a tendency to take more frequent “peaks” at what other similar businesses were offering and how. For the first time she noticed a little jealousy creep in when she saw the beautiful, well-crafted websites and marketing of their competitors. She started to second guess her ability to “compete” in the market and responded by working a little harder, working a little longer to increase what she offered, get her messaging “right” and “build the brand”. She began asking for more and more advice from other people believing she was confused and uncertain about the “hows” of her business. She and her husband continued throwing spaghetti at the wall crossing their fingers that something might stick. The second it appeared as if something wasn't working, they changed gears. They scrapped what they were doing and tried something else. During this time, they also lost a couple of long term clients which she attributed to an even bigger dip in her self-confidence.
But they kept going. Fueled by a desire to keep up with their competitors, they decided to focus their attention on creating a beautiful new website and bump up their social media content. She described it as continuing to throw darts at a dartboard and doing all the things in an effort to give their competition a run for their money.
At the same time, my client had begun to notice a shift at home. Thoughts about the business were taking up more space. There was less presence with family and friends. There was less rest, less leisure, less pleasure outside of work.
Looking back, she says some of their efforts were paying off… they landed a few new clients but she felt completely disconnected from them, less present, less joyful. She didn’t consider that a “win” at the time.
Then, through a series of events, something that seemed like pure magic happened.
Rags to Riches!
The business was profiled in the media--someone had been compelled by her start up story. From the outside looking in, the business appeared to be thriving—the proverbial rags to riches story.
Every business’s dream right? It appeared as if that last desperate hustle and grind had paid off. It had brought increased awareness to the business, and an almost immediate uptick in interest and sales. Not to mention, Instagram followers! They went from a following of around 3,000 to 50,000 in what felt like overnight. Seeing the impact this had on their business, they immediately poured additional resources into continued growth and over the coming months built their following to the 100,000 mark. They then proceeded to upgrade everything—even hired their first employee.
This is how my client described it:
“Almost overnight everything changed. I was excited. I also knew I’d been working hard and was feeling a bit burned out. This is why I hired an assistant immediately--somebody to help me. My husband had gone back to his job and I thought this would help take some of the pressure I’d been feeling off. For a really brief moment all the attention and opportunity felt great. I thought “ha! I’m winning!” but that excitement soon turned into something that felt closer to anxiety and dread. I had new resources I wasn’t clear on how to manage. I was getting a lot of validation from others in the form of praise and money for my “good work” but that began to create a lot of discomfort for me. It was like I was getting everything I wanted but it didn’t feel like I thought it would. It didn’t feel like mine. I just felt lost. I felt disconnected.”
So, let’s back up a little bit. Let’s go back and talk for a second about how specifically this client found me…
This is how:
I’d had a brief conversation with somebody I’d just met about what it is I do and how I help. This person then told somebody else who ended up reaching out and becoming my client. This person then recommended me to their friend who is now also my client—the client with over 100,000 Instagram followers.
One casual conversation, no sales pitch, and 2 clients. They didn’t find me on Google or Instagram. They found me because of me. For the first years of my business you never would have been able to find me on Google or any social media. I didn’t even have a website. Not because I wasn’t savvy with technology—I’m a Gen Xer, not a dinosaur!
From my many years studying all things change, when it came to starting my own private practice and navigating my own career change, I knew that action-taking alone wouldn’t lead to the lasting change I wanted, or the identity I needed to build. I knew that just like putting on a stethoscope and scrubs doesn’t turn someone into a doctor, I needed to build my identity as a business person. I knew I hadn’t done that in my years at my corporate job.
I wasn’t entitled to hang out my shingle and have people start showing up. It was clear to me that I couldn’t rely on other people validating and believing in me in order for me to believe in me. I also knew that if I believed in me, eventually others would too. I needed to believe in the value I was creating in the world. I knew that confidence was gained by figuring things out, by failing, by making lots of decisions and by building my belief but I had to put in place the tools to support me though this. If I didn’t, I knew I might stop before I even got started. The feelings would come on strong--the doubt, the guilt, the overwhelm, the confusion, the anxiety and fear. I knew I had to start small--set smaller, achievable goals that I could focus on, believe in and move towards. The big picture just felt too impossible--I'd get lost in the "what ifs". I'd have to get there the way I used to drive to Sudbury at Christmas time. There was always a blizzard. I could only see a short distance in front of me but that's all I needed. I always got there.
So, I'd have my smaller goals and continue to build—build my business but most importantly build my identity and my confidence. I recognized that my identity would need to evolve along with my growth. I knew I had to put belief first.
We're NOT a special kind of screwed up
The same way many accomplished people in general tend to underestimate their abilities and devalue their achievements, that’s where my client sat. Chalking her work up to a fluke or something somebody else had a bigger hand in or something that somebody else would have done faster, or better, or with more grace, style, or ease. She wasn’t able to let herself have any wins. The same way it can seem hard to respond to a simple compliment with a “thanks” rather than a self-deprecating downplay of some kind, she had a way of detaching herself from many of the hard things she had survived.
Of course, as women we’re socialized to do this. We come by this sort of thing completely understandably and naturally. It can be so ingrained that it’s hard to notice. Apologizing for taking up space, believing we have to justify our mere existence in some cases by staying busy, not resting, not relaxing, not stopping. The belief deep down we might not even notice that we should be better, more attractive, smarter, funnier, tidier. That we need to be on a constant quest to fix ourselves and won’t ever be ready for anything until we do. This keeps us stuck in our perfectionist fantasies rather than truly believing we’re ready NOW. So we don’t take credit. We continue to carry around an incredibly heavy mental load without the proper container to hold it in. No wonder things feel so hard!
This is by design.
It’s NOT because we’re a special kind of screwed up.
We’re freaking amazing.
We’re amazing human women with a brain that’s been conditioned to think this way.
Appearances Versus Truth
There’s a concept I talk about when it comes to how we spend our time in career, business, and life.
It’s a concept called appearances versus truth.
It can be an interesting exercise to take a look at what it is you’re creating (remembering that however you’re doing it, you’ve learned over time naturally!).
Appearances versus truth for a business owner might look like spending all of your time on your website, perfectly curated social media, tactics to increase your likes, comments, and follows. You’ll spend a lot of your resources on a lot of things to make you look successful.
For someone trying to advance in their corporate career, appearances versus truth might look like spending a lot of time getting more and more and more certifications, working longer hours, and saying yes to roles and responsibilities you don’t enjoy. You’ll spend a lot of your resources on a lot of things to make you look successful.
For a job seeker or career changer, this might look like spending a lot of money on a resume, a new suit, a new hairdo, and applying to hundreds and hundreds of online positions on Indeed.com. You’ll spend a lot of your resources on a lot of things to make you look successful. .
Which are you creating? Something truly valuable or something that just looks like it?
Creating value tends not to be fancy. It involves things that don’t always make you feel better in the moment, sort of the opposite of what we'll tend to do--you know it-- that tendency to stay busy doing low risk things. On the contrary, often creating value involves trying things that don’t work on the first try. Often, in its simplest form, it means engaging with yourself and others intentionally in an effort to learn, share, and grow. This work won’t feel like it’s leading you anywhere at first. It requires belief. It requires faith. Creating this kind of value requires you pay more attention to how you feel and what you think than how you look to others.
In a nutshell, it's brain before brand.
Having a brand, a professional resume, a good suit and hairdo, investing in social media, advertising etc. can all be helpful and important things. They can support you in putting your best foot forward while you’re going for the job, delighting your customers and clients and committing to scaling your business, career, or life but you have to be working on believing in what you’re working toward. You’ve got to work on believing in yourself IN YOUR BONES. You won’t always, that’s human but put tools in place that will help you hold space for this. Things outside of you can help but if you don’t hold the identity inside, their benefits will be fleeting at best.
The path to this might look like:
In business, it might mean showing up even when you only have two customers and serving them with the same excitement and enthusiasm you would if you had hundreds.
In career advancement, it might mean challenging some of what you’re thinking and believing about yourself and others with compassion. Instead of worrying and complaining about what other people are doing and thinking.
In life it might mean investing in growth rather than things (don’t get me wrong, things are wonderful! Buy all the things if you want to !).
None of these different ways of being make you a better or worse person. They might however, be rooted in beliefs that aren't serving you.
Giving and focusing on value is a lot less exciting and maybe even a little less fun sometimes. It’s not wrapped up in a pretty Pinterest bow. It requires inside work that nobody is going to compliment you on right away. It won’t provide instant gratification. You may not “appear” successful or fulfill the metrics we’re often encouraged to value.
But you will be successful.
It’s quiet confidence versus smoke and mirrors.
It feels freaking fantastic (eventually!)
It’s what I do and what I teach. It’s also the nearly immediate shift my client made in her business. She went back to basics. She remembered what she wanted and why. She gave her identity a chance to catch up with her business. She went back to focusing on creating value, not the appearance of success.
Her 100,000 instagram followers could not create this for her. This did not create confidence. This alone did not create value. It created only the appearance of success.
They are not the same thing.
True value creation isn't about spending tons of money so you look richer than you are. It's about engaging and connecting and serving in a way that others feel and that you believe in.
You will know that it was YOU that created the value.
You didn’t buy it, it wasn’t a fluke, or someone else, or something outside of you that created it. It was your own intentional thought and belief. This means it’s repeatable, it’s sustainable, and it’s the key to feeling connected and confident about what you’re doing.
Build your belief before you write your resume.
Build your belief before you build your website.
I can teach you how. You don’t even need to believe 100%. 50% will do.
Nothing outside of you can make you feel better than the intentional, helpful thoughts you’re capable of thinking right now.
Not winning the lottery (I worked with someone who did!)
Not the perfect job
Not the perfect business
...and especially not being Instagram famous.
That's it for now. I'm headed out to get laughed at by my kids for my hockey skills. That's okay, I'm super proud of taking up the sport in my 40s even though I had a whole lot of fear. I built a supportive container for myself that holds my belief that I can get out there and have fun doing whatever I feel like doing. I don't even care who might be watching me fall any more--cause I know I'll always get back up.