Are you letting FEAR shut down your business?

I want to tell you a story. A story about fear in business. More specifically, MY fear in MY business. And how it stopped my business growth and almost resulted in me losing everything.

Let me start with the backstory: Way back in 2013/2014, Canada completely turned the digital marketing world on its head when it implemented some of the strongest (at the time) anti-spam legislation in the world (see: CASL). Digital marketers, especially those of us specializing in email, were scrambling to get our customers lists compliant before a deadline. At the time, I was blogging regularly about business & marketing, and sharing my posts to my Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook feeds, where I had a small, but loyal following. I had a small staff to assist me in my business, and a growing list of very happy clients.

I had created a series of posts to educate my clients & readers on becoming compliant with the new regulations. The sharing of one such post to my Twitter feed resulted in an onslaught of angry tweets from someone I had never encountered before. The post was titled “Are you ready for Canada’s new Anti-Spam legislation? Probably.” In it, I went over the practices of Email Marketing Services like MailChimp & Constant Contact that were beneficial to compliance. The purpose of the post was to assuage some of the fears of my readers, and help those that were already using such services to see that they were probably already compliant and had little to worry about. However, one person in the Twitterverse didn’t see it that way. This person, who appeared to also be a digital marketer, seemed to want to make an example out of me and my post. He responded to my post-share with some general disgruntlement and quickly launched into an all-out personal attack on me and “people like me who were profiting off of the new legislation” while people like him were working day and night to get consent from hundreds of thousands of contacts for their clients for free.

Now, to be fair, this exchange happened on the day before the phase one deadline. EVERYONE in marketing was stressed the f*ck out, and probably drinking coffee by the potful while trying to make sure everything was in place for our clients, so I can imagine that said person probably hadn’t had a lot of sleep in the days leading up to the exchange, because I know I sure didn’t. But I say this now, a little over 4 years after the event, and after I’ve already dealt with the feelings and fears that the exchange evoked in me. At the time though, I was a hot mess as a result, and it kept me out of the “public eye” until very recently.

It seems the person has since become ashamed of his behaviour (or I hope this is true) and deleted all his tweets to me, but I wish I would have taken a screenshot of them to show you as they now only exist as an image and a feeling burned in my memory. However, I’ve taken a screenshot of my responses, where you can see the exact moment I shut down, both literally and figuratively, as my activity on Twitter (and all social media) ceased almost immediately after this exchange. I've hidden his name, because honestly, it no longer matters.

Fear in Biz - TWITTER FEED

If you want to read the "offending" article, I've reposted it here for context.

This person came at me with guns loaded, throwing everything he could to attack my knowledge, experience and mostly, my credibility. I don’t know his exact motivations, but if he was aiming to shut me down, he succeeded. The exchange made me feel like a fraud, like I didn’t know what I was doing. It made me feel that I had no place doing what I was doing. It killed my motivation and progression. I started second-guessing everything I did for my clients and in my own business. I let my website stagnate. I stopped writing posts. I stopped growing and engaging my following. It affected the quality of my work, and I lost my general enthusiasm for my business. I let the majority of my clients go, then I let my staff go, because I could no longer afford to keep them. I kept only a handful of clients that could keep my head above water financially. I kept my head down, and just did the bare minimum to survive.

My business had become just another “job.” It was no longer enjoyable in any way, and was now just a means to pay the bills. Barely. I operated this way for three and a half years. It’s only recently that I’ve began to shift.

Over the last several months I’ve come to realize that I let the comments of ONE person destroy my business. One person’s opinion of me, formed solely on my publicly-published written word, affected every aspect of my life. And I handed this power to a complete stranger I randomly encountered in 140 character bursts four years ago.

Um, what?! Why does this person have so much power over my business? Over my life? (Pro-tip: he doesn’t.)

Here’s the thing: when we put ourselves out there, there are ALWAYS going to be people that don’t like what we do. There are always going to be people that think we suck. There are always going to be people who think we’re not qualified to do our jobs, or run our businesses, or do anything in general. And as entrepreneurs, sadly, these doubters are often not strangers, they’re the people closest to us.

In business, we have to develop a thick skin. It is the only way to succeed. We have to BELIEVE in ourselves and what we have to offer, because that validation isn’t going to come from outside sources. We have to be our own horn-blowers, our own advocates, our own best referral sources. We have to continue to put ourselves out there, in front of our audience, or we let our business stagnate and die.

For years, I've encouraged my clients to believe in what they have to offer, and showed them the benefits of putting themselves out there, all while I hid behind the scenes, operating in self-doubt and fear of being outed as a fraud. It wasn’t until I started this re-branding process that I realized that I was still letting the words of a random internet stranger affect my business and it was high time I stopped. So if you’re letting fear, regardless of the source, hold you back, here’s some tips for you:

  • Flip the script. As humans, we often focus on the negative aspect of things. We complain about things we don’t like and we focus on things we want to change, when instead we should be raving about things we love and focusing on things we appreciate. Challenge yourself to see a positive aspect of every situation, especially the hardest ones.
  • Celebrate your skills. If you started a business, it’s because you think you’re good at something. Good enough to charge for it. So take a few moments right now to acknowledge your excellent skills at whatever it is you’re doing.
  • Weigh the positives against the negatives. How often have you been told that you have a great product or service? How often have you been told that your product or service is valued? Now compare that to the number of times you’ve been told your product or service sucks, or that you can’t do what you’re setting out to. How do they compare? I’m willing to place money on the positives outweighing the negatives.
  • Figure out if you actually screwed up, or if any negative feedback you received is valid. If you screwed up, own up to it and make it as right as you can. (Check out this post for tips on handling customer complaints like a pro!) If you didn’t do anything, then chalk it up to the general sense of unrest in society, and let it go.

My shift happened when I was compiling my testimonials for my new website. I had never actually compiled my testimonials into one location before. (I also wasn’t asking for them before either, but that’s another post. #bizfail #doasIsaynotasIdo) Once I had all these glowing reviews in front of me, I started to question why was I letting the words of one person outweigh the words of many, especially when it was clear that I was providing hella-good value to my clients!

I’m still working my way out of this fear, but my enthusiasm for my biz has returned. I’m excited about my rebranding and the direction I’m taking. And I’m even more excited re-grow my following, getting to know everyone along the way.

Tell me about your shift! Send me a message!