Have you ever faced a judgy relative or a skeptical friend who flat out told you that you’re too young to be taken seriously as a business owner? Maybe they didn’t say it directly, but their “Bless Your Heart” comments told you everything you needed to know. Or maybe it’s been one of voices in the back of your head that causes you to doubt yourself as you step outside of your comfort zone into unchartered entrepreneurial seas.
On the flip side, it’s hard to look at a sea of eager, young faces without feeling like maybe you’re just too old to get into your given industry, since everyone looks like they’re straight out of high school or college.
This feeling is totally normal, and it comes out of fear that clients aren’t going to invest in you because you may not have a vast background of “professional” experience. Spoiler alert: If you do good work, no one cares about your age. Stop using it as an excuse 😉
When I first started delegating to team members, I made the mistake of resumé hunting and looking for people who had already done the things that I wanted them to do for me. I wanted the eagerness that comes with being young, but the professionalism that comes with experience. Unfortunately, it meant I overlooked the fact that passion and drive were SO much more important than simply a laundry list of “have dones” and “experience in…” columns. Once I got out of my own “corporate” way, the reality hit that what was most important in hiring someone was their reliability, ambition, and ability.
So here’s the real truth about getting over your own perceived inexperience, or “bonus experience” if you’re older: First, it’s mostly in your head — “mostly” because there are things you can do to seem like a pro, even if you’re just starting out. Second, recognize that your clients simply want you to do the things that you’re good at so they can stop wasting their own time on it. Third and finally, your own “inexperience” or age could actually be a huge plus — no one would go to an old fart for fresh, modern website design, and likewise, I don’t trust people who say they have “years of experience” in an industry when they’re clearly twelve(ish). There’s a lot of focus out there on becoming an “expert”, but being an expert is all in the eyes of the beholder. You truly only need to be a few steps ahead of your client to work toward establishing credibility. Focus on gaining trust by being reliable, and you’ll get there!
1. Do something you’re passionate about. Your enthusiasm will shine through, and people will be inspired by the energy and will be more apt to listen to what you have to say. Plus, everyone is looking for fresh, new ideas, so sometimes being young and creative is advantageous, and sometimes having experience and field knowledge is more important.
2. Learn the art of a solid elevator pitch. You never know where you’ll run into someone who could use your expertise. Not sure what an elevator pitch is? It’s a rapid fire paragraph you can rattle off without hesitation and it describes you, your business, your favorite kinds of clients to work with, and your services in 30-60 seconds. For example, start with this:
“Hi, my name is [name]. I help [identify your client] who struggle with [your client’s biggest challenge(s)] by [your product or service].” Edit and revise until it fits, and then practice in the mirror, in the car, on your dog, and on your partner or sister.
3. Constantly push yourself to grow or put yourself out there. You’ll probably hear “no” a few times, but you’re going to have to hear “no” in order to hear “yes”. My friend Carrie Grace always says, “Start with no.” Allow some doors to close in order to find new ones. Rather than dwelling on rejection (it’s not, it’s simply that the opportunity isn’t the right fit!), try to think of it as a chance to learn what to do differently next time. PS — Make sure you always have a business card in your purse and in your car, or at least a decent social handle that’s easily remembered!
4. Find local and online resources if you need help finding your footing when it comes to running your business. When it feels like you’re in over your head, remember that there are other places to turn, like the Creative Empire podcast, my Turnkey Business Binder, or even this blog!
5. Have an exit strategy. Nobody wants to think about failure, but it’s really, really helpful to outline specific goals so that you know when it’s time to fold your business and walk away. It can be a mix of things, from “enjoy $500 in profit per month during Q2” (proving that you can earn an income) to “have at least a dozen inquiries for my services in 6 months” (proving that your service is in demand). Whatever it is, make sure you outline some indicators to help raise the red flag that it may be time to rethink the business.