5 Steps to Becoming an Authentic Entrepreneur

by Carrie Smith 5 Minutes

unique perspectiveAre you ready to make this year the best year ever for your business? In order to do that you’ve got to put yourself out there, and stop being shy about what you offer.

This has been a common theme for me this year and something I struggle with. As a solo business owner it’s difficult to define the line between personal and professional.

But if we want our businesses to stand out and become a leaders within our industry, we have to be more authentic.

What Does Being Authentic Really Mean?

Yes, I know the word “authentic” is totally overused, but let me remind you of the exact meaning. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary authentic means, “not false or an imitation, true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”

So essentially being authentic means to be a genuine or un-edited version of yourself. So how does that translate into being a self-employed business owner? Well, before you can create an authentic business you must take these steps.

1. Are You Being an Authentic Person?

Are you being true to yourself everyday? To be an authentic entrepreneur means you must first be an authentic PERSON. What you portray in your life is what your business will reflect, especially if you’re solo business owner and the face of your brand.

If you’re edited and unsure of yourself as a person, your brand will also be unsure and reserved. This will make it very difficult to stand out and be heard amongst the other companies and businesses out there.

It’s your little quirks and personality traits that make you different from anyone else in the world. Likewise, it’s these differences that can set your business apart. Open yourself up to the unique things you offer and don’t be afraid to share them with the world.

2. Explore Your Business Personality

If you could describe your business in 3 words, what would they be? Ask a close friend, or client, how they would describe your business. Do these words surprise you, or do they line up with how you want your brand to be perceived?

If you don’t know where to start, consider editing yourself less online and in person. It’s really up to you on how you want to explore your brand’s personality and leverage it to become a more authentic business owner.

Show more of the behind-the-scenes in your everyday business activities. Take photos of events and projects you’re passionate about. You’ll likely uncover some commonalities with your clients and customers that could lead to amazing opportunities.

3. Throw Out the Networking Rules

This step seems to be a big deal for a lot of people, because generally we’re taught to put ourselves out there when networking and close the deal. If you aren’t the most outgoing or loudest person at the party, you’re likely to miss out, right?

blue skyNot likely. These days people just want someone to relate and to talk with on a personal level.

We have enough ads, TVs, radios and other media outlets shouting at us all day, we don’t want to be stuck in a room full of small business owners who only want to advertise their business and exchange cards.

Not all of your networking connections will pan out, but the connections you do make will be of higher quality.

And you might actually enjoy going to networking events because you’ll have fun instead of worrying about “getting exposure for your brand”.

Be true to your personality and let it shine through in your networking. The rest of the business will start to shine through too, and the right kind of people will be drawn to that.

4. Be True to Yourself on Social Media

This has probably been the most difficult area for me, since putting yourself out there on social media channels can backfire if you’re not careful. But your clients and customers are a lot more perceptive than you realize, and it’s all too easy to tell if someone is being genuine or not.

There’s a fine line between oversharing and opening up to become more transparent with your business. Although, some entrepreneurs have built their businesses on the fact that they have outgoing and over-the-top personalities, so oversharing is part of their game.

One of my colleagues is a radio show host who’s in the works to have her own TV show. Oddly enough she hates the media and shies away from all forms of social media. The one thing she doesn’t understand, is how to use social media marketing to craft your brand’s vision and personality.

Consumers expect businesses to answer their queries instantly, and frankly it’s easier to handle a sticky situation online in real time. You become your clients hero and can use that as social proof of what your business stands for.

5. Lead by Example

This step is simple but something that commonly gets overlooked in many businesses. If you want your clients to pay you on time, be sure to pay your team members on time. If you want your employees and contractors to go the extra mile, be sure you’re taking that extra step for your customers too.

Lead by example, it’s as simple as that. To be an authentic leader and role model, it’s key that you lead with your example. As business owners it’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of running a business and miss the small, but important details.

With the ease of starting a freelance business comes the freedom to run it in a way that suits you and your personality. My business coach often reminds me that it’s, “your business your rules”, so you don’t have to do what anyone else is doing. Again, it’s just another way to set your brand apart in your industry.

Promote Authenticity in Your Business

Naturally not everyone will agree with you or resonate with your offerings, but do you really want to work with someone who doesn’t? Quality connections are worth a lot more than a bunch of mediocre ones. And I’m pretty sure we didn’t start our own businesses to become mediocre.

You’re an entrepreneur because you want to make a change, to have a positive effect on the world and have more freedom in your own life. That starts with being true to yourself.

What’s one thing you can do today to show your authentic, un-edited self? It doesn’t need to be anything big, a small action with any of these steps will help you become a genuine business owner.

Image 1 by bjearwicke.

Image 2 by phaser4.

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by Carrie Smith
Carrie Smith is a financial artist and founder of The Client Connection, a matchmaking service for clients and freelancers who want to avoid job boards and instead build quality businesses. In 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job and now works as a full-time business consultant and writer. Find her on Twitter (@carefulcents).