Tell me if any of this sounds familiar…
“You work from home, so you’re available to take me to the airport, right?”
“So you’re doing [insert your business] until you can find a real job?”
“Sounds like a fun hobby.”
“You’re so lucky to have your husband’s (or wife’s) salary so you don’t have to work.”
“You work from home? Must be nice.”
“It’s so great that you can be a stay-at-home mom.”
After 14 years of self-employment, I’ve heard all of those (and many more) ignorant remarks. They’ve even come from people I thought would know better, like family and close friends. And I’m not alone; most self-employed people deal with the perception that we spend our days in pajamas watching soap operas.
Of course, you and I know that couldn’t be further from the truth. We work our asses off—probably harder than most people with “real” jobs (after all, we don’t clock in and out or leave the office at the end of the day). So why the disconnect between our reality and others’ perceptions?
Watch Your Language!
Have you ever taken stock of how you talk to others about your business? The kinds of words you use or body language you display when asked about your work? Most of us don’t give this much thought, and the answers might upset you.
Very often, we minimize or discount what we’re doing without realizing it. Whether we say something like, “I’m just a freelancer,” or simply describe the work we do for others, most of us never say, “I am the CEO of a company that…” But that’s exactly what you are.
A CEO is the highest-ranking person in a company and is responsible for making all managerial decisions. That’s what you do EVERY.SINGLE.DAY as a business owner. Sure, you provide a service for your clients—and that’s important—but that’s only one aspect of what you do.
You also handle your finances, run your marketing campaigns, head up all sales efforts, take care of customer service, and much more. Even if you pay someone else to do some or all of those tasks, the buck still stops with you.
How we talk about our business and our role in it has a direct effect on how others perceive what we do. If you’re selling yourself short when someone asks, “what do you do?” then don’t be surprised later when they assume you have loads of free time or are just waiting to find the perfect day job.
I challenge you to take an inventory of everything you do for your business. Write it all down. Remember it. And next time someone (even if it’s your sweet old grandma or a nosy neighbor) asks what you do, tell them you’re a badass CEO in charge of X, Y, and Z.
My answer to the “what do you do?” question used to be, “I’m a freelance writer”. Not a business owner, not a CEO, not a badass boss. I was just a writer who happened to make a pretty good living doing it. After spending some time really examining my language and itemizing everything I do in my business, however, just left my vocabulary. And everyone, from my myself and my mom to current and potential clients, started treating me and my business with far more respect.
If the thought of trying to talk like a boss makes you feel a little queasy, then take a minute to read my recent blog post about fighting imposter syndrome You may be among the 70% of us who frequently feel like a fraud. And if you want more tips for stepping into the CEO mindset, check out this post I wrote for Think Creative Collective. It’s all about how to start treating your business like a business (and not a hobby).
Want even more help
Think Like a CEO
Tired of checking things off your to-do list, yet feeling totally stalled? Use this checklist to craft meaningful goals that actually move your business forward.