Think you’re a total failure? You are probably right.

A Question of Values

This month’s Word Carnival topic discusses the feeling that you are a total fraud. It’s called Impostor Syndrome. And almost 70% of small business owners have it.

From asking for less than you’re worth during contract negotiations to doing just one more revision for a client who just can’t make up their mind, you just aren’t the small business warrior you hoped you were. You’re not the badass graphic designer who makes Madison Avenue ad execs weep with envy. You aren’t causing your competitors to drink their sorrows at night. You feel more like a cubicle worker who’s got one more boss with each new client than a kick-ass small business owner taking charge of your own destiny.

Constantly walking on the cliff’s edge, all it takes is one little comment. A client who’s pickier than normal decides that they want a refund, a 2-pixel change, something just a little bit different than what you’ve delivered after the 30th revision.

“I don’t quite like it, what else have you got?”

For some, this can lead to days – if not weeks – of moping. Obviously, if the client didn’t like what you were providing, you must be a failure. Your so-called talent is no more than a waning dream in a world seeking out all that’s fast, cheap, amazing, and oh, yeah, cheap.

Those who can recognize the pinnacle of expertise are often the ones who are asking for it to be delivered at one tenth the cost and due three hours ago.

Yeah fucking right. What a colossal fucking failure you are.

Failure isn’t as simple as that. Failure is not just a status. No, failure is also a task. If entrepreneurs begin thinking of failure as a task in addition to a status, then failure becomes a necessary part of the creation process.

When you’ve got assclowns jerking you around, not following your advice, doing the exact opposite of what you told them to do, then asking you to fix it – that makes you a failure, alright. It makes you a failure at picking the right clients and setting the right filters to keep the wrong ones out.

So, yeah. You are probably a failure… for this moment. And now you know better. So you won’t be a failure for long.

One more thing.

I had no idea my “Are You Burnt Out” PSA would go (or had gone) viral until I woke up to about 150 emails on Tuesday morning asking for marketing help all because somebody had seen my silly little comic I made for a fellow freelancer friend who felt like a total failure for hitting a wall, thought it was funny, and posted it to Reddit. A few hours later, it would hit #1 on the Humor section and #3 on the homepage.

Worse? I didn’t have a call to action on my website to direct visitors to sign up to my newsletter. I didn’t have my contact information. I didn’t have a blog up there. I didn’t have… well, you name it. In short: I was totally unprepared for the moment of colossal success that came my way.

What’s my point? Most small businesses are held together with duct tape, dust, a little spit, sweat, and blood, and a whole hell of a lot of hope. Even with systems in place, luck and perseverance and personal fortitude play a much larger role than following some step-by-step task list designed to bring in one more client.

It’s not logical. It’s not often fair. But, it is how the small business world works. And if you think you’re a colossal failure just because of “reasons”, you should catch the tune that’s been playing in my head the last four years.

You’re not alone, I promise.

You’re not a total failure (even though you might recently have totally failed at something). You’re not an impostor. You’re a kick-ass self-righteous small business owner, dammit. Now, chin up and get back in the game.