Fake It ‘Til You Make It: How To Take On Work You Can’t Do (Yet)

Do you ever worry that someone’s going to catch on and call you out as a fraud? Me too. Being a creative freelancer or entrepreneur means that we often say “yes” to things that we’re not 100% sure we can do (yet). I once dated an actor who claimed he could horseback ride in an audition and then had to rush out and get lessons when he got the part. He knew that sometimes, if you want the part badly enough, you have to fake it ’til you make it.

In a world of authentic marketing (of which I am a huge proponent), I understand that ‘faking it’ can feel disingenuous. Here’s the distinction that will ease those feelings. Faking it is not about tricking others into believing you can do something. It’s about tricking ourselves into believing we can do something, so that we can push through the fear. Humans are hard-wired to avoid risk and faking it allows us to push the fear aside and seize opportunities that come our way. The good news is, the more we push through that fear (by faking it) and take on new challenges, the better we become at our job and the more valuable our services become to others.

Not sure how to ‘fake it ’til you make it’? Here are 5 strategies:

1) Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions. 
In my early days as an agent for freelance creative professionals, I learned how to write a detailed creative proposal. In order to develop an accurate document that defined the deliverables, budget, timeline, fees and terms, I had to learn how to ask the right questions. Feeling very conscious of my youth and inexperience, I worried that too many questions would make me appear stupid to my clients, so I tended to hold back. The result was unnecessary revisions, stress (on my part!) and lots of back and forth with the client. The more I did it, the better I got and the more efficient I became. It’s a process that we all go through, so ask questions, learn and don’t worry what other people think.

2) Reach Out To Your Network. 
In 2010 I transitioned my business from creative agent to business coach for creative professionals. It was an entirely new business model and there was a lot I didn’t know. Rather than feel badly about it, I acknowledged that I didn’t know what I didn’t know and reached out to people in my network that did have the answers. People are more than happy to share their knowledge and expertise, so ask for help. How do you re-pay them? Pay it forward and share your knowledge with anyone that asks for help.

3) Know Your Limits. 
While I will say “yes” to something that I know is within the realm of my expertise and just requires me to stretch myself, I won’t say “yes” to something that isn’t in my wheelhouse. Know what makes you unique and how your client will benefit from working with you, then stretch yourself within those boundaries.

4) Do Power Poses For Two Minutes A Day (they work!). 
There’s a fantastic TED talk on body language by Amy Cuddy, that I’d highly recommend if you haven’t seen it. Her research found that doing ‘Power Poses’ for 2 minutes a day actually changes your body’s chemistry and, in turn, dramatically alter how you feel about yourself. Do you feel insecure or frightened by a job interview or presentation? Doing an X-shape power pose (arms in a V above your head, legs apart) in the bathroom stall for 2 minutes will increase your Testosterone (the dominance hormone) and decrease your Cortisol (the stress hormone). The result: you perform better, and once you’ve done that a few times, you actually become better. I tried it before I led a workshop at the Freelancers Union and it really worked. Try it!

5) Acknowledge Your Successes. 
Freelancers and entrepreneurs are so busy making things happen they often blow by their successes without so much as a backwards glance. Acknowledge the obstacles you’ve overcome to become better at your work and give yourself props for doing so. Your successes will give you courage to take on the next big challenge!

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