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Never Break These Golden Rules For Faking It Before You Make It

Or you'll end up regretting going solo for good.

By Ellen "Jelly" McRaePublished 4 months ago 9 min read
Image created on Canva

I'm going to let you in on a secret, something I don't tell people. Only if you don't tell anyone, ok?

I'm a writer who didn't go to school for writing. I didn't do any professional development post leaving university, or once deciding to become a writer. 

And when my first writing employer asked me about my academic writing education, I had to admit I had none.

I'm not ashamed of my lack of education. I know it doesn't make me any less of a writer or deserving of readers. Yet, when entering the industry, I had a lot to prove. 

I had a lot of faking it until I made it.

This attitude isn't new. But we're living in an age where people will tell you to start, to do something, to not wait until you're ready. Just go for it, take the plunge and start. 

Let's be real, though. That attitude comes with problems.

If you're going to go headfirst into business, making money, and dealing with customers, here are the golden rules never to break when you're faking it.

When asked, don't plead the fifth

Here's a temptation I can understand you contemplating. When you're trying to appear professional, lie.

Isn't that what faking it until you make it is? Faking is lying right? 

Well, there's giving an impression that you're more experienced than you are and flat-out lying. We walk a fine line between both. And knowing this line is important.

What is perfectly ok to do when you're starting out is (the right side of the line):

  • Act more confident than what you're feeling on the inside
  • Tell customers, potential customers, and the industry you're more confident than you are
  • Focus on the experience and education you have rather than bring attention to won't you don't have

What you ideally want to avoid doing (the wrong side of the line):

  • Telling people you're more qualified or experienced than you are
  • Not correcting people when they assume you have a qualification that you don't
  • Lying when asked about your qualifications or experience when asked

When dancing around the edge of the line, the easiest way to know if you've crossed is always trust. Have you broken anyone's trust in you? Has anyone felt like they could trust you more than you deserve?

Customer and consumer trust is like an egg. It's incredibly fragile. And it can break with the tiniest of pressure. 

Lying about your experience and education, followed by a customer finding out, will break the eggs. 

And it will smash the trust into a million pieces.

Don't go practicing with people who deserve the finished product

Every customer should get your best, right? No disagreements here. So how does that work when you're starting out and you're not exactly at your best?

Well, there is giving your customer your best considering your lacking experience and education. 

And then there is giving your customer a rubbish experience because they're the first customer you've ever had.

Your customer doesn't deserve to be your business guinea pig. 

They're the ones who deserve the version of you that has the majority of problems ironed out. They don't sign up to be testers. Treating them this way is a breach of that fragile trust I was talking about earlier.

If they're paying you, it's only right for them to expect this, too. But more than that; they have the best word of mouth for your business. Better to get it wrong with someone else than with them.

Speaking of someone else, I wouldn't leave you in the lurch with how to tackle practice before getting started. Here's what I would do before unleashing your business on a paying customer:

  • Rehearse your sales - Write practice emails. Take mock phone calls with your family members. Ask friends to pretend to be a customer and you serve them. Get familiar with this customer relationship before working with a real one.
  • Create practice products - If you design websites, make as many "fake" designs as you can. If you create custom mugs, make as many tester options as possible. If you can afford to, gift these practice products to family and friends who need them. Get them to give you a brief of what they need and let them keep it in exchange for feedback on the product, for example.
  • Process mock sales on your eCommerce store - Set up a tester product and ask a loved one to go through the sales process. Or do the sale yourself, if you're confident the system is straightforward and the process of checking out works. Then, once you've received the mock sale, practice packaging and sending the product. But send the product to yourself, so you can evaluate how it arrives.
  • Test every piece of equipment - From your EFTPOS machine to your stapler, make sure everything works as you need it to. Investigate any repair options should something happen. And prepare backup technology should the need arise, too. Even keeping a reserve of spare batteries is a well-thought-out precaution.

Don't make excuses for not practicing

Most people think faking it until you make it involves not spending any of your time and money on your business. 

No, that's not what the saying means. 

And don't go using this saying as a way of avoiding practicing before unleashing your business on paying customers.

It's a bad excuse to escape taking a necessary step your customer deserves.

And if I'm being frank, if you cared about becoming a true professional, you wouldn't avoid this step.

Don't give away the game

Don't tell the customer they are your first job. 

Or your first sale. 

Or your first anything in business, not until the job is over, at least.

I compare to it seeing a surgeon. And as you're about to close your eyes, they casually mention this is their first time performing surgery.

If you had your choice, you probably wouldn't let them do the surgery on you, right? Even though they're not faking their qualifications.

By admitting how novice you are, you're creating uncertainty with the customer. 

Uncertainty only leads to failure. 

Not because you can't do the job well, but because you put doubt in the customer's mind.

Don't think you've gotten away with it and "quit"

You're new at this and no one has noticed, so you're good, right? No reason to actually gain any experience and education, right?


Whilst your lack of "making it" isn't a bad thing, you still need the goods to back up the talk. 

And you shouldn't quit working towards filling in your gaps despite seemingly surviving without them.

The one big reason why? 

You might be surviving now, but survival only gets you so far in business. 

You want to be thriving, and that comes with making up for the shortfall in your knowledge and experience.

The only way to do this is to truly understand what you don't know. This sounds weird because you don't know what you don't know. 

Yet, every industry has a database somewhere online to help you. You're not without people who've gone before you and can help you identify the gaps.

Now you have the gaps, fill them. 

Whilst doing that, avoid doing any of the following:

  • Taking on any part of the business that you're underqualified to complete - This should be obvious. You can't produce something for a customer you don't know how to do. But more importantly, you will quickly unveil how far behind you are when you do this.
  • Implementing processes and policies you don't know how to execute - If you don't know anything about email marketing, don't start a newsletter. Sure, you can start taking email subscribers, but wait until you know how to market effectively before sending the first blast. Sometimes doing something is worse than doing nothing.
  • Don't become blinded by money - Customers will always try to convince you that you can offer something you don't. They think because you can print slogans on t-shirts, you can do the same for a billboard, for example. And when they're willing to pay you, you're unlikely to see the money when you fail to deliver.

Avoid the curse of underthinking

The longer you have to fake it, the worse everything will become. 

Once you've started your business, you have to move from faking success to having success pretty quickly, before you're caught out.

The only way to achieve this is by buckling down, getting results, and proving you can do this. Now, everyone has their own version of making it, so I'm not going to set the rules on what that is. 

Yet, I can say, you're not going to get there without two things

  • Critical analysis of what's working in your business
  • Critical self-evaluation of what you can do better

How do you truly get the answers to those two things? Overthinking. And a lot of it.

Healthy overthinking isn't the beast people make it out to be. It isn't this crippling way of thinking that stifles your ability to work. 

It actually provokes analysis and self-evaluation. And when we're trying to become better in a hurry, this self-evaluation needs to happen and fast.

Basically, we're trying to avoid underthinking and the lack of growth that comes from underthinking. 

We do this by indulging in healthy overthinking.

Overthinking should help you avoid novice mistakes too. Most entrepreneurs starting out tend to trust their first impulse or gut instincts. In reality, these instincts are usually under-thought-out ideas. 

And they often lead to reckless decision-making. Some healthy overthinking would help avoid making these mistakes.

Here's how to healthily overthink

  • Write down your ideas and let them marinate - Come back to these ideas hours or days later and reevaluate them with a critical eye.
  • Give yourself performance evaluations - With your high standards, self-evaluate whether you're reaching these standards. Then make plans to improve.
  • Pitch your ideas, even to yourself- Pretend you're a board of investors and pitch the idea. What would you say? What questions could you expect? Would they 'buy' into your pitch? This approach will help you regulate impulses. You can't move too fast when you have to pitch first. It's physically impossible.

Here's the big one; the consequences of breaking the rules

You can play by your own rules in your business. You're the boss, and you do you. But you can't say you haven't been warned.

Pretending you're an experienced, seasoned, veteran entrepreneur when you're not will eventually come back to bite you. 

We've all been there. We've all let the hype take over us.

These rules aren't here to stop you from being successful. Quite the opposite. They're here to help you from tripping up over your own naivety, pointing you in the right direction instead flat on your face.

If I could advise anything, approach faking it until you make it with a grain of salt. Don't run away with the idea and forget what you're trying to do.

You're here to get better so you can produce good business for your customers. You're not going to do that if you buy into faking all the time.


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About the Creator

Ellen "Jelly" McRae

I’m here to use my wins and losses in #relationships as your cautionary tale | Writes 1LD; Cautionary tale #romance fiction |

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