Standing Alone

Ranee Parker blog

I’m often approached by people who tell me how frustrated they are with their websites, that they’re struggling to update or maintain a site that was created by someone else. For the most part, they come to me with WordPress websites, asking me to help them fix whatever issues they can’t sort out themselves. When this first started happening, I seriously considered these requests for help because I felt like I shouldn’t turn down any business. But I quickly realized that was not the best way to serve my clients.

To be clear, I really do want to help anyone who hates their website or who doesn’t know how to maintain it. But I believe it’s more important to properly organize the cupboard than it is to shove everything in it haphazardly, quickly slam the door closed, and hope for the best.

Since I started my web design business, I’ve been watching how my fellow badass lady bosses reach their audience of potential clients. When we enter into this realm of entrepreneurs and solopreneurs, there can be a ton of pressure to do things in a certain way. And some of us occasionally get caught up in following the pack of those who have gone before us in hopes that it will create the same level of success.

I love watching other women kick ass in the online world (sorry men, nothing against your success, but we’ve been celebrating you for centuries and it’s time for us females to shine our light). These women have their system of using social media to promote their businesses and they have (seemingly) perfected the balance of sharing their business and personal life and I think, Wow! That is so incredible! Good for them!

But it’s not me.

Some mornings I wake up with a strong sense of wanting to be like that group of women who are kicking ass in the social media game, showing up every day and entertaining me with their antics. But, after trying to get through a list of things I think I should do to be more like them, I eventually remember that following the crowd has never been my path of choice.

I grew up in an extremely religious area that, at least at the time, didn’t take too kindly to people being other. Anything seen by the community as different, anything they didn’t understand, was considered wrong. And, maybe because of growing up in that space, I’ve never liked feeling as though I had to be the same if I wanted to be seen or heard.

Recently, my sister gifted me a book about the benefits of releasing ourselves from competition and instead running a business unapologetically different. And for the first time since I started this solopreneur journey, I felt understood. Finally, someone else was questioning that if what works for others doesn’t feel right for us, is it really serving our potential client base to put our energy into it?

So how do we avoid feeling stuck in the crowd and embrace our different selves in a way that still allows us to feel successful?

Maybe we start by ignoring the shoulds and focus on what makes sense for us, even if it doesn’t yield immediate results. For example, some days I try to come up with a funny, interesting, or relevant topic for an Instagram story because I feel like I should be posting Instagram stories. I mean, all those other female entrepreneurs do it and they make it look so effortless so it should be easy, right? But, every time I do this I end up feeling frustrated until I finally move on to doing something that is a better fit for me. Like writing this blog about why I feel I should be recording Instagram stories rather than doing something that lights me up.

And, in those moments of clarity, I remember that being myself is more important than getting caught up in what I think I should be doing.

The truth is, I tend to get stuck on things like that because I don’t really know how to sell my business to strangers. But I do know the difference between being real and pretending to be something I’m not. And, as I recognize that creating Instagram stories on the daily does not fit with who I am at the moment, I also won’t sacrifice my integrity as a designer by taking someone’s money to keep a cupboard door closed when I know I could sell them stackable containers that fit neatly into the space they have.

In other words, I won’t help with a website that is already broken, but I’ll happily discuss redesigning a new website, which has more flexibility, just as much functionality, and is easier for even my most non-techie clients to maintain.

It really just boils down to wanting to be the best version of myself for my clients, even if that means being different. And also that I won’t take your money to keep a cupboard door closed when we both know you’re going to need to open that door again at some point.

We all have a choice when it comes to those shoulds, whether it’s in business or our personal life: we can fall into the herd and try to be something we’re not, or we can stand alone for a while.

Because, the truth is, though it’s not always easy to stand on our own, as soon as we give up the shoulds and embrace what works best for us, the right people will join us. And then we’re no longer standing alone.