I shared some thoughts about this recently on Twitter, and wrote a blog post about this a few years ago, but am posting an updated and cleaned up version here for posterity!
When I first started working for myself (well over a decade ago), I didn't want to meet clients on video, and I hated hopping on the phone with them too. I wanted to do everything by email and/or Basecamp.
It didn't take long of this "hiding behind a screen" behaviour before I realized that this was seriously going to hamper my ability to thrive as a business owner. I knew my social anxiety and fear of being "seen" was holding me back, and I would never get to the level I wanted if I didn't figure out how to build my confidence (both as a human and a business owner).
Some part of my younger self KNEW that this work was necessary, and I was just going to have to figure it out, no matter how awkward the journey felt.
Many people I meet are surprised to learn that this has been a real struggle. They observe (or assume) that I am very comfortable and natural in front of a camera. I have a YouTube Channel. I have done a live webinar every week for over a year. But people only see the past year; they don't really know what it took to get there.
Recently a client mentioned something about me having to get ready for my office hours and I casually brushed it off, "What do you mean? I just have to show up!"
"sure but you have prepare, right?"
"nah, it's the guest that has to prep! I just throw on some makeup!"
And he shook his head and laughed.
And that laughter made me realize just how far I've come with being visible on the internet.
Four years ago, I bought a course about how to run webinars, and it took me three years to gather the courage to just do it.
I still have SO much to learn, but interviewing, facilitating, being on video, running webinars, editing video, putting yourself out there... it's a lot of work, and it is has paid off in so many ways!
It takes so much damn courage to put yourself and your work out there. For some people this seems to come really easily.
For the rest of us, it takes a lot of work. But doing this work is essential if you want your work to create impact. Every Indie creator is also a marketer (whether you want to be or not)!
There's an element of being comfortable talking about your ideas and your products that has to be developed, even if you outsource your marketing.
I want to share some of the lessons I've learned and ways I've worked to overcome my own awkwardness and fear of putting myself out there in case it helps any other creators.
Don't wait to ship YouTube videos until you figure out some editing software. You're going to be way better the 100th time you do something than the first time. Get it out of the way sooner than later.
Also, I see this mistake so often with indie developers: working on your idea in secret for years, not having conversations with real humans to see if they're even interested in your product!
Nobody gets to skip the cringey first 10, 20, 100+ videos. So best to get those crappy first version out there before you have a larger audience.
Accept the cringe-factor, embrace it, and get it over with, learning as you go.
How I worked through these fears
How did I (mostly) overcome my fear of public speaking and being on camera?
It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of time, exploration, and practice. I want to share with you everything that has gone into the process of working through my fear of being on stage/camera:
I ran my first “build your Textpattern website” (haha) workshops from my shared office space in Toronto, with a small group of 8 people. I had never done any formal teaching, but I brought along some friends who needed help getting their websites up and running, and charged a low price. It was a really positive experience, and a chance to practicing teaching other people in a safe environment.
I said yes to anyone who asked me to do a podcast interview. Some are terrible, some are great. You get better every single time. Interviewing well is totally a skill that you can work on.
I did my first ever talk at a tiny conference for women in tech with about 30 people. Again, this was another great chance to speak to people in a really casual, intimate environment without the pressure of large room full of eyeballs.
I accepted any offers to be on a panel, even though my legs and voice would shake. I never waited for it to feel comfortable, because I knew that would never come.
Pro tip: Don’t agree to do virtual events that don’t make sense for your business or message. I wasted a ton of time agreeing to be a guest for events that didn’t really make sense (the audience attendees were never going to be potential customers or super fans, and it just wasn’t an obvious “heck yes” connection).
I have also turned down events when I received really poor or awkward questions that I knew wouldn’t allow me to shine.
~5 years ago I hired Tanya Geisler. Tanya is a masterful coach who specializes in the imposter complex. My work with her was invaluable. This work was what helped me realize that I had some deeper work to do in therapy to get to the root of some very deep fear that was holding me back.
Over the years I've worked with three different speaker/speach coaches for three different talks.
I also had the privilege of being in the pilot group of Shine Bootcamp, an immersive 3-day incubator for womxn in technology, marketing and startup environments who want to share their stories, become respected thought leaders in their industries and, ultimately, secure large-scale professional speaking gigs. This experience was life-changing, and any woman who wants to get into public speaking NEEDS to do this bootcamp!
Speakers and coaches included Joanna Wiebe, Oli Gardner, and Michael Aagard.
The best part about the bootcamp was getting a recording of your talk in order to submit for future speaking opportunities.
I also hired one of the coaches (Michael Aagard) for additional coaching in preparation for a bigger talk. These sessions were invaluable! It was so helpful to get an outside perspective on what makes for a strong angle/story, and talking my concepts out loud was incredibly helpful.
Michael really helped me think through the different elements from Content, Concept, Idea, Structure, and Introduction/Conclusion.
I had a chance to talk through some of my stage fright and hangups around “being seen.” This was immensely helpful work, because a lot of this fear is rooted in childhood trauma.
I made a video every day for 100 days. This was seriously painful and uncomfortable, and definitely made the idea of talking about my ideas less intimidating.
Yes, I actually joined a pillow fight league in Vancouver. I saw them fight at a talent show, and I thought it was one of the coolest and funniest things I’d ever seen. I had to come up with a persona and a wrestling-style intro, and had to fight another woman in a match up at a bar where patrons could bet on winners, with proceeds going to a rape relief shelter.
Marie Slamtoinette won her first match, btw.
I saw a flyer for the "Supernaturally Shy Intro to Acting" in Vancouver, and I signed up immediately. This felt like exactly what I was looking for: build my comfort on stage, with other super awkward shy people (vs acting pros).
Nothing could possibly compare to this experience. This was definitely one of the most personally challenging and rewarding things I’ve EVER done. EVER. This was seriously a life-changing experience for me on so many levels, beyond “speaking experience.”
By the second class we had to spontaneous sing a few verses of a song on stage and I thought I could feel my internal organs shutting down. “Oh so this is what death feels like?”
This class stretched me so far beyond my comfort zone I couldn’t even see it anymore. I did these classes weekly for a year, and I am forever changed, and so grateful to my teacher. This was personal development on steroids.
(A topic for another post…)
The following books have been really helpful in my own learning journey:
Creative Live has some really great courses around storytelling and public speaking. These in particular have been helpful:
I believe courage is a HUGE life and business advantage, so i will keep flexing that muscle, even though it feels awkward. I still have much to learn; I've just learned to stop being so hard on myself in the process.
If I can do it, anyone can do it.
Every now and then when I notice myself brushing off how easy it is to show up and talk to people on the internet, in front of many other people on the internet, I remember how that fear used to hold me back, and how far I've come.