We’ve talked a bit before about how resistance can pop up and try to derail you whenever you’re moving out of your comfort zone.
(Actually, more than a bit: we’ve talked about it as one of the sneaky distractions that will block your copywriting career progress, how “I can’t” is a phrase you need to watch out for, why you need to add The War of Art to your reading list, and what to do when you feel inadequate. If you can’t tell, resistance is an important topic!)
Today we’re going to dive into another of resistance’s most common tactics: Imposter Syndrome.
If the term is new to you, Imposter Syndrome is that feeling of “who am I to do this?” or “I don’t know what I’m doing—and they’re going to find out!”
It’s the fear that no matter how much you’ve learned and how much you’ve practiced, people are going to call you out as being ill-equipped, inexpert, or insufficient in some way. An imposter.
If you’ve felt this way, you’re in good company: research estimates show that more than 70% of people will experience this at least once in their lifetime.
Let’s dig in to how to identify Imposter Syndrome as a copywriter and what you can do to work through it.
Copywriter Imposter Syndrome vs. Inability
One of the keys to Imposter Syndrome is that you do actually know what you’re doing, even if you haven’t yet attained expert status. It doesn’t come into play if say, someone truly doesn’t know how to write copy but is calling themselves a copywriter—that person IS an imposter.
But when you’ve learned, you’ve practiced, and you’ve begun honing your skills—you’ve begun the process of learning and mastery—but you fear that you don’t know enough or that, fundamentally, you are not enough…that’s Imposter Syndrome.
Believe me, it’s completely natural to be nervous when you’re talking to new and potential clients. You want to do your best work and you want them to be thrilled, right?
But it’s a totally different thing to convince yourself that you’re not good enough or not smart enough or that you don’t know enough in advance of even doing any work on the project.
You don’t actually KNOW that you’re going to trip up or that your client is going to be displeased. The project hasn’t HAPPENED yet, so how could you know? Imposter Syndrome is your resistance, the part of your mind that wants to keep you small and in your comfort zone making up a STORY about a future outcome.
And the truth is that even master copywriters can’t anticipate every possible question or concern that a client will have. None of us are mind-readers.
If you have trained and practiced your copywriting skills, you have a very valuable service to offer to potential clients, plain and simple. Unless you’re writing for a copywriter, it is very, very likely that you know much more about copywriting than they ever will. You may not feel like an expert, but at the very least, compared to their lack of knowledge about it, you are.
How to Deal with Copywriter Imposter Syndrome
Okay, so we’re clear that Imposter Syndrome isn’t real, right? The feeling is real—fear always feels real—but the actual circumstances are all just stories made up by your limiting mind.
So…what do you do about it? How do you get past Imposter Syndrome?
Well, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that there is a very simple, straightforward way to get past it, every single time.
The bad news is that it requires facing that feeling, not running from it. (Darn. You were hoping there was a pill, weren’t you? 🙂 ) The very simple fact of the matter is that you don’t overcome Imposter Syndrome before you talk to a client and do the work, you overcome Imposter Syndrome BY talking to a client and doing the work.
This is a very important concept, so I need to make sure you understand it. If you wait for yourself to FEEL ready or FEEL like a master or FEEL confident, you will literally be waiting forever because those feelings don’t just show up on their own. They show up as byproducts of taking the uncomfortable, maybe even kind of scary, action.
You have to identify that resistance and that Imposter Syndrome, let yourself feel that fear, and then take the action ANYWAY.
Or, simply, the title of a profound book says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
The fear is going to be there. Thinking about it more and wallowing in it is not going to make it disappear. The only thing that’s going to make it disappear is taking the action you’re afraid of taking.
The only way to overcome Imposter Syndrome is to talk with your client, do the work, and prove to yourself that you’re not.
Overcoming the Constant “What Ifs”
It’s all too easy for us to come up with “what ifs.” There’s a “what if” for every possible scenario, as wild as they may become.
As copywriters, there are a few common ones that pop up that we want to address right now.
“But what if a client asks me a question that I don’t know how to answer?”
They very well might! Just say, “That’s a great question—let me think about that for a bit. I’ll get back to you by [time].”
“But what if a client wants to make changes to the copy I’ve given them?”
That’s very likely going to happen—it’s the nature of a collaborative process! Find out the reasoning behind the changes, make sure you fully understand it, and make your revisions.
“But what if I don’t understand what a client wants or the changes they want to make?”
That happens sometimes. Just ask them questions and talk with them until you DO completely understand it. Sometimes it’s not you who’s unclear—it’s the client using the wrong terms or not really understanding what they’re asking for.
“But what if a client hates me? What if a client tells me I’m stupid? Or tells me I’m a fraud? Or says I have no right to say I’m a copywriter?”
I know these are what you’re secretly thinking…but you know none of these are actually going to happen, right?
The only way to overcome Imposter Syndrome is to do the work, do it to the best of your ability, and keep improving your skills as a copywriter. (Coincidentally, those are the same steps to take to build a successful professional career.)
If you’re feeling Imposter Syndrome, you’re not the only one. But if you give in to Imposter Syndrome—if you let it keep you from taking action and building your career—you’re standing in the way of your own success. Treat yourself better than that and do the scary thing anyway.
Hear Nicki and Kate share more tips for taking action in the moments you feel frozen and stuck.
Your turn! Has Imposter Syndrome ever come up for you? How did you handle it? Or how do you WISH you’d handled it? Let me know in the comments below.
Last Updated on November 2, 2022