Figure it Out Fridays: How To Convince People That You’re Legit

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‘Figure It Out Fridays’ is a new weekly blog series  where you submit your questions and struggles about designing your Uncaged career – and I give you my straight up advice. Because sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to do.


How do you convince people/potential clients that you and your business are just as legitimate (if not more!) than big businesses or corporations?


Oh boy. Oh crap. Ok, I have a lot to say about this one. And I’m going to do my best to boil it all down into the two most important bits.


First of all – you should never have to work that hard to “convince” anyone anything about your business.


If someone needs convincing, you can bet they’re going to be a huge pain in the ass to work with. And why would you want to work with someone who is a huge pain in the ass? You don’t.

I’m not gonna get into the psychology of marketing, but here’s the 101 version: Market to your IDEAL clients, and you’ll never have to do any convincing to anyone, because your clients will be coming to you and banging down your door to work with you, instead of you begging them to hire you.

Ok, now that that’s settled, here’s the other part of the answer:

This question is basically just another way of asking “How can I prove I’m good at what I do?”

I get asked this a lot (especially by people who want to be coaches… Which I posted about on Facebook, and started this  ridiculous odeal), and my answer is always the same:


No one gives a shit what school you went to, how many letters you have behind your name, or what diplomas are hanging on your parents basement walls. What people care about are results.


They want to see the proof in the pudding (what does that even mean? Hold on, Imma Google that shit. Ok, got it. It comes from the phrase “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”, meaning you have to actually eat it to see how good it is. Ok, now that that’s cleared up…)

The proof is in the pudding. In other words, the way to be legit is to actually work with people and get results (and them ask for sweet testimonials to slap up on your website). Get proof of your pudding. That’s the only thing you need to do, and the faster you do it, and start talking about it, and start pimping it out, the sooner you will get recognized as the expert at what you do, which will further this cycle of social proof.

Which is what will make sure that you never had to convince anyone ever again that you’re legit.

And just a note: I’d HIGHLY recommend getting this proof before you go all out with starting your business. It’s a great way to test your ideas, to see how the market responds, and to learn what you like doing and what  you’re good at. Something can sound great on paper, when you actually try it out you might realize you hate it, or worse, that you suck at it.  The easiest way to do this is to create a mini-version of your business and test it out on real people in exchange for feedback. If you want to be a coach, take on two clients and test out your skills. If you want to be a copywriter, find a few entrepreneurs and do their copy for free. You’ll learn heaps more than just sitting back and planning, and you’ll get some sweet proof to show to all the people who still need “convincing”

Lastly, pay attention to where in your business you’re working too hard to please other people, and then cut that shit out right now!

Your turn! Tell me in the comments where it still feels like you need to prove yourself in your business, and we’ll jam on how you can shortcut the process to success!

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Read 7 Comments & Leave Yours

  1. barelylucid5

    I love your blog and always read your posts, but in this case I have to respectfully disagree with some of what you’ve said. As someone who recently hired a life coach, yes I cared about getting results but it also meant a lot to me that she has a degree in her field and quite a bit of counselling experience. I read the testimonials and talked to one of her clients, too, but I knew full well that those clients could be personal friends or family members. So the fact that she had a degree to back her up made me feel more comfortable paying for her services, as pretty much anyone can call themselves a life coach with no training at all. It’s hard to know if you’re going to get results before you start working with someone, so I think credentials puts a person ahead of the pack.
    Also, as a writer, you NEVER give away your work for free! That drastically undervalues you and it does hurt the industry as a whole. I realize you were just using copywriter as an example, and I know it’s hard when you’re just starting out, but there are plenty of small newspapers and smaller businesses who don’t have the money to pay the high salary of someone with a lot of experience. If a copywriter starts small, she can still be paid for her work while gaining experience. Or take advantage of internships. They’re a great way to get more clips, too.

  2. barelylucid5 Thanks for sharing your thoughts (and congrats on your new coach!)
    ! I think the problem with this is that for some people’s businesses, they don’t have a “degree”. Professional organizers? They might have a ton of real work life experience and skills and be really good at what they do, but no degree to back it up. And life coaches especially – there are a lot of shoddy trainings out there, so you have to really do your research if you’re looking for a credentialed coach. And I totally agree – if you want to be a coach, go to coaching school OR come up with your “system” and practice it on real clients !
    And copywriters – maybe someone is self taught or just has a knack for writing, but has no experience and wants to practice within their desired niche – the best way to get practice, tweak their method, and get feedback is to get out there and do it. I don’t think that’s undervaluing your work (and if you feel it is – great, charge something – and that goes for anyone.. new coaches included!! Even better to start collecting money right away! But I know a lot of people don’t feel comfortable charging til they know they can get results… and they need to actually do the work to get results, so they find themselves in a catch 22 – which is when i say take on a few clients for free, get the proof, and then charge). And I totally agree about internships etc etc – all great ways to get social proof that you’re good at what you do!!

  3. Digital_Steve

    barelylucid5  I’m going to respectfully disagree (and agree with the post) by sharing a brief story.  Several years ago I was running a software company who was hiring.  The most impressive person I interviewed had no college degree, and no experience at all in the software business.  However, she was a dynamic you woman who had absolute faith in her ability.  When I told her we couldn’t hire her she offered to work for free to prove her value.  No time limit, she just made the offer.   She worked, for no pay of any kind,  for about six weeks proving her inestimable value before we put her on the payroll.  Within a year she was our single most valuable employee.  Three years later we sold the company and she got 5% of the proceeds, despite owning no stock.  We started another company – guess who our first hire was?    That was several years ago.  The person who ‘undervalued’ her work by working for free now runs her own, extremely successful software company and she’s very well known in her industry.  She still has no college degree – it’s not important to her, to her employees or to her customers.

  4. Digital_Steve barelylucid5 such a cool example! Thanks Steve!

  5. barelylucid5

    Rebecca Tracey  Digital_Steve I should have stressed that the not working for free specifically applies to writers, as people already notoriously undervalue writers’ work and young writers working for free has really hurt the industry. I realize it might be fine in other businesses. In the writing biz, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a paying job and lowers what companies expect to pay writers in general. Even college and university papers are willing to pay a little honorarium for articles.
    It was the specific copywriting example I took issue with, not the suggestion as a whole. In other industries, like yours, it may be a genuine way to break into the business. In mine, it’s a way to get taken for granted.

  6. barelylucid5 Rebecca Tracey Digital_Steve Thanks for sharing your experience! I have seen many writers start off for low cost/free  and flourish. I’m a part of several online business courses filled with new entrepreneurs, and especially copywriters who help entrepreneurs – many of them have been able to build thriving business by honing their skills on beta tests with new clients (pretty standard for most entrepreneurs I’d say). Gotta get writing samples somehow!

  7. barelylucid5

    Rebecca Tracey barelylucid5 Digital_Steve I’ve actually never had a bad experience myself. I was lucky enough to get an internship with the top paper in my province and win some prominent awards while I was still in school, so I’ve been making a good living as a full-time writer for 20 years. I belong to a lot of writers’ associations and forums, and know that writers thinking they have to work for free to have a chance is hurting the industry and leading tons of companies to think they don’t have to pay for writing, or that paying next to nothing is okay. I have no problem with people starting out small…all I said was that writers shouldn’t feel they have to work for free–there are tons of other alternatives.
    Because of the name I’ve built for myself, I’ve had lots of beginners ask me how to break into the industry, and my advice has been to start writing for community papers. They always need writers, it’s great experience, you get to do a little bit of everything, and even though the pay is not great, it’s better than working for free. If you’re going to do it for free, might as well apply for an internship. I started out writing for my college paper, then went to the second biggest paper in the province, then to the biggest, and finally to national and international papers and magazines. I don’t think my experience is that extraordinary. You just have to be willing to work hard and deliver what you promise. Freelance writers who can deliver on deadline are actually quite rare, according to the editors I know. There’s plenty of room for everyone who treats editors with respect and turns in clean copy on time.