What I learnt this week… dealing with an identity crisis

Following on from last week’s weekly roundup where I talked about burnout, this week, I’m going to focus on travelling and dealing with an identity crisis.

Before I start, I want to add a short disclaimer:

You might have noticed that some of my recent weekly roundups are missing the ‘aha’ moment and the ‘this is what I learnt’ moment. I’ve realised that we don’t always find the conclusion we’ve been looking for in both life and business.

Sometimes, the ‘lesson learnt’ is still out there waiting to be discovered and that’s absolutely okay [repeat to myself 100 times].

I started writing these roundups to take you on the journey with me. That means that I need to share things the way they are right now, in the moment, even if it means not knowing the answer, the conclusion, the lesson learnt…

Moving forward and staying still

Wow, what an exciting and eventful week!

It’s been over three weeks since I returned from my last trip. Even though I’ve been looking forward to some ‘quiet and productive’ time, after two weeks in one place, I slowly started losing motivation and focus.

I know that it must sound ridiculous, but I’ve got so used to constantly being on the go, moving and travelling somewhere new that being in Cambridge for a few weeks felt like an eternity. It’s not that I don’t like Cambridge, I love living here, I love the community, I love the vibe of the place and I love the entrepreneurial energy in this city. But at the same time, I love travelling and exploring new places.

Until now, I hadn’t realised how dependent I am on going away and having new experiences while travelling – meeting new people, seeing new places, experiencing new things.

I’ll let you into a little secret – I’m an introvert

Travelling is my biggest passion, the reason, in fact, why I wanted to run my own business and my biggest source of inspiration. My life and work are usually built around my travels and that keeps me pretty busy. Aside from travelling, I don’t have many hobbies. Actually, the few hobbies I do have don’t require other people, which occasionally makes me feel lonely.

There’s a reason for that: I’m an introvert and I like being on my own or with just a small group of close friends. But since I started running my own business, I’ve realised that I need to be a lot more social. Now, I go to regular networking events, catch up with colleagues at my co-working office, chat with my business buddies and so on.

On the other side, I need plenty of time to recharge my batteries and renew my ‘sociable’ side. This usually requires time alone with a book/podcast, running or doing yoga and travelling.

Can you see the problem?

I spend way too much time ‘socialising’ with business people for work purposes and then I don’t have enough mental capacity to socialise with people just for fun. I’ve realised that in general, I’m struggling to prioritise fun and leisure over work and hustle.

Meeting some amazing social media experts and entrepreneurs

However, sometimes it’s really worth putting all my ‘social capital’ and available networking headspace into building work relationships.

This week, I went up to Newcastle for #NewcastleStartupWeek and on my way back I stopped in Wolverhampton for Freelance Heroes Day (#FHday2018). It was a really exciting week and I had the pleasure of meeting some of my favourite social media influencers, inspiring entrepreneurs and fellow freelancers.

At #NewcastleStartupWeek, I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing Brian Fanzo speak in person (after years of watching his videos, Instagram Stories and listening to his podcasts). If you’ve followed me on social media for a while, you might have noticed that I’m a huge fan of Brian. I love his content, his style, his message, but mostly his open, honest and authentic approach. It was amazing to meet him in person, have a nice chat with him, get some hugs and take lots of selfies!

While in Newcastle, I also managed to meet Andrew and Pete again and I was genuinely humbled by their friendship and support. Since I met them for the first time last year, we’ve been regularly chatting on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and it was really nice to catch up with them in real life. Plus I had a chance to explore Newcastle, a home to many creative entrepreneurs and innovative startups!


Later that week, I went to Freelance Heroes Days – an inaugural meetup for freelancers from all over the UK. The main purpose of this event was to bring fellow freelancers together – to enable people who know each other well through the Freelance Heroes groups to meet in person – and to learn something new at the same time.

All over again I was reminded not only about the power of social media for building relationships, friendships and connections, but also the importance of real-life meetings.

Be yourself… but how do you know who you are?

I often say that freelancers and small business owners need to be authentic. To build a successful brand you need to be yourself, as everyone else is already taken and only you can be the best version of you that’s out there.

I’m not afraid to show people my real and unpolished self… I’m not afraid to talk about my strengths and weaknesses, about my struggles in life and business, about my failures and learnings. But is it enough?

Lately, I’ve been questioning my own identity. Who am I, what makes me different, but mostly what makes me stand out from the crowd and connect with people?

As mentioned above (and in my previous roundup), my life revolves mostly around my business. I don’t have any exciting hobbies to talk about, neither do I have plenty of friends who would supply me with engaging stories.

That means that while networking (or just simply chatting with people), I’m struggling to find interesting topics to talk about other than what I do and the industry I’m in. Recently, I’ve been struggling to connect with people, to come up with interesting questions to ask and have engaging stories to share.

Sometimes, it feels that I’m completely lacking personality and I’m even boring myself. So why should anyone else listen to me and be interested to hear what I have to say?

What’s my brand?

This ‘identity crisis’ has also reflected in a crisis of my ‘personal brand’.

For a while now, I’ve been trying to find my USP. I’ve been searching for something that would help me stand out from the crowd and that could be my unique stamp. I’ve always been focusing on doing my thing and following my truth, but recently my route started to be a bit blurred and I was struggling to see who I am and what makes me special (not different, as each and every one of us are different, but what makes me and my business unique).

I was one of the panellists at the Social Media Forum at Freelance Heroes Days, where each of us delivered a short talk about social media and then we took questions from the audience.

And that’s when I figured it out!

One of the questions for the panellists of the Social Media Forum at #FHday2018 was about social advertising – using Facebook ads to grow the business and achieve goals. Even though I understand the power of social ads, and I’m recommending my clients to utilise them in their social media strategy, organic growth, focus on great content and even better conversation is my main focus. And it feels like I’m the only one who doesn’t believe that you need to ‘pay to play’ on social media.

Yes, you can achieve your goals faster and maybe even grow bigger, but without a strong brand, strong personality and a long-term vision, you will need to keep spending more and more money to sustain your growth. If you focus on building a strong core and a loyal base of fans first, the future of your business will be more stable and you’ll be able to grow faster and higher with less efforts.

I’m not saying don’t use Facebook Ads. You definitely should have a budget for social advertising. My point is that if your content sucks, if your brand and personality sucks, then no amount of ads budget will save you! If you don’t understand how social media works on the basic, organic level, if you don’t have any idea how to build relationships and a community around your business, then there’s no point in spending money on ads as you’ll be wasting both your money and your time.

The bottom line is that you can’t buy social media success purely through ads. Actually, that’s not true because you can get your posts and pages in front of people with an ad budget, but you’re not going to create the deep and meaningful relationships that drive sales long term.


Podcast Corner

This week, I’ve been listening to Seth Godin’s podcast Akimbo (what a cool weird name, hey?!) and episode 12 called Freelancers and Professionals really resonated with me.

Seth talks about about the differences between being an entrepreneur and a freelancer, as well as the importance of niching. In his own words, he recommends freelancers to become a category of one (go really niche and focus on offering a really specific service).

My favourite quote from this podcast must be:

‘Get better clients. Start removing from your list the difficult clients, the clients that don’t pay on time, the clients who push you to do mediocre work and incrementally replace them with clients who want better, who are happy to pay for better, who trust you enough to do better – something will happen!’

Have you ever experienced an identity crisis? If so, how did you cope and what did you do to push through it? I’d love to hear about your experiences…