How to overcome small fish syndrome
What is small fish syndrome?
Small fish syndrome is the tendency to undervalue your own work. It comes from the phrase “being a small fish in a big pond” when the ideal situation is to be a “big fish in a small pond”. It results in:
- Avoiding marketing to bigger businesses with the false assumption that they do not contract with the self-employed
- Aiming for clients and customers with small budgets
- Reducing prices to accommodate small budgets
- Over-delivering in order to justify your price, therefore, reducing your margin
- Offering more and more products and services in an attempt to drive more revenue
- Failing to ask your network of business professionals for introductions to corporates.
- Sticking in your comfort zone
The result of this is that small fish syndrome not only undermines your confidence but also your wallet.
Let's look at this in more detail…..
As self-employment rises, so the number of people who work on their own increases. Much has been written about imposter syndrome in the press in the past year. Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you are ‘not good enough'. It's a crippling state for any business owner and means you are always looking over your shoulder at the competition and feeling ill-equipped to tackle new projects despite having the skills.
Acknowledging the need for taking care of our mental as well as our physical wellbeing is not only the province of corporate life but also the homepreneur.
Small fish syndrome is the effect that being a ‘small fish in a big pond' has on your business life. Whether you are a consultant, coach, therapist, caterer, artist or writer, isolation can play tricks with your mind and affect your ability to make commercially sensible decisions. Don't get me wrong, I am totally dedicated to my working from home lifestyle; if affords me both control and flexibility. Control over the type of work I do and also the flexibility to work when and where I fancy.
Having consulted with many solopreneurs over the past decade, I know that there is a tendency to suffer from small fish syndrome which results in downplaying the value of the work you do.
Many homepreneurs build their businesses by networking with other like-minded people. It's a great way to overcome isolation, to learn new skills and to gain customers. If your ambition is to grow your business, it's advisable to seek out connections with companies with sizable budgets. Whilst other business owners are going to make a quick decision whether to purchase your product or service (unlike most SMEs) there will be less opportunity for large contracts. This doesn't mean you shouldn't go to local networking events – but what it does mean is that you need to make it crystal clear who your ideal customer is as the other members may have contacts who fit your avatar exactly.
For example, an accountant will have many clients with businesses of all sizes. Can you have a one-to-one meeting to see who they know amongst their client base who might need your service? As they say, it's not the people in the room you are marketing to, but the people they know.
Another example, is using LinkedIn to search for the right people in the right companies. It takes skill to use the platform effectively by sending the right sequence of messages to individuals on LinkedIn, but the platform is perfect for business to business lead generation.
What is the solution?
- Return to your ‘why' and look at who you set out to serve. If your recent clients are not matching that customer avatar, it's time to reevaluate your approaches to marketing.
- Set in place changes which position your business towards the ‘bigger fish.' This might mean leaving one networking organisation and seeking out one where the membership better reflects your target audience.
- You might find a coaching session useful for a boost of ideas, confidence and motivation.
- Being a member of an accountability group which meets either face-to-face or online can go a long way to supporting you through difficult times.
- We are greatly influenced by the people we mix with regularly. Examine whether your closest relationships are serving you well. I'm not suggesting you cut off ties with your friends, but may be simply reflecting on who you turn to for advice in your hour of need may well give you permission to seek out different relationships.
- Set yourself a simple challenge. This doesn't have to be business related but once accomplished you'll know that you have the facility to overcome adversity. Once one challenge is completed up the stakes and set a more difficult goal.
Making changes is hard but with persistence and support, even those entrenched habits can be turned around and you'll be swimming with the big fish!