Here’s a secret: I wince and cringe when my family tell me they’re going to give my blog a read. Not because I’m ashamed of what I’m sharing on here, or because I wish they didn’t care about what I do (I’m so very grateful that they do!), but because when you really think about it, the nagging voice of self-doubt often sounds like the people who know us best, and it can be terrifying putting ourselves out there knowing that it might change the way they see us. Because I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a photographer, a translator, a business owner… And some days I feel like I can be all these things at once and balance them all confidently and perfectly, while on other days I need to separate them all in neat, tidy boxes so that they don’t overlap because it feels much safer and much more comfortable. I sometimes think that if I could run my business undercover, on a separate part of the Internet where no one I know in real life had a chance of ever finding out about it, I’d feel so much more confident and free. (Anyone else feeling that way?!)

It’s hard taking up space, isn’t it? Whether here, in this small virtual bubble, or out there in the real world, it’s not easy raising our hand and standing up to say “This is me. Here’s what I do. These are the things I love, and the things I care deeply about. This is what I want to be known for. Take it or leave it.” Often we’d much rather make ourselves as small as possible and not make any ripples, because it minimises the risks of being judged, shamed, criticised or misunderstood. And we try to back these feelings up with reasons, too — “I’m not ready” ; “I have nothing to say” ; “no one will care” ; “it feels too narcissistic”.

Yet as small business owners there is so much power in showing up, even imperfectly. Especially imperfectly. Being seen, being heard, not as some pristine, polished, carefully curated version of yourself who knows and can do it all, but authentically, genuinely, so that your audience can get to know the real you. We’re always hearing about how hard it is to stand out, how every market is saturated, how everyone aspires to be a photographer/jewellery maker/singer-songwriter these days, but while this might be true, here’s something else to consider: no one else shares your exact vision, your values, your dreams and your ideas, and no one else can bring value to your customers and your audience in the same way that you do. Just because a whole lot of other people are seemingly doing the same thing as you doesn’t mean that your own work is meaningless, or that no one will relate to it. Only you can create or do the work that you’re being called to do in your own unique way and inspire others.

People buy from people and we shouldn’t feel ashamed of being at the very heart of our brands and businesses. The more your audience gets to see, hear and know you, the more they’ll trust you and want to invest in you. Showing up doesn’t mean standing in the middle of a crowded place and shouting “Look at me! Look at what I do! I’m the best and you should buy from me!”, it means nurturing community and inviting people along on our journeys — because at the end of the day, whether they want to join along or not is entirely up to them.

All you’re doing is being here and sharing what matters to you, what gets you up in the morning, and what value you can bring.

But like I said, being visible can be deeply uncomfortable and leave us feeling vulnerable. We worry that we’ll come across a certain way, that we’ll get judged, that no one will care… The good news is that vulnerability is like a muscle and the more we use it, the stronger it gets — the trick is to simply take that first step, build it up at our own pace, and remind ourselves that there is more to be gained from showing up than from hiding away, hoping people will magically stumble upon us. You don’t have to have it all figured out, and you certainly don’t have to be the best, most successful, most inspiring, most confident version of yourself to start showing up — because who you are right now and what you can already give and share is enough.

So where can you start?

If showing your face feels too scary for the time being, try showing up through words instead, perhaps by blogging, or simply through a caption on Instagram. Tell your followers why you started your business and why it means so much to you, something you’ve been working on, or even a roadblock that you’ve faced and recently overcome that might inspire others. It doesn’t have to be 3 pages long, it doesn’t have to be Shakespeare-worthy… it only has to be genuine and sound like you.

Or you could show your space and your process. Perhaps you’ve got a dedicated workshop where you create ceramic pieces, or you’ve been making jewellery in your bedroom, or you’re running your coaching business from a tiny corner in your living room… Whether you sell products or services, people love to see behind the scenes because they get to see glimpses of the human beings behind the brands. I always find it so inspiring to see where people run their business from and what their day to day looks like!

And once you’ve found your voice and become more comfortable with being at the front of your business, maybe you’ll start thinking about getting some professional branding photography done so you have images that enhance your story and reinforce your brand. Images that feel like you, that will show your personality, your values and your creativity, and inspire and engage your audience.

It’s all about taking that first step.