‘Authentic’ is a much misused and maligned word. There are books and endless articles, marketing courses and workshops all around how to be ‘authentic.’ It’s a word that’s become so overused that many coaches I talk to don’t even want to mention it in their messaging anymore. And it’s hardly surprising.

There are courses, articles, tutorials and retreats – all designed to help you be more ‘authentic.’ But whilst I know that at times we can all do with a bit of help peeling away the layers of societal expectations, if you need a course to tell you how to be authentic – you’re probably doing it wrong!

When it comes to trying to be authentic, I think we’re massively overcomplicating things.

In its simplest terms, Authentic just means being real, congruent and …you.

The secret therefore to authentic marketing, leadership, coaching and business is essentially this: stop trying to be something or someone else. Drop the veneer and let your personality, beliefs, values and opinions shine through.

I say this with absolutely no judgement here. I have been on those courses and read those books too. I’ve had several versions of my website and in the beginning I was the blandest of bland – safe, and vanilla and barely anything of my personality on there.

I’d come from a corporate world where individual personalities weren’t encouraged – it was about projecting the corporate brand. But as an independent, solopreneurial coach, YOU are your brand – and I promise, the more ‘you’ is projected outwards in your marketing efforts, more responses you will get from potential clients that are attracted to your brand of coaching.

I know this is scary.

Lets face it, the thing that stops so many of us from putting our real, ‘authentic’ selves out there is fear:

  • Fear of losing potential clients.
  • Fear of judgement.
  • Fear of ridicule, of being called out and criticised.
  • Fear that our family and friends will realise we were really serious when we said we were going to become life coaches.
  • Fear that our old colleagues will discover sides of us that were previously hidden behind the mask of ‘professionalism’.

Night sweating, palm tingling fear.

I get it, I really do – marketing your coaching practice relies on marketing you. It’s not like you’re selling washing powder or printer cartridges – you’re selling yourself and your skills. You’re selling your time and your own particular brand of coaching. It can, in the words of one coach I spoke to, leave you feeling ‘butt naked for the entire world to see.’

Only an out and out exhibitionist would enjoy that feeling!

But in this crowded marketplace, in this world where it can sometimes feel like every woman and her cat are calling themselves a coach, it can be hard to be heard above the noise.

And your perfect clients are waiting to find their perfect coach – you. In order to know that you are that perfect fit for them, you have to take a stand and show just who you are.

An Exercise To Help

You don’t need to put it ALL out there (if you wouldn’t share a piece of information about yourself with someone you’ve just met at a party then don’t share it online is always a good rule of thumb to follow!) but you do need to have enough of your personality, voice, core values and beliefs on display to let your ideal clients know that they have found someone they can relate to and trust.

Here’s a simple exercise to get you started: Choose 5 of your close friends and adoring clients (you know, the one’s who simply loved working with you and lit you up inside.)

Send them an email (or have a chat with them) and ask them the following questions:

  • What 5 adjectives sum me up?
  • What are my greatest strengths?
  • What are my quirks?
  • How would you describe me to someone else?

When you get the answers back, have a good look at your website, business card and any other aspects of your business that can roughly come under ‘branding.’
Are those strengths, adjectives and quirks reflected in them? If not, how can you start to integrate them?

For example, when I did this exercise a while ago, one of the things my friends and clients kept saying was how playful I am when I’m working. But my bland website was so bloody serious! When I started to let some of that playfulness shine through I found that creating content became a hell of a lot easier; I felt more in the ‘flow’ and was able to have a lot more fun in the process.

An added bonus was that people started resonating with me much more. They knew what they were getting. Were some people turned off by my occasional bad joke and dropping of the f-bomb? Without a doubt. But they were people who would have hated working with me anyway and wouldn’t have been a good client fit in the first place.

But those who did want to work with me were already sold on who I was – there was less time spend telling them about my background and building rapport and much more focus on them as a client and how I could help them.

The idea of ‘being authentic’ comes from a good place. But a lot of the advice out there gets it backward – it becomes about adding things – almost like putting on a ill fitting suit.

Instead, being real is about revealing parts of yourself … oh, we’re back to the naked thing!
Jo Casey is a trainer, coach and the creator of The Work Happy Podcast. She works with aspiring and emerging coaches to help them find more joy, confidence and impact in their work. She’s written for MindBodyGreen, Tiny Buddha, Brazen Life, Dumb Little Man and Finer Minds. You can find her at www.jocasey.com and sign up for signature programme The Map Of You where you’ll discover the meeting point between your unique strengths, passions and talents, and how you really make a difference in the world. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+

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