June 14, 2012, 6:01 am

What If I Feel Like a Charlatan?

by: MD    Category: Alternative Income
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I was chatting with one of the readers that purchased a copy of Start Freelancing Now and we got to an interesting point in the discussion. This reader asked me about dealing with the fear of being seen as a “scam-like, scummy, or even shady salesperson.” This is a common fear for all new freelancers. How do you sell something without coming off as a shady person?

Do you feel like a charlatan? Do you want to promote your services without looking like a “typical salesperson?”

First off, what’s a charlatan? According to dictionary.com:

A person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses.

According to Wikipedia:

A charlatan is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception.

Do you ever feel like a charlatan? The problem with trying to make money, freelancing, or any form of promotion, is that you can doubt yourself. It’s easy to come up with excuses in your head. Maybe I don’t have enough accounting knowledge? Maybe I can’t sell anything? And the list goes on.

“Going out of your way to find uncomfortable situations isn’t natural, but it’s essential.” — Seth Godin

The best way to not feel like a charlatan is to simply not be one. Don’t promote crap and don’t take shortcuts. Don’t chase after the quick money. Be willing to be helpful and useful. Solve real problems.

Paying for a service and getting paid to perform a service should be mutually beneficial. If you work as a personal trainer and you help someone get in shape, you both benefit. You get paid and build your client base. The client gets in shape and sees quicker results than ever before.

Selling stuff isn’t a scam. Marketing yourself doesn’t make you a con artist. I’ve battled with this myself. I used to hate self-promotion because I prefer to listen to others and to learn from others. However, I’ve now realized that you need to learn how to sell yourself if you want to get ahead at all in life. You need to sell/promote yourself to potential partners, at job interviews, and in everyday life. If you don’t learn how to promote yourself, you’ll have a difficult time getting ahead in my opinion.

If you ever feel bad about taking money from someone, then just think about this, a few important questions to ask yourself:

  • How am I helping this person? You should be able to think of specific help that you’re providing.
  • What results will they get? There needs to be tangible results for the work that you do. When specific results are achieved, you got yourself a great service.

If you can’t think of an answer then you shouldn’t be promoting anything. If you think of at least three responses, then you’re clearly being helpful.

Where am I going with all of this? Don’t worry about being a charlatan or about your lack of marketing skills. Just start working on something. Get some sort of a service out to the market. Learn as you go. This is exactly how I started in all of this sort of work (blogging or whatever you want to call it). I was sitting at home feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t have a shift and my buddies were at work. Instead of making excuses I found a tutorial and launched Studenomics. This was the best decision that I ever made. I stopped chasing perfection and decided to learn on the job. When you do good things you don’t have to worry about being a charlatan.

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If you’re in a niche where consumers view most salespeople as charlatans, you just have to deal with it. That does not mean one needs to be a charlatan to compete. Those of us in life insurance get to look down on those horrible car salespeople 🙂 yet there are still some excellent car salespeople – people who make a commission not from selling cars, but instead from assisting consumers in finding the right car.

Being in life insurance I certainly see some of this. I don’t worry about it because frankly, it’s not what I do. I simply educate my clients and make a recommendation, I don’t need to ‘sell’ anything. In fact, this approach I believe makes my clients all the happier.

This site is a good example. The owner isn’t just flogging product, they are honest to goodness sharing information with others on how to market products online. You get to chose if you use that information to help consumers buy product, or act like a charlatan. It’s not automatic just because you’re in a particular industry.