Getting Over Imposter Syndrome

Getting Over Imposter Syndrome

I’ve been looking through the questions that participants in the new Get Nonprofit Clients Coaching Program have submitted to me, and, wow, we are going to have some great conversations!

One that jumped right out at me was, “How do I get over the imposter feeling?”

This person is more than qualified to do a particular kind of work, but because others are already more established at doing it, she fears she has nothing to add.

First of all, even knowing that this feeling has a real name — imposter syndrome — is a great first step. It’s something that anyone with the slightest bit of humility feels at some point in their careers. If you are a perfectionist, you are more likely to struggle with it. Same goes for being a woman, especially a high achieving woman.

Hell, I’ve been at this for going on 20 years, and have written two books, and I still feel it from time to time!

I love the advice in this article:  Afraid Of Being ‘Found Out?’ How To Overcome Impostor Syndrome. It’s a great read.

Let me add a bit to it, from the perspective of working in the nonprofit consulting world.

Show Your Personality in Your Work — It’s Yours and Yours Alone

Your personality and the kinds of relationships you build are infinitely more important to succeeding in the nonprofit sector than your credentials. So what if someone else already wrote an e-book on a topic you want to write one on? Maybe theirs is a total bore to read, or too short, or too long. The unique way that you look at a topic, or the style of writing, or the specific experiences or examples you bring are all more than adequate to set you apart. Let your personality and your own life and work experiences shine through.

Collaborate to Innovate

In the nonprofit world, there is so much room for innovation. The challenges are difficult, and the ground is constantly shifting under everyone’s feet. There’s a real thirst for finding new solutions that will actually work. At the same time, there is a real collaborative spirit in this sector. If you are shaky about whether something is valuable or not, you can usually find someone who is willing to talk it through with you. If you feel like you are strong in one area, but weak in another, collaborate with someone who has the opposite strengths and weaknesses.  You don’t have to go it alone.

Don’t Let Nonprofits Take Advantage of Your Lack of Confidence — or You Will Go Broke

Don’t let your lack of confidence affect how you negotiate your fees. It’s a quick way to end your nonprofit consulting career.  Your fees are most likely at the lower end of the spectrum already anyway since you work for nonprofits. If you are going to undercut yourself even more, you won’t be able to survive. Nonprofits aren’t going to tell you that you are charging too little! There’s always something else they can spend that money on.

What suggestions do you have for dealing with imposter syndrome? Please share in the comments. 





  • Amy Butcher

    Wow, do I know how this feels! I have generally dealt with this feeling by going overboard on adding to my skill set :). One thing to do is know exactly who you’re marketing your services to and find out exactly what your client’s level of knowledge in your area is. I also try to remember that my job is to solve specific problems for specific people, not to know about everything under the sun. And if you’re just starting out in a specific skill, it’s okay to go after the low-hanging, inexpensive fruit to get comfortable, but as soon as you’re comfortable you have to raise your rates, no question. It took me a long time to learn that.

    • Kivi Leroux Miller

      Great advice Amy! Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Margaux O’Malley

    I can identify with this too! To Kivi’s final point about how much you charge for your services, and Amy’s comment about raising rates, I’ll share this story. For years my husband and I were charging below-market rates for web work, and were afraid to raise our prices. He had a day-job, so it wasn’t a huge problem that I wasn’t earning much. But at a point, he was ready to leave his day-job and make this consultancy our family’s only income, so we didn’t have any choice but to try it. I was pleasantly surprised that every single one of our clients was happy to pay more, happy that we finally asked for it, happy that we finally “realized what we were worth.” So, don’t sell yourself short!

    • Kivi Leroux Miller

      Another great story – thanks Margaux!

  • Scott B

    Since you’ve brought up rates, I am curious… How do people charge? Do you charge a set fee for a specific project? If so do you promise a certain amount to be raised? Or do you charge hourly rates, or do you charge a percentage based on what you raise? I imagine it’s different for specific types of fund raising; IE grants, direct mail, etc. Since I have become successful at fund raising more people are asking me to do it on the side and I really like the idea of being my own boss in the future, so this is one of the areas I’m wondering about. Any insight would be appreciated.