Working for yourself isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be so complicated.

Websites and email lists and funnels and marketing and blah, blah, blah. These things are all important and have their place; they just aren't the things you should be stressing about when you're first getting started.

As I shared last week, I've been a consultant for the past 15 years alongside my career as an attorney, researcher, and writer. With the exception of my very first client, all of my work has come from referrals and I don't even have a website for my consulting work.

Working for yourself isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be so complicated.

I've distilled the essential things you need to do to land your first client down to one list. Enter your name and email below to download the Own Your Expertise Cheat Sheet.

The Beyoncé of Things

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Last week something happened that proves a principle I'm constantly hammering home when I work with aspiring women entrepreneurs.

As you may know, in addition to teaching business skills, I have a consulting practice of my own advising companies on project rollouts and collaborating with thought leaders to write books, research studies, reports, case studies, etc.

So, I don’t just teach this, I live this.

I recently started the first of two projects for a client that will span the next 18 months.

This now means I’m booked out for the next year and a half.

And I don’t have a website for my consulting practice.

Or a business card.

Or a business name that I’m happy with.

And I don't market my consulting services on social media.

Every consulting client that I have gotten over the past 15 years has been through a referral from a former colleague or client.

Here’s how things have worked for me: I’ve shown up. I’ve done my work. People have presumably appreciated what I've brought to the table and have enjoyed working with me. Then the next time they or a friend are working on a project that could use my skills, they think of me.

That, my friends, is the big bold marketing strategy I have for my own consulting business.

Which brings me to a point I want to make about Beyoncé (I mean, isn't she always the point?).

#BeyChella wasn’t just a display of performance genius, it was the inevitable fruit of a woman and a team that have put in the work.

Let's talk about that part.

Aspiring entrepreneurs get more than enough advice on branding, websites, etc. that often leave them feeling like they're less than because they don't have a fancy storefront yet.

Are these things important? Yes, at a certain point (hint: not when you’re first starting). Are they essential? No. Because if you don’t have the substance to back all of that up, your on stage performance will fall short.

You're doing the work. You've developed mastery in your area of expertise. Keep pushing, showing up and serving, and then reinvest in your business with all of the fancy branding when you're ready. Or don't.

Here’s my mantra, and feel free to make it yours: Mastery first. Marketing second.

This isn’t about creating 15 minutes of business fame or just looking the part. It’s about building and launching a sustainable venture that can support you and speak for you for years to come.

Your work is your brand. Your reputation and relationships are your currency.

Your website? Your business cards? Your lead magnets? Those are all tools. And they’re meaningless without a solid foundation of you putting in the work.

So look at your work for a second today and think, how can I be the Beyoncé of things?

Then slay.


 
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Hi, I'm Titilayo Tinubu Ali, Creator of Own Your Expertise, an online education company that helps women of color rise into leadership and entrepreneurship. Get started with my free cheat sheet for landing your first client.

 

You did that. A reminder when you forget how great you are.

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When I work with women who want to transition out of their successful careers into self-employment, there's a common theme that I often hear: I’ve done the most, yet I feel like I’m not enough.

Despite all of the external evidence of their badassery and despite having checked all of the boxes, their voices shake when they think about flying solo and common doubts and fears persist...

Can I make it?

Am I expert enough?

Will I still be able to pay off my student loans?

What if I fail?

Here are two things I want them (and you) to know.

One.

It’s perfectly normal to feel this dichotomy. Indeed, it’s a thing (hey, Imposter Complex). I can’t tell you the resistance or the fears will die down, but I can say that with practice you can get better at doing things while you're scared.

Two.

In spite of these valid fears, I want you to rest in this gentle reminder: YOU. DID. THAT.

Lay down the striving for one second and look around to see what you've built.

You’ve walked across several graduation stages. Your magic has spun promotions and job opportunities where they didn’t exist. You’ve paid down (at least some) of your student loans. And you’ve stayed grounded and generous helping other women all along the way.

You did that.

Now, you may not be entirely happy with where you are now, and that’s OK. But don’t discount the strength, wisdom, and expertise that you’ve accrued on your path just because you climbed a ladder that was up against the wrong wall. You have permission to want more. You have permission to want less. You have permission to evolve.

And you are more equipped to thrive on your own because of how you’ve shown up for others. You’ve treated your work with excellence, care and attention as if you were the boss. And that’s because you are a BOSS.

Accept it. Appreciate it. Applaud it. And know that with the right skills, mentorship and community of other sisters on the same path, you can build something for yourself.

But for now, take a pause. Reflect on all that you’ve done, and say, yeah, I did that.


 
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Hi, I'm Titilayo Tinubu Ali, Creator of Own Your Expertise, an online education company that helps women of color rise into leadership and entrepreneurship. Get started with my free cheat sheet for landing your first client.

 

It's OK to Want More

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This morning, a post from Kate Northrup landed in my inbox, and she was writing about how desire and gratitude are not mutually exclusive.

It reminded me of a common roadblock that I often see women come up against when they are considering stepping out on their own. They often wrestle with thoughts like, “So many people don’t have jobs, shouldn’t I just be grateful for what I have? Am I greedy to want more...more time? more money? more freedom? more flexibility? Isn’t this good enough?”

Truthfully, you are the only one who can answer these questions for yourself.

But I'm here to tell you that if you’re asking these questions, then your inner knowing is very likely calling you to something greater.

In a recent Facebook post, I talked about how it’s OK to want more. It’s OK to want less. You have permission to evolve.

But many of us worry about what this evolution might mean—for our bosses, our romantic partners, our families, our bank accounts, our friendships, established power dynamics, and, and, and.

All of these things are very real fears.

Change is always threatening.

If nothing else, it threatens the status quo and leaves you and everyone else trying to figure out where you and they fit into the new paradigm.

Change occurs when there’s a shift in your worldview and it almost always disrupts the views others have of you.

If you dare to want more and actually go after it, others may think you're not staying in your place. You may challenge others’ sense of dominance. You may rattle someone’s sense of security.

I’m not here to tell you that morphing into the next level of you will be easy. I’m here to say that in spite of the risks and real fears, it’s your only choice if you ever want to quiet that nagging voice inside of you that wants more.

The reality of our work world is that even in the best dream job scenario, women especially are forced to choose between nourishing themselves and growing their careers. And most of us are the kinds of women who don’t just show up at work—we crush it and do so making a fraction of the salary that our less qualified counterparts earn, and our health, relationships and well-being suffer because of it.

This is why I’m so passionate about helping you own your expertise.

It’s not just about work.

Owning your expertise is personal. Conquering self-doubt and getting comfortable with communicating your skills to clients has a spillover effect on your relationships, health and finances. Knowing your worth and unapologetically showing up starts with your career, and then it becomes your method of operation in more and more areas of your life.

Owning your expertise is political. It gives you the option of leaning out of a system that was not designed for you to thrive, opting out of career paradigms that are riddled with inequalities, and leaning into a career of your own making.

Owning your expertise is financial. The majority of full-time freelancers are women, and in most countries freelancers earn more the full-time workers. Women are more likely to be the primary caregivers in a family, and they are increasingly becoming primary breadwinners. When we work and earn on our own terms, we have the potential to make more which makes us able to do more for ourselves, our families and our communities.

Owning your expertise is powerful. Women who work for themselves are often better positioned to champion diversity, whereas doing so within existing organizational structures often carries a hidden penalty. A Harvard Business Review study found that for women of color especially, the emotional labor of championing diversity in the workplace can actually take a professional toll and has even been shown to carry a professional stigma. When you work for yourself, you have the option of subcontracting or hiring consultants and employees in a way that matches your commitments to equity and doesn’t undercut your potential for career progression.

Owning your expertise is inspirational. Visibly leveling up your career can be an act of service that calls out the greatness in others. As Marianne Williamson says, "When we shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Owning your expertise is radical. Many of us face systems that have historically owned our expertise, both figuratively and literally. To take a stand and own your expertise against this historical backdrop and the ongoing constructs that perpetuate inequality is a radical act and an act of self-care. As the inimitable Audre Lorde famously said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Getting to a place where you're comfortable, confident and competent enough to step out on your own is a journey.

I've been there, and I'm here to help you through it.


 
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Hi, I'm Titilayo Tinubu Ali, Creator of Own Your Expertise, an online education company that helps women of color rise into leadership and entrepreneurship. Get started with my free cheat sheet for landing your first client.