Sunday, July 02, 2000

Feeling like fraud goes away over time

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

        The other day a friend asked me, “Rhonda, when did you know you were good at what you do?” I had to stop and think. Until my friend posed the question, I hadn't realized that it had been many years since I had experienced feeling “the fraud factor.”

        During the first years in business, many entrepreneurs have the sensation that what they're doing isn't really real. They often feel as if they're posing, playing a part, acting in a performance. This can translate into feeling like a fraud, no matter how good they are at what they do.

        If you're new to business, you, too, may be experiencing some form of the “fraud factor.” It's easy to look around and see a bunch of confident, if not cocky, competitors, and imagine they all know exactly what they're doing at every moment while you're still trying to figure out the business lingo or how much to charge.

        Don't let it get to you. Feeling like a fraud isn't necessarily related to your competence.

        Part of the “fraud factor” comes from the fact that you are new. Even if you've been in an industry for many years, if you're new to running a business, you'll suddenly be facing many more issues and dealing with many more challenges than you did as an employee. You may be able to do a fine job at the “job” part of your business — design a new logo if you're a graphic designer, cure patients if you're a doctor, prepare tax returns if you're an accountant — but it's the business part that makes you feel like you're out of your depth.

        The only cure for that, unfortunately, is time and experience. It's a lot easier to feel like a genuine negotiator the 10th time you've dealt with suppliers than it is the first. But until you've got enough time and experience under your belt, what else can you do to reduce the fraud factor?

        • Get educated: The more educated you are in your field, the more confident you'll feel about what you're doing. By education, I don't necessarily mean just having the correct academic background. Often, some of the best education programs come from industry groups, university extension programs, even vendors. These kinds of programs typically offer current specific training you need right away.

        • Get a ticket to ride: Few things increase your confidence as much as having the right credentials. Most professions and trades offer — even require — some form of licensing or certification programs. These credentials are important to others — particularly potential customers and referral sources — showing you've acquired the background to do your job. But they are also useful to you as an indication that you've passed muster.

        • Don't be a fraud: The surest way to feel like a fraud is to — in fact — be a fraud. When potential clients ask, be absolutely honest about your background, education and experience. After all, you've got nothing to hide.

        Rhonda Abrams is the author of Wear Clean Underwear: Business Wisdom from Mom. To get free business tips, register at or write her at 555 Bryant St., No. 180, Palo Alto, CA 94301.



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