12 Oct “Fake It Till You Make It” is Still Faking It
We all need and want to present a successful facade to the public when we are entering a profession or field or business. Though many people use (and even overuse) the idiom, “fake it till you make it”, it has long meant something different to me than it does to many others. When I say that particular phrase, or write it, or even insinuate it, I don’t literally mean “Sell yourself as something you are not in order to make a profit”. What I mean is, “Try to learn something while you work because confidence is good for you and transparency can help you grow”.
There is a learning curve in any profession or creative venture. I didn’t know how to use a cash register until I got my first job in sales and received the proper training about using one. How could I possibly have known this anyway? It’s not like they offered a course in “cashier skills” during high school. I realize it’s a thin and delicate line between being “an amateur who is learning on the job” and being a “professional who deserves to be paid and treated like someone who knows precisely what they are doing and can do it quickly and effectively”. Having a college degree in a particular subject does not automatically make you a professional, either. You certainly have experience, but you might have to learn some additional things on the job. That being said, learning on the job does not make you an amateur. I have friends and family members who learn on the job throughout their entire careers, and it’s very cool to watch. Imagine having gone to school and spent A LOT of money for an education in photography that only involved 35mm photography, with darkroom experience, spent 25 years shooting, and then the first DSLR comes out and literally everyone switches to digital. Doesn’t suddenly make you an amateur photographer. Enter: a learning curve.
I also know that the creative and financial markets aren’t always congruent. Not everybody who can sing flawlessly in five octaves will or should be a pop star. Some of that is determined by the marketplace. In my industry — photography and web design — there are so many people willing to perform their services for free or for very little money that it’s been laughed at when I attempt to charge what is literally and simply just a livable wage. I began designing websites (admittedly, mostly self-taught) when I was 14 years old. I began taking photographs around the same time, and I became an amateur photographer under professional tutelage at the age of 21. I wouldn’t have considered myself a true professional until the age of 24, which is now 10 years ago. I did a lot of work for free in both of my specified fields for a very long time. I have a solid portfolio now, and I will not accept less than market value for any of my services anymore. I know that some of the game is your ability to sell yourself, too, which is why a lot of people think it’s okay to “fake it”.
What I am speaking about by saying “fake it till you make it” is in reference to people or companies who buy Instagram or Twitter followers, write fake client testimonials, or inflate their accomplishments in a deceitful manner because they want to seem important. The majority of people I have experienced who do these things take advantage of a lot of people along the way under the guise of it being a “great opportunity”. Making yourself appear important is temporary and dishonest; the truth tends to find its way out into the light. A good question to ask yourself is, “Do I want to focus on being successful and improving people’s lives with my products/services, or do I want to focus on presenting myself as successful at any cost?” If you have the portfolio or experience or testimonials or work ethic to back up whatever it is you do, buying in or “faking it” are cheap substitutions, and you are better than that.
It is 100% okay to get paid for your work and your time while you gather experience, don’t get me wrong. It is, in my opinion, not okay to lie to potential customers about your experience in order to trick them into paying for your products or services or to unjustifiably inflate your value. I highly value being real and honest, even if it costs me the job, and I value that in the people that I hire, too. Everybody has to start somewhere, and the beginning is the best place if you want quality experiences that you can speak to.