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I Look Like an Imposter: An Open Letter Confessing My Secret Fears as an Online Entrepreneur

  |   Business Tips, Personal   |   99 Comments

Can we just admit it right now, please? Being a business owner is freaking SCARY. This blog post is for all the courageous biz heroes out there who are secretly scared to death...scared to get out of their introvert shell, scared of looking like a fraud, scared of burnout. You are not alone, and you should read this.


Dear Friends and Readers,


Do you ever want to write something terribly important to you, but no matter how many different ways you think about it, when you sit down to put words to the screen…you can’t seem to make it sound like the mighty words living inside your brain?


That’s where I am right now.


I suppose the only thing to do in these situations is to blurt it out and hope it doesn’t come out sounding too ridiculous. Too rough around the edges. Too whatever.


(But you’ll just have to forgive me if it does. ;))


So, for the lack of a better idea — and, apparently, better composition skills — that’s what I’m going to do now.


My confession to you is this: being an entrepreneur is scary (so. freaking. terrifying. is what I’m really trying to say here) and I don’t have it all together.


Not by a long shot.


In admitting this, I’m painfully aware of how surprising this will seem to most of you. Frequently when I try to talk about it with others online, the immediate (and understandable) response is, “Oh, not you. You can’t relate to this! I don’t believe that you’re scared/that you struggle/that any of this stuff is difficult for you.”


I can’t cover up the fact that this bothers me, and what’s worse, I know that it’s all my fault.


I’ve purposefully strived to build a pro, influential brand with, but in the process I’ve hidden so many of my vulnerabilities. I’ve refrained from letting you know the real person behind the so-called “internet personality.” I’ve denied myself the primary thing I’ve wanted wayyy deep down in my bones, which is simply this: to be relatable.


To be able to walk beside other women with a friendly smile and say,


“Quiet, uncertain, mistake-prone me found a way to do this and so I fiercely believe that you can, too. Truth be told, I believe that you can do it even better than me. Would you let me help you?”


That all changes today. I’m going to speak candidly about my raw insecurities in a moment, but before I do, I’m going indulge you in a story about my past. It will all make sense in the end, and if it doesn’t, you can throw digital tomatoes at me (or something).




You know those tales you read on other people’s About Pages where they say they’re a ‘natural’ entrepreneur because at age 4 they were making serious moola selling lemonade from their driveway?


Yeah, that story.


Well, that’s not me.


I’ve never had an entrepreneurial bone in my body. I grew up wanting to be a pediatrician because I went goo-goo over babies, and when I couldn’t get above a D in chemistry during my freshman year of college, I fell back on the one thing I knew I was great at: writing.


In my life I was going to be a journalist. In particular, a journalist who specialized in layout + design. Later, when I became enamored with politics for a short time (much to the chagrin of my favorite Journalism professor), I was going to work in the Office of the Press Secretary at the White House.


Running my own business was an ambition far beyond my plans of days spent in studious solitude, scripting careful and weighty words while sitting in rooms scented with old leather, dust, and sun-soaked stacks of paper.


But, life doesn’t often go as planned. Especially when one gives up their youthful dreams for other people’s “logical” ideas.


So instead I got married…and scrambled for any job that could pay the bills.




There begins my journey of acquiring a crazy compilation of jobs that I couldn’t make up if I tried. Like:


  • Nannying for infant triplets (2004),


  • Performing customer service and, later, insurance billing for a national orthotics + prosthetics company (2005),


  • And ironing rental table linens (2006).


At least, that’s what I got paid to do.


What isn’t on paper are the myriad of blogs I kept in my free time; the small spaces that kept me connected to my true loves of words and design.


To name a few:


My LiveJournal.


My mommy + recipe+ craft hybrid blog (decked out in flowers and pastel pink — oh it was legit, guys).


My weird, spur-of-the-moment blog that only ever saw three posts and was promoted once to a crowd of five on Twitter, but somehow managed to have one article re-published in a major niche mag that was distributed to 100,000+ people. (Don’t ask. I dunno either.)


Then there was all the freelance work for non-profits and my small biz owner friends. Which I obviously understood as literally needing to be free since I never charged a dime.


  • Websites.
  • Logos.
  • Brochures.
  • Booklets.
  • Half-sheets.
  • Yearbooks.
  • Web graphics.
  • Social media graphics.
  • Social media setup.
  • Facebook ads.
  • Advice. …Lots and lots of advice.


I might have stayed on this trajectory forever, but in late 2013 something happened that turned everything on its head.




On a sunny October day when I was 32 years old, I left my destructive marriage of almost a decade and became the full-time parent of our three sweet kiddos, ages six and under.




At this point I had been an “official” stay-at-home-mom for seven years — in other words, I had precisely $0 in income plus a stale resume that could do little more than laud my skills as a poopy diaper changer — and I had NO CLUE how we were going to survive.


For several harrowing weeks I traveled to and from cumbersome public assistance offices, hoping for that thread of help that could keep all four of us in our house and out of my parents’ small guest bedroom.


Eventually, after 587 trees had to die to provide the necessary forms, I was granted food stamps and a health care plan on Medicaid.


This was a momentous day. (One I’ll never forget. I can feel the relief even now.)


However, I still only possessed a small sum of money to live on from the divorce settlement — and unbelievable stress plagued my brain on a minute-by-minute basis.


Naturally, it seemed like the perfect time to start a business.


So, was born.


Even though at first it wasn’t even going to be called Olyvia…


And my branding WAS going to look like this…




And it took me months to get the website live…


And when I did “launch,” I had 0 blog posts up…


(Okay, this is getting embarrassing. But by all means, let’s continue!)


And I didn’t have a “work with me” page for another 6 months…


Plus my first blog post images looked like this


should-i-use-pop-ups  How To Boost Your Email Opt Ins In 7 Minutes


I had no editorial plan…


And it took me 30+ hours to write one blog post.





Wild is the nicest way I can put all of…that.


The truth? I was a mess.


For 17+ hours a day all I did was work from my little couch (usually perched on top of The Blob of clean laundry) and try to keep my kids entertained + fed as well as I could with a laptop glued to my lap.


I had no plans. Just dreams that I wanted really, really bad.


Lurch forward to today and it may look like I “made it.” My blog took off and readership continues to climb every month. My primary social media accounts (Pinterest + Twitter) have over 10,000 followers combined. I’ve launched two e-books on online customer service for small biz owners + entrepreneurs and made thousands of dollars. I have a subscription + community launching soon, some workshops + bootcamps in the works, and I’m building my first big e-course.


But in all reality, I’m still a mess. I seriously am.


So let’s just get it over with now, okay? I shall show you #alltheways I’m (still) flying by the seat of my pants, (still) clueless as to what I’m doing, and (still) frightened to the core.




1. I’m scared that I look like an imposter.


I don’t have an MBA.


Heck, I can’t even boast that I sold that lemonade when I was 4 years old.


I’m self-taught in the vast majority of things I do, and I know what that looks like to “certain folk.”


In my heart I fiercely disagree with that mindset (hello: Steve Jobs), but there’s still a part of me that whispers, “What right do I have to be here? A thousand other people could do it better and have 15 years experience as a corporate exec to prove it.”


2. I’m scared that I look like just another greedy internet personality.


There are a lot of sincere, upstanding online entrepreneurs out there.


…There are also quite a few who feel + sound nothing but fake, icky, and money-hungry. *shudder*


I always wonder when I send out emails, hit ‘publish’ on a blog post, or launch a product whether people can really tell I’m being sincere.


Can they understand my quirky sense of humor? Can they tell I’m just a quiet geek with a passionate heart?


Or do I sound phony? Avaricious? Icky?


3. I’m scared that I’m too introverted.


Every report card in every year of Elementary school I received a “-” for Participation. Without fail.


In middle school I was the kid who would fake serious illness on the day of my oral report. Even it if it meant making red dots all over my arms with a dull pencil, then showing them to the teacher with a look of feigned horror. (Yes, I did that. Yes, it worked…multiple times.)


My AP English teacher in my senior year of high school noted that I was losing points for being “too reticent.”


If one thing is certain, it’s that I’m NOT an extrovert.


I find my voice in writing. It’s what I love. It’s how I best show the world who I am…what I know.


Yet as I participate in the online space, it’s not hard to miss the expectations for “successful entrepreneurs.”


  • Webinars.
  • Podcast interviews.
  • Live workshops.
  • Periscope.
  • Skype.
  • Google Hangouts.
  • Blab.
  • Snapchat.
  • Live calls.


Can I succeed at higher levels when I am perfectly content to remain words on a screen — or in a book? Can I push myself beyond my shy nature for the sake of business? I’m not sure. It worries me.


4. I’m scared that I’m not ‘one of the cool kids.’


I think this is true: no matter how many followers, clients, or customers you have, you can still feel alone.


Like you’re the awkward, obscure player sitting on the sidelines while all the cute, popular kids are out there getting the big plays.


So-and-so is teaming up with so-and-so to do _______. That person immediately gets dozens of comments on their new blog posts. This person is always being praised by the masses on Twitter. Those three people fill up their courses within 10 minutes after launch.


It’s silliness. I know that. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still feel that doubt and insignificance even now.


5. I’m scared that I’m going to disappoint my fans + customers.


There’s this crazy thing about business called customer satisfaction, and I’ll be darned if it doesn’t scare the living daylights out of me.


Especially since, oh, you know, THAT’S WHAT MY ENTIRE BRAND IS ALL ABOUT.


The bar is sooo high, guys.


And I don’t want to fail.


I don’t want to let people down.


I don’t want to provide anything subpar.


People trust me. It’s not something I can afford to take in stride, so it weighs on my mind. Heavily.


6. I’m scared that I won’t be able to pay my bills.


Being an entrepreneur is pretty great for all the obvious reasons: more freedom, more flexibility, more opportunity, more creativity.


However, until you get far enough along with your diversified income streams, there’s one big drawback: the monthly income is nowhere near reliable.


One month can be outstanding, while the next almost all you see is $7.02 from Amazon affiliate links.


While I’ve been able to make it fairly comfortably for the last 1.5 years, I’m past the days of being able to survive on ramen and a 55 degree house to get me through a tough period. I have three growing kids to feed, clothe, keep healthy, and educate no matter what.


“What if…” is a constant anxious thought when it comes to my finances. An unexpected hard time could put us in a terrible spot, and I simply cannot let that happen.


7. I’m scared that I’ll never figure out how to be good at single motherhood AND entrepreneurship.


Before I became a single mom and entered this world of business, my kitchen floors received a thorough mopping an average of 1x per week.


(Unless I was pregnant, mind you. Then I didn’t TOUCH my floors until 39.5 weeks.)


The rugs were vacuumed every couple of days.


Clothes lived in dressers. Folded.


My entire downstairs could (usually ;)) get to guest-tidy with 10-20 minutes of devoted attention.


Nice weeknight meals with plenty of healthy sides were served at the dinner table.


I made weekly meal plans. Like, in advance and stuff.


The kids had a leisurely bath every single evening.


And numerous bedtime stories.


And long cuddles.


I was a mostly patient mom.


I rarely used the TV as a babysitter.


We did things on random afternoons like take walks to the park. Bake cookies. Make cushion forts.


Now? None of the above exists anymore.


…I wish it did. I wish I could figure out how to get it back. I don’t know if I can.


8. I’m scared that I’m going to get tired.


Even though it was never my lifelong ambition to be a business owner, I’ve received tremendous enjoyment building into what it’s become.


Through all these fears, through my own failings, through it ALL…I’ve found great reward in the experience.


Running my own business has empowered me more than anything else I’ve done aside from mothering my children. It’s kept me intrigued, on my toes, and feeling alive.


I’ll tell you this, though.


It requires a fierce 24/7 energy, too.


And that’s not always fabulous.


Sure, I can “step away” for a morning here or an afternoon there. I can take a weekend to do family things if I want to. (And I do.) I don’t have to directly answer to anybody, which is liberating.


But you can never fully turn the business OFF.


Unlike most regular 9-5 gigs, when you’re “off work” as an entrepreneur your brain is still going a million miles a second thinking about:


  • all the things you should be doing with the biz
  • all the things you want to do with the biz
  • all the things you could do with the biz
  • all the things you have to do for the biz


I’ll tell you straight up: it drains me.


Or in the words of my beloved Bilbo Baggins, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”


Can I keep it up? It’s an honest question I grapple with.


I don’t know.


Sometimes I just want to spend my days sitting in a room scented with old leather, dust, and sun-soaked stacks of paper, tending to words in quiet solitude.


Sometimes I just want nothing more pressing to do than sit back and read my children bedtime stories.


And sometimes, friends…well, sometimes I just want clean floors.




I’m grateful that you took the time to read this crazy, vulnerable, little long letter to you.


I wasn’t sure at first if I should go ahead and publish it. But I think it will encourage somebody out there, so I’m going to close my eyes reeeeal tight and #justdoit.


Thank you for listening, and for always being the least scary thing about this business,



Erika Madden

(Chief Olyvia)



Can we just admit it right now, please? Being a business owner is freaking SCARY. This blog post is for all the courageous biz heroes out there who are secretly scared to death...scared to get out of their introvert shell, scared of looking like a fraud, scared of burn out. You are not alone, and you should read this. Pin this post!










  • One of the best posts I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • What a beautiful thing to say. Thank you, Donnie.

  • Erika, wow! It took a lot of courage to share this and thank you so much for doing so.

    I also struggle with Impostor Syndrome at times and could relate to all of the secrets that you shared! Although it’s not easy, I’ve come to embrace my fear as a sidekick because it humanizes us and reminds us that you’re working on something amazing and special. Above all, everyone is trying to figure things out. There is no playbook for this. We have to create our own : )

    Your testimony is refreshing in a space where everything can feel perfect, hashtagged and ‘easy’. But If you ever have a moment if you wonder if you’re good enough, know that you are and your work is inspiring and making a difference! Thank you

    • “There is no playbook for this.” YES. That. Thank you, Chivon. You are an extraordinary woman and I admire you so much.

  • Erika, this post is amazing. I have been there and felt everything you shared. Sometimes those fears still creep back in.
    Thank you for sharing this-so many of us struggle with these feelings, but are afraid to share them. The truth is that we’re all figuring it out, and no one has a perfect plan. Even my plans (I’m a serious over-planner) change as my business evolves.
    You’re doing great, keep it up! You’re not an impostor at all. 🙂

    • I’m so happy to know that I’m not the only one, Erin. You run an incredible business, and it’s an honor to know you. Thanks for taking time out of your day to encourage me. 🙂

  • I loved this post Erika. As someone who has followed along since the “do annoying pop ups really work” days I”ve always wondered who you are. It was nice to see a picture of your darling kids I didn’t even know you had kids until a month or so when I saw a reply that mentioned being a single Mom. They are precious.

    To me, this post is being real/personable/relatable.

    There are so many articles out there that say, “put personality in your posts” and what results is a lot of “awesome sauce” and other silly phrases and stories. That’s not personality.

    Fears. Honesty. Your real daily life. I wish more online people were this real. Thank you for pulling back the curtain today.

    Some more thoughts.

    #4 You are the cool kid. Because I say all of those things about you.

    Trying to find the motherhood/entrepreneur balance is hard. Real hard. With out becomin utterly exhusted.

    When Emma was born, I had everything planned out. Guests posts scheduled for a month, my tailwind que set for the month as well. I was active on social that first month and came back, trying to be 100% One month postpartum with a tiny little one and a toddler that decided to stop napping.

    After 2 months of trying to do it all (including my first live speaking gig) on little sleep, I crashed. I couldn’t keep up with the 24/7 energy it takes to be an entrepreneur.

    I was at Starbucks writing a blog post when I just stopped. Wrote my husband and told him I bad to turn it OFF and take a real maternity leave.

    I had to give myself permission to stop thinking about it too.

    Growth hasn’t happened. My email box is a scary place. But I’m alive. And the beautiful part about an online business - passive income.

    I’ll be back soon, but I’m going to be trying harder to do better at balancing - because I don’t want to be butter stretched to far.

    You’re amazing Erika. I’m sure your fears of becoming too worn out to be an online entrepreneur are very real and deep - needing to keep the biz alive and thriving to provide for your family is stressful.

    You have a strong “why” which will give you fuel to stay energized. You’ve built a loyal audience that supports you and loves you - I hope you recognize and feel that. People know you are kind. And helpful. And real.

    You got this.

    Oh, and you don’t have to do blabs and webinars and periscopes to “make it”.

    (Also, love that you included the LOTHR comment)

    • This is legitimately the best comment I think I’ve ever received, Kristie. I read this on my phone after I dropped the older kids off at school and #honestmoment: it brought me to tears. Thank YOU for being so real me WITH ME.

      You’re right: there’s too much ‘awesome sauce’ and ‘rockstar’ stuff out there masquerading as personality. We do need to simply be more honest. More vulnerable. More ourselves, flaws and all. I can see that now, and I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to look like with my online presence going forward…but I know it’s going to be different. It has to be.

      And the motherhood thing: thanks for just telling me like it is for you! I can’t even imagine trying to do all that online entrepreneurship requires with a tiny baby and toddler. (I remember my postpartum days and I could barely get off the couch, much less take a shower…or run a business!) I’m so, so happy to hear that you decided one day just to stop for a bit — and that you’re still doing OK. Some things ARE more important than business. They just are.

      I’m so encouraged right now. You’re amazing. Thanks for lifting me up. Thanks for sticking around for the last 1.5 years. (!!) Thanks for loving LOTR, too. I am so lucky to know you.

      • I’m glad to know you too. 🙂

        It is hard to be ourselves, as business and blogging related bloggers - much easier done for lifestyle bloggers and such. But, I think we can add ourselves in here and there and still reaching our goals. Good luck.

  • Julie Hage

    Erika, all I can say is THANK YOU! You have just given me so much inspiration! Your honesty was perfect.

  • I never thought I would be an entrepreneur either! I did “start” Jess Creatives in college, but it was mostly for my senior portfolio and I thought it was just fun. When JC started to kind of trickle in with clients, I got scared and wanted to quit. Luckily, I didn’t 😉 Thanks for … being human. 🙂

    • I’m glad you didn’t, because honest to goodness you were one of the people that first inspired me before I even launched Olyvia. I stumbled across your website and thought, “This girl has it going ON!” You are so professional and talented, and you do a great service to this online business space. I mean that.

      • WHAT?! Are you serious? That means so much coming from you! <3 Now YOU are the one that has it going on!

  • Toni Greathouse

    Erika, I love the stark honesty of this post. Because of it I’m signing up for your e-mail list. I’ve been reading your blog posts for the past 5 months, and this is the one that hooked me. If it helps, I share your feeling, which might be surprising given the fact that I just celebrated my 20th year in business on February 1st. In fact, I’ll be honored at by my local Chamber of Commerce for it next month and I feel somewhat like a fraud. You see, I’ve built a strong community based business and I’m terrified of losing ground to the Internet. Although I have solid skills, networking, relationship building and sales; this online thing is rocking my world. I’m grappling to find ways to translate my hard skills in a virtual arena. But I’m finding people like you who are rocking the Net, so please know you are NOT an imposter. In fact, You I think you’ve found you’re calling!!!

    • Wow Toni. What an incredible thing to share with me. I’m glad that I finally opened up and you could connect with who I really am. Thank you for reading all this time, too.

      I really appreciated you sharing your feelings about being scared of losing ground to the internet after being so successful in the OFFline world. That’s a difficult thing to do, and I’ve seen many people just like you struggle with it as well. It’s simply not the same as making offline connections, though there are definitely common building blocks.

      Thank you for your kind words again, Toni. It was a tremendous encouragement.

  • Erika, I’m right there with you! It takes a lot of guts to be as vulnerable as you have been in this post.

    I’ve been silently reading your blog for some time now, and in many ways you have helped me to launch my business and blog into everything that it is today. I love seeing this side of you, and I hope that you’ll continue to give us the “honest truth”.

    I was nodding along to each and every sentence. SO much of what you are feeling runs through my mind on a daily basis. I’m happy to know that I’m not alone 🙂

    Much love to you!

    • Oh Kara, you’re so kind! Thank you for reading my blog; I’m glad that you’ve been here, even if you’ve been silent. 🙂 (Though I’m really, really happy to know you’re there now!)

      You are definitely NOT alone — and thank goodness we can finally admit it, right?! I think that’s 3/4 of the battle.

      Keep rocking, lady!

  • Marsha

    Loved this. Thanks for sharing. I can relate with many of the fears you listed.

  • Sara

    I love all of your posts but this one was so far the best and you couldn’t have written and posted it at a better time. This was what just what I (a scared newbie biz owner) needed to hear from someone who seem to have it all put together. Thank you!

    • I am so encouraged by you, Sara. Thank you. I’m thrilled that I could say something that resonated with you. THAT is what matters to me. Thanks for being here. 🙂

  • This is the heart of what I want to do from the jump with She Builds. Just be brutally honest because no one is perfect, and how can we help others if we’re on this pedestal and here they are scraping nickels and dimes to just attempt to get somewhere?

    I love your story. It’s real. It’s the truth! I’ve told you before that I already felt you were relatable in a tweet, but this just adds to that.

    I love the line…“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”
    I like to say that I feel like a thin, cheap plastic bag holding 2 gallons of milk.

    • “…how can we help others if we’re on this pedestal and here they are scraping nickels and dimes to just attempt to get somewhere?” << YESssss. Oh my goodness. You are so right. I really feel that way, too.

      And I'm LOLing to your 2 gallons of milk line. Hahahaha. That is another perfect way to put it.

      • Towards the end of my pregnancy (had a lil girl this past July), whenever people would ask how I felt.. that would be the analogy I’d give them every time. The women (who had kids) would laugh because they felt my pain, the men would be speechless and I’d just laugh with them, because what else is there to do when you’re so over being pregnant anyway! Haha 🙂

  • I just want to give you the BIGGEST hug, have some tea and a chat and say, “YES, I’m right there with you, and I support you!” I loved this. Thank you for being so honest. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for being relatable and HUMAN (not that you ever weren’t). I hope you like hugs, cuz I’m sending many of them.

    • When I read your comment I got all teary-eyed, girl! It’s like I could feel your hug across the pixels. 😉 Seriously…thank you. (Because yes, I do love hugs!)

  • Sara Harvey

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve been struggling with my baby business for 2 years and I have all these goals, but I feel like such an imposter that it’s hard to accomplish anything because I self-sabotage. Thank you so much for opening up, it’s refreshing and inspiring!

    • Self-sabotage. Yep. I know just what you mean, Sara. For instance, it’s taken me this long to form a course because I didn’t believe a) I could really sell it, b) that I could do it without disappointing people, and c) that I had anything to say. IT’S CRAZINESS. Let’s put an end to it!

  • I’m so glad you shared this Erika because even though we’re in a mastermind together, I still have yet to know a lot about you! This explains a lot and I am surprised to hear a lot of it, honestly. I definitely think you’re one of the cool kids lady, EVERYONE talks about you in such high regard everywhere I go (online that is 🙂 ), even the “cool kids!”

    I know what you mean about the videos, scopes, webinars, etc. I too am terrified of this and feel it’s the one thing that’s holding my business back as well so I completely understand the fear. I still think it can be done though, a course is what’s missing and you’re already working on that.

    Points 2 (coming across as icky) + 5 (fear of disappointing your fans) really resonate with me too personally. I feel that if I am not going way above and beyond on everything that I do, people will hate me.

    But let me tell you that a) you definitely (not even remotely) come across as a greedy, icky entrepreneur and b) I have never ever once thought of you as not giving everything your all or producing anything subpar. I think that’s a syndrome of being a woman sometimes, we give ourselves such HIGH standards. In any case, I’m here to tell you that you’re doing just fine on that front. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this. Looks like most of us can relate.

    Btw, I LOVE that photo of your kiddos, they are so freakin’ adorable.

    • Told you. Cool kid.

    • Oh my gosh, Marianne. “I feel that if I am not going way above and beyond on everything that I do, people will hate me.” That’s just what I feel! I’ve always felt that way (throughout school I put sooooo much pressure on myself, it was insane). I’m not happy that you have the same stress, but I am happy we can understand each other!

      You are just a wonderful person and I love our Mastermind together (even though I fail on that front, too - bah). You’ve always been so good to me, and you run an amazing brand!! Thank you for being my cheerleader. 🙂 🙂

      • oh thank you Erika, that means a lot <3

  • Kristen A Kieffer

    ERIKA, are we the same person? Goodness. I am usually just a lurker here, but I can’t help but comment after reading this. I’ve been a full-time blogger for about a year (I teach creative writing at, and I am in this exact same boat right now.

    Everything you said is reflected in how I feel…straight down to that fantastic Bilbo Baggins quote (Tolkien = life). All this to say, thank you so much for posting this. You’ve helped me face my own reality and gain some new ideas about how to work through it and with it. About how to get vulnerable with my audience and make my brand the best it can be. And that is priceless.

    xoxo, Kristen

    • Hey Kristen! Okay, so first, I’m THRILLED to meet another Tolkien lover. 😉 Second, I have to tell you a story: literally for the entire first YEAR of my business all I did was work at night while the LOTR Extended Edition looped in the background. It sounds nuts, I know, but somehow that comforted and inspired me. (Though now every. single. quote. that I have in my head is from that movie. lol!)

      Thank you for reading my blog here. I’m really happy to know you’re here. (I mean that.) Also, I just looked at your website and I love what you do! I’m going to be reading through some of your blog posts tonight. 🙂

  • Lauren Ceallaigh

    As somebody who is struggling to start her blog, this is something that I needed to see. I start designing and creating posts and then I feel this terrible wave of anxiety. I start comparing what I am doing/how my blog looks to my favorite blogs (including this one). To hear you say that it isn’t always perfect, and you’re still figuring it out as you go along means the world to me. It gives me confidence to know that even the owner of such a beautiful thriving business has her doubts and is willing to share them.
    I think we’re all afraid. Life didn’t come with a manual, and the one that society gives us called “A Normal Happy Life” doesn’t fit most of us well. Not everyone is meant for the life the world expects us to live. I know I’m not. And I can understand from this post that you aren’t either. But it’s okay. Because there are SO many others like us! We can figure this out together, I know we can.
    Please know on those days when you are unsure, that you are so VERY appreciated. You have created an online space where people feel welcome and at home. Whenever I’m struggling with my blog/social media, I know that I can find you here and willing to help. And that means so much. You don’t have to have an MBA, you don’t have to be perfectly professional, and you don’t have to be a “cool kid” (even though you are!). All that you need to be, you already are. You CARE, Ericka. That’s what sets you apart. You genuinely want to help us be the best that we can be. You have a kind heart and a remarkable spirit. You give it your all. And at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. Thank you for being yourself, the world wouldn’t be the same without our “Chief Olyvia” Ms Ericka Madden. <3

    • I just happened across this lovely video today, and thought of you. This is Marie Forleo’s response to a woman named Malia, who asked how she can be confident in her business when she’s not always confident in herself. I hope you enjoy! (If you don’t allow links, feel free to remove this comment entirely!)

      • This is so sweet, and so needed. Thank you!

      • Suzi Whitford

        I love Marie Forleo!

    • Lauren, this was the kindest, most heartfelt comment. I just want to cry right now. The anxiety, the comparison…I know ALL of it. (I threw my ‘branding’ together in one day, and based the colors off the website theme I had bought. There’s not a month that goes by that I see what others are designing out there and silently wish mine was different. 😛 For serious.)

      But knowing that there are people out there like you that still see the good, and are still so incredibly kind and encouraging, is more important to me than my silly branding. I’m grateful. So, so grateful. Thank YOU, Lauren. You’re a beautiful person; I’m honored to know you in this space.

  • You really hit home with this post. I think we all share at least a few of these fears with you (all of them for me). I know you said people tell you that you have it all together and you feel like you don’t, but I still believe you do. I think it’s part of being an entrepreneur — your life is going to be messy and unconventional and sometimes a bit crazy. But you definitely have it together and have accomplished a lot more than me or most other people, and I admire you for that.

    I can also relate to you not sharing much about yourself. I’m an introvert as well and I find it so tough to get personal, even though I really want to. I never feel like anyone cares.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us! It’s an inspiring post for sure.

  • Amanda

    This was a really amazing article Erika! I can really relate because I’m afraid too…and my blog is still unattractive (to me anyway) and my products suck and I’m afraid of putting out my first paid product for fear of it sucking and not selling but I’m going to do it anyway. I set my launch date today and I’m just going to keep moving forward! I am totally inspired by your story. I just know you will continue to be a success. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Thanks for sharing this Erika! I love that you kind of left it without a resolution, I feel like a lot of people add some barely helpful thing at the end about how we can overcome. Sometimes though it’s nice to just say it and let it be and let it be the good and the bad. Thank you thank you thank you!

    • Oh my gosh. Yes Alexandria. I know just what you’re talking about. I’m glad you “got” me on that because really, there is no quick fix on how to overcome. It’s just sort of a daily grinding through and doing stuff anyway. You can’t sum it down to some pat answer.

  • This has got to be one of the most honest and true blog posts I have ever read. I applaud you for sharing you story, as I know it must have not been easy. Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

  • Aurelia Le Mao

    Thank you so much Erika for this post!

    It really blew my mind to see where you are coming from, to read about your journey into fear and uncertainty. I felt deeply moved, and also less alone as I am also starting my journey into entreneurship (and meeting all the monsters: fear, doubt and HowamIgonnapaytheBills).

    You have built something so genuine and helpful, don’t worry no one can think of you as an impostor. You really do walk your talk!
    Un grand merci! Aurélia.

  • Just a big WOW to this post! I admire you so much for writing this, sharing your story without any makeup on it, just as it is. Let me tell you, and I already said this on an email, you are such an inspiration. Right now I’m feeling exactly like this, scared about what will happen with my business, doing everything I can to get out there and reach more people. It’s hard, but in the end it’s worth it, because I’m able to connect with amazing creatives like you. To feel terrified in one moment, and then read something like this and suddenly be reassured that I’m not alone in this adveture. Keep going, Erika, because you are amazing!

  • Quite possibly the most transparent and relatable post I have ever read. Even though I’m married, I am going through A LOT of the motherhood challenges that you are. The things I used to do as a mom has drizzled down to almost a full stop and I feel guilty about it.

    Your original branding concept…. Please don’t feel bad (but I laughed). You’ve just come such a far way.

    I do have a question for you: At what point did you finally see a leap in your following? (Your turning point) Especially since you didn’t go the new “traditional” route with webinars/periscope etc. At one point did you see things started to click? Hope you understand the question - I reworded it five times.

    • LOL No no, no hard feelings about my original branding! 😉 I laugh, too. It never ceases to amaze me that even if you’re less than “together,” amazing things can STILL happen.

      I love your question. If you take a look at this post that I wrote last spring:, I have a screenshot of my blog’s Google Analytics over the months. I started seeing a steady increase 4 months after launching, and then a really steep leap 4 months later (so 8 months total after launch). My social media growth was about the same: things steadily rose for the first 6-8 months, but after that 8 month point everything began to expand at increasing speed.

      Hope that helps give some perspective. 🙂

  • What an honest and heart-felt post, Erika. As a woman who is at the beginning of her own entrepreneurial journey (I’ve been a the beginning for a while!), your bare-it-all-post strikes a cord of faith and hope. I hope your journey takes you to where you want to go!

  • Erika! Thank you so much for this post. Your letter resonates with me in a multitude of ways (and not only because you included a Bilbo quote … but that certainly helps). There is so much noise online about what we “should” be doing, how we should be doing it, and what success should look like. It’s exhausting, and leaves little room for listening to your heart. Thank you for this reminder that there is space for honesty, and for going against the grain. I admire you for sharing your story!

  • Erika!!! Thank you for making your brand more relatable, woman. For a while I wasn’t sure what YOU were about, but now I see you clearly, and you are lovely.
    Obviously, I can relate to almost everything you said, no make that everything, and even though I’ve been doing my best to be relatable and transparent online, I STILL feel like a fake / fraud because let’s be honest: marketing and online entrepreneurship come out as pushy and generic, whatever you do. I start my emails with “hello friend” for God’s sake!!!
    (The intention is good but it sounds like I have no idea what your name is.)
    In the end, we gotta accept and admit our vulnerabilities and keep moving forward. You’ve done beautifully today. I’ll see if I can follow suit and share this with everyone I know.
    Oops, I wrote a novel. Oh well, let it be a testament to how much this resonated.

  • Jennie @ Little Girl Designs

    Erika, thank you so much for this post. I think we ALL have this thought inside that we’re imposters and that we’re going to be ‘found out’-thank you for your honesty and for sharing with us. You’re doing amazing work. So grateful for you!

    • Jennie, you are an incredible person with tremendous talent. I am so grateful for you!!!

      • Jennie @ Little Girl Designs

        Gulp, thank you so much, Erika! 🙂

  • Wow…wow and Wow! What a powerful post Erika! I think that deep down all of us in the entrepreneurship arena have these fears.

    I appreciate your candidness in this post and sharing your journey. Wishing you continued success and prosperity in your biz efforts.

    Let’s continue to kick fear in the arse shall we…(pardon my french) :-). Cheers and have a great one.

  • Angie, your comment has touched me so deeply. I’m at a loss for words. All I can say is YES: please keep pushing. Please. We need more genuine, lovely people like you in this online space. Thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable, and for making the effort to reach through and inspire ME.

  • Alissia Haggard

    This is wonderful! Proud to know you 🙂 thanks for keeping it real 🙂

  • LaQuinda Pollard Brewington

    I’m in awe right now. This was one of the most inspiring posts I’ve ever read.

  • Daniela Uslan

    Thanks for sharing your story, Erika. It takes a lot of courage to share the hard stuff, the stuff that isn’t quite as pretty as your branding. And I think it’s also a gift to the rest of us online entrepreneurs who are experiencing the same long slog, powered only by a dream and a conviction to live life on our own terms. T

    hat you’ve created such a successful blog and business while feeling afraid, while doubting yourself, while struggling, just speaks to how strong you are as a person. Your post is one that I will remember for a long, long time. Thanks again.

  • Lauren Caselli

    So good. So so good. I feel all of these things, all the time and it’s so nice to not feel alone (especially because I’m a single lady too (though no kids) but there’s less of a “well, if I fail this month, at least I’ve got a bailout option in a partner”. Thank you for being so honest.

  • tiffanyima

    This is such a beautiful and heartfelt story! I am glad you shared. So many of us that are just getting going gets so fearful, but stories like this help to inspire and encourage us! I appreciate you being so transparent 🙂

  • Bay

    Hi Erika! Your like (or love) factor just went up a million notches. I have always admired you and had a great respect for you. You are definitely relatable, authentic, real and more and all I want to say is THANK YOU! Thank you for allowing us into the innermost part of your heart, thank you for sharing your story and thank you for being you. I consider you as one of my virtual mentors and seriously I know I made the right decision. Your best days are ahead of you and there is more for you to share with the world and I am excited to see all your projects become a reality. I am going to ask and recommend this post to every female entrepreneur I know.

  • Feuza

    Okay fear number 2 is my big one because I want to provide value and feel I do but I also need to paid for my time too and feed my kids so I always think do people see me as scummy? I don’t want to be that scummy internet person ya know and then the thoughts that are like I suck, no one cares, and I am not in the top notch click, these people raving about 6 figures, 5 figures and I am like can I make 4k a month as a dream goal! thank you for sharing your story which is sure inspiring! and best of luck on new courses and future endeavors , you rock

  • I was grabbed by your image/blog title while browsing Pinterest. I can wholeheartedly agree with pretty much everything you said in this course! I am wanting to take my online business to a new level, from just a blogger to product creator, but I’m SO scared! I’m not the most popular blogger on the ‘net, nor do I have a special “look how I went from 0 to $10K in just 90 days!” story, but I feel that with almost 9 years of experience working online, I have something to offer.

    Thank you for sharing such a candid view of the scary side of being an entrepreneur. I’m sure more people feel this way, they just don’t admit it…

  • Julie

    I found this post because someone shared the link - and the title looked interesting
    Little did I know that I would find such and interesting, honest and from- the- heart article.
    Thank you for finding the courage to share, a person just has no idea how her mere words on a ‘page’ can affect another persons life. I suspect this post has resonated with many. Thank you again.

  • Oh man Erika, I think I am in love with you! No, SERIOUSLY this post is so damn refreshing, so vulnerable and honest. First of all, please know I really understand the fear of not making ends meet because Billy and I lived through that for a long, long time. I used to wake up scared of being kicked out of our house, as we were late on the rent. We had the electricity go out on one occasion and had to borrow money to pay the bill.
    I think not only is entrepreneurship terrifying ( and rewarding) but so is having a job. Maybe life in general is scary, trying to make ends meet and the darn judgement we get from society if we’re not successful or making a certain income at work.
    I struggle with imposter syndrome regularly, even though I get great feedback from clients and support from my colleagues. I feel at times I’m not enough. Doubt is evil like that, is it not? I guess the great news is none of us are alone in struggling with self doubt.

  • What I liked about reading this post is it reminded me that no matter how many followers or customer’s I gain in a year, which is not many, I could gain thousands and still ask myself the same questions you do. Thank you for opening up your heart and sharing what most of us are already thinking and feeling too.

  • Sarah@

    Hi Erika, I remember writing to you with a query recently and I know your mantra is “be delightful online” and you absolutely were so lovely to me and so delightful and I was recently telling a friend on the school run about this ‘lovely lady’ - you. This post actually made me cry because I can relate to quite a bit of it, particularly the bit about order. It is incredibly difficult to run a business and look after children - I have 2 teens and a toddler and most nights I am working until all hours. My husband works away all week. I have a blog that has taken me over a year to ‘perfect’ enough to tell people about and I still feel it is poor compared to ‘proper’ blogs. In the last week, I have just set up facebook and twitter (having to pay for some technical help) and an Etsy shop and suddenly I am getting notifications and followers and likes and feel completely overwhelmed but although I very much need to make money I am not the main wage earner so I cannot imagine the added stress that must bring you.
    No-one, but no-one is perfect and it is very easy to hide behind a computer screen but whatever, I think you are fab and you know millions more than me and even if you didn’t you are kind and lovely and that matters more than anything.
    Unlike you, I very much show the chaos my creative life brings me in my blog and have done from the start so if you ever want to feel better go look at and I promise it will make you laugh! Just don’t look at the layout and technical stuff as it will probs make you roll your eyes.
    Keep up your very good work and live for today. Much love Sarah xx

  • Suzi Whitford

    Thank you for sharing! I could truly see you open up… I feel the same way a lot of the time. Starting an online business is not easy. Great job for doing it momma!

  • Late to the game but thanks for this, Erika. I started a blog a month ago and can’t put up any services yet and I’ve been feeling really self-conscious about it because I’m not like “those” entrepreneurs who “have it all together.”

    So glad I now get to learn from you and follow along on your own journey. Well done, Erika.

  • Thanks so much for this. You’re so upfront and real. The honesty is so refreshing. I can so relate. I just launched my blog three weeks ago, and it is truly terrifying.

  • I always appreciate honesty, takes guts to open up. Great post!

  • Cierra


    I can’t stop thinking about this post… I read it a long time ago, but didn’t have the right words to thank you.

    I’ve recently snapped out of this puffed-chest mindset of running a biz; it’s like keeping up with the Jones’!!

    You see everyone else making it or “making it” and then instead of inspiration, we subconsciously go into imitation. Then the cycle continues.

    You’re beautiful for your strength and vulnerability. This post is BEYOND powerful, and I’ve finally hit this shift as well. I needed to go MIA and make changes.

    Thank you for being you, and SHOWING us how beautiful that can be. <3

  • the littlest fry

    To be honest, I think so many blogs be them business or lifestyle have become very “perfect”. Sometimes it gets tiring seeing so many sponsored posts everywhere too. For other business owners especially starting out (Im a good example!) it can be scary and you easily start to compare. I applaud you for being very honest and transparent!

    This is similar to what they say about social media now, when we are constantly showing off this visual of “This is my perfect life” but never showing people the “I do laundry while Im writing this blog post” or showing them that you actually do have a life that isn’t just pretty pictures and text and you are human.

    I believe being humble is the direction most business and lifestyle blogs are heading in. Showing off both sides of life is really the way to go so thank you for sharing this, it actually inspired me to push forward and away from any worries I might have about how Im going to push my business forward in a positive light!

  • Shannon Nichole

    Wow! Thank you for writing this. Your words really resonated with me and some of our story lines parallel. I needed to read this tonight. You’ve encouraged me, and I really want to high five you for being so transparent about your journey.

  • Oh my, this an amazing story. Thanks so much for posting. I just started my own blog about five months ago and I deal with thinking I’m not good enough all the time, despite pouring myself into trying to make it the best it can be. This was a great encouragement for me. Thank you. 🙂

  • This is wonderful Erika! This post shows just how authentic you are and how real the struggle is. Thank you for sharing a deeper part of you.

  • I love this post! I really think many of us fear looking like an imposter! Being an entrepreneur is scary. Outside of knowing that one month you could be big ballin, the next month you’re grasping for straws, you gotta deal with your own insecurities in your head questioning if you’re good enough for success. I wrote a blog awhile back talking about my social media anxiety. As an artist, I’ve always loved to stay behind the scenes. I was a person that just wanted to put out my art but not necessarily brand myself and how I was having a mid-life crisis because how could I be successful in a creative world where you’re no longer allowed to hide yourself? Writing that post made me feel so free. It’s like I got all of that out. I hope when you wrote this post it was a source of freedom to you. Something about admitting that you feel like an imposter, makes you realize that you’re really not. You’re just human. And I think what makes you most relatable is that we’re all doing our best to find our place in this universe.

  • I love this post. Absolutely love. I’m so glad that someone who has your level of success is also an introvert. I’ve tried to be an extrovert, but I can’t express myself speaking as well as I can through writing. Writing is where I excel so I’m petrified to do Periscope and other video etc. Happy to know you can relate 🙂

  • Lauren Doolin

    Thank you, Erika. As someone who’s still at the bottom of the blogosphere, it’s nice to know that there are people at the top who still feel these things. It might just mean that if you did it, I can do it too.

  • Deana Ward

    I like you even more (I didn’t think that was possible:). Great post lady!

  • “Every report card in every year of Elementary school I received a “-” for Participation. Without fail.”

    Me too! I remember this one year I had quite a cool teacher who gave a speech on the first day. She said, “If you’re a quiet person, I GET IT! Just come up to me and let me know so I don’t assume you’re slacking.” But I was too stupidly shy to even do that. So I never told her.

  • Brogan Micallef

    This post is hands-down the most honest, vulnerable and AWESOME thing I’ve ever read. THANK YOU SO MUCH for saying what a lot of us are afraid to say Erika.

    I’m so glad Regina Anaejionu shared this on Twitter (and that I found you!).

  • This is such a great post. I’ve just recently found your site. I was drawn to the fact that I like your style and we do a lot of similar things in business, but I stumbled on this post and I have to tell you that YOU SO TOTALLY AREN’T ALONE! A lot of us struggle with these feelings - both the fear of putting ourselves out there, the intimidation that comes with working alongside “stars” and online business cliques, and most of all, the enormous pressure to balance entrepreneurship and being a good mother (especially in an industry where SO many personalities are “Doggie Mommies” and have no idea what it’s like to feel the guilt of writing blog posts on the couch at 7:30 at night while your kids watch the same episode of Doc McStuffins ONE MORE TIME so that you can get that post finished. Okay, that last one is me, but your story totally resonated.)

    I don’t know you at all, but I like you. 🙂 Bravo for having the courage to share.

  • Erika, wow! Thank you so much for being so open, vulnerable, honest, and generous. Yes, generous, because sharing your fears like that, out in the open, requires generosity of getting vulnerable so that others, who’re experiencing similar emotions, can feel better.

    Seriously, so admirable. Thank you.

  • Shelly

    Thank you for your truth. I finally had the guts to hit publish although I’ve been working at this blog thing for months….

  • Meha Sethi

    This is exactly what I needed to read! Thanks for the honesty.

  • Perfect… absolutely perfect. <3 I heard from a very successful blogger at a conference once that she still feels like a fraud - and she earns millions of dollars a year. Once I heard that an accepted that the feeling of being a fake is never going away it didn't seem as important anymore. Brilliant post lovely. xo

  • Erika

    These words, on this day, were exactly what I needed. I’m 45 years old. We have no savings. I have nothing to put on a resume that’s at all related to what I want to do. I have so many ideas. Great ideas. I’ve been trying to launch a blog for nearly three years. I need to make money to help support my family. Part of me knows I’m fabulous, and the rest of me knows that my life is a mess and wonders why anyone would care about what I have to say. My blog is almost ready to go, and I’m struggling with the “about me” page. Really struggling. I’m second-guessing all of my choices.

    This is what I needed to read today. You have made a huge difference for me with this post.

  • Jennifer Otts

    If you wanted to be relatable, nailed it! I wanted to cry reading this because I feel your pain. I have the same fears, same chaos, same couch with the clean clothes pile, wondering if cereal for dinner counts as child neglect! But, (btw, buts stink, but not this but) I have a really good feeling, you are a soon to be superstar! And in case you haven’t been told lately, you are a good momma!

  • Alex Jordan

    This came up on my pinterest feed and I think you pretty much reached out and read my mind and soul. I’m the person who had “-” on participation, who sat on the floor below the projector sick to her stomach during group presentations, who came downstairs and croaked an “I’m sick” to her parents before days of solo presentations. I’m setting up a blog myself, and I worry about the same things you do. Thank you so much for writing this, I honestly feel so much better that my feelings were validated by someone like you, and I want to say that I’m proud to hear you’re pushing through those feelings.

  • Monica McDonald

    As someone who is JUST delving into the world of entrepreneurship (for real, for real) and looking at what it takes to brand myself, I can totally relate to this post! My background is in public relations but its one thing to promote a business and quite another thing to promote yourself. Almost a “who do I think I am?” kind of attitude takes over. BUT, I serve a God that says I am fearfully and wonderfully made so I know I can do it even with the fears. Just like you! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Luz

    Amazing blogpost Erika… All these stories out there about people and their overnight success stories make me feel like an imposter too. When other people are self-taught, I think ‘wow, natural talent’ but in my work I feel a fraud because I am self-taught…

    Sometimes I’m scared for the day everyone will find out I actually can NOT help people. And that fear doesn’t go away when I get mails from people telling me how much my blogpost or meditation helped them. ‘It’s just one crazy person’ my mind goes.

    Thank you for sharing all this, and reminding me I’m not the only one.
    And that actually… there’s nothing wrong with us. Quite the contrary 🙂

  • Katie Fisher

    Lovely, you are authentic - makes you miles ahead of many. And when the going gets tough for us women, we roar. You are most certainly roaring. Motherhood isn’t easy, single motherhood most certainly isn’t easy. Entrepreneurship isn’t easy but are they rewarding when you make leeway? Absolutely. You’re up for the big game and you are winning! 🙂

  • Toni L Taylor

    Wow. Just Wow. I have to say, as a single mom that has a Bachelor’s and Master’s in web design, I can relate to this post! Not divorced, however, my daughter’s father passed away in 2012. I work full-time as a contractor for a web design company that pays the bills, but barely. I know I can make more money on my own, so I’ve built a website and am about to launch it to the world. I’m scared for all the same reasons you are; and I’m worried I’m such a small fish in a big overly populated ocean - can I make money as a freelance web designer? I think the moral of the story is, just go for it! Don’t give up on your dream and don’t be afraid to tweak and adapt if necessary. Definitely the best post I’ve come across in the last 2 years of me contemplating freelancing. Thanks Erika!

  • Fit Fizz

    This was so great to read. I’m terrified of how I’ll make it when i walk out of my full time job in three weeks. I’ve been an emotional wreck. And I don’t even have kids to worry about. This gives me hope. Thanks for sharing this! I have so much respect for you! You rock!!!