I read an article the other day about why freelancers and other independent contractors should avoid becoming a “freelancing diva.” Although the article makes several valid points (don’t be too picky about your clients, don’t be a prima donna, don’t be hard to work with, etc.), I think entrepreneurs and small business owners need to remember that it’s actually OK to be a little bit of a “diva” now and then, as long as it helps you and your customers get what they want.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to give yourself permission to feed your ego and get what you want out of your business. What do I mean by this? How can you be more of a “diva” in your business without sacrificing good customers or driving away good employees?
Here are some of the characteristics of an effective “entrepreneurial diva:”
- Stick up for yourself. As an entrepreneur, when you’re running a small business and marketing your business, you need to relentlessly advocate for your own best interests. No one is going to do it for you. If you let vendors and customers and competitors walk all over you, they will be happy to do it. If you don’t stick up for yourself, who will?
- Don’t be a wallflower. It’s easy to sit back and wait for things to happen, hoping that you’ll be rewarded for good work and recognized by the marketplace for all the great things your business is doing. But the truth is, you need to get out there and promote yourself and introduce yourself to people who might be able to be helped by what your business offers. If that makes you a “diva,” then so be it.
- Don’t wait to get discovered. Have you ever wondered how all those celebrity chefs on the Food Network got where they are today, or how all those telegenic interior designers landed TV jobs on HGTV? Are they really the “best” designers and chefs, or do they just have the best marketing? Chances are, they aggressively promoted themselves and introduced themselves to the right people who could help get them wider exposure. Sure, some people get “discovered” by talent scouts and plucked out of obscurity, but more often than not, if you want to succeed at the highest levels of your field, you need to get out there and trumpet your own achievements.
- Inspire others, don’t drive them away. Don’t be a “diva” to the point that it’s counterproductive. Don’t be insufferable and arrogant and hard to deal with. The best “entrepreneur divas” create opportunities for others as well as themselves. They make employees feel part of an important mission that is larger than the CEO’s self-aggrandizement. Being a true “diva” is not about separating yourselves from other people and putting yourself on a pedestal; it’s about creating powerful connections and getting closer to other people through your work. Just like the great female opera singers (where the word “diva” originates) know how to create powerful moments of connection with the audience, being an entrepreneur diva is about more than hearing the sound of your own voice.
I’m proud to call myself a bit of an “entrepreneur diva” and I think my diva-like tendencies are part of the reason for my success. And I think my husband Phil (who is also my business partner) balance each other out in this way, since Phil is always seen as the “nice guy” and I’m often seen as more of a “hardball negotiator.” Just last week, Phil went to purchase some exercise equipment for our house, and the salesman said that he was glad I was not there with Phil, because I always drive a hard bargain and he (the salesman) is a little afraid of me! (Maybe I need to tone down my negotiating style just a little bit…or maybe not!)
If you want to make your dreams come true in your business, you need to be prepared to think less like a humble, invisible servant, and more like a diva. The important thing is that you, your customers, employees and suppliers all need to be happy. But don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You just might get it!