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How do I build visibility when I don't look the part?

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A quick Instagram scroll of yoga instructors or the popular #yogalife hashtag and you’ll see more long, lithe women bent into extraordinary shapes than you could possibly imagine. You’d start to wonder if that’s what a yoga instructor should look like. But, what about if you were a yoga instructor and you didn’t look like that? What if you looked, well… normal?

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Amy McDonald is a yoga business coach. She started yoga as an anxious eight-year old struggling to do fractions. The practice of yoga provided a way to avoid nasty ulcer medication and became an integral part of her life.

While it was unsurprising that she went on to train to become a yoga teacher, she never felt that she fitted the stereotypical mould of the yogi we often see. In her own words Amy felt that she wasn’t skinny enough, was too old, and certainly didn’t have the cool yoga clothes that many of her peers wore. While she received positive feedback from students for being a ‘real person’ the awareness of how different she was to the bikini-clad instagram yogis’ grew as she moved from simply teaching yoga, to coaching other teachers.

“I want to play a part in helping more people do more yoga. Yoga heals. Yoga transforms. It is part of my personal spiritual path, ‘help more people come to yoga’. It’s like a pyramid scheme, other people help me to achieve my goal if I can help them get more people in their classes.”

While she knew that personal brand visibility was key to a bigger audience, she was very nervous about not looking the ‘part’.

“If my business was to be successful it was my job to be authentic. And if I did that I gave permission for someone else in my community to do the same thing for themselves.”

Amy states that a key milestone in her visibility journey was a branding photo shoot. Except it didn’t go as expected. 

“The experience was so demoralising. I walked away feeling that it was such a waste of time, a waste of money and my confidence about doing this kind of thing was now even worse”.

 Amy openly talks about how she had to summon the courage to book a photo shoot and how terribly wrong the whole thing went. It was awkward, she received photos that weren’t what she asked for and did not represent her brand. This was a significant set-back to her attempt to be more visible and damaging to her confidence as a whole. As a personal brand photographer this makes me so very sad. Fortunately when she was ready again Amy booked another brand shoot, this time with me.

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Now while it’s very reassuring to have someone state that their experience with you was a turning point in their journey, what’s more important is what happened next.

“I had been trying to sell a program online and had no luck. As soon as I uploaded photos to the website for the program I received a sale. This same client then sent me an email, unsolicited. She said that it was the photographs that made the difference for her purchase. She told me that  even though she had been following me for some time,  it was the photographs that made her realise that I was taking myself seriously. That I was investing in my business and that I was legitimate. So, she decided to invest in me too. That was definitely a milestone for me”

 Today, being visible online is simply part of Amy’s business, regardless of how it makes her feel.

“It’s what I do, and I include ‘visibility’ as a key part of my message. While I am not always comfortable with exactly how I look or how much I weigh, I know that by being vulnerable, by showing up as I am, it empowers people in my community to love themselves a little bit more and to be prepared to be more vulnerable in their business.” 

Along with visibility becoming standard, her business has gone from strength-to-strength, tripling her income each year.

 “Sure, I might miss out on some business because I don’t have the polish, I am not young enough, thin enough or do the right moves. But I know that the people that I am attracted to work with are working with the real me, and I am working with people I really love. What’s more, we work well together because we are BOTH being authentic with each other.”

To me, Amy is one of my favourite client stories because I have seen her business grow and have seen how her online presence has been transformed over the last couple of years. What is more powerful to remember, is that Amy’s success has not come from being in the ‘right’ yoga gear or for being one of the bikini yogi’s. Her success in business is because she knows her stuff and she is passionate about the difference that yoga can make in people’s lives.

“I show up as myself  and I know that it is incredibly powerful.”

 

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