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How The Imposter Syndrome Affects Competitive Sports Business Owners

Written by: Sara Rudin, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Take yourself back to the days of competition. Stepping onto the floor, all eyes on you, and taking what you did in practice and putting it into your performance. Even practicing over eight hours a day, we knew we couldn’t win every competition. It was the thrill of the competition that kept us going.

After hanging up my jazz shoes and baton, I turned to teaching the sport I grew up loving. I remember the first time someone asked me for a private lesson. I was in my early 20s, and I was excited to help another coach learn some basics to teach to her own students. After nearly two hours, we were saying goodbye, and the coach handed me $60. Immediately, I put up both hands and refused to take the money. How could she offer to pay me? She was 20 years older than I was. I had never taught a private lesson before. Was I even qualified? How could I take this money from her?

This happened a couple more times until one day, I taught two twin five-year-olds. I had so much fun with them. The mom handed me $20, and I almost refused the money until the mom looked at me and said, “Your time is valuable. You earned this. My daughters had so much fun.” The $20 helped me fill up the tank of my car to get home. Even when I was in a pinch, I didn’t feel as if I deserved the money because I was young, and I wasn’t the absolute best teacher in my sport.

When beginning a business where you teach others a skill, it is a common mistake to undercharge or not charge at all. From experience, this typically arises from the Imposter Syndrome. According to, "Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you haven’t earned your success, you simply got lucky, and you’re a fraud or “imposter” around people who actually earned it and know what they’re doing." The Imposter Syndrome hits nearly every business owner at some point.

When your business is based upon teaching a talent, the Imposter Syndrome can hit us especially hard. If you grew up competing in a competitive art or sport, we always knew you win some, you lose some. You will never be the best 100% of the time.

This thought pattern, though humbling and useful to keep us practicing when we were younger, is detrimental to your business when you’re older. You don’t work for a company and decide not to get paid because others are better than you at your job. You take the paycheck!

When beginning your business, know your worth. What is your hourly rate? Even if you have so much fun doing something, know you can, and should, be paid for your time.

To beat Imposter Syndrome, change your way of thinking. Focus on the fact there is only one of you. No one creates the way you do. No one teaches the way you do. It’s important to realize you are worthy of charging for your knowledge and talent. Come to an agreement on payment before setting up a time slot with others.

If you are unsure of your business or talent, find a friend to buy from you first. Ask them for their honest opinions if you want to grow. I know if a friend asked me to check out her business, I would be more than happy to support him or her and give them valid feedback. This includes payment. Don’t let relationships be the reason you don’t charge.

Overall, you are no longer a participant in competitive sports or performing. You are the next generation sharing this sport or art with others. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to be okay charging for your expertise. You will learn as you grow, but start charging from the beginning.

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Sara Rudin, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Sara Rudin has been training for over 20 years in sports, arts, and Corporate America. Using her experience growing small businesses, she aims to mentor other small business owners who are just getting started. Sara is an advocate for the sport of baton twirling, and she began the first Baton Twirling Podcast to highlight the sport. And she works to bring all things twirling into the digital age. When Sara is not mentoring, training, or coaching, you can find her watching way too many movies and hanging with her family in Austin, Texas.



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