“Fake It Till You Make It” Can Be Very Bad Advice – Especially for Entrepreneurs

In a corporate environment or as an entrepreneur, we are often being given bad advice about getting a job. Being told to fake it till you make it can be very bad advice in both cases.

Street signs indicating a crossroad, one street truth, on street lies.on
Photo: Canva Photos

We have all been there. You are scrolling through thousands of listings searching for your dream job and there it is, right in front of you.  The job you have always wanted.  There is only one problem.  It says you need experience and you don’t have any.  This can be overcome if you can manage to get an interview, so you fib a little to get your foot in the door. Next step: The interview. Here is where this theory gets complicated. 

Scenario 1:   The interviewer asks you several questions related to your past experience and you can’t answer them. They know you have lied and you don’t get the job. 

Scenario 2:  You manage to navigate your way through the interview and you get the job, but you are not prepared to handle the daily responsibilities because of your lack of experience.

After a brief period you are fired. Now you have a blank spot on your resume that you cannot account for or you have to admit that you were terminated from your last position.

I have seen this too many times with the same results in most cases. There is the rare candidate who is a very quick learner and willing to put in the extra time and research to be able to succeed, but for the most part, the employee wastes the company’s time and money and everyone involved has to start over.

In a self-employment scenario, “fake it till to make it”, can be even worse.

If you are a new (or even established) entrepreneur, the urge to tell a client that you are capable of doing any job is always tempting.  When you are starting out you are often desperate to land a client, make some money and establish yourself as a key player in your market. Pretending to know how to do something you are unfamiliar with cannot be done in most cases.

While certain jobs can be learned on the fly, many cannot. This is costly, both financially and to your company’s reputation.  

Stories like this happens all too often:

I was speaking with a contractor a while back who was in my home to change a light fixture. He claimed to be a master electrician. I explained that two of the light switches were sparking when I turned them on and he told me that it was because I was turning the light on too quickly.  I am no electrical expert, but clearly, this was not someone who was what he claimed to be. Later, I  had a real electrician come in who expressed immediate concern and replaced the switches.  If I had trusted the first “professional” it could have caused a fire in my home. Also, the light fixture that the first contractor replaced only worked for about three days.  There was nothing wrong with the original fixture, it was also a wiring issue. 

He did not have the experience to do the job he claimed to be capable of doing and put my family and my home in danger.

The best intentions may not provide the best advice.

Often entrepreneurs, including everyone from construction to landscapers to freelance writers and virtual assistants recommend saying yes to everything. They will tell you to figure it out as you go or fake it till you make it. But what happens if you can’t figure it out?  What if you cost your client money or worse, damage their home or harm the reputation of their business? This will cost you money. It will cost you your reputation. It will cost you your business.  It’s just not worth it.

Plants growing from jars of coins.
Photo: Canva Pictures

Here are ways to get around losing the job due to inexperience:

There will be times when you don’t know how to do something that is asked of you by a client.  

  1. You can be honest and say you know what they are looking for, but you have never done it.  If it is not a job that can cause any danger to anyone, you can tell them you would love the opportunity to complete the job to gain the experience at a lower rate (NOT FOR FREE).  
  2. You can tell the client that you are not experienced with the job, but you will bring someone in who is familiar with the task to work with you. It may cost you a bit of your profit, but next time you will be experienced.
  3. You take the job and subcontract that part out to someone else, freeing you up to take on additional jobs. Your company gets credit for the finished product and your positive reputation grows.

If potential clients are frequently asking you to do tasks that you are not 100% confident doing, you can take a few hours to take a course or to shadow someone who does know.  You will gain experience to eventually perform these tasks on your own, allowing you to confidently take new jobs. Your business and your reputation will benefit.

To Sum it Up

It is never good to start a relationship by pretending to be something that you are not. This applies to both business and personal relationships.  As an entrepreneur you are striving to make solid connections with people that will last for years.  You want them to trust you and your abilities. This leads to future jobs and  referrals.  The best form of marketing is word of mouth.  Always remember this when you are working with potential and existing clients.

Further reading for new entrepreneurs:


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