Michelle Phan On Identifying Your Limits, Self-Doubt, And Why Bootstrapping Is Good Business

Sara Tardiff
4 min read
September 02, 2019
Michelle Phan On Identifying Your Limits, Self-Doubt, And Why Bootstrapping Is Good Business

Before YouTubers were the force they are today, Michelle Phan was just a girl with a laptop who was really into makeup. She wasn’t plotting world domination. She didn’t have a business plan to make her millions. Now at 32, she is one of the most-recognized beauty moguls in the game. But finding yourself with a net worth of $50 million and plenty of magazine covers to speak of doesn’t come without a cost. She’s had to teach herself a thing or two about being a good leader, maintaining her mental health, and understanding her limits.

Every week on Girlboss, we ask one of our incredible members to host a Digital Fireside where members can ask them anything and everything about their work experience, self-care tips, and more. We know you loved her at Girlboss Rally, so we asked her to be our next host and answer all of the Qs on your mind!

Read on to find some of the nuggets of wisdom Michelle dished out during her Digital Fireside.

1. Don’t feel limited by your college major.

“Going to college doesn’t mean you have to stick with what you’re majoring in. You don’t have to follow the blueprint. Learn as much as you can, and try to apply that knowledge to something. If you’re going for advertising and also have an interest in photography and design, learn how to take photos and use editing programs. Or if you’re more interested in marketing, create a hobby social media account. As you develop more skills, you can pad your resume and find an internship at a brand that values your skills.”

2. Identify your limits.

“Sometimes your phone slows down because you have so many apps on that the same time, your phone gets hot and freezes. That’s how it feels [when you’ve reached your limit]. It’s normal to get in a rut. We’re not meant to work 24/7 and go 100 miles everyday. Being busy doesn’t quantify how successful you are. If you’re feeling down and lack the energy to create and work, maybe something inside is telling you to pause a moment and find time to reflect and resolve any conflict or outstanding personal things you’ve pushed to the back burner. Turn the volume in your head down a bit and reconnect with yourself. Remind yourself what matters.”

3. Figure out how to get (and stay) inspired.

“I find being inspired is like the spark that can jumpstart you to make magic again. When I’m feeling down, I like to watch documentaries, get lost on YouTube, find something cool to read online, whatever helps my mind rewire out negative thoughts so I can think in a more positive state of mind.”

4. Let the money come to you.

“Your best idea comes when you’re not thinking about making money, but solving a problem. For example, I started my YouTube videos back in 2007 when there was no money to be made. YT didn’t have their revenue share model yet, brands were still focusing on traditional advertising and marketing (TV, magazines, celebrity endorsements, etc.) However, as a 19-year-old, I wished there was a better way to learn how to apply your makeup besides traditional books and seminars. Why not make my own for fun? So that’s what I did. Today, magazine sales are declining. People are spending more time on social media than ever. Everyone with a phone has the power to become their own creator. I recommend first, creating an account for fun and growing your audience. From there, based on what you know from your audience, offer them something of value like a product. Most importantly, have fun! With a good idea, money follows.”

5. How you raise money matters.

“If it’s possible for you to bootstrap this product, do it. The more ownership you have in your product, the more freedom you have in taking it where you want to go. The moment you get more investors outside your circle, compromises might have to be made, and it may go against your vision. If you can’t get any capital, I recommend first seeing how married you are to your product idea, and if not, see if you can form a strategic partnership with a bigger entity that finds your product idea valuable.”

6. Use data to do better.

“I see social media like a double-edge sword. A lot of power, but it opens up opportunities for people to compare their lives and social worth. I wouldn’t worry too much about numbers in the beginning. Focus on intent, your brand, your audience, and be consistent for 3 months. If you don’t see any growth, take the data you’ve learned on what post didn’t get good engagement versus the ones that did. Learn from it, implement it, and within six months, no growth, then pivot. The key is to be authentic to your audience.”

7. It’s natural do doubt yourself, but keep it in check.

“Self-doubt can stem from many places, but know that the one who holds the power to change how you think and feel, is you. I learned that my self-doubt came from trying to prove people wrong and placing this immense pressure on myself. The moment I accepted that I have no control how people feel or think about me, I felt my anxiety go. In the beginning, most of the people I knew didn’t think my YT channel would be successful. Had I listened to them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. Despite the self-doubt I was feeling, I followed my bliss. Follow yours.”

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