"You can't be everyone's cup of tea, or you'd be a mug!"
Advita Patel is the founder of Comms Rebel, which aims to revolutionise workplace and business culture by encouraging us all to be a bit more rebellious. She's also the co-founder of A Leader Like Me, which is a membership for underrepresented women looking to progress in their careers.
Her message for freelancers is to be bold, brave, and step outside our comfort zone to thrive. To develop our careers, we need to find the confidence to take risks to find new opportunities.
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Mentioned in this episode
Book: Rebel Ideas: The Power of Thinking Differently by Matthew Syed
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Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.
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Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind-the-scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help you navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.
Louise: Hello freelance friends, Louise here. Today I'm joined by at Advita Patel, who is the founder of Comms Rebel which aims to revolutionise workplace and business culture by encouraging us all to be a bit more rebellious, who doesn't want that. She's also the co-founder of A Leader Like Me, which is a membership for underrepresented women looking to progress in their careers. And as if she's not busy enough, she also co-hosts the Calm Edged Rebels podcast, among many other things. As someone who enjoys being a bit of a rule breaker, I love these messages. Hi Advita, thank you so much for joining me.
Advita: Hi, Louise. Thank you so much for asking me to join you.
L: I'm really excited to have this conversation. I mentioned there that your work is focused on revolutionising workplace culture. I wonder if we could start with perhaps you could tell us why is that important? And what could that look like for the freelance community where most of us are companies of one.
A: One of the reasons I set up Comms Rebel was because I was just a bit tired of the same things happening in organisations and people expecting to see change take place. I think was Einstein who said it's a sign of madness expecting to do the same thing over and over again and seeing change. I wanted to step out of that circle and encourage organisations to take that brave step and be bold and change the way they may communicate with their workforce so they can help them thrive and succeed in the work that they're doing.
As a freelancer or as a consultant, I think the first step you have done anyway, you have been bold and brave and doing something against the status quo that's expected of us. We're conditioned aren’t we, I certainly was, obviously can't speak for everybody, but I was conditioned, go to school, get your GCSEs, get your A levels, go to university, get a job, work hard, get recognised for that, earn your stripes and go up that career ladder. To stop doing that and to set up a business on your own, that in itself is revolutionary, I would say, and it's brave and it takes guts to do it and you have to really put yourself out there. So those folks who are freelancing and have got an appetite of freelancing, I would say they're already starting to do that anyway. You’re already doing things differently and revolutionising the way you want to work for your terms, and that's really important.
L: Yeah, I love that. Let's just take a moment to say congratulations to everyone for being bold and making the move to be a self-employed person. So how can tapping into that inner rebel help freelancers stand out and grow their business, once they've made that initial leap?
A: It's about recognising what you are bringing to the community that you're serving and being proud of that. Unleashing that inner rebel of yours a little bit and being okay to share some of the great stuff that you're doing. I think we can be really coy about some of the stuff we do, especially in this side of the world, especially in Britain in particular we've been taught to be humble and not brag. And if you're a woman in particular, as well, you know, we don't want to be seen as being a bit cocky or a bit arrogant about some of the stuff we're doing. I think it's important as a freelancer, you have to put yourself out there and be visible and talk about some of the great stuff you're doing. Not only in terms of attracting the right clients that you want, but also inspiring others to make that change. I'm all about encouraging others to take that leap of faith. And I want people to think, if she's done it, I could do it, why can't I do it. We don't often have role models or representative people who we can connect with that can do that for us. If we’ve got the privilege to do so we should be able to do it. As a freelancer, we should be bold enough to put ourselves out there and be visible and talk about some of the great stuff we're doing and not be embarrassed about it and not feel ashamed about it, either.
I speak to so many people, I'm also a confidence coach, so I work with lots of people to help them boost their confidence. We often talk about recognition and validation and people sometimes feel like they can't celebrate something until they get validated from somebody else. And I’m like, if you keep waiting for validation from others you will not progress, you need to stop doing that and appreciate the work that you have done to get to where you are and celebrating that yourself. Because if you don't celebrate yourself, you can't expect others to do that for you. We'll be waiting a long time if we're waiting for validation from other people. As a freelancer, unleash that inner rebel and be bold and brave, and step up, and talk about some of the great stuff you're doing and be visible and attract the clients you want to attract. And don't feel shamed in doing it. I always say to my friends and family that I have no shame. Like, what's the worst that can happen? Some people might not like me, and that's okay. One of my favourite quotes is, you can't be everyone's cup of tea otherwise you’d be a mug.
L: I love that, that’s so good.
A: Honestly, it’s a quote that has got me through a lot of situations, and I class myself as a recovering people pleaser. I've always wanted people to like me and to belong in spaces, so I always adjusted myself to belong in those spaces. And I realised that life is just too short to do that, you know, if you were everyone's cup of tea then you would be a mug, and you can't be everything to everyone, otherwise you'll end up doing nothing for anyone. That's what you need to remember when you put yourself out there.
L: Yeah, and I think that a lot of freelancers, perhaps especially women and people from communities who have maybe been excluded from mainstream work culture, often feel like they need to fit the mould and follow certain rules in order to succeed in an environment that often isn't designed for them. I'm wondering if somebody has people pleasing tendencies, or they identify with that sort of background, how do we find and unleash our inner rebel with confidence?
A: It's understanding your purpose. I say this, I know the word purpose can scare some people, but it's more about the why. Why are you doing what you are doing and what are your values. That piece of work. It's not an overnight thing at all, Louise, by the way, and folks who are listening. It's not something that you wake up one morning and go, oh, my god, I know my purpose, I know my values. Some people may have that, incredible. But for others, and talking about myself in this, it's a bit of a slow burner to try and understand what are you contributing in this world, why are you doing what you are doing, and what are your values.
Once you understand your why and your purpose behind why you're becoming a freelancer, why you're serving the community that you serve, and your values, I say to my coachees that you become a bit like Teflon, when things bounce off you quite quickly and nothing really sticks because you are doing things with intention. And when you do things with intention, you're doing it with a full heart. And you're doing it with purpose and doing it because you know you're leaving behind a legacy and you're inspiring, hopefully, others to do the same as well. Once you understand that and if you can do that with purpose, then it can make it can make a big difference to you, and how you can unleash that inner rebel. And that's how you do it, you have to know who you are first, you have to know what your values are, and you have to know why you're doing what you are doing. Because once you know that no one else can really rattle that cage, to be honest.
L: Your recent Leadership Conference, Inner Rebel, is to me a brilliant example of doing things differently and committing to that sense of purpose and inspiring others. I wonder if you could tell us a bit about a bit more about the purpose of that event, and how did it go?
A Yes, Unleash Your Inner Rebel was an idea that I've had for a while but just didn't know how to execute it. I think a part of that was fear as well, even though I do talk about confidence a lot, we still struggle with that, struggle with how will you be perceived in the industry, what will people think, why are you getting involved in something like this. But the whole concept behind Unleash Your Inner Rebel was because I never really felt events out there were addressing some of the challenges facing individuals in workplaces right now. It was all about doing things differently in the world of work. And to my point, right at the start of this conversation, it's about revolutionising the way we work, thinking differently, going against that status quo, being curious, asking questions, being bold and brave. That's what the whole day was about at Unleash Your Inner Rebel.
I read a book called Rebel Ideas by an incredible author called Matthew Syed. If you haven't read that book, I would highly recommend you grab yourself a copy. In that book, Matthew talks about echo chambers and information bubbles, cognitive diversity and demographic diversity and what that actually means. I realised when I was reading that book last summer that we spend most of our time working and talking to people who are like us, or who we feel comfortable with. We convince ourselves that we have got a wide network, but really, when you dig a bit deep, you realise you don't. You know, it's human nature to do that, it's human nature to be with people who we're comfortable with, because we want to feel safe. And that's when we do feel safe. So Inner Rebel conference was all about bringing people to stage who are different, who had different experiences to the majority in the room, who could talk about their life experiences, their careers, thoughts. I curated that speaker list intentionally, because I wanted to bring demographic diversity, which is important, but also cognitive diversity, and Matthew Syed was one of my keynote speakers. The feedback I've had from that event has been just incredible. I couldn't have asked for better feedback, to be honest. And that's because we were very intentional with what we did with this event.
One of my biggest objectives was to make sure that anyone who attends feels like they belong and feels comfortable and can be who they want to be, and can ask the questions they need to ask. For example, when we had coffee breaks we didn't call them coffee breaks, we called them curious conversations. Because we wanted to encourage people to find out information about each other in that room and connect with people that you may not connect with on a day-to-day basis. We were very conscious about making sure that people had information before they came to the event, so that they didn't feel excluded at any point. The basic things that an event should have like captioning and accessibility and things like that where people who would normally go to an average type of event may feel excluded, because they've not been included in the conversations. It was brilliant. It was such a great event and we're going to do it again next year based on the feedback we've had. I'm proud to have hosted something, especially in my home city of Manchester, which is what I was determined to do.
L: Oh, that's great congratulations. You've just answered my next question, I was going to ask you if you were planning to do it again, because I think there'll be a lot of people listening who will think, that sounds like the kind of conference that I want to be at. It's such a great example of, you know, if you want to change things, if you want to achieve bigger things, then you do have to step outside your comfort zone a bit and actually take action and try to make it happen, don't you, and that's where you find those opportunities?
A: Yeah, you've got to take risks. And that's the thing about being a freelancer, and you've already taken that first risk in putting yourself out there and being a freelancer. Like I said at the start, you've gone against the grain, you've pushed against that status quo and you’ve made that first step. Throughout your business, career, journey in entrepreneurship, whatever you want to kind of call yourself, you're taking risks every day. Some of them will be more measured risks, you know, it depends on your circumstances. Some of them you've got to just go for it, and hope it all works out, and if not learn from it.
L: Leaning into that idea of being a rebel, maybe in more general terms, your conference is an example of quite a big rebellion, isn't it? But I know that you have some examples of small rebellions too. I wonder if you could share some of those, what are some other examples of doing things differently that are maybe a small step into being a rebel?
A: The little things, like being curious enough to ask why certain things are happening. Especially if you're freelancing and working with clients, it's our role to advise and guide them and question some of their thinking around habits that they may have formed that are not quite aligning with what the world requires today. It's our kind of role to ask that question. Putting yourself out there, for example, I've always wanted to write a book, it's always been an ambition of mine to write a book, but I always felt like I wasn't the right person to write a book, I couldn't write a book for whatever reasons, or whatever kind of challenges I had. But I just put myself out there, submitted a proposal alongside one of my business partners Priya, and we got commissioned to write a book. That is a risk that we took on ourselves and the self-belief we had and put ourselves forward. It's those tiny little changes that you make, being curious, believing in yourself, asking, the only thing that people can say is no.
When I first started out in business, I wanted to find a mentor who I could connect with. I just asked Priya who ended up being my business partner. The worst case scenario in that is that she could have said no I've not got time. But she said yes and look at what we've achieved, by me being a bit rebellious and not waiting to be asked and going out and asking others and putting myself out there. I think we have to do that as freelancers.
L: I think that's a really great place to wrap up then on not waiting to be asked and being the first person to start these conversations. Thank you so much Advita. I know we've just scratched the surface in 15 minutes, and we could probably talk about some of these things for hours. But I'm sure that what you've said has resonated with listeners and I really hope that it's inspired people to unleash their inner rebel. If people want to find out more about you about Comms Rebel, about the rest of the work that you're doing and maybe the next conference, where can they get all of that?
A: All on my website, which is advitapatel.com. Or you can find me on Instagram, on Twitter and on LinkedIn, @Advita_p on Twitter and @advitap on Instagram.
L: That is great thank you so much, we'll put those in the show notes. Thanks to everyone who has been listening, please go and follow at Advita’s work on LinkedIn and elsewhere. If you've enjoyed this podcast, please do share it with anyone that you think might also like the idea of being a wee bit more rebellious in their freelance life. Until next time, happy freelancing.
You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want to be answered on the podcast, find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing.