So you’re a people pleaser


The idea of actually talking about my people pleasing problems scares the sh*t out of me.

How ironic:

The people pleaser is worried about how her post about people pleasing won’t please other people.

Umm… did that even make sense? Good one, Luck.


OK so I’m genuinely a nice person and I love helping people. But (and Psychology Today can back me up on this one) my identity was tied too much to how others perceived me. I liked being known for being the reliable ‘go-to’ person.

You see, even before I was out here on my own and doing this copywriting business thang and living in the murkiness of the corporate world, I was a chronic ‘yes (wo)man’. No job was too big, no job was too small. And no matter how full my plate already was, I would always take on more.

It gave me a great reputation which, as a people pleaser, I LOVED. I like people. I like doing things for them. I thrive on it. Getting a pat on the back is like crack.

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But in the last few months of 2017, I found myself working my usual hours, plus fitting in last-minute work, and accommodating other people’s terms yet neglecting my own. And then I was getting stressed. And not sleeping well. And feeling just a teensy bit resentful for work I actually love doing.

I realise now that I don’t want to stop this personality trait altogether. It feels good to help people and I want people to enjoy working with me. That doesn’t have to change — I just have to be able to control it. I also need to set up some much needed boundaries to make sure my work (and my sanity) isn’t going to suffer in 2018.

And it looks like this is a common issue that affects a lot of business owners-slash-creative people.

I completely get it – I’m a bit of a perfectionist with my work too, and I absolutely hate sending anything out that I haven’t reviewed, revised and researched about four times (with a day in between to get fresh eyes… other writers, you know what I’m talking about). We want things done perfectly and we want the client to be happy above all else. We want to help their businesses grow.

So how do we continue to do epic work but look after ourselves in the process?

I’ve been part of some amazing groups on Slack, talked with a business coach and reached out to mentors, CEOs, founders and friends for advice on how to make this little problem of mine easier to live with.

And they have more than obliged – imparting wisdom and sometimes even a stern word about what we should be expecting of others, not just ourselves.

So for the rest of the year (and hopefully long after that), I’m not going to feel guilty about saying ‘no’ if things don’t feel quite right. I’m going to go with my gut. And I’m going to refer to these tips over and over again until it bloody-well sticks!

If you’re a business owner who just happens to be a self-confessed people pleaser, you might find these tips as helpful as I did:

  • Nail your processes – go into detail about each and every step for your customer / client interactions, invoicing, accounting and marketing. This helps you get clear on what is required for every job you take on, and helps you set boundaries for those last minute requests. I have a couple of copywriter mentors (Kira Hug and Rob Marsh) to thank for this one.


  • Don’t answer the goddamn phone or emails after 5pm! Even if you do look at emails after then, do not respond until you begin work the next day. This is for three reasons: you don’t want to be seen as ‘available’ all the time, it looks a bit unprofesh to be rattling off emails after hours, and you may not be in the freshest headspace to respond to emails (especially if you lean towards the emotive side when you’re tired)!


  • Develop a rates card. This is something I’ve only just implemented (don’t ask why it’s taken me about 1.5 years to do haha). If you take prospective client calls over the phone or on video (a la Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom), have your rates card open on a separate screen or in your iPhone notes so you can easily reference it without a second thought. There’s nothing worse than being put on the spot during a call, and underselling yourself because a) you feel bad after hearing a sob story about budgets or b) because you pluck a random number out of thin air. Um… yes I may have done both of those in the last 12 months… (Heads up: jump over to Rachel’s List and download their rate card and a bunch of other handy stuff for free!)


  • On that note – create packages that resonate with your ideal clients. This is so you have clear deliverables each time someone engages you for work (or at least a starting point)! It’s super helpful if you tend to get requests for a lot of custom-type jobs that take a whole lot of time for you to quote.


  • Go looking for more of the people / brands you enjoy working with – this one seems like a no-brainer but it’s amazing how many times I forget it! When you actually enjoy the work you’re doing and who you’re doing it with, you put more effort into pleasing people. Wait, hang on, isn’t what what we’re trying to avoid? But the kicker here is that most of the time, you get it reciprocated back. I’m a massive fan of working with cool people and doing cool sh*t. Plus, referrals are awesome.


  • Stick up for yourself! (And be open to the fact that not everyone will like it.) Just because you stop taking sh*t from people doesn’t mean that they’ll automatically applaud you for it. In fact, since I’ve started giving less effs about the things that really don’t matter to me and started standing up for myself, I’ve found that some people baulk at it. It’s just that they’re used to you being a pushover and you’re not one of those anymore. Bye!

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  • Don’t forget that you are the boss. You are the one running your own business, and you call the shots. If you don’t like how something is handled, you have the power to change it! You have the freedom to run your business the way you want it done.


  • Delegate! Don’t feel like you have to do all the work, all the time. If there’s something you don’t like doing or don’t have time to do, be ok with handing tasks over to contractors or support staff.

And remember — there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make people happy. But sometimes we just need to set up boundaries to take back control.

What about you?

How do you handle people pleasing? Do you have any more tips I should add in here?

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