It’s a simple, small word.

But it’s harmful, negative and sends out all the wrong messages.


Yes, just that. Just.

A lonely little apology for a word that has no place in the vocabulary of successful, accomplished business women. And yet, features far too often.

‘’I used to be a Global Head of Finance, but now I just run my own small book keeping practice to keep my skills ticking over’’.

‘’I was Head of Marketing but now I just do freelance marketing consultancy around the kids’’.

‘’I just want to open my own interior design business as it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and don’t want to leave it too late to change my career’’.

In this collaborative piece, Jo Clifton, HR Consultant and Business Coach & Mentor, and Elizabeth Hibbert, Professional Writer, explore the reasons why this little word must go.


As a former HR Director working in large complex, even global organisations, I had every confidence in my professional ability. I’d enjoyed rapid career development to board-level roles, resulting in the job title and challenging high profile projects commensurate with a high achieving professional.

When I made the huge decision to swap my corporate HR career for going it alone (and away from London and with small businesses), I found it a challenge maintaining my confidence level. The reason for highlighting this, is that I know I am far from alone. Now with both a HR Consultancy and a Coaching Business, I support client after client who has made a similar switch, with a similar loss of confidence. And one of the common traits among these mostly women, is the use of the word ‘just’.

But why? Why use the word ‘just’.

The psychology behind this is important.

Many women, particularly mums, who I help through coaching have seen their confidence drop to a low level. Frequently feeling like a year or more out of the workplace has eroded their skills.  Women feel disassociated with the working environment, unable to clearly articulate their skills and negative about their prospects and potential.

What’s even more surprising is that often the lack of confidence continues even when women have started up businesses. And that I believe is due to the feeling that their new role; as a Sole Trader, local business owner, freelancer or total career change is not of the same level or value in society as their previous one.

Woman also have a tendency to worry about the quality of their work and struggle with costing and putting value on their businesses.

These are two areas that I take to task immediately, because if anyone is to be successful in business; confidence and resilience are two essential qualities.


My story is a similar one to Jo’s. Jo, as Director of HR-turned-small business owner found me, former Advertising Client Services Director-turned-small professional writing agency owner, to help with her marketing while Jo has helped me with HR. Both of us were afflicted with the same ‘just-itis’ when we left big organisations to start micro ones, and had to boost our own confidence.

As a writer, I naturally believe that the language we use is so important. It reflects on our image, our confidence level, our professionalism and our credibility. And as small business owners we rely heavily on networking to grow our businesses, where the language we use is vitally important.

So why, from a writer’s point of view, am I banishing this word?

The word ‘just’, when applied to our own jobs or businesses does, these things;

  • Devalues our contribution
  • Undermines our talents
  • Minimises our achievements
  • Decreases confidence in us
  • Implies that our current roles are less worthy than our previous ones

And this is the last thing that we want to do.

Jo and Elizabeth’s top five tips for curing ‘just-itis’ and improving your confidence


1.Write down how you change the world. It may sound dramatic, but whatever business you are now in, you make a difference to somebody. You make people happier. You make business people more successful. You create something new. Write it, read it and believe it.

2. Remind yourself what a huge achievement it is to actually have your own business! If your perception is your previous high flying job was so much more challenging think about this. Where is your support and team now? Who do you have around you that you can ask for help? What happens if you’re off sick? Whose responsibility is any staff or suppliers you use? Who is responsible for business development and the reputation of your business, however small? YOU that’s who! If you worked in a large corporate organisation before, you probably had teams for support. Now, you’re managing all this on your own. There’s no ‘just’ about it so be proud.

3. Look at your first invoice. That’s yours. You earned it. You generated that business. Remember how exciting it was to get that first invoice out.

4. If you’re going networking, draft your elevator pitch/one minute intro/ten minute spotlight and learn it. Ensure it sounds positive, proud and like the confident, high achieving, professional you are. No apologies. No justs.

5. If you have children, remind yourself of what a role model you are for them, especially if you have girls. Not only did you have a great career before starting a family, but you’ve managed to pull off running a business as well, amply demonstrating your creative, entrepreneurial and commercial talents. When they are old enough to understand, they are sure to be very proud of their mum.


From Jo and Elizabeth, whatever your business, we wish you the very best of well-deserved luck.

Jo Clifton, Heptagon Coaching  |  Elizabeth Hibbert, Word Salon