No Bullshit Please

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Last week I wrote about having a bad year.

It wasn’t a massively thought out post, it was just a ‘no bullshit’ scribbling when, being perfectly honest, I could think of nothing else to write about. But it turned into one of the most popular posts I’ve written in a while. Just like a lot of my other, similar, posts it resulted in feedback both on my website and through personal communication. It led me to the conclusion that people prefer a no bullshit approach to business and writing these days.

Colleagues and clients like honesty and authenticity.

But why be honest and open in my blog posts (attached to my business website) when it would be so much easier just to keep quiet? Isn’t it career suicide? I’d say no to that.

Reasons to be open and honest professionally:

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It shows people you are real.

We are all human (mostly) so we like to do business with other humans. How many of you honestly like those auto DMs on Twitter? I’ll bet even if you use them (please don’t) you don’t like getting them. No one likes speaking to a robot unless they are in the cybernetics business (or sci-fi nerd like me). By keeping my blog real and by ‘talking’ to you I’m letting you into my world a little and we can hopefully build up a rapport.

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It shows that life isn’t always rosy.

Unless we are supremely blessed in life things don’t always go the way we want. By writing an honest, no bullshit blog, I am happy to spread the love but also show things the way they are. Are people too frightened to say it like it is? Is it from fear of being seen as weak, as unprofessional or being afraid to show failure? Or is it the great British reserve? After 16 years as a freelance I know there are ups and downs and I’m not afraid to document it. Last year was bad, this year will be better.

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It builds trust.

I much prefer to do business with people I know and trust, as I expect you do too. By writing honestly on my blog I can share tips and tricks with clients, help and inform fellow freelances (and learn from them too!) and show that I care about my work, my colleagues and my clients. I offer a bespoke service, and with this comes a level of professionalism that includes trust between myself and the client. So what if the client can see if I’m having a bad week (or a good one)?, they can also see that I never disclose confidential information and that I value my client list. As a genealogist I am privy to a LOT of potentially personal information, and as an editor I am allowed into my clients’ heads. If I thought for one second that my clients, or my colleagues, felt they couldn’t trust me I’d close my laptop on my work and walk away from it for good.

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It helps others to feel they can share.

There is nothing worse than being a freelance, locked away from the world, with no one to talk to. Freelancing is isolating, it’s lonely as hell and it can lead to all sorts of problems – less of the ‘hey, I’ll ditch my job and live the high life’ please (yes, I’m looking at you, online journalists). I’m lucky that I found the SfEP, but before I was an editor my life as a genealogist, isolated at the top of Scotland, was a lonely one. I had no-one to talk to (this was before such things as online forums, although there were snarky email lists) and I may have been going slightly mad. Especially when armchair genealogists, spurred on by Who Do You Think You Are and the rise of internet resources, decided to stop paying for research and did it themselves because it was all ‘so easy’ (to get it wrong). If, by being honest and open, I can make just one person feel less alone then that is worth it in itself. And if I can let some fledgling editor realise that there is the SfEP, EFA (for those in the US) and others (here’s a handy links for those of you outside of the UK) who are there to offer friendship and advice, then that’s good too.

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It’s just a no bullshit policy.

I’ve got a bullshit detector. I can smell it a mile off, just like I can usually tell if someone is on the level. And I know I’m not the only one. Why pretend? I really can’t stand websites that write about someone in the third person (when you just KNOW they’ve written it about themselves), or ones that say ‘aren’t I fabulous, hire me, I’m perfect’. Get over yourselves, no one is perfect. No one. Not even that gorgeous guy you idolised as a teenager who was perfect in your eyes. Perfection is a myth. I don’t ever want to offend anyone, I’m too nice for that, but I just say it as I see it. Hell, I’m in my late 40s, life’s too short kids!

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Show them your face, not a professional mask

So there you go. Those are my reasons to be authentic, open and honest in business. If people judge you for being honest, that’s their problem not yours.

If you think you will lose business by being honest, ask yourself why. Ask yourself if you could work with that client anyway.

You don’t need to be brutal, and you don’t need a ‘tell all’ policy. We need to remain at least a little mysterious, and over-sharing is not cool (I really don’t need to tell everyone that I love all things paranormal and that I binge watch RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix).

If you are honest with yourself and with your clients, whether that’s on a blog or in your business communication, everyone can concentrate on just being themselves and you can concentrate on offering great service.

Why Blog?

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I’m writing this blog at 11.50 a.m. It’s due up at 1 p.m. There’s a wren outside my window singing a little song*, the sun is shining and I’m just about to settle down to work again after a morning of admin and phone calls. My pile of pre-written articles has been depleted and I just know there are bound to be typos and grammatical errors in anything I write this quickly. It’s one of those days when I have to ask myself why do I blog?

Good question.

There is an over-abundance of blogs out there in Cyberland. Why on earth should you spend time and energy in creating something that people may not read?

You blog because you want to:

Attract an audience and keep visible – you want people to know you are out there. The world is a big place, and even though the internet has made it smaller you still have to work hard to be found. And then you have to keep being visible … no one likes to be forgotten.

Build engagement – it’s nice to talk. By blogging you can open up a dialogue with people you wouldn’t normally reach. By engaging with fellow professionals or potential clients you can show them that you are not a robot, but an actual living, breathing human being (well, sort of).

Establish authority – it’s good to be able to show that you know what you are talking about, that all your training and background stands for something and that you are a professional. By blogging you can become an authority in your field.

Stand out from the crowd – you can develop a niche and create posts that really stand out from the crowd. This can attract business or even just more engagement with others in your line of work. You don’t have to be wacky or controversial, just be yourself.

Generate income – some people earn a living from blogging, through endorsements (hellooooooo famous YouTubers) or writing for businesses, but even a small blog can generate income by attracting clients. And hey, when you are a freelance, you need to attract clients.

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See this? It’s a wren. I have been distracted by one like this today. Distraction is the enemy of bloggers.

Blogging sucks because:

It eats your time – not only do you have to set aside time to write, but you may need to research too. One blog post can eat up hours of your valuable time if you are not careful.

You have to stay relevant – there’s no point in writing a blog that is out of date. You have to stay informed at all times.

You might be boring – who the hell wants to read your musings anyway? There’s a niggle at the back of your mind every time you upload a post.

Trolls eat you for breakfast – no matter how good your writing, how relevant or entertaining it is, you will attract trolls. If you are an editor you will also attract trolls who like to tell you how to write. Heaven help if you accidentally add a grammatical error or typo when you are writing the damned blog at midnight because you have no other time to get the thing written.

Finding something to write about is difficult – it’s true. It can be damned hard to find something interesting to write about when you can’t write about your commissions and you are spending a lot of your time in front of your computer working on a job. Well, something interesting and relevant that is … I could write a blog about my breakfast choices (chocolate cake anyone?), but that wouldn’t really cut it.

So we have five pros and five cons. It still doesn’t answer the question ‘Why do I blog?’ It can be tough, and time consuming, and no-one may read my scribblings (and if they do they may find it boring or irrelevant or ridiculous). I can’t say I have attracted more work than I can handle, but I have engaged with a lot of very interesting and lovely people (the trolls can get back under their rock). It makes me think about my work, and in turn I can perhaps shed some light on an industry that many people don’t understand. I guess, though, at the end of the day I blog because I want to. No more and no less.

*This blog is late thanks to said bird. I wanted to take a photo, he was elusive after I picked up my camera. Dammit.

Time to relax

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I’ve been staring at the screen for a while now. It’s Friday, blog day, and there is no blog. This isn’t down to writer’s block, it’s down to good old-fashioned time management (or lack of it if I’m perfectly honest).

Over the past two weeks I’ve been busy with work and with panto (yes, I expect I’ve mentioned that over the past four months or so), so things became a little hectic. Four months of activity culminated in a fantastic pantomime that was sold out almost as soon as tickets went on sale. The week flew by, but most of my outside of work activity involved paperwork, running around and general theatre-type stuff. This in turn led to this last week’s madness. Work was finished and the realisation that no Christmas gifts had been purchased slapped me in the face. I was also a week behind in my creative writing coursework. So yesterday, feeling lucky to be an independent consultant with no boss to argue with, I took the day off to head down south for some Christmas shopping.

This week there is no editing blog, because it proves that freelancers can be fulfilled and busy without it all being work related. Once our work is done, just like anyone else, we can kind of lose the plot a bit.

So …

The presents are all bought (thanks to a day of frantic shopping yesterday)

The parcels have been sent (thanks to a morning of frantic wrapping)

The food has been ordered (thanks to an observant daughter reminding me to order turkey)

The current work assignment has been finished off (thanks to working hard)

I’ll be taking a few weeks off to re-charge my batteries and enjoy the festive season – this year I am actually taking a real break for the first time in years, so there really will be no blog during that time.

All that is left to do is to wish you all a wonderful festive season, whatever your festivities are.

See you next year!

Merry Christmas